Friday, December 29, 2023

Feel Good Friday - The Free Mindfulness Project

As we head into a new year, many people spend time setting resolutions for themselves. If being more mindful is one of yours, let me introduce you to The Free Mindfulness Project.

Founded in 2012 by Peter Morgan and based in the United Kingdom, the purpose of The Free Mindfulness Project is "to provide easy and free access to mindfulness meditation exercises by inviting the wider mindfulness community to share their resources” on the site.

Let’s start with a quick definition of mindfulness from the website: “Mindfulness can be described as paying attention to what we are experiencing in this moment, and doing so with a particular attitude: One of curiosity, openness, acceptance and warmth. Simply observing what we are experiencing, right now, and bringing a warm curiosity to whatever arises.”

To give mindfulness a try, head to the free resources page. Here you will find a selection of guided mindfulness exercises. You can choose exercises that focus on your breath, your body or guided imagery. There is also a collection of brief exercises if you’re short on time.

If you’d prefer to participate in live online sessions, this link lists recurring live sessions that take place in the U.K., the East Cost of the United States, and California. Because they’re virtual, you can join any of the groups no matter where in the world you are.

The website also has COVID-19 resources, a gallery of soothing images, and a collection of poetry provided by Words to Sit With. Take some time to explore the options and try them out until you find some that you like.

If you find this website helpful and want to make a financial contribution, you’re out of luck. The ability to donate to the project was suspended in 2020 so that people would support other organizations experiencing financial hardship. What you can do is spread the word about The Free Mindfulness Project by sharing this post. Have a happy, healthy, mindful new year!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Doing Good Together

Many people spend their time off during the holiday season doing volunteer work. If you’ve been looking for a way get your family involved in an activity, look no further than
Doing Good Together.

Founded in 2004, Doing Good Together (DGT) is a national nonprofit based in Minnesota “that works to make volunteering and service, along with daily kindness, easy for every family.” Their mission is “empowering families to raise children who care and contribute.” 

Studies show that, while parents want their children to be kind and compassionate, children aren’t getting the message and there has been a 40% decline in empathy among college students compared with peers from 10 years ago. The good news is that empathy is like a muscle you can build and DGT is here to help. Learn more about their programs in this short video or keep reading.

A great place to start your involvement is with the Big-Hearted Families Toolkit. This toolkit has ideas for service projects, kindness activities, empathy building book lists and talking tips and tools. Visit the printables page for free resources such as activity books, kindness challenges and ideas of how to add kindness to family routines. If you need to do some last minute shopping, you can view this page to get ideas for gifts that support DGT’s mission.

When you and your family are ready to volunteer together, you can pick a project by the topic of focus, such as fighting poverty, caring for animals or healing the Earth. Check out this list of 12 Holiday Volunteering Tips if you’re looking for something to do now. DGT also shares monthly, family-friendly volunteer opportunities in 10 metro areas around the United States including Silicon Valley, California, Twin Cities, Minnesota, and New York City. See the full list here.

If you’re ready to help Doing Good Together instill the spirit of giving in a new generation, there are many ways to do so. Become a member of the DGT family, make a donation, and amplify their message on social media. Follow Doing Good Together on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to their YouTube Channel and blog. You’ll never run out of ideas on how you can do something good together!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Harvest Home

In many cities around the United States, figuring out how to care for, and house, the homeless is a challenging issue. One group that often gets overlooked in these discussions is pregnant women. That’s where Harvest Home comes in.

Harvest Home began in 1985 when a woman in Santa Monica, California opened her home to a pregnant young woman who was living on the streets. Since then, Harvest Home has grown into a residential program that “transforms the lives of homeless pregnant women and their children by providing housing, support, and programs that equip women to become great mothers.”

It’s estimated that every year in Los Angeles, 5,000 women are homeless at some point during their pregnancy. Despite these numbers, there are less than 70 shelter beds available in the city for women who are pregnant and in crisis. Harvest Home recognized these women would benefit from specialized interventions and created programs with these needs in mind.

It starts with a 30-60 day stay in the Venice Home. Here pregnant women participate in case management, therapy and programming to assess their short-term needs and set plans for lasting independence. In this short video women explain the impact of having their own room and participating in the program.

Next is the Pico Home, where participants can stay for up to 6 months after giving birth. While here, pregnant women and new moms participate in case management, therapy and educational classes on topics such as child care, financial literacy, and mental and physical health. The goal is for the women to establish long term stability and transition out of homelessness. The final step is joining the Alumnae Program. As alumnae of Harvest Home, women are eligible for ongoing case management, support and access to resources such as diapers.

The impact Harvest Home is having is impressive. They serve up to 70 women and families in their residential program each year, for a total of over 540 since they began. Of these program participants, 90% transition into stable housing, 95% are active in the alumnae program, and 100% of the women maintain custody of their children.

If you’d like to support Harvest Home and the work they do with pregnant women there are many ways to do so. Those of you living in the Los Angeles area can volunteer your time. All of us can donate items or money and spread the word on social media. Follow Harvest Home on Facebook and on Instagram.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Santa's Helpers Foundation

Yes, it’s still early December but don’t be fooled - Christmas is around the corner! Not everyone in California has the means to provide gifts to the children in their families. That’s where Santa’s Helpers Foundation comes in.

Founded in 2021 and headquartered in Concord, California, the mission of Santa’s Helpers Foundation (SHF) is “to provide joy to children, and assistance to those in poverty.” They accomplish this goal by donating items of food, clothing, and gifts to low-income families.

Although Christmas and Santa Claus were the inspiration for this organization, SHF “is committed to creating a world where every child experiences hope, kindness and joy, especially during the holiday season.” They are inclusive of all families and donate presents to children for the many holidays celebrated during the winter months, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, Diwali, and Chinese New Year!

While the Holiday Donation Program is the flagship program of SHF, it’s not the only one. Cheer for Kids provides sponsorship for sports activities that promote physical fitness, Komics4Kids donates reading level appropriate comics to children to encourage a love of reading, and Santa’s Nice List recognizes people in the community who are serving and helping the less fortunate. These individuals receive a thank you card and small token gift of appreciation. 

Any family in California who is struggling financially is eligible to participate in the SHF programs. Applications for toy donations end this Sunday so if you or someone you know can use a visit from Santa’s Helpers, fill out this application form. While limited resources mean not every family who applies will be approved, those who are get notified by email and a volunteer Santa’s Helper hand delivers the donation items before the family’s celebrated holiday.

If you want to spread some cheer this holiday season, consider supporting Santa’s Helpers Foundation. You can do so by volunteering, making a donation, and spreading the word on social media by liking their Facebook page. Ho, ho, ho!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Feel Good Friday - AIDS United

December 1st is World AIDS Day and a good day to learn more about AIDS United.

Formed in 2011 as a merger between two organizations established in the 1980s, the mission of AIDS United is “to end the HIV epidemic in the United States.” They note on their website that the biggest obstacle to ending the HIV epidemic is a lack of health equity, which is why they focus on increasing both health equity and access to testing, prevention and treatment.

The work they do is divided into three areas. The first is capacity building for organizations working in the HIV sector. AIDS United provides community-based organizations with organizational management tools and other technical assistance so those groups can support people in their local communities.

The second area is focused on policy and advocacy. By uniting organizations from across the U.S. in their Public Policy Council, AIDS United brings people together to advocate for “the laws, policies and government programs that address health equity and increase HIV testing, prevention and treatment.”

The final area of focus is providing strategic grants to the organizations best situated to end the HIV epidemic in their communities. To date AIDS United has awarded $221 million dollars to groups working in 43 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Examples of programs these grants support “include, but are not limited to, syringe access, access to care, capacity-building, HIV prevention and advocacy.” You can find details on specific initiatives supported by AIDS United at this link. 

If you’d like to support AIDS United there are many ways to do so. Start by reviewing the HIV 101 section of their website to make sure you’re informed on how to prevent the transmission of HIV. Next, you can take action by contacting Congress on HIV-related policy issues or attending the advocacy event,  AIDSWatch, in March, 2024. Finally, you can help by making a donation and amplifying their work on social media. Like the AIDS United Facebook page, follow them on Instagram or TikTok, and subscribe to their YouTube channel