Make a Difference Day – Here’s What You’re Up to Tomorrow

Got plans this weekend? Add something more. Tomorrow, Saturday, October 24, is Make a Difference Day. Million of folks just like us are committing part of their Saturday to improving the lives of others through volunteering. This particular day of service has been going on for 24 years, and it is the single largest national day dedicated to volunteering.

So here is why you can jump in without having a ton of advance planning, research, or particular skills. The Make a Difference Day website aligns you with you passion and/or your place. Just enter your zip code and find projects all around you that are asking for your help. You can check out all the projects that are geographically convenient for you, and refine your search based on the kind of project that inspires you most. Are you looking to add a little sweat equity to an organization focused on disaster relief? Homelessness? Animal rescue? Education? Veteran’s issues? You decide. It is the drum I always beat–there is a perfect fit volunteering gig out there waiting for you, you just may not know it yet. Use this weekend for discovery! For every social good passion there is a project, probably TONS of projects, needing your exact skills, and/or willingness to learn, at the exact time you have to offer. Your biggest hurdle is just showing up.

So this weekend (there are highlight events both Saturday and Sunday across the nation), between the other things you’ve got on the docket, give some time to the world around you. There’s a whole category of activities appropriate to families and kids if that’s your situation. Make a Difference Day is every day, of course, but show up this weekend in particular. It’s a movement you want a piece of, and you want others to see how easy it was for you to act upon your inspiration.

Help a Lucky Iron Fish Travel the World

iron fish held in hand and over soup potIron deficiency in the diet is a severe problem in many developing nations. Around 3.5 billion people suffer from anemia and iron deficiency—it ranks as the worst diet/nutritional problem (aside from hunger) and it is so easily treated. The kinds of vitamins and pills we commonly give kids as supplements at our breakfast tables are not as affordable or easy to come by in other societies (and if you live anywhere humid at all, you know your kid’s little cartoon-shaped chewables can, very quickly, get super gloopy and unusable).

Here comes the Lucky Iron Fish to the rescue! Looking like a cool Pottery Barn table decoration, this palm-sized fish made of iron is a simple solution to the problem. This project started in Cambodia, and basically, a family takes this metal fish sculpture, drops it into boiling water for ten minutes, and the small amount of trace iron that leeches from it is enough to help fight the deficiency in a family, straight from their normal food source. Pull out the fish, add all the other ingredients you may want for a soup or stew, and the lucky fish has worked magic in your pot.

The fish is a lucky symbol in Cambodia, and as the project spreads, they can create other shapes for this reusable (just rinse and it is ready to go next time, for hundreds of pots) treasure that in each meal can add 75% of each person’s recommended amount of dietary iron. Locally made and hand-packaged, the project also employs locals, many of them recovering survivors of landline injuries. Safe, easy, socially spectacular, and kinda cool to use. Some lemon or other citrus makes the iron, which doesn’t change the flavor of the food, even better absorbed by the body. Restored iron levels increase energy and health, as well as brain power and focus. In Cambodia, the communities where this project is underway have seen more than a 50% decrease in iron deficiency and anemia.

Check them out, donate, watch the video below to learn more, buy a Lucky Iron Fish for yourself and one is donated to family in need, and help put  fish in every pot.


Travelocity Doubles Down to Support Voluntourism

From my second post-earthquake voluntourism trip to Haiti in 2012

From my second post-earthquake voluntourism trip to Haiti in 2012

I loved the news that Travelocity is re-invigorating their commitment to voluntourism, making service travel desirable, and even in some lucky folks’ cases, available and accessible.

The company’s Travel for Good portal is bringing welcome eyeballs to the concept of voluntourism, a travel category that bloggers had been piling on lately, accusing heartfelt service travel seekers of being motivated by wealthy guilt or savior complexes, or just being spoiled rich kids. So misguided, jaded, and wrong—truly frustrating that they don’t recognize what’s going on out there in the real world, where more and more people are making significant differences every day.

With the travel category’s popularity has come the next wave of hucksters trying to rip well meaning folks off or get high fees paid to line their pockets, but that’s not new to the tourism world. I always heartily suggest would-be voluntourists ask lots of questions, talk to previous clients, and have crystal clarity about who initiated the project and why (projects should be generated by the community served, not outside agencies who are not fluent in the nuances of a community’s needs).

The Travel for Good program also brings a web-sticky element of competition into the mix, with a social media contest giving away travel expenses and donations to causes for contest winners.

Go explore. Let your imagination run wild about ways you can help. Enter the contest

and win an amazing voluntourism trip! For just about every cause you can imagine, there is a way to get involved to really help. Every step you make toward creating a more workable world is significant.

Reality Tours Open Eyes Around the World

Haiti Capital 2010

Haitian capital post-quake 2010

This travel company was recently brought to my attention, and I’m loving them: Global Exchange.

Their Reality Tours take clients to rich and intriguing destinations we might not even know we need to add to our bucket lists. North Korea, Afghanistan, Rebuilding Nepal, Iran (all places I would LOVE to go) and so many more, but the genuinely exciting part is the context in which you travel. To explore and discover human rights causes, or sustainability efforts, or post-disaster recovery, or food scarcity programs, women’s rights—it is issue-based travel and connection.

The company’s tag line is: “…an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic, and environmental justice around the world.” Their experiential education excursions connect deeply to communities and issues, and help make a real difference while fostering true understanding far more deeply than the levels we glean from most media. Over 100 trips a year to 40 destinations means you can absolutely find a trip that is meaningful and supports the issues about which you are passionate.

In addition to travel opportunities, their robust website offers plenty of other ways to get involved (including great “5-Minute Actions“), events, thoughtful blogs from past participants, and other programs. Go explore. Fair warning, you may disappear down the rabbit hole of intrigue the way I did, fantasizing about my next opportunity for impact travel.

Being Ahead of Schedule Is Bad – Earth Overshoot Day


We keep getting more efficient at screwing ourselves up!

Most often, in life, it is beneficial to be ahead of schedule for things–better than the alternative, being late. Well, when it comes to annually using up our world’s resources, the early bird doesn’t get the worm…the early bird probably only gets hungry, and thirsty, and hot, very hot.

Earth Overshoot Day should be sometime in early October, this red-letter-in-a-bad-way day, but this year, 2015, it happened yesterday, on August 13 (six days ahead of last year–a bad trend). Yikes!

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. The Global Footprint Network measures humanity’s demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services, and at some point on the calendar, we get to the point where we are in a deficit compared to what can be provided, so we are technically drawing down resources and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We owe the world, and that tipping point date gets earlier every year. In banking terms, we are drawing down the earth’s principal rather than responsibly living off the interest.

Ecological overshoot is a non-sustainable way of life and possible for only a limited period of time before we degrade the system so far that we end up with water shortages, desertification, soil erosion, reduced cropland activity, overgrazing, rapid species extinction, collapse of fisheries, and increased carbon concentration…sound familiar?

Our global overshoot has nearly doubled since 1961. According to Global Footprint Network, we are now living large, literally, as it would take 1.6 Earths to actually support our current consumption, and predictions state we would require two entire planets to support our usage trends by mid-century. Only 14% of our world lives in countries with more biocapacity than usage footprint, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Chile, and Brazil. The United States is squarely in the not-so-happy red zone, using more natural resources than we can possibly provide.


Check out this interactive footprint calculator to discover how much land area it takes to support your own lifestyle, discover your biggest areas of resource consumption, and learn what you can do to tread more lightly on the earth.

The Power of Generosity | Service Space

This TED Talk by Nipun Mehta, the founder of Service Space, is from 2012….and well…it kind of sums up all of the things…

World Elephant Day and You

Today, August 12, is World Elephant Day.

ivory decoration with World Elephant Day text overlaidThere are lots of recognition events around the world, and a flurry of social media about them.

#WorldElephantDay is the Number One trending topic on Twitter.

The recent Cecil the Lion travesty has brought new attention to the plight of endangered and overly hunted species. Elephants have that extra strike against them of the voracious ivory trade that this nothing of slaughtering them for their tusks.

Currently in the United States, import and trade of African Elephant ivory and Asian Elephant ivory is prohibited (there are some cases where transport is allowed of antiques and family possessions acquired before the 1970s), but other nations still consume ivory as a weirdly valued status symbol.

Since the Cecil and the Dentist dust-up, many international airlines have now banned transport of endangered animal trophies and products on their flights—a good deterrent to poachers placing a price on the heads of elephants and other threatened species.

There are some wonderful elephant volunteer situations in East Asia and Africa, to help support the species and care for orphaned and injured elephants. Here is a list to get you started (and if you can fit me in your suitcase when you go to volunteer at one of these, I will ABSOLUTELY come along!)

Elevate Destinations Kenya Private Elephant Adventure

GVI Thai Elephant Project

Elevate Namibia Conservation Safari

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tanzania Elephant Conservation Service and Safari—Elevate Destinations



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