Friday, October 27, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Y'alloween

Halloween is coming up on Tuesday so it’s time for a spooky Feel Good Friday post about Y’alloween.

Founded by high school junior BJ Rottinghaus and his family in 2021, Y’alloween is a non-profit based in Houston, Texas that helps kids in need get free Halloween costumes. Given the name of the organization, I suspect the location of the headquarters is not a surprise. 🎃 Knowing that the expense of a Halloween costume is out of reach for many families, the team at Y’alloween partners with local community organizations who have programs for children. 

In their first year, Y’alloween worked with the Houston Area Women’s Center and provided 50 costumes. Since then, they’ve added Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence and Assurance Therapeutic Outreach to their list of partners. They’ve also recently expanded beyond the Houston area and are now working with the Austin branch of the Salvation Army

By working with these partners, Y’alloween has already given away 300 costumes to children in need and they’re on track to give away 400 more costumes this year! Their goal is for “every kid in Texas to be able go trick-or-treating without parents worrying about buying a brand new costume.” 

There are many ways you can help make this goal a reality. Buy an item from Y’alloween’s Amazon wish list or make a general donation. You can also use the next few days to spread the word on social media. Like the Y’alloween Facebook page and follow them on Instagram @yalloweentx.


Friday, October 20, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Doctors Without Borders

Another Friday with people around the world impacted by conflict and natural disasters. Another post about an organization doing something to help. Today we focus on Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as MSF. 

Founded in 1971 by a group of doctors and journalists in France, MSF provides “independent, impartial medical humanitarian assistance to the people who need it most.” 

What started as a group of a few hundred volunteers 50 years ago has grown into an international movement of more than 63,000 staff providing over 10 million medical consultations in more than 70 countries and territories every year. This short video gives a great overview of their work as told by the people who do it.

MSF provides care where the needs for their expertise are greatest regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or politics. Nearly 25% of their projects are dedicated to assisting people living in conflict. In the current Israel-Gaza war, MSF offered support to Israeli hospitals treating large numbers of casualties following attacks by Hamas militants. They are also treating people at the MSF-supported Al-Awda hospital in Gaza. You can find the latest updates at this link.

MSF aid workers respond to natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Afghanistan and Morocco. Because they have a worldwide network, they are often the first group to deploy rapid, lifesaving medical care. This network can also be activated during an outbreak of infectious disease. MSF will set up temporary facilities to treat patients, run mass vaccination campaigns and improve water and sanitation services to help prevent the spread of disease.

Finally, MSF teams work with refugees and internally displaced people to conduct rapid needs assessments and provide services such as vaccination; primary care and mental health counseling; nutrition support; and clean water and sanitation. Because MSF is financially independent they are able to reach communities in need without restriction and directly provide high quality medical care.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the state of the world and unsure of how you can help, supporting an organization like  Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is one way to make an impact. You can get involved by fundraising, joining a college chapter of MSF or volunteering. You can also make a donation and spread the word on social media. Like the MSF Facebook page, subscribe to their YouTube channel follow them on Instagram @doctorswithoutborders. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Alliance for Middle East Peace

With news of the recent terrorist attack on Israel and the ensuing violence in the Gaza Strip, it’s difficult to feel hopeful about the state of the world. That’s the reason I started posting a Feel Good Friday blog 11 years ago. To remind myself that at the same time terrible things are happening, there are also people and organizations working to make a positive impact. This week, I’m highlighting the Alliance for Middle East Peace.

Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Washington D.C. the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) is a coalition of over 170 organizations, and tens of thousands of individuals. Their vision is “a Middle East in which its community of Palestinian and Israeli peace builders lead their societies toward and beyond a sustainable peace.” Many of the ALLMEP member organizations have issued statements about the current situation, opposing the violence and committing to an Israeli/Palestinian partnership to achieve peace and equality.

When not in a time of immediate crisis, ALLMEP amplifies the voices and impact of their member organizations by sustaining and scaling the work being done in support of peace. Some of that work is focused on capacity building and training on topics such digital media, grant writing, monitoring and evaluation. Another big portion of the work is around global advocacy and fundraising. 

ALLMEP is working with governments around the world to create an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, and has already secured financial commitment from the United Kingdom and United States. This is modeled after the International Fund for Ireland, which was used to make peace building investments in Northern Ireland.

An example of groups that receive funding from ALLMEP include: The Parents Circle, a group of Palestinian and Israeli parents whose children have been killed, now working together for peace; Hand in Hand, bilingual schools where Jewish and Arab children learn together; and Olive Oil Without Borders, a collaborative economic initiative among olive oil farming communities in Israel and the West Bank. Learn more about those organizations in this short video.

If you’d like to support organizations like those above and see peace in the Middle East, supporting ALLMEP is an actionable step you can take. Make a donation and amplify their message on social media. Follow the ALLMEP Facebook page and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation

Happy World Smile Day! If you’re asking yourself, “world what now?” keep reading to learn all about the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation.

Founded in 2001, the tag line for the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation is, “improving our world one smile at a time.” Why the focus on smiling? Harvey Ball was a commercial artist from Massachusetts who created the first ever
smiley face in 1963. As this symbol became more popular and commercialized, he grew concerned that its original meaning of good will and good cheer had become lost. That gave him the idea to make the first Friday of every October World Smile Day.

World Smile Day was first held in Harvey’s hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts in 1999. That year the U.S. Post Office released a smiley face postage stamp. You can watch this 6-minute video to hear from Harvey Ball and see the stamp being unveiled. The theme of World Smile Day that year, and every year, is for people to do an act of kindness and help one person smile. 

After Harvey died in 2001, the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation was founded to honor his name and memory and to ensure World Smile Day continues. Every year, the Foundation sponsors activities in Worcester, MA while also encouraging people and organizations worldwide to join in. If you want to support the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation in this work, consider a sponsorship

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate World Smile Day you have lots of options. Join an event, organize your own, or download and print out a poster, a sticker or pages to color. Do an act of kindness (random or not) and talk about it on social media using the hashtag #WorldSmileDay. You can also like Foundation’s Facebook page and check out their YouTube videos to help spread the word. 🙂