Be My Eyes App is a Visionary Volunteer Opportunity

clip art of blind woman walking with caneHere is a fantastic concept that allows you to log in and volunteer whenever you have some time to be helpful to those who are blind or visually impaired, all around the world.

Be My Eyes is a free app you load on your phone. Log in whenever you can be available or are inclined to lend your sight to someone in need. A blind person will access the app wherever they are when they need help or visual feedback in a situation…a video chat is initiated…you see what they are up against via their phone camera, and describe it to help them. It might be checking the expiration date on a carton of milk, reading the label on a prescription bottle that got mixed up, guiding toward the elevator button, or describing their surroundings when they got off a bus at a new stop.

There are currently 12,365 blind people from around the world signed up for the service who may need to reach out at any time of day or night. Imagine how simple, and how rewarding it would be if you could truly help someone out of a jam or to keep from danger, in your spare time. It’s so simple. You can imagine the conversation, “Tip your phone up a little bit, I can’t read the sign. A little more. Perfect. Yes, that’s it–It says ‘Emergency Clinic’ and the door is directly ahead of you. It’s an automatic door but it swings toward you so step forward one more step but then wait for the door…” and so on.

Be My Eyes is a non-profit, and if you are able to be sighted help, even once, it make a difference.

Free Book: Adventures Less Ordinary

book cover by Inspired EscapesReady for a cool freebie?

Adventures Less Ordinary is a virtual book, brought to you by Inspired Escapes, about responsible voluntourism and service travel around the world. It is a collection of writings from several experts in the field of travel to do good, how to proceed when choosing a giveback adventure, and warnings of what to avoid when trying not to be scammed or accidentally doing more harm than good.

Those who want to have authentic travel experiences and genuine cultural connection will glean a lot from 24 insightful authors— travel industry insiders, travel writers, philanthropy experts, and foundation leaders.

As time has gone on and voluntourism and service travel have become more popular, the road has grown more treacherous with false companies trying to make a buck off your best intentions and other pitfalls. When I first began writing about this topic, there was far less need to be wary and far fewer folks preying on giving hearts.

Whatever you do, don’t be turned off to the idea of making a difference, just be sure to seek deep knowledge about how volunteer programs are created, who initiated the project and decides on metrics for success, where money you spend goes, and other smart questions you would want to know about any kind of travel.

The free download link is here.

Remembering the Holocaust With Service

snowy railroad gates of Auschwitz concentration campToday is Holocaust Remembrance Day—70 years ago today, Auschwitz was liberated.

Eleven million people were persecuted, tortured, and/or exterminated in the holocaust, targeted groups were: Jews, Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma Gypsies, Courageous Resisters, Priests & Pastors, the Disabled, children of Black African parentage.

In memory, here are just a few volunteer service possibilities for you to consider generated by these groups:

AJWS: American Jewish World Service “…is the leading Jewish human rights and development organization working to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.

We pursue lasting change by providing financial support to local grassroots and global human rights organizations working in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and by mobilizing American Jews and others in the U.S. to advocate for policies that will benefit people in the developing world.”

Rainbow World Fund “is the world’s first and only all-volunteer, LGBT-based humanitarian aid organization. RWF’s mission is to promote peace, unity and hope by leading the LGBT movement in participating in local and humanitarian relief efforts. RWF works to help people affected by natural disasters, hunger, poverty, disease, oppression and war by raising awareness in, and funds from, the LGBT community to support relief efforts around the world.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses Construction Projects put special regard toward environmental impact and protection, and volunteers of the church also are very active in disaster relief.

National Romani (Gypsy & Traveller) Anti-Discrimination Organization has opportunities to get involved in their mission dedicated to the worldwide support of the Romani people.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. is always happy for volunteers to help.

Medical Tattooing for Burn Scars

This is an amazing story about survivor support. Burn survivors (the word “victim” is never used, despite how some media are covering this story…please know, victim is neither appropriate nor correct language) have a new tool for dealing with scars. Paramedical tattooing of the sort and expertise demonstrated by Basma Hameed in the video below, camouflages scars by matching existing pigment.

Basma has a big schmancy title: Para-Medical Micro Pigment Implantation Specialist, and her deep interest was born of her own childhood injuries resulting in facial scarring. She, in fact, first experimented on herself to perfect her technique. Basma has also developed a cosmetic concealer to help temporarily blend discolored scars with healthy tissue.

Learn more about this huge step toward confidence, ad consider supporting or volunteering with burn foundations like the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation that has multiple survivor services, including makeup and self-esteem counseling for survivors re-entering school or work or social life in general after long stays at burn units.

Crafty Volunteering for Furry and Feathered Friends

close up of koala faceHave you seen the almost painfully cute (though born of mishap) story this week about the koalas that were injured in wildfires and the International Fund for Animal Welfare rescue organization sent out a call for volunteers to sew mittens for the burn-surviving koalas to speed their healing? I love the outpouring of tiny paw coverings that were sent in almost immediately to help keep medicinal salve on those tiny marsupial toes (with some monstrous claws–I’ve held baby koalas before, they’ve got some fierce nails!)

Pair this with the previous volunteer call for knitters who could make sweaters for penguins, and the chances to help injured and ill animals in crazy cute ways are almost too much to bear…and I love that there is never a shortage of people leaping to the task!

Well, those calls for charitable crafters are fully met and there is no longer need…but here are a couple of other ways you can be creative for animals with volunteer craft projects (I’m sort of miserable at many craft projects, but these would be great fun for more talented volunteers):

Animal Rights Action has an entire page devoted to sewing for animal charities, from patters for different sized dog sweaters to blankets and beds for stray and shelter dogs around the world.

All Natural Pet Care has patterns for knitting and crocheting projects for animal shelters.

Animal Humane Society has a need for craft projects for the animals, from blankets and homemade toys to heating pads for shuttler animals recovering from surgery.

The Anti-Cruelty Society has an entire webpage dedicated to do-it-yourself craft donations for shelter pets.

Quilts to the Rescue is a charitable project that sells and auctions quilts to raise funds for animal rescue with special focus on senior and hard-to-place animals.

Today is National Bird Day…Volunteer!

close up of green parrot headGrowing up I wanted a parrot so badly, but my mother had this irrational fear of birds, so it was a non-starter (not to mention the life-span requiring loving care for many decades). I don’t know how, if it ever were an option, how I would have obtained a companion bird so very long ago, but I do know that today, exotic birds are traded illegally in astonishing numbers. Couple that with the loss of habitat and disease, and you’ve got a recipe for avian disaster.

Today, January 5, is National Bird Day, set aside to celebrate the winged ones and call attention to conservation measures that we need to implement sooner rather than later. Born Free USA and the Avian Welfare Coalition have lots of suggestions and inspiring games and interactive web features to get folks talking about species protection and the quality of life for captive birds.

In addition to finding new ways to become a feathered-friend activist, here are just a few volunteer gigs that are bird-focused, to stimulate your responsible travel planning and dreaming:

International Bird Rescue to help care for injured and oiled wildlife.

Free Flight Birds exotic bird sanctuary.

Bird Studies Canada to be a citizen scientist.

Earthwatch expeditions to the Galapagos to help research Darwin’s Finches, or to South Africa to help in understanding the African Penguins.

Connecting Wild Places 50 Years Later

close-up shot of endangered Bald Eagle head

endangered Bald Eagle

The Wilderness Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson 50 years ago, to officially set aside and protect federal lands for conservation and preservation. From much smaller beginnings, there are now more than 100 million acres that are protected wilderness lands.

The next step is to try and connect some of these isolated islands of wilderness land, so species can move in natural patterns since we’ve built and developed so much space, encroaching on and often destroying such large areas. Wilderness Corridors will create a “Wildlife Refugia” protecting many millions of plants and animals, many of them endangered. We often think of endangered species as those in Africa or various global rain forests, but the issue of extinction is close to home, as well. As example, well over half of California’s fish, amphibians, and mammals and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at-risk.”

We’ve all been overloaded in our inboxes with year-end appeals for money for the causes and charities we support, and I know it is exhausting and just makes you want to hit the “DELETE” button…but leave your well-worn wallet in your pocket for the moment, and just commit to finding out more, and letting your elected officials know this is a priority. Half of the species endangered (and California is not an anomaly–so many species face next-to-impossible odds for survival)–can you imagine if tomorrow you woke up to only 50% of America’s birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish still with us?

Thats is NOT how we are going to do 2015!

Find out more here: www.wilderness.org

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