Friday, February 28, 2020

Feel Good Friday - CREW

Concerned about ethics violations in politics? So is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, aka CREW, and that's why they're today's Feel Good Friday organization.

CREW is a non-partisan legal watchdog group that was founded in 2003. As explained on their website, "in a political moment where profits are prioritized over ethics and anonymous money damages the democratic process, CREW highlights these violations of the law and abuses of power through aggressive research and legal action."

As you might imagine, they've been quite busy lately and have taken over 450 legal actions since the beginning of the current administration.

Their work focuses on three areas: legal, research and policy. The team at CREW researches the flow of money in politics and identifies violations of campaign finance, ethics, tax or other rules. The first step is to file complaints asking the appropriate government agencies to investigate. If those agencies don't follow up, the second step is to file lawsuits to compel them to enforce the law. CREW also supports government agencies and public organizations working to reform campaign finance systems, strengthen federal corruption laws and increase government transparency.

You can go to this link to read up on the latest actions such as filing a complaint against Rudy Giuliani for violating the Hatch Act, requesting DOJ records on Roger Stone's reduced sentencing and requesting Army records on the removal of Lt. Col Vindman. These were some of the latest stories when I was writing this on Tuesday. Who knows what will be there by the time Friday rolls around.

There's an entire section of their websites devoted to reports they've compiled on unethical behavior. Reading them will get you riled up and ready to act. Then what? If you're an attorney, you can sign up with their pro bono program to volunteer your skills. Everyone else can make a donation so CREW can continue their work or send in tips if you've found evidence of unethical behavior. Keep up on the latest news by reading their blog, liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @CREWcrew.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Feel Good Friday - NAACP

Happy Feel Good Friday! We're celebrating Black History Month with a post highlighting the NAACP.

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) was founded on February 12, 1909 and, as they explain on their website, it is "the nation's foremost, largest, and most widely recognized civil rights organization." With 111 years of history, half a million members and over 2,000 volunteer branches nationwide, it's worth a visit to their website or a branch to find out more. You can also watch this short video from the History channel for a great overview.

The mission of the NAACP is "to secure political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons."

Some of the early focus of the NAACP was fighting Jim Crow laws, ending school segregation, and lobbying for the civil rights and voting rights acts. Current efforts are directed at six game changers: economic sustainability, education, health, public safety and criminal justice, voting rights and political representation, and expanding youth and young adult engagement.

In practical terms that means activities such as awarding scholarships to outstanding students and advocacy to combat gun violence and encourage voter participation. There's also the NAACP Image Awards, "the nation's preeminent multicultural awards show from an African American point of view." The 51st annual awards show is airing Sunday!

To get involved supporting the work of the NAACP you can become a member, make a donation or attend the annual convention in July. You can also share the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @NAACP.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Feel Good Friday - WomenHeart

Happy Valentine's Day! Today is all about matters of the heart, which is why our featured Feel Good Friday organization is WomenHeart!

Founded in 1999 by three women who formed a support group after having heart attacks, it is the "first and only national patient-centered organization dedicated to serving women with heart disease."

48 million women in the US are living with or at risk for heart disease and it is the number one killer of women. That's why the mission of WomenHeart is "to improve the health and quality of life of women living with or at risk of heart disease, and to advocate for their benefit."

They do this while embracing the values of empowerment, equality, inclusiveness, collaboration and quality. WomenHeart believes that education, support and training will enable women to take charge of their heart health and inspire them to advocate for other women. In the 20 years they've been around, over 900 women heart disease survivors have been trained to be community educators.

WomenHeart has also developed 100 patient support groups in 30 states, hosts advocacy institute conferences to train women to become public policy advocates, created the educational Red Bag of Courage program and held the first National Policy and Science Summit for women's cardiovascular health.

Not only that, their website is full of resources that help you prevent, diagnose, and treat heart disease. You can also find information to educate yourself, connect with a support group and learn to become an advocate for women with heart disease. Get some information and inspiration in this short PSA video.

You can support WomenHeart in the traditional ways by making a donation or becoming a volunteer. You can also knit a red scarf as part of the HeartScarves program. Your scarf will be donated to women heart patients in hospitals to offer them comfort and support. Since this program started in 2009, over 5000 scarves have been delivered. Get on it, knitters!

Other ways to spread the love? Like the WomenHeart Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @WomenHeartOrg.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Detroit Hives

What happens when you transform vacant lots into urban bee farms? You get featured on Feel Good Friday, that's what.

I first learned about Detroit Hives a few months ago from this PBS Newshour story. It's an organization founded by Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey with a mission "to raise bee awareness and to protect the conservation of honeybees within the City of Detroit."

There are approximately 75,000 vacant lots in Detroit. The goal for the team at Detroit Hives is to buy and revitalize 45 of those lots in the next five years and expand their operation to 200 hives. Bees play an important part in pollinating blossoms. When hives are nearby community gardens, it increases the yield of the those gardens. Plus, you get honey!

The team at Detroit Hives also engages urban communities by creating cultural experiences focused on education and conservation. They are dedicated to teaching conservation and sustainability, especially to young children, by encouraging them to grow gardens in their yards and helping them overcome a fear of bees. You can learn more about their work by watching videos on their YouTube channel.

Whether or not you live in Michigan, you can support the work of Detroit Hives by shopping for merchandise and honey, making a donation and showing the love on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @DetroitHives. #Workhardstaybumble

Friday, January 31, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Everybody Wins! Iowa

You know who wins on Feel Good Friday? Everybody!

Today's organization is Everybody Wins! Iowa. While it sounds like it has to do with the upcoming caucus and presidential election, it's a nonprofit focused on literacy. 

Everybody Wins! Iowa was founded by Phyllis and Arthur Tannenbaum with a mission "to increase children's success in school and life through one-to-one reading and mentoring experiences with caring volunteers." The program started in New York and was brought to Iowa in 2002 by Senator Tom Harkin

In Central Iowa, nearly 1 in 5 fourth grade students are not reading on grade level. Everybody Wins! Iowa addresses this with their signature program, Power Read. Teachers recommend students who are struggling with reading, are English language learners or those who might benefit from mentoring. Those students are matched with volunteers and they meet one-on-one for an hour every week at elementary schools and community organizations. 

Mentors and students read, talk and bond over books. Reading out loud with students helps them build vocabulary and learn new information, models fluent reading, and motivates children to read on their own. It also increases students' confidence and self-esteem and instills in them a positive attitude about reading. Watch this 2-minute video to see the program in action.

When they started in 2002, Everybody Wins! Iowa served 15 children in 3 schools. In the 2018-2019 school year, over 900 children were matched with mentors in 36 schools across central Iowa. That's how everybody wins: students get consistent interaction with caring adults, mentors get to make a positive impact on the children, schools see an improvement in their students' literacy skills, and companies have an easy way to provide volunteer opportunities to their employees.

If you want to support the work being done by Everybody Wins! Iowa and you live in Iowa, you can volunteer to become a mentor. The rest of us can donate cash, buy and donate a book from their wish list and spread the word on social media by liking their Facbook page and following them on Twitter @EverybodyWinsIA.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Feel Good Friday - The Ocean Cleanup

Solving the problem of plastics in the ocean is a recurring theme of the Feel Good Friday blog. Why? Because the oceans are still full of plastic!

I learned about today's organization, The Ocean Cleanup, from this article on the Good News Network, which I recommend you follow if you can't wait until Fridays to feel good.

When Boyan Slat was 16 he was diving in Greece and surprised to find more plastic than fish in the ocean. What did he do about it? Researched plastic pollution as a school project, came up with an idea to develop a passive concentration system, gave a TedX talk in his hometown of Delft in the Netherlands, inspired people to crowdfund $90,000 and founded The Ocean Cleanup in 2013. Like you do.

As explained on their website, "The Ocean Cleanup is designing and developing cleanup systems to clean up what is already polluting our oceans and to intercept plastic on its way to the ocean via rivers." With over 5 trillion pieces of plastic littering the ocean and accumulating in 5 gyres, or garbage patches, Slat's floating system captures the plastic so it can be collected and recycled. Models put together by the team show that "a full-scale cleanup system roll-out could clean 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years." Learn more about that here.

That's not where it ends. The research team at The Ocean Cleanup found that 80% of the trash that ends up in the oceans comes from 1,000 rivers around the world. Enter the Interceptor, a ship of sorts that can extract up to 220,000 pounds of trash in a day. Slat's goal is to have Interceptors in all of the 1,000 worst polluting rivers by 2025. See how they work in this 2-minute video.

The Ocean Cleanup team, with over 80 engineers, researchers and scientists, aims to "reach a 90% reduction of floating ocean plastic by the year 2040." You can help them make it happen! Make a donation, shop for merch and raise awareness on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TheOceanCleanup and @BoyanSlat. #TheOceanCleanup

Friday, January 17, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Sydney Wildlife

If you've been reading the news, you know that even though they're getting some rain, wildfires continue burning throughout Australia and the loss of human and animal lives is devastating. That's why in today's Feel Good Friday I'm following Mister Rogers' advice to "look for the helpers", like Sydney Wildlife.

Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services (aka Sydney Wildlife) is an all-volunteer organization founded in 1997 to "rescue, rehabilitate and release sick, injured and orphaned native animals and to educate the community, at all levels, about the need to protect our native animals and to preserve their habitats."

You can tell you're dealing with an Australian organization when the FAQs include what to do when a Kookaburra attacks your windows or a an Eastern Water Dragon lays eggs in your driveway. Sydney Wildlife cares for a range of animals including: snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, birds, possums, bats, flying foxes, kangaroos, wallabies, long-nosed bandicoots and wombats! If you're wondering what a bandicoot is (like I was) it's a small marsupial you can learn more about here.

Because Sydney Wildlife offers rescue and advice service on a 24/7 basis, they rely heavily on their volunteers. If you live in Sydney and want to get involved in wildlife rescue, you'll need complete the two-day rescue and care course. Volunteers also give educational presentations at schools, offices and nursing homes and can set up an information booth at community events.

For those of us not in Australia, we can support the work of Syndey Wildlife with a general donation, a donation targeted to the "bush fire and drought relief wildlife recovery fund", and by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SydneyWildlife1.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Hello my friends! I've returned from my travels in Jordan and Egypt, where everyone we met was warm and welcoming. Unfortunately, conflict in the region is heating up. That's why today's Feel Good Friday is focused on the anti-war Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

WILPF is an international NGO founded in 1915, during World War I, by suffragists who saw the connection between their struggle for women's rights and the struggle for peace. The mission of WILPF is "to end and prevent war, ensure that women are represented at all levels in the peace-building process, defend the human rights of women, and promote social, economic and political justice."

There are national sections in 50 countries around the world with an International Secretariat in Geneva and a New York office focused on the work of the United Nations. Programs are divided into four areas:
  • Building the movement by "sharing knowledge and articulating agendas for action, securing sustainable funding, expanding our networks, and being responsive to our grassroots."
  • Leveraging feminist perspectives on peace by advocating to include women in the peace process and for a feminist UN Security Council.
  • Redefining security from military might to an economy that invests in environmental protection, social, and economic rights. Example programs in this area include advocating for peace in Korea and nuclear disarmament around the world.
  • Promoting socio-economic justice by connecting grassroots activists to decision-makers in the UN and monitoring developments within the UN and creating publications, articles and newsletters suggesting solutions.
The organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in both 1931 and 1946!

If you'd like to get involved in being an advocate for peace (Nobel prize not guaranteed), you can become a member, sign up for the WILPF newsletter, make a donation and show your support by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @WILPF.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Nazra for Feminist Studies

Happy New Year! On this Feel Good Friday, my friends and I are three women traveling through Egypt. What a wonderful day to talk about the work being done by the Egyptian organization, Nazra for Feminist Studies.

Founded in Cairo in 2007, Nazra for Feminist Studies "aims to build an Egyptian feminist movement."

Why does it matter? Women in Egypt are being punished for their activism. Nazra's founder Mozn Hassan has been prevented from leaving Egypt since June and a request to overturn the travel ban has been postponed by the courts four times. There are also activists who participated in the country's 2011 revolution who are still in custody.

Nazra advances the cause of women's rights in several ways. Documenting research and analysis of the issues to educate people and advocating for policy and legal reform. Encouraging and supporting women's political participation. Combating sexual violence and providing survivors with legal, psychological and medical assistance. Creating networking opportunities for young feminists and supporting the role of the arts in addressing feminism and gender rights.

Examples of specific programs include fighting to get advocates for street children released from prison, supporting survivors sexually assaulted by a TV presenter, and hosting a conference for women's rights defenders.

Stay in the loop with all of Nazra's work by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @NazraEgypt.

Next stop, California!