Friday, April 12, 2024

Feel Good Friday - Oakland Asian Cultural Center

Last week we celebrated Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in New York so this week we’re taking it back to California to highlight the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.

Founded by a coalition of volunteers in 1984, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (OACC) has been located in the heart of Oakland’s Chinatown since 1996. Their mission is explained on the website, “OACC builds vibrant communities through Asian and Pacific Islander arts and cultural programs that foster inter-generational and cross-cultural dialogue and understanding, collaboration, and social justice.”


Live classes currently offered at the center include Persian belly dancing, Ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement), Chinese calligraphy, Chinese music lessons and a GER youth center on Saturday afternoons that supports Mongolian youth. 


If you aren’t ready to commit to a class, check out the OACC calendar of events and make your plan to visit. Stop in before June 8th to see the multimedia Dalit art exhibition of over 30 artists, “Dalit Dreamlands: Toward an Anti-Caste Future”, or join the Southeast Asian New Year celebration on April 20th. There will be performances, workshops and vendors. Admission is free!


In addition to all the cultural events, OACC provides information on safety issues and community-based responses. Visit the resource section of the website to find out how to report a hate crime, to volunteer at a community cleanup or get connected to the Bay Area’s only Korean language toll-free navigation phone line. 


In 2021, during the COVID shutdown, OACC ran 30 virtual programs, added 41 new community partners and directly impacted 4,920 people. If you’d like to help the Oakland Asian Cultural Center build vibrant communities through AAPI arts and culture there are many ways to get involved. 


People local to the Bay Area can take a class, volunteer at an event, or rent the OACC space to host their own event. No matter where you live, you can support OACC with a donation and by amplifying their work on social media. Like the OACC Facebook page, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and follow them on Instagram @oaklandasiancc.


Friday, April 5, 2024

Feel Good Friday - Heart of Dinner

We’re heading to New York to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an organization that provides meals to Asian elders, Heart of Dinner.


Founded in 2020 at the onset of COVID-19, and headquartered in New York City, “Heart of Dinner's mission works to directly address food insecurity and isolation experienced by Asian American seniors—two long-standing community issues.”


This Fortune Magazine video with founders Moonlynn Tsai and Yin Chang gives a great overview of the problem and the program. Asian Americans are the fastest growing older adult population in the U.S. but because there is a false belief that they don’t experience poverty and health disparities, there are less culturally and linguistically relevant services available to them. This leaves low-income and homebound seniors living in socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic isolation


Enter Heart of Dinner. They work with local independent restaurant partners to source culturally thoughtful ingredients and meals. Every Wednesday, volunteers (called “Big Hearts”) pack that food into bags that have been illustrated by other volunteers. They also include a handwritten love note in the native language of the recipient. The bags are then delivered to the elders, providing them with nourishment of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.


While the operation started in the founders’ apartment, it has since expanded to four locations across Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. The Big Hearts are an intergenerational community of volunteers numbering in the thousands. Heart of Dinner serves over 650 elders every week for a total of more than 185,800 meals and notes delivered since they began.


If you’d like to help Heart of Dinner spread empathy and compassion along with the food, there are many ways to get involved. You can volunteer to deliver meals, illustrate bags or write notes. You can also shop for merch, make a donation and amplify their work on social media. Follow Heart of Dinner on Facebook and Instagram. 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Feel Good Friday - The Muslim Women's Organization

Inspired by the fact that it’s both Women’s History Month and Ramadan, we’re highlighting The Muslim Women’s Organization, a very aptly named organization that works with Muslim women.

 

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Orlando, Florida, the mission of The Muslim Women’s Organization (The MWO) is “ to empower communities by harnessing the leadership of Muslim Women and ensuring that they have the resources they need to affect change in their areas of passion.”


The programs that The MWO runs are dynamic and change to meet both the needs of the community and the interests of the volunteers. Currently there are 19 programs focused on four areas:  Aid, Awareness Building, Leadership Training, and Sisterhood.


Examples of Aid programs include food donation to families with children in Title 1 schools and financial assistance such as schools supplies or gift cards to purchase clothing. Awareness Building programs educate women on issues such as mental and physical health, domestic violence and voting rights. 


Programs in the Leadership Training area include financial and business training for women as well as a program directed at boys and girls from 7th to 12th grade. Called Leaders In Training, it help develop leadership skills for the young people through opportunities to engage in community service initiatives.


Sisterhood can be found in the Cafe MWO programs which offer women a chance to connect, get to know each other and discuss current events in the world, society, community, and their own lives.


You can visit the website to read details about the programs, access a list of resources across central Florida or to get connected to spiritual support or financial aid. In the last year, The MWO volunteers have donated over 4,200 hours to various programs as well as distributed more than $65,000 in aid.


If you’d like to help The Muslim Women’s Organization expand opportunities for women’s leadership in their communities, personal lives, and professional spheres, there are many ways to get involved.


People in the Orlando area can view this calendar and join an upcoming event. All of us can make a donation and help amplify the work of The MWO on social media. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram @themwo and subscribe to their YouTube channel.


Friday, March 22, 2024

Feel Good Friday - Oasis for Girls

Today’s Feel Good Friday post highlights a local organization, well local if you live in the Bay Area, Oasis for Girls


Founded in 1999, Oasis for Girls began as a Friday night Girls Group a at a Teen Center in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood. While the programs have evolved, the mission remains the same - to “partner with young women of color, aged 14-18, from under-resourced communities in San Francisco to cultivate the skills, knowledge, and confidence to discover their dreams and build strong futures.”   


Oasis for Girls offers three after school programs that are both culturally relevant and gender-specific. These programs are designed to empower the girls and equip them with life skills while they build a sisterhood through shared experiences.


RISE focuses on developing life skills. Girls can explore personal identity, mental health, and social justice issues. Examples of classes in this program include cooking, self defense and yoga. It culminates with the participants planning a direct action project to make a positive change in their community.


CREATE is focused on arts and activism. Workshops include learning about visual, performance and digital art and how they can be used to address social justice issues. Field trips can include different art venues and events.


ENVISION is focused on career exploration. Workshops help girls develop skills such as interviewing and networking, while also introducing topics like workplace discrimination and code switching. Visits to job sites, networking events and internships at the UCSF Department of Neurosurgery expand the girls’ career awareness.


All of the programs are taught by Program Coordinators who mirror the girls’ backgrounds and serve as allies and mentors throughout their high-school years. If you know a girl who would be a good match for the programs, applications for the summer sessions open in mid-May. Fill out this application form to get started.


If you’d like to support Oasis for Girls and help girls in San Francisco discover their dreams and build strong futures, there are many ways to do so. Volunteer your time, donate your money, and amplify their message on social media. Like the Oasis for Girls Facebook page and follow them on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Feel Good Friday - Women's Collective Ireland

With Saint Patrick’s Day on Sunday, it’s a great time to highlight an organization supporting women in Ireland, namely Women’s Collective Ireland.

Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, the mission of Women’s Collective Ireland (WCI) is “to support grassroots women through collective and practical actions to achieve their full human rights and true equality.”


WCI targets actions and strategies to advance women’s equality using both a community development and a feminist approach in their work. They manage 17 grassroots, community development projects around the country supporting “women living in poverty and disadvantage, older women, lone parents, women from the Traveller community, minority ethnic and migrant women, disabled women, lesbian and bisexual women, women living in rural areas and women experiencing domestic violence.”


The focus of the work being done by WCI is on facilitating women’s empowerment and capacity building. Across the 17 projects that work can include: community education and community building, pathways to education and training, awareness-raising on gender-based violence and disadvantaged women’s human rights, promoting community leadership and empowerment, supporting women’s health and well-being, facilitating access to local services and supports, and increasing representation of women at local, regional, national and international levels.


According to their latest impact report, Women’s Collective Ireland projects made a total of 150,944 engagements with women in 2022 and on International Women’s Day last week, they organized events ranging from chatting over a cup of tea to hearing from members of the government. All of these activities were geared towards amplifying the voices of grassroots women.


You can help amplify the voices of grassroots women by spreading the word about Women’s Collective Ireland on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram @wci_irl.


Friday, March 8, 2024

Feel Good Friday - Solar Sister

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s celebrate by highlighting an organization that supports women around the world, Solar Sister


Founded in 2009 by an investment banker, an energy economist and women leaders in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Kenya, the vision of Solar Sister is “a more prosperous world powered by women entrepreneurs.” 

First let’s take a look at the problem. As they explain on their website, “over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity and about 940 million depend on harmful fuels such as firewood and charcoal for cooking. Globally, smoke from cooking over open fires causes 2.6 million premature deaths and a host of harmful health conditions, including respiratory and vision problems.”


Solar Sister tackles these issues by investing in women entrepreneurs who are bringing renewable energy to rural communities in Africa. They provide these women with training, technology and support to distribute a range of clean energy products. The training includes both technical product knowledge and financial management courses. The women choose the products and services that will provide them the most value so they can be in charge of their energy freedom and prosperity. Because Solar Sister team members are part of the communities they serve, it allows them to build deep relationships and helps them have a more meaningful and lasting impact. Watch this short video to learn more.


Since they began, Solar Sister has funded over 10,000 entrepreneurs! This includes a woman in Tanzania who sold enough solar lights to buy a motorbike and build a house. The program helps women gain confidence and serve as role models and change agents in their communities. You can read more impact stories at this link.


If you want to help Solar Sister bring light, hope and opportunity to underserved communities in Africa, there are many ways you can do so. Make a donation and share their story on social media. Like Solar Sister Facebook page, follow them on Instagram @iamsolarsister and subscribe to their YouTube channel to see videos of the Solar Sister entrepreneurs in action.

 

Friday, March 1, 2024

Feel Good Friday - Every Mother Counts

Today is the start of Women’s History Month and we’re kicking it off by highlighting Every Mother Counts.

Founded in 2010 by Christy Turlington Burns, the mission of Every Mother Counts (EMC) is “making pregnancy and childbirth safe for everyone, everywhere.”


The statistics on the website are alarming. Every year, approximately 287,000 women around the world, or one woman every two minutes, dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. 99% of maternal deaths take place in the developing world and the majority of them can be prevented by ensuring that women have access to quality, respectful, and equitable maternity care. That’s where EMC comes in.


Every Mother Counts partners with local, community-based organizations around the globe to identify and develop effective, appropriate solutions to improve maternal health. They provide grants to support programs that strengthen healthcare workforces, facilitate access to resources, advance proven models of care, place mothers at the center, and promote human rights, equity and birth justice. Currently, work is being done in Guatemala, Haiti, Tanzania, Bangladesh and the United States.


In addition to providing grant funding, EMC advocates for policy and systems change on local, national and international levels to advance improvements in maternal health. They have also created over 40 documentary films to raise awareness of the issues faced by both pregnant woman and healthcare providers. Last, the website has resources for people who want to learn more about the issues and a guide designed to educate people about their pregnancy and birth options called Choices in Childbirth.


Since they began, EMC has provided over $24 million in funding to more than 40 programs in 16 countries. In turn, these programs to advance maternal health have impacted over one million people!


If you want to help Every Mother Counts improve maternal health outcomes around the world, there are many ways you can do so. Download the advocacy toolkit, shop for gifts that give back or make a donation. As always, help spread the word on social media. View and share their films on Vimeo and follow Every Mother Counts on Facebook and on Instagram @everymomcounts.


Friday, February 23, 2024

Feel Good Friday - Black Joy Parade

As we near the end of Black History Month, let’s wrap it up with a celebration! Today’s Feel Good Friday organization is Black Joy Parade.

Founded in 2018, Black Joy Parade is “a hyper-positive non-profit based in Oakland, CA that celebrates the Black experience and community's contribution to history and culture with its signature parade and celebration, partnerships and events.”


Founder Elisha Greenwell and co-founder Amber Lester wanted “Oakland to become a destination for Black joy” where people could gather to celebrate Black culture and community. That’s where the idea of the parade began. Led entirely by volunteers, the team behind the Black Joy Parade organization partnered with community leaders and icons to create and produce the first Black Joy Parade in 2018. The parade is free to attend and support to produce it comes from grants, donations and sponsorships. 


As they explain on their website, “The Black Joy Parade exists to provide the Black community and allies a live experience that celebrates our influence on cultures past, present and future. We will unite a diverse community by creating a space to express each of our unique contributions to the Black experience. We invite you to be creative, be open, be present, be free.” Having attended several of the parades, I can confirm it is a very fun and joyful event.


This year’s Black Joy Parade is happening on Sunday, February 25th. Yes, that’s this weekend! It starts at 12:30pm in downtown Oakland, and runs along Franklin St. from 14th St. to 19th St. If you live in the Bay Area, come on over and enjoy the parade in person! If you’re not able to attend you can watch this 12-minute documentary to hear from the founders and volunteers as well as see footage from past parades.


In addition to the parade, the organization Black Joy Parade holds year round events such as financial literacy classes, a wine festival, and comedy shows. Check the events page for details and tickets.


If you want to help spread positivity and joy in Oakland, support Black Joy Parade. You can shop for merch, make a donation and amplify their message on social media. Follow Black Joy Parade on Facebook and on Instagram @blackjoyparade.


Friday, February 16, 2024

Feel Good Friday - Black Mamas Matter Alliance

For today’s Black History Month Feel Good Friday, we’re turning our attention to an organization that supports Black mothers, Black Mamas Matter Alliance.

Founded in 2021 and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) is “a Black women-led cross-sectoral alliance that centers Black mamas and birthing people to advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice.” Their vision is “a world where Black mamas have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy.”


The Centers for Disease Control has found that “Black women are at least three times more likely to die due to a pregnancy-related cause when compared to White women.” These deaths are preventable and BMMA is addressing this with a national network of Black women-led organizations and multi-disciplinary professionals whose work is deeply rooted in reproductive justice, birth justice, and human rights frameworks. 


Examples of the work being done by BMMA include: introducing policy that addresses Black maternal health inequity and improves Black maternal health outcomes; providing technical assistance, training, and capacity building for grassroots organizations, maternity care service providers, academia, and the public health industry; and supporting more effective collaboration of stakeholders working to advance Black maternal health.


One big initiative of BMMA is Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW), a week-long campaign to build awareness, activism, and community-building to amplify the voices, perspectives and lived experiences of Black Mamas and birthing people. It takes place every year from April 11 to 17 and this year’s theme is “Our Bodies STILL Belong to Us: Reproductive Justice NOW!” To learn more register for the national call on February 26 at 1:00pm Eastern. You’ll hear about the purpose of BMHW and get highlights of all the major activities happening online and across the nation in celebration of Black Mamas!


If you want to help BMMA ensure that Black mamas thrive before, during, and after pregnancy, you can do that by making a donation and amplifying their message on social media. Like the Black Mamas Matter Alliance Facebook page, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and follow them on Instagram @blackmamasmatter.


Friday, February 9, 2024

Feel Good Friday - The Valentine Project

Valentine’s Day is next week and if you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate the holiday, consider The Valentine Project.


Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Danville, Kentucky, the goal of The Valentine project is “for all children whose lives are affected by cancer or a chronic illness to feel special and loved each Valentine’s Day, and to cultivate compassion year-round through offering volunteer opportunities that bring out the love and kindness in us all.”


Founders, and siblings, Gregory and Michaela Margida started The Valentine Project because they knew families dealing with cancer or chronic illness can often feel isolated and stigmatized. They wanted to “spread love, hope, and joy by sending packages brimming with loads of love and smiles, zero stigma attached.”


Children up to 21 years old are eligible to participate in the program and can register to receive a personalized package on Valentine’s Day. Siblings are also included in the outreach! Currently, packages are being sent to eligible children in Kentucky, Ohio and California.


In addition to the packages, The Valentine Project runs a program called Kindness Cards. Created by volunteers like you, Kindness Cards are meant to serve as a break from health concerns and their main purpose is to add an unexpected burst of love when least expected. It starts with you making or buying some cards, writing a fun message or joke, and sending them to The Valentine Project. They’ll take care of personalizing, addressing and mailing the cards to kids throughout the United States. Unlike the packages, Kindness Cards are sent out all year long. If you know a child who would like to receive a Kindness Card, you can sign them up here


Since they began, The Valentine Project has worked with over 9,000 volunteers to send 7,187 Valentine’s packages and 721 Kindness Cards. That’s a lot to love!


If you’re ready to become someone’s Valentine this year, you can use the Valentine Matching System to find a child to support. You can also make some Kindness Cards, visit The Valentine Project’s Amazon Wish List to buy supplies for their packages or make a donation.


As always, help get the word out about The Valentine Project on social media. Follow them on Facebook and on Instagram @the_valentine_project. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Friday, February 2, 2024

Feel Good Friday - GirlTREK

It’s the first Feel Good Friday of Black History Month so let’s talk about an organization that helps Black women find health, justice and joy by walking, GirlTREK.


Founded in 2010 by T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, and headquartered in Washington, D.C., GirlTREK is “the largest health movement and nonprofit organization for Black women and girls in the U.S.” They encourage Black women to walk 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, because they believe it is “a radical act of self-love and the root of a cultural revolution.”


Statics provided on the GirlTREK website, show that Black women have a life expectancy that is 5-10 years behind other racial groups. In addition, 81% of Black women are overweight, 52% are obese and they are 20% less likely to engage in physical activity. This leads to Black women  in the United States dying from heart disease at the rate of 137 women each day.


The women behind GirlTREK knew that walking helps women improve their health, inspire their daughters and reclaim their neighborhoods. They found that “as women organize walking teams, they also mobilize community members to support advocacy efforts and lead a Civil Rights-inspired health movement.” Watch this 3-minute video to learn more.


Since they began 14 years ago, over 1.3 million women have taken the GirlTREK pledge to start walking and their results are impressive. 90% of women reported fewer symptoms of depression after joining GirlTREK. 61% reported losing weight and 56% sustained 5 days or more of walking for one year or more. Motivated by the success stories GirlTREK’s new goal is to increase the life expectancy of Black women by 10 years in 10 years.


If you’re ready to take steps towards a healthier you (pun 100% intended), search this page to find a GirlTREK group in your area. You can also sign up for a walking challenge, like a Jumpstart (walk 21/30 days) or Warrior Week (walk 5/7 days). Once you’ve finished the challenge, you’ll be eligible to claim your victory and collect prizes such as golden shoelaces or a GirlTREK t-shirt. If you can’t wait that long to represent, you can always shop for your swag.


Other ways to support GirlTREK are with a donation and by amplifying their message on social media. Like the GirlTREK Facebook page follow them on Instagram @girltrek. Now that you’re finished reading, why not go out for a walk?