Send Your Selfie to Space

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 7.38.14 PMSometimes I just have to write about stuff because it is SO DANG COOL, even if it isn’t directly about volunteering and service travel.

This is one o’ those.

Selfie to Space gives you the opportunity to add your photo to the new test model of the LightSail, launching in a few days. The Planetary Society DOES, in fact, have some very cool volunteer opportunities you should check out, to be a space advocate and more great engagements.

But about that LightSail thing–what the heck is it? It’s a citizen-funded space project — a solar-powered reflective sail using the sun’s energy for propulsion. It’s about 344 feet square and looks an awful lot like the big brother of those foil screens you put in your car’s windshield to block the sun on hot summer days. It heads into space all folded up into a cube the size of a loaf of bread, hitching a ride on other spacecraft until orbit, then it unfurls its mylar sails that are ridiculously improbable and delicate–less than 1/4 the thickness off a garbage bag. And your digital image will be on board.

Theis project is happening thanks to Bill Nye the Science Guy the super science dude Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Sending your selfies is free — sign up, send the photo, Tweet about it (#SelfietoSpace), and you even get a certificate…but toss a few bucks at the project too (support link here).

I’ll see you on board!

Barefoot Giving — It Takes Almost Nothing to Make a Difference

adult and child bare feet on wet rockThere’s a particular type of giving and service I like to point out whenever I find it—I refer to it as “no skin off my ass” giving. These are the actions that don’t interfere with your everyday routines, yet can, with minimal effort, make a difference in the lives of others.

There are, of course, outstanding opportunities around the world to really dedicate your all—energy, time, sweat, and tears—and I hope you’ll find plenty of those options here and elsewhere. But how about something you can do on any old Tuesday afternoon…or Thursday morning…or any time at all. Actions so simple yet still impactful…the only question that remains, is “Why not…?

Here’s one: Why not take a picture to give a pair of shoes to a child in need?

From May 5 – May 21, if you simply Instagram a photo of your bare feet with the hashtag #WITHOUTSHOES, TOMS Shoes will give a new pair of new shoes to up to one million kids who need them. The company always has a one for one practice, where with every purchase you make a new pair is also given to a child somewhere in the world (TOMS does amazing “Shoe Drop” trips to communities across the globe, having donated over ten million pairs of shoes and they have also given one million pairs of shoes to children in need in the United States).

There are some cool things about shoes that make tangible differences in life—differences we don’t often consider since most of us don’t lack for some sort of footwear.

  • Shoes can increase access to education—attendance goes up by 62%.
  • Shoes can help treat disease—podoconiosis, a debilitating disease of the feet and legs, is transmitted through bare feet and affects more than four million people.
  • Shoes can protect feet from illness—other water and soil-borne illnesses are transmitted though uncovered feet.
  • Shoes can improve learning ability—TOMS has created an incentive and recognition program for kids who are screened and treted for amblyopia (“lazy eye”)
  • Shoes can provide comfort—nearly 47 million of us around the world are refugees, half of those are children without access to home and basic amenities. Warm shoes change that experience.
  • Shoes can encourage healthy lifestyles—with a doubling of childhood obesity in the past few decades, sports shoes increase activity and exercise.

 

SO kick off those kicks, point your camera down, snap, post, tag, and you’ve just given a child something that truly matters. Why not…?

Reach Out to Nepal, Directly

prayer flags blowing in breeze in Nepal mountains

Nepalese Prayer Flags

I have a friend and former co-worker, Jade, who just a couple weeks ago jumped on a plane with her best girlfriend to jet from the San Francisco Bay Area to Kathmandu, Nepal.

These two young, inspired women were off on a grand adventure, volunteering with local NGOs along the way, truly dedicated to making a difference. Their first volunteering gig was in Nepal, with an organization dedicated to supporting those who are caught in the sex trade and human trafficking web. The organization they were serving, Volunteers Initiative Nepal, is a local enterprise focusing specifically on a small community outside Kathmandu. Jade and Danielle were ensconced with a local family and spent every day working on communication and life skills enrichment with the women and girls finding their way out of the sadly thriving sex traffic industry.

Then the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. It took many painful hours of waiting to learn that Jade and Dani are fine, though everything they were just adjusting to as their new normal is completely, and literally, upended.

They now have a brand new focus: getting vital food and survival supplies to the small community they serve. They are collecting food staples (bags of rice, etc) and blankets, temporary shelters, and other necessities. They would drive through the rubble and rapidly assembled tent cities, go as far as they could from the capital toward the village until arriving where the road is blocked by debris, then hike the remaining two hours to deliver essential items. With the slew of aftershocks, the district, Sindhupalchok, (with the highest reported death toll in a tragic statistic already more than 5,000 casualties in the nation, with some estimates anticipating that number doubling), has now been declared unsafe for these women to continue their direct handoffs. They remain in Kathmandu—Jade was donating blood this morning—to mobilize awareness, raise funds, secure supplies, and hand them off to the men of the village who are still making the dangerous daily trek.

As each of us searches our hearts about how to respond, where to send money, what to do…I encourage you to seek out on-the-ground resources that can have an immediate effect and not get caught up in international bureaucracy and huge organization stasis. The large international aid societies are, by and large, fantastically committed if not always as agile as I would like, but supplies sitting on an airport tarmac are not arriving rapidly enough to tip the balance of need. If you’d like to support the work of Jade directly, here is a link to her fundraising page, originally designed to support her human trafficking advocacy work, now refocused on immediate survival: http://www.gofundme.com/jadeanddanielle

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Another fantastic organization on the ground and locally based is IDEX

Their most recently updated statement:

Nepal Recovery and Resilience Fund —

In response to the devastating earthquake in Nepal, IDEX is launching the Nepal Recovery and Resilience Fund to channel 100% of your donations towards immediate disaster response led by our partners, ASHA and WACN.

Organizations like these – that are already embedded in the community – are the first responders to any disaster. They know the region well, and in the early days of a catastrophe such as this, their staff and volunteers are engaged with first aid, light search and rescue, disaster assessments, and delivery of relief services.

Disasters and emergencies such as these affect poor people and rural women disproportionately. That is why IDEX partners are well-placed to respond and will continue to do so.

ASHA Nepal and WACN are both organizations that work with networks of Indigenous women in Okharpauwa, Chhaimale, Kavre and several additional districts in rural Nepal. Their collective membership is over 36,000 women in over 50 communities. Each of these communities has an autonomous local affiliate which have been serving as the hub of community development for years. They are uniquely situated as trusted leaders, educators, and resource people.

IDEX knows that local organizations’ contributions must be front and center following disasters, because it is extremely difficult for international actors to attain a rich understanding of local dynamics and needs on their own. Of course the international community adds value, but local organizations have been there, are there, will be there on the ground, responding to people’s most immediate and crucial needs.

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There are so many organizations worthy of support, doing the hard work of disaster response. I encourage you to look deeply and discover the way you would like to make an impact. Times like these challenge our separateness and remind us that we are one global family. I only wish it wouldn’t take disasters to hit this lesson home.

Please use the comments below to let me know of organizations and foundations that you have found and support in their work responding to the crisis in Nepal.

Climate Reality Leadership Corps

CRP_logoOK…c’mon now. You simply cannot be part of the breathing human race and NOT know that our climate is shifting in some pretty dramatic ways. OK, maybe an infant. If you are a newborn, I will cut you some slack, but everybody else..unh unh.

Now I am perfectly clear that some of us have different theories or thoughts about what is the cause of the change, but we are definitely not in stasis. Whether it is a human-made crisis or completely natural cycle or some combination of both is not my immediate point. My point is, there are absolutely actions we, as a species, can take to not exacerbate the situation…and there are absolutely actions we can take or are taking that can, in fact hasten changes in a bad way. Taking no action pretty much gets us the latter train speeding up toward a mess scenario as well. I’m all about change, but not in this context. Just ask the bucket in my shower catching all the water as it heats up so I can use it to water some plants…or the brown-lawned park down the road…or the farmers in California’s Central Valley where I grew up…

So Vice President Al Gore–inventor of the interwebs, remember him? He has been running a program for some time that I only recently discovered. At the tail end of last year I was in Boston and met several folks that were a part of this movement, and now is the chance for you to join as well. The Climate Reality Leadership Corps is a group of committed citizens who are dedicated to solving the climate crisis now and for future generations. There is no fee to attend training (and the training is actually a pretty deep dive into the science, both physical and sociological science, of the issues)—the next round is happening in Cedar Rapids, Iowa May 5-7. Young people and adults apply and must be accepted (spots are still available) to go through the training and become members of this august community of global activists.

Once you become a leader, you’ve got some work to do–but it’s really cool:

“Within a year of completing the training with the Climate Reality Leadership Corps you are required to perform ten “Acts of Leadership.” Acts of Leadership come in a variety of forms and can be completed in your local community. Examples of Acts of Leadership include giving a presentation, writing a blog, writing a letter to the editor, organizing a film screening, organizing a climate change-related campaign, meeting with government leaders, and organizing a day of action. Most Acts of Leadership will come from giving presentations, including speaking events you arrange yourself and events arranged for you through requests that come in through Climate Reality. The Climate Reality Leadership Corps will offer as much support as possible but you will be responsible for seeking out opportunities to take action.”

Can you hear this calling to you? I sure can (and subsequent trainings, if this is short notice, will follow in Canada and Florida, later this year)

Earth Day — Deepen Your Connection

mossy trees of rainforestThere are so many ways and avenues to finding a connection with the world and celebrate EVERY day as Earth Day. The fact that the internationally recognized celebration of Earth Day is today, April 22, simply serves as a reminder.

The Pachamama Alliance is deeply committed to each of us finding and owning our profound connection to earth (the wordPachamama means Mother Earth), and their mission is:

To empower indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to preserve their lands and culture and, using insights gained from that work, to educate and inspire individuals everywhere to bring forth a thriving, just and sustainable world.

PACHAMAMA ALLIANCE

Up To Us

Programs and resources you can access via Pachamama are a fantastic source for earth steward inspiration. The “Up to Us” engagement pathway has in-person and online learning courses available to all of us, to awaken us to the critical earth-focused issues we face today—it’s a great way to get tapped into a high level conversation about taking a stand and making a difference, and it leaves you empowered, not devastated or deflated. There are several ways to engage, beginning with the “Awakening the Dreamer” symposium, and progressing to other opportunites—check them out here.

Pachamama Journeys

This one grabs my heart and imagination and won’t let go–I’ve not yet done a journey with Pachamama, but I absolutely will! These travel opportunities are one-of-a-kind transformative travel excursions to incredibly biodiverse regions of the Amazon and Andes—visits to indigenous communities are AT THE REQUEST of the indigenous partners who invite you to explore and learn and carry their wisdom home.

Amazon Advocacy

Pachamama engages in very specific campaigns of advocacy and awareness in tandem with their indigenous partners in Ecuador. Programs are diverse and make a real difference, like “Jungle Mamas” dedicated to empowerment and health for women and girls; “Rights of Nature” working for recognition of the importance of all species and ecosystems; “Yasuni-ITT” supports protection of Amazon regions; “Sarayaku” seeks justice for human rights violations toward the Kichwa people; and “Indigenous Resilience” empowers people throughout the region.

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I have been so fortunate in my own life to be connected to a North American Native American tribe, the Nez Perce in Idaho, and one of my brothers in that community taught me a tenet that is found in so many communities—that of the Seventh Generation. When tribal decisions are debated, examined, and executed—especially those affecting the relationship to nature—elders consider their actions in the context of how they will affect the people seven generations from now. Not for their children or grandchildren, but seven generations out. If we figure that generations are 20-25 years apart, wouldn’t it be amazing if Congress and business leaders who make societal laws and decisions for the masses were thinking of their impact 140-175 years hence? It would certainly change the conversations and take responsibility for how we affect our world.

This Earth Day, are there any actions you can take or plans and commitments you can make that you would be proud to have children of 2190 thank you for and acknowledge your important decision? It’s a beautiful way to think.

Earth Day Volunteering – Sierra Club Outings

man sitting on wall enjoying view of city belowIf you’re looking for a way to honor the planet and all the things living on it for Earth Day (April 22, though, doncha kinda feel like every day is Earth Day?), the Sierra Club has a whole slew of volunteer outings and responsible travel options for you to explore.

The Sierra Club is one of the largest and most effective grassroots environmental organizations we’ve got, and the fact that they lead trips all around the globe with the intent to get people passionate about the world we all share, is our good luck. The trip leaders are incredibly dedicated volunteers who just want to share experiences and expertise with you. The mission of all the organization’s explorations is to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.

They boast destinations all around the world, in several categories for all ages and experience levels.  Categories for trips include: backpacking, base camp, bicycle, canoe, international, kayak, lodge, raft, sail, scuba, service/volunteer, ski/snowshoe/dogsled, supported trekking, and training events.

Trip descriptions are thorough so you know what you’re in for, and as I am always strongly advising people really investigate the organizations and organizers of volunteer travel, I love the Sierra Club policy of making all their leaders available by message or phone so you can get all your questions answered.

I’ve got my eye on a few amazing trips coming up: Spring Service in Arches National Park, Utah; Farm Service on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; Trail Repair in Denali National Park, Alaska; Light Station Service in Big Sur, California, and Western Maui, Hawaii eco-service. If I want to explore more than work (and everybody wants that sometimes–we work HARD for our vacation time!) I’m all about Hiking the Hidden Kingdom in Bhutan; Japan Ancient Buddhist Trails, Rainforests, and Volcanoes in Kyushu; and Trekking the Turquoise Coast of Turkey.

I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find more than one trip to pique your wanderlust, and do a little good while making amazing cultural connections. Bon Voyage!

Brand New Service Expeditions from Earthwatch

owl face with amber eyesIf you’ve been following or reading here for any length of time, you’ve likely come across previous posts about this organization…Earthwatch is one of my favorites for really delivering value to volunteers who are vacationing, while being sure that the work they do is truly impactful for the project–most often environmental and animal scientific research programs but also cultural and archaeological science expeditions.

Needless to say, they have been on my short list for some time–I’ve yet to be able to do an Earthwatch Expedition, but know so many people that have, and several that return to explore trip after trip, being so satisfied with their initial forays.

Earthwatch has announced six new expeditions adding to their already impressive repertoire of opportunities around the world. The new ones are: Conserve Endangered Rhinos in South AfricaMonitor Ocelots in TrinidadProtect Whooping Cranes and Coastal Habitats in TexasConserve Tiger and Elephant Habitat in IndiaConserve Wild Bees in Costa Rica; and Follow Flammulated Owls in the Western U.S.

If they would just combine them and allow me to do a trip where I follow flammulated elephants in Trinidad, I’d be on a plane today…I’d love to be on a plane today for any of these plus the many, many more they offer. They also have specific expeditions catered for families, or teens, or kids–all with a profound new understanding if science just waiting for you (and world-class scientists just waiting for helpful and hard-working volunteers).

As you begin planning your next vacation, give the website a whirl–something is bound to jump out at you–perhaps something flammulated. (*I love learning that new word–it means having flame-shaped markings, as in the plumage of certain birdsI)

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