Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Want to Know How to Change the World? Ask Young People: We Day



So it turns out I kind of missed the coolest party of the year last week. I probably wouldn’t have been invited anyway–they were looking for a younger crowd–but boy I wish I had been there. I have friends who went, so I look forward to picking their brains about it.

We Day had it’s big California party last week, in Oakland, and the reason I wasn’t invited is because We Day is all about youth—a category that rarely still applies to me. A movement of Free the Children, We Day inspires kids after a year-long initiative, “We Act,” which gets young people becoming active for social change. The generation speeding toward adulthood now is the first that can actually put an end to the worst forms of poverty, cut a large slice out of global hunger issues, and more. The We Day events are held throughout the US, Canada, and the UK, to celebrate the amazing work kids are doing. Guests at events include super luminaries, like (just to name a few):Kofi Annan, Queen Noor of Jordan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Richard Branson, Magic Johnson, Elie Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, plus performers like Jennifer Hudson, Demi Lovato, One Republic, Joe Jonas, Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat, and tons more. As a young person, what wouldn’t you do to get to go to a party like that with thousands of other inspired, fired up peers?

Well, here’s what some ARE doing: Schools and groups commit to taking on one global and one local project per year, and take specific action on the issue of their choice.  Since 2007, We Day participants have raised 37 million dollars for 100 different causes and volunteered nearly ten million hours for global and local initiatives. Tickets to these mega concert events in huge stadiums are dearly sought, and can only be paid for with service. Some of the most recent lesson plans and activities added to the website include units on Girls’ Education in Afghanistan; Racism in Canada; Adopt-a-Village programs focusing on water, education, alternative finance, and health; Hunger Heroes; Take a Stand on Aboriginal Issues; etc.

Your kids want a piece of this…trust me. Go explore, make sure your family’s teachers, faith groups, and community groups know about it and look for ways to get involved as well. The only regrets will come from not jumping in.

Volunteer in Haiti: Leadership Education, Solar/Wind Projects, and Agriculture Infrastructure

photo: Elevate Destinations

photo: Elevate Destinations

I can’t believe how quickly the pages get torn off the calendar! Time races by, and now it has been two years since I was last preparing to lead a volunteer service trip to Haiti. The organization with which I traveled, and am dearly fond of, is Elevate Destinations, and their service trip Elevate Haiti is once again filling up with hearty souls. Be careful if you ask me if you should go–I’ll flat out tell you “YES”

My two trips to post-earthquake Haiti were both with Elevate Destinations, once as client in Jacmel, then as a co-trip leader in Cyvadier. This year’s trip is to an island just off the Southwestern coast, Ile-a-Vache. Every year, the organization teams with on-the-ground community-based organizations–the mandatory key to a successful volunteer program–and this year they will work with the Edem Foundation, extending that group’s commitment to Haitian youth and local community economic development.

As a volunteer, you’ll be spending time in various activities, from teaching English and Leadership classes for kids, installation of new agricultural equipment, and getting a solar/wind energy system up and running. While it sounds like you’ll need lots of expertise for these jobs, you will have everything you need with a willingness to put in sweat equity and keep a great attitude. There is also plenty of time built in for cultural interchange and genuine connection to the community, and some exploration of the island as well as Port-au-Prince upon first arrival, with expert local guides. This is the polar opposite of a touristy, canned experience, and the friends you make—both fellow volunteers and Haitians—will likely be with you for the rest of your life. The two trip leaders this year were clients on my last trip there (and have both been repeatedly and are far more Haiti savvy than I ever hoped to be) so I know you’ll be in excellent hands. Tell Nic and Tess I said HI.

The trip is in July…in Haiti…and yes, it’s gonna be steamy…and this experience will also fire up your heart in ways you cannot imagine. Check it out. If you have any questions, give a holler–but I warned you–my answer will be YES, you should absolutely go!

Hospitality Industry Doing the Right Thing

Photo: Gregory Morris/REDBARNSTUDIO.BIZ

Photo: Gregory Morris/REDBARNSTUDIO.BIZ

Perhaps because I work around and within so many facets of the hotel/hospitality industry, I take it very personally if a brand goes astray of the client-base in values, and, conversely, when a business chain does something right by the people–I see it as cause for celebration. Any industry, actually, that makes good, people-centered choices, deserves accolades. Green and sustainability practices, community support, employee care and consideration, service standards–they all make doing business less of a chore, and make us, as consumers, more apt and satisfied to spend.

This is why I was thrilled with the Marriott Hotel chain coming out so strongly against the ridiculous discrimination bill, SB1062, in Arizona. In addition, other corporate giants have been steadfastly opposed to stepping backward from progress (travel industry heavy hitters like American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, plus other mega-corporations like Apple and the Superbowl…) and this is what, I suspect, swayed Arizona’s governor to veto that bit of nastiness.

Also in the last day or two, Hilton Hotels have made a great statement with their actions, doing the right thing. Hilton Worldwide, in all the properties they own or manage, will cease serving or ordering Shark Fin. The atrocious shark finning industry that catches sharks of many species in the wild, slices off heir dorsal and sometimes pectoral fins, then slips the dying animal back in the water to suffer and die, has been the target of forward thinking responsible folks for a long time. Petitions and dutiful action against this industry that is decimating entire species (parallel to rhino and elephant poaching–unnecessary agony for questionable if any return) have not had prior great effect–but the Hilton announcement this week is a big step forward. Their Asia Pacific properties might take a hit with customer demand and expectation, but not every right decision is the most popular decision…and that’s why I’m proud when the travel world makes good choices.

Is It a Dinosaur? Celebrate Australia Day by Helping Save Exotic Species

770003_61668665This Sunday, January 26, is Australia Day. It’s also known as National Day, and there are events around the entire country.

In honor of Australia Day, I want to bring attention to the plight of the Cassowary and efforts to try and save this prehistoric-looking giant bird from extinction. The vivid blue hue of its face, the ridged crown, the extremely powerful (and dangerous) clawed feet, are iconic in the nation. I’ve only ever seen them in captivity and they are outstanding and fascinating. Part ostrich or emu, part Jurassic Park escapee, they are only native to the wet tropics of Queensland, and the Daintree Rainforest, a truly stunning region that is being gobbled up by developers. Who wouldn’t want to live here with the lush rainforest and easy access to the beach and Great Barrier Reef all in one spot? Of course, to build homes, as is happening too quickly, you decimate the very things that make the area so appealing. This Rainforest Rescue project is buying back parcels of land and planting tens of thousands of  trees to restore the threatened bird’s habitat. There is also a rehab center that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases back to the wild, injured cassowaries. Estimates are that there are only about 1,000 of these astounding avians remaining in the wild, and their loss, like the extinction of any species, throws the entire bio balance off kilter. Help stop this particular expression of the march of progress. Progressing into a stripped planet is no way to go forward.

Break the Mold!

Image via Buzzfeed, John Goodwin/Getty Images

Image via Buzzfeed, John Goodwin/Getty Images

Defenders Lodge—A Haven for Our Heroes

1080262_92773081Yesterday, Veteran’s Day, was filled with such an outpouring of gratitude and pride across the media and social channels in which I wander. Truly inspiring touchstones were everywhere. It wasn’t until today, though, that I heard about this new project I think is amazing: The Lee and Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge has just completed construction and will be open by the end of this year. It is a hotel near the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs hospital that will provide free lodging for vets receiving medical treatment at the facility.

More than 63,000 veterans come to that particular VA hospital each year–it is the largest in the Western United States–and this brand new hotel will give nights free to patients and care givers. It’s a pretty fantastic way to honor those who have given themselves to the country, one of so, so many ways we can do what’s right. I encourage you to go to the website and explore, get to know what will be going on with the grand opening and beyond. What a great way to say, “Welcome back, and We’ve got your back.”

Hurricane Sandy Plus One Year—Volunteers Still Needed

SandyCoasterIt was a year ago today that the eastern shores of New York and New Jersey, as well as plenty of other wide expanses of land, were beaten mercilessly by nature when struck by Hurricane Sandy. It was the deadliest storm in the United States since Katrina in New Orleans, and cleanup and rebuilding efforts are still underway. As so often happens, our national attention evolves and moves on once we evolve from the stage of emergency into recovery, so, many who were not directly affected have not realized how much damage remains.

Weekends still find dedicated volunteers rebuilding, cleaning up, replanting, and recommitting to their neighbors. If you’re in the region, or visiting soon, the need for volunteers remains high–so jump in. A little sweat from a day’s hard work will do you good, and warm you against the late autumn chill. Here are just a few ways to find out how to be of good use in the storm recovery efforts:

Americorps (The Corporation for National and Community Service)—does tremendous work with post-disaster response and service. They can help you find a number of ways to be involved whether you can swing a hammer or not.

FEMA Corps—established by the office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this partnership with Americorps is dedicated, with the efforts of 1,600 volunteers, directly to emergency response. There is a youth focus, even providing full-time housing for service workers ages 18-24, who help grow our nation’s disaster response capacity.

NYC Service—is the volunteer portal run by New York City, helping you find a project of need in response to Sandy (or any other category of volunteering you might want to explore).

New York Cares—will get you going volunteering on Sandy projects, or others in the area.

All Hands Volunteers—has to date helped more than 300 families via the efforts of more than 2,700 volunteers totaling donated volunteer hours representing nearly a million dollars.

New York Restoration Project—focuses on the green spaces and community gardens in communities of need, re-planting trees, renewing open spaces and parks, and restoring natural areas.

Hope for New York—is a faith-based organization, mobilizing hundreds of volunteers in Sandy relief efforts.