Friday, April 9, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Ecology Project International

Since more people are getting their COVID-19 vaccinations and the potential for travel is in sight, we’re using today’s Feel Good Friday to highlight travel programs for youth with Ecology Project International.

Founded in 2000 by an educator and a scientist working in Costa Rica, the mission of Ecology Project International (EPI) is “to inspire and empower the world's youth through immersive experiences with nature and science.” They do this by engaging local communities in youth development, leadership and habitat conservation and running world-class, science focused travel programs for students and teachers. You can watch the founders explain in this short video.


With a focus on conservation for the next generation, EPI’s global initiatives educate youth in communities where they have research sites including: conservation efforts in the Galapagos, scientific research in Yellowstone and protecting habitat in Belize.


EPI’s travel programs are open to middle school, high school, and college-aged students and there are also professional development programs for all teachers and non-traditional educators. Examples of these student and teacher expeditions include studying whale ecology or marine science in Mexico, learning about rainforest species, primates or sea turtles in Costa Rica and studying the island ecology of Hawaii.


Since they began, over 40,000 students have joined EPI projects in the field. And what have they done? Released 36,000 sea turtle hatchlings in Costa Rica, counted 505 yellow-headed parrots in Belize and registered 84 benthic marine species in Baja (think anemones and sea stars). You can read more details about the students’ impact here.


Programs and procedures have been adjusted to minimize the risks associated with COVID-19 and enrollments are currently open. If you’re not looking to participate in a trip but still want to support the work of EPI you can do that by making a donationshopping for clothing and gear and amplifying their message on social media. Like the EPI Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @ecologyproject. Happy trails.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Limbitless Solutions

Nothing says Feel Good Friday like free bionic arms for kids! That’s why the focus of today’s post is the organization, Limbitless Solutions.

Founded in 2014 by students at the University of Central Florida (UCF), the mission of Limbitless Solutions is “to empower confidence and increase accessibility in the limb difference community through art-infused bionics.” They do this by creating and donating personalized, 3D-printed prosthetic arms for children.

According to this Fast Company article on Limbitless Solutions, “There are likely more than 30,000 children under the age of 16 in the U.S. with “limb difference,” the full or partial absence of a limb.” Realistic prosthetic arms can cost between $20,000 to $30,000 and won’t fit a growing child for very long. The team at Limbitless works with UCF interns focused on a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education. They use free Autodesk software (yay!) and consult with the children to design and create unique arms that can be 3D printed. Check out this link to see some examples of their work or visit the lab with Bill Gates in this video.


The arms come with interchangeable sleeves and are very artistic. They’re also bionic! Using non-invasive electromyography (EMG) technology, children are able to control the function of the arms and make multiple gestures. They learn the mechanics of their new arms by playing video games created by Limbitless. To date, Limbitless has delivered 40 arms to 36 children who are now part of the Limbitless bionic family.


In addition to arms for children, Limbitless is expanding its mission to provide bionic limbs to adults, veterans, and first-responders. They’re also developing “a powered wheelchair attachment designed for individuals with mobility limitations, such as ALS patients or quadriplegics.” Code name, Project Xavier.


The team at Limbitless Solutions believes that the families of children with limb difference should not have to pay for the bionic arms or the occupational therapy needed to learn how to use them. That means they rely on the support of their donors. If you’d like to be one of them, you can make a donation here. You can also amplify their work on social media. Like the Limbitless Solutions Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @Limbitless3D.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Feel Good Friday - WP Theater

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, let’s spend this Feel Good Friday with women in theater!

WP Theater was founded by Julia Miles in 1978 as Women’s Project Theater. It is “the nation’s oldest and largest theater company dedicated to developing, producing, and promoting the work of women and trans theater artists at every stage of their careers.” 

One of the ways WP Theater promotes these artists is through the Lab, a two-year residency for playwrights, directors and producers. Participants are provided with entrepreneurial and leadership training, rehearsal space, a professional network and the opportunity to develop and produce their work for the stage. Each Lab residency culminates with the Pipeline Festival. This biennial festival features five new plays written, directed and produced by the residents. Over 350 artists have participated in the program and shared their finished work with the world.


More recently, Trans Lab was formed to support the creation of a critical mass of trans and gender nonconforming plays by trans and gender nonconforming writers. This year-long program provides participants with professional development sessions and culminates in a series of readings of the works developed in the lab.


To date, WP Theater has produced over 600 mainstage productions and developmental projects and their work has continued throughout the pandemic. The 2020-2021 season is taking place on the virtual stage with monthly presentations of new work. If you’re reading this before 3:30pm Pacific, you can catch a rebroadcast of Galatea, “a trans love story set against the backdrop of a climate crisis.” Next on the calendar is Weightless, a visual concept album that tells the story of two sisters and their journey to reunite. 

If you’re interested in these shows you can buy tickets here. You can also support the work of WP Theater by making a donation and spreading the word on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @WPTheater. Brava!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Women's Global Empowerment Fund

In today’s Feel Good Friday, we take a trip to Northern Uganda to visit Women’s Global Empowerment Fund.

Founded in 2007 by Karen Sugar, the mission of Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) is “to support women through economic, social and political programs, creating opportunities while addressing inequality; strengthening families and communities.”


WGEF is a microfinance non-profit working in Northern Uganda, a post-conflict region recovering from a 25-year violent insurgency which left the region unstable and lacking in economic activity. WGEF helps women who were forced to become child soldiers or sex slaves during the conflict by providing economic, social and political opportunities for sustainability and self-determination. You can read stories about some of the WGEF clients here.


Programs run by WGEF include Credit Plus, a service that “combines microcredit services with literacy, leadership development, health initiatives and basic business education.” Since WGEF’s founding, over 10,000 women in poor or rural areas have been given microcredit loans. A subsection of these loans focus on agriculture and provide women additional training and support to plant, grow and harvest their crops.


The Gulu Women’s Resource Center is a community meeting space where women are provided with computer and life skills training. It also houses the Access to Justice team which addresses violence against women, gender bias and inequality by sharing information and resources and helping women file reports and advocating for them during court proceedings. 


Additional programs include leadership development, literacy training and my favorite, a drama festival where women create original plays focused on issues such as inequality, HIV or violence, and use them as a way to educate men and community leaders about these issues


Details about all of the programs can be found at this link and you can hear directly from participants about their experiences at this link. If you want to support the work of Women’s Global Empowerment Fund, make a donation and spread the word by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @wgefund.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Feel Good Friday - CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education)

Welcome to another Feel Good Friday during Women’s History Month! Today we’re celebrating by focusing on an organization that works with girls, CAMFED. 

Founded in 1993, CAMFED is the Campaign for Female Education. As they explain on their website, “we catalyze the power of the most vulnerable girls and young women to create the future they imagine — for themselves, for their communities, and for Africa.


Wondering why the focus on girls’ education? Because investing in girls improves the health and wealth of both the girls and their communities. According to the statistics, a girl who receives an education earns 25% more per year of secondary school, will invest 90% of her earnings in her family and is 3 times less likely to become HIV positive. Learn more in this short intro video.


CAMFED works in sub-Saharan Africa where 52.2 million girls are excluded from education. They partner with 6,853 government schools in some of the poorest districts in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi. It’s the communities in those districts who select the children most in need to participate in CAMFED’s programs. These girls receive help with books, school fees, uniforms, sanitary protection, mentoring and social support. To date CAMFED has helped 4.1 million students go to primary and secondary school.


Once girls graduate, they can join the CAMFED Association (CAMA) to volunteer in schools as learner guides, become mentors, rally community support for other girls or help monitor CAMFED programs. CAMA has been in place since 1998 and has grown into a network of 157,000 women leaders educated with CAMFED support. 


In addition to all of this, CAMFED also works with communities to design and implement their programs, train teacher mentors, provide school equipment and establish parent support groups. Check out this page of short films to hear directly from participants and learn more about CAMFED’s impact. 


If you want to support the work CAMFED is doing to educate young girls in Africa you can make a donation and amplify their message by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter@Camfed.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Girl Effect

It’s the first Feel Good Friday in Women’s History Month and we’re kicking it off with Girl Effect, an organization that “uses the power of media to unlock the power of girls.”

Founded in 2004 by the Nike Foundation, Girl Effect works “to support adolescent girls in low and middle income countries through a stage in life that defines their future. We support girls to make choices for themselves so they are healthier, more educated and financially secure. To do this we create safe spaces for girls to find information and advice, online and in their communities. We answer girls’ curiosities, questions and concerns through our content and products, and connect girls to services that help them take control of their bodies and their lives.”

The problem Girl Effect is addressing is outlined in this 3-minute video. When a girl turns 12 and lives in poverty she’s often seen as a woman and more likely to spend her teenage years getting married and having children rather than staying in school and getting an education. While there are many services available for girls, often they are not used because girls don’t see the services as being “for them”. 


To counter this perception, Girl Effect works with partners in more than 50 countries in Africa and Asia to develop youth brands that shine a light on issues girls are facing by telling girls’ stories in their own words. Girl Effect also use mobile technology to connect marginalized and vulnerable girls around the world. The content Girl Effect creates helps girls build confidence to make choices and changes in their lives so that “every girl can choose to be in control of her body, her health, her learning and livelihood.”


Examples of the work they do includes the Hear Her Voice project where Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors, aged 18-24, have interviewed over 15,000 girls and share their stories online. You can watch those videos here. There is also a chat bot powered by artificial intelligence called Big Sis, which gives girls a safe, private, non-judgmental and accurate source for information on topics that they don’t feel comfortable discussing elsewhere. Since its inception in 2018, Big Sis has reached 10.8 million girls. 


Overall, by working with their in-country partners, Girl Effect’s youth brands and mobile platforms reach an estimated 29 million people a year in over 50 countries! 

If you’d like to help Girl Effect create a future where girls are healthier, more educated, and more economically secure, you can make a donation and spread the word by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @girleffect.  #TheGirlEffect 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Feel Good Friday - The Hidden Genius Project

For our last Feel Good Friday during Black History Month, we’re coming back to California to profile Oakland’s own Hidden Genius Project.


The Hidden Genius Project was founded in 2012 by five Black male entrepreneurs and technologists who saw the high unemployment of Black male youth in a region full of technology jobs and created a program to address the issue.


The mission, explained on the website states, “The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities.”


The main program is called the Intensive Immersion Program and here’s why. It’s a 15-month, holistic mentorship experience designed for Black males in 9th – 11th grade. In this program, students learn computer science, software development, entrepreneurship and leadership skills. Virtual cohorts based in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles begin in June and you can apply here.


To encourage continued development of program graduates, an Alumni Venture Seed Fund was created last year to support these young entrepreneurs through the five phases of startup development. Participants will showcase their work at an event in April. 


There are also single and multi-day Catalyst Programming events and workshops throughout the year. These are designed to expose young people to basic computer programming and mentors in order to spark interest in technology careers. These events are free and subscribing to the newsletter is the best way to stay informed.


To see the impact the program is having on the over 7000 students served since 2012, take five minutes to watch this video. You’ll hear directly from the founders, mentors and current participants and see how much the program means to all of them. 


If this work means something to you, get involved! Volunteer positions with The Hidden Genius Project are full but you can still show your support with a donation and by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @HiddenGeniusPro.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Feel Good Friday - My Block, My Hood, My City

After watching the documentary film A Tiny Ripple of Hope in the Slamdance Film Festival this week, I was inspired to share the story of this organization in today’s Feel Good Friday.

The movie profiles Jahmal Cole, founder and CEO of My Block, My Hood, My City (MBMHMC), also known as M3. He created M3 in 2015 with a mission “to help teenagers overcome the poverty and isolation they face, boosting educational attainment and opening them to opportunities that make a difference in their lives.”

Chicago is the most racially segregated city in the United States and many young people don’t travel outside of their neighborhoods. M3 found that taking educational trips makes students more likely to be academically and financially successful, it influences their career choices and it increases their curiosity both in and outside the classroom. 

For these reasons, the main focus of M3 is the Explorer’s Program. Youth from under-resourced neighborhoods in Chicago are taken on trips around the city to explore new communities, cultures, and cuisines in an effort to gain a greater understanding of their city and to expand their vision of what is possible. Participating teenagers get access to 8 Explorations, which include food and transportation, as well as MBMHMC gear and access to internship opportunities with corporate hosts. In the 2019-2020 school year, My Block, My City, My Hood served 150 high school students!


Other direct-action programs run by M3 include a small business relief fund, services for seniors, block club training and a volunteer crew that shovels snow for seniors and people with disabilities.


If you’d like to support My Block, My Hood, My City in their efforts to help students in Chicago “Explore. Experience. Evolve.”, there are several ways to do so. Make a donation to the general fund or to the “I Gotchu” Scholarship Fund which supports Explorer alumni in post-secondary initiatives such as college or trade school. You can also shop for shirts, hats and masks and amplify their message by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @mbmhmc.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Hearts in San Francisco

Sunday is Valentine's Day, which makes this a perfect Feel Good Friday to talk about Hearts in San Francisco.

If you live in, or have ever visited San Francisco, you've likely seen the heart shaped sculptures painted by local artists and displayed throughout the city. Did you know that they are part of a program to raise money for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation?

As explained on the website, "In 2004, 131 spectacular giant hearts were created by local Bay Area artists and placed around the city to let everyone enjoy them. Then they were auctioned off, raising $3 million to support ZSFG. Every year since, we’ve commissioned and auctioned heart sculptures to raise funds for the hospital."

The mission of Zuckerberg SF General Hospital is "is to promote excellence in research, education and care for all." The Foundation, established in 1991, supports this mission by using the funds they raise for patient services, facilities, equipment purchases and research efforts. Examples include support for the Orthopedic Trauma Institute, the Acute Care for the Elderly Program, fellowships for physicians and continuing education for nurses.

Of the $220 million the Foundation has raised since its establishment, $11 million has come from 350 Hearts of San Francisco being auctioned. If you want to see the 2021 hearts but are not in San Francisco, watch this video or view all 18 years of hearts in this galleryYou can also show your support of frontline healthcare workers by downloading and displaying the It Takes Heart icon.

If you'd like to support the work of Zuckerberg SF General Hospital via the Foundation you can bid on a heart sculpture, make a more traditional donation and follow news of the Foundation by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SFGHFoundation. Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Black Futures Lab

Today is the first Feel Good Friday of Black History Month and we're kicking it off with Black Futures Lab.

Launched in 2018 by Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, Black Futures Lab "is a vehicle for Black People and Black community-based organizations to build independent progressive political power."

As explained on the website, "we engage Black voters over the long term, we empower Black voters to share the policy discussions that affect our lives, and we energize a new generation of leaders, officials and decision makers who care about issues facing Black communities. We experiment with policy solutions and community alternatives that can be put into place at the local and state level."

This work is carried out through three main programs:  

There are also resources on the website that provide information on everything you need to know about elections and staying safe while peacefully protesting.

To support the work of Black Futures Lab you can volunteer your time, donate your money and amplify their message by liking their Facebook page following them on Twitter @blackfutureslab.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Building Futures with Families

The rainy weather in the Bay Area this week made me grateful to have a home and curious to know who is helping our unhoused neighbors. That led me to today’s Feel Good Friday organization, Building Futures with Families.

What started in 1986 as The San Leandro Refuge for Women and Children is now Building Futures with Families. Their mission is “to build communities with underserved individuals and families, where they are safely and supportively housed, free from homelessness and domestic violence.”

Building Futures runs several homeless shelters across Alameda County, California. Some are warming shelters which open up when cold weather or rain is predicted. They offer a warm bed for the night, dinner, breakfast and a connection to housing services. Others are full-service shelters offering a warm bed, three meals a day, shower and laundry facilities, access to computers and telephones as well as permanent supportive housing assistance, linkage to medical services, financial literacy classes and children’s programming. Information on the specific locations and additional resources on homelessness can be found here.

Services for survivors of domestic violence include a safe house, which provides shelter and support services, and weekly support groups for both women and men survivors of intimate partner violence. For those who don’t need shelter services, there is an outreach team that provides advocacy, case management, counseling, and is also available for public education workshops. To access any of these services as well as find resources on domestic violence dynamics, safety planning and boundary setting guides for teens, click this link.

The final program focus is on supportive housing. Building Families has been a “Housing First” agency since 2007, which means their priority is to quickly connect their clients with housing. They do this by running a 52-unit permanent supportive housing community in Alameda as well as partnering with other agencies in the county to place people in permanent housing.

In the last year, as noted in the 2019-2020 Annual Report, Building Families has provided 29,883 nights of shelter, served 84,274 meals and housed 394 adults and children. You can read the stories behind the numbers at this link

If you’d like support Building Families you can volunteer your time, donate your money and amplify their work on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @buildingfuture5.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Tree-Plenish

Time for another edition of Feel Good Friday with a focus on two favorite topics - youth and the environment. Our featured organization today is Tree-Plenish.


Founded in 2019 by two high school students in Massachusetts, Tree-Plenish is “building sustainable communities by leveraging the power of youth.” They do this by working with students’ clubs and organizations to plan tree-planting events that offset schools' paper usage.


As explained in this short video, there are three steps to the process for students to follow:

1.     Plan your event. Find out how much paper your school used in the last academic year and calculate how many trees you need to plant. The estimate used is one tree for every 10,000 sheets of paper.

2.     Market your event. Reach out to residents in your community to request a tree to be planted or to become volunteers.

3.     Host your event. Gather with volunteers to plant trees for residents in your community.


Tree-Plenish mentors will guide and support students through the process while staying focused on their core values: building a sustainable future by replenishing resources, channeling the power of youth to create meaningful change, and leveraging the strength of local communities to take action.


In their first year of Tree-Plenish, students from two high schools in Massachusetts planted 400 trees. This year 90 schools from 20 states across the country are on track to plant 15,000 trees.


You can use this link to find an event near you and request a tree. For those of you living in Oakland, two local students have set the goal of planting 141 trees. Trees cost $10 each and you have until February 20th to decide between apple or apricot. The tree-planting event takes place on March 20th. Read more about it in this Oaklandside article.

If you like what you read and want to support the work of Tree-Plenish you can find an event to participate in, donate some cash to the cause, or amplify their message by buying a shirt and liking their Facebook page.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Feel Good Friday - The King Center

Today is not only Feel Good Friday, it’s also the birthday of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. We’ll celebrate his legacy with a holiday on Monday, giving you plenty of time to learn about the work being done by The King Center. 

Established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King and based in Atlanta, Georgia, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”) is the official living memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. and a programmatic nonprofit with a mission to “prepare global citizens to create a more just, humane and peaceful world using Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology (Nonviolence365®).


The website is full of resources explaining the 6 principles of nonviolence6 steps on nonviolence and the Beloved Community, “a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth… (and) racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.


Some of the programs of The King Center include: 

  • Nonviolence365® education and training, which teaches individuals about Dr. King’s methods of nonviolent social change as a means and strategy to accelerate progress in social justice initiatives.
  • Camp Now Leadership Academyan intensive program using technology, financial literacy and public speaking to help 13-19-year-old students become complete global citizens who will inspire nonviolent change across the world.
  • The Beloved Community Talks (BCT), which are “bringing people out of their comfort zone to promote understanding and to influence equitable change to the national infrastructure”.
  • Students with King, an opportunity for elementary through high school students to learn about the Civil Rights Movement from Mrs. King and family and friends of Dr. King.


In addition, The King Center leads the nationwide observance of the MLK holiday. The theme and call to action, for this year is “The Urgency of Creating the Beloved Community!” and you can find a schedule of events here: MLK 2021


If you need a shirt to wear on Monday, or some books about Dr. King, you can shop for them at the online store. To support the work of The King Center, make a donation and amplify their work by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TheKingCenter.


Friday, January 8, 2021

Feel Good Friday - Rocket Dog Rescue

We’ve made it to another Feel Good Friday! This week, I’m thinking globally and acting extremely locally by highlighting an organization located at the end of my street, Rocket Dog Rescue.


Founded in 2001, Rocket Dog Rescue is a San Francisco Bay Area dog rescue with a mission “to save the condemned animals from a cruel fate by providing them shelter through a network of temporary foster homes, until the animals are adopted permanently. Rocket Dog Rescue is operated entirely by a tight-knit group of volunteers and foster families who rehabilitate, train, and provide for the rescued animals.” 


The location I pass on my daily walks in Oakland is both an adoption center and urban sanctuary. What that means is they can provide care and temporary housing to homeless animals, pets of domestic violence victims who are unable to care for them, and rescue animals who require specialized care.


Even with housing at the sanctuary, Rocket Dog depends on a network of foster families to provide safe, stable, temporary homes for the dogs while they wait to be adopted. If you’re interested in fostering a dog, you can find more information here.


The ultimate goal, of course, is to find permanent homes for all of the dogs. If you’re wondering why you should adopt a rescue dog, consider this. In addition to saving a dog’s life, Rocket Dog takes care of basic training and veterinary services. They also perform temperament and behavior training and, since most rescue dogs are adults, you’ll have a pretty complete picture about the dog before you adopt it. Plus, the warm fuzzy feeling you get from rescuing a dog will be both figurative and literal. 


If you’re interested in adopting a dog, check out the adoption page. It provides photos and info on dogs that are currently available as well as guidelines and an application form. Virtual adoption events happen every Saturday on the Rocket Dog Facebook page. Since their founding in 2001, Rocket Dog had saved 9,333 dogs from euthanasia in overcrowded bay area shelters! You can read success stories from new pet parents here.


If you’d like to support the work of Rocket Dog Rescue, there are several ways to do it. Foster a dog, become a volunteer or donate some cash. You can also spread the word about their work by liking their Facebook pageand following them on Twitter @RocketDogRescue.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Feel Good Friday - New Year's Manifesto

Happy New Year and Happy Feel Good Friday!

In the 8 years I've been writing this weekly blog, I've only done a few repeats and here comes another one. 

The transition from 2020 to 2021 seems like a perfect time to bring back the post about creating your personal manifesto. Take advantage of some quality time at home to think about what's important to you and put it in writing.