Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 59

Jiten filled in for me today since I am out of town. He went to Books for Africa where they were sorting and packing books to be sent to Botswana (home for us)!! The last time I went I told him I wish I could go when they are sending books there, and the first time he goes that's where they sent books to! Since it was his first time I asked him to send me his thoughts:

"It was fun. I helped sort some books out and also packed a few boxes for Botswana . There were about 20 people helping out today. Some of the volunteers were students on spring break from Michigan State. It was good to see people helping out during their holidays. I met a lady, Pam, who used to be a librarian and then moved to Maun (we lived here for a while!) and decided to start the botswana book project ( to help set up libraries in the public schools in Botswana. To date she has helped create over 300 libraries from this project. Overall it was an awesome experience, really enjoyed it and definitely looking forward to going back on Wednesday."

Check out the website for other ways to help the Botswana Book project. Its neat being able to make a difference at home even when we're not there :)

Thanks for filling in for me kid!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 58

After a fabulous night out Jiten and I went to Open Hand to help with meal deliveries this morning. We had several different stops in the midtown area. For the most part it was just give the meal and go, but there were a couple of people who talked with us for a few minutes. One person in particular stood out this morning. He was sitting outside enjoying the beautiful weather when we walked in. He came in behind us and went up to his apartment. By the time we got to his floor he was walking the hallway waiting for us, and told us that the Open Hand meal delivery was the highlight of his day! So we spoke with him for a few minutes.

Thanks for coming out so early kid!!!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 57

I was back at SafeHouse this evening and had another fun night there. I spent the entire evening socializing and caught up with a few of the guys. I spoke to the gentleman who is interested in the stock market and we continued our conversation about his goals in life, as well as his family, past jobs, education, and life lessons. It was an enlightening conversation.

I also spoke to the guy who didn't know if it was okay to have conversations with me. We chatted for a bit about the weekend and the wonderful weather. The singer/rapper on YouTube was also out tonight and he brought me a CD of his music. So it was another good night, the other volunteers were awesome as always, and I look forward to going back next week.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 56

So after battling Atlanta traffic, I made it to SafeHouse on time (kinda). There was a good band playing the music today and you could see that the crowd was enjoying it. There were even a couple of people standing up to dance. There was definitely a lot of energy in there today.

I was able to spend some time catching up with different people this evening: spoke to the gentleman who is interested in the stock market, today he told me about one of his goals in life - to open up a shelter specifically for people with drug addictions. We spoke about this for quite some time and he told me that he really wanted to help people by being there to support them through recovery. I then spoke to another gentleman who was really interested in Africa, and had several questions  about life there so we talked about the African culture, lifestyle, food, wildlife, and music. I saw the gentleman who is on YouTube and told him that I watched his videos on there, so he thanked me by singing another song, this one had a good beat.

Overall, a good night. Looking forward to going back tomorrow :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 55

Since I'm not able to go out into the community to volunteer today, I am volunteering with Amnesty International. I sent out emails for a variety of human rights issues, here are the highlights:

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a mother of two, has defended Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and other human rights activists, as well as juvenile offenders sentenced to death. On January 9, 2011, Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to eleven years in prison, and banned from practicing law and traveling for twenty years. The judge sentenced her to five years in prison on a charge of “acting against national security,” another five years for “not wearing hejab (Islamic dress for women) during a videotaped message,” and one year for "propaganda against the regime.” The persecution of Nasrin Sotoudeh is just one example of the Iranian government’s campaign against human rights attorneys who struggle to carry out their work in a deeply flawed legal system.

In Vietnam, freedom of expression and association has been subject to strict control by the Vietnamese authorities for many years. Dissidents who are critical of government policies and speak and write about human rights violations face a range of sanctions to silence them. These include surveillance by local police, restrictions on movement, interference with phone lines and internet access, rough interrogation including torture, detention by police, arrest and imprisonment.

Closer to home - On the way home from a family vacation, Maher Arar was detained as a terrorism suspect at a New York airport and sent to Syria to be tortured. Eventually, he was released without charge and sent home to Canada.The U.S. refuses to apologize to Maher Arar or to offer him any form of remedy. The Department of Justice had urged the Supreme Court not to hear Maher Arar’s case because it implicated "significant national security concerns." The Court complied.

In India, Binayak Sen is a leading human rights activist in the conflict-affected state of Chhattisgarh. On 24 December 2010, he was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of sedition and conspiracy after an unfair trial. On 5 January 2011, Dr Sen challenged his conviction by filing an appeal.Amnesty International holds that the charges against him are politically motivated and aimed at stopping his human rights work. He is a prisoner of conscience, and should be immediately released.

And lastly, as many of us have watched the protests, Amnesty International is urging the Algerian authorities not to crack down on protests in Algeria, and to lift the ban on demonstrations in the capital, Algiers. Protests have been calling for "democratic change", the lifting of a 19-year state of emergency and greater freedom for civil society and the media.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 54

I am traveling for work so had to change my project for this evening, instead of going to MedShare I stopped by SafeHouse (of course I didn't mind!). I helped out in the kitchen for a good bit of the evening, wrapping spoons, setting up bagels and donuts, making meal boxes, and serving. It wasn't chaotic in there today, there were a lot of volunteers and everything was rather organized.

I also got to spend time on the lot talking to different people. One of the guys I've talked with before, I mentioned him a while back, he was surprised I remembered his name the last time and surprised I remembered it this time. Last time he told me he was looking at going back to school, today we talked a little but more about that, he said those plans were on hold because he needed to look for a job first. So we spoke about job hunting and different types of work.

I met someone new today as well. He introduced himself then asked if he could sing for me. His song/rap was different, but good. He then told me I could find him on youtube (which I did, and he is on there) and where I could find his CD. Like I've said before...lots of talent out here!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 53

I went to Kashi Atlanta this evening to help with the Street Meals Program. I did the peanut butter again (probably my favorite step in the process). We started off with just four volunteers but each of us were really efficient at our spot so things were moving along nicely. By the end of the evening there were about ten volunteers and the pace really picked up. We got done with all the sandwiches in an hour!

The group of volunteers there were a fun bunch. We spent the hour working but also getting to know each other, the evening was filled with laughter and good energy. Till next time...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 52

Busy day at SafeHouse...the group serving food this evening planned on grilling hot dogs, but the grill didn't work. So we grilled over 200 hot dogs on 2 pancake griddles. There also weren't many volunteers with the group so I helped out for most of the night in the kitchen. We made hot dogs, put together plates, and got the drinks ready. It was really busy in the kitchen but we got everything out and people enjoyed their meal and the service.

By the time I made it out to the lot most people had left. The guy I mentioned before (who wasn't sure he could have a conversation with me) was hanging out so we spoke for a couple minutes, just catching up on how each others weekend went. Overall, it was a little chaotic but fun nonetheless!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 51

It's humbling going to SafeHouse sometimes. You can walk through the gate thinking of what a rough day it's been, all the things you need to get done, all the stress and pressure you have to deal with...then you talk to someone who worries about where they will spend the night, whether the shelter will let them in if they get late, or if they will be able to get an extra meal for the night, except they don't come at you with all these worries. They come at you with a smile and a handshake and say thank you for talking with them. It still amazes me! And reminds me to be grateful for every little thing, everyday.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

March Event of the Month

SafeHouse Outreach
Wednessday, March 16 · 5:30pm - 7:30pm
@ SafeHouse: 89 Ellis Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30303

We are serving a meal at SafeHouse and would love for you to come help us put the meal together, serve the meal, and hang out with everyone! If you're interested, want to donate any items, or would like more info please leave a comment....Thank you!!

Day 50

I spent this morning at the Books for Africa warehouse in Smyrna. There were so many groups of volunteers there today sorting and packing books, so I helped with making boxes instead. The first time I went, I met some fun volunteers and one of them was there this morning, also making boxes. We chatted while taping and stacking boxes, and discussed different volunteer opportunities. He told me about a few new ones which I will hopefully be able to check out soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 49

Another evening at SafeHouse. Today the group serving brought a bunch of clothes with them for anyone who needed some. So I helped with setting up the area to put the clothes, sorting them by sizes, then helping people find clothes/shoes they liked. One lady walked over and said it was time to go shopping - they were pretty excited about all the clothes/shoes/purses.

I also spent time talking to a couple of different people - one conversation was about stocks - how to invest, when to invest, when to sell, and how to learn about the stock market. I talked to another person who I'd met some weeks ago. I saw him in between but he'd say hi and keep walking. Today he asked if we could talk; I told him he should feel free to talk to me anytime and that I came out to talk to people. He was surprised to hear that that was okay but said he would come and have more conversations with me.

Looking forward to going back on Sunday :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 48

Congratulations Shelli on a successful fundraiser! A bunch of us went to the Autism Charity event at Sutra tonight. All proceeds collected will go towards a group at the Autism Speaks Walk and a portion will go towards purchasing equipment for the sensory room at a center for children with Autism in Alpharetta. 

This is the second time Shelli has hosted this fundraiser and, once again, she did amazing. There were appetizers, a desert bar, massages, a photo booth, henna, and some great music. Her many hours of work were evident! 

Thank you so much for everything Shelli, and for letting us be a part of your event!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 47

Since I'm on the road again, today's giving was virtual...I started with the click to donate section on
  • helped sponsor 1 child in need today
  • saved 7.4 sq ft of rainforest
  • protected 11,000 sq ft of big cat habitat
  • supported life saving research
  • helped a shelter pet
  • helped protect baby seals
  • protected 100 sq ft of ocean
  • fed a rescued primate
  • offset my computer's energy use
  • helped provided justice for women worldwide
  • helped adopt and protect threatened wolves
Check out Project 365 on the TrailBlazers for Good blog on care2:

I also went on to to check out their click to donate section:
  • donated 1.1cups of food to the hungry
  • helped a woman in need get a free mammogram
  • helped provide a child with lifesaving healthcare
  • helped give books to a child in need
  • helped protect 11.4 sq ft of rainforest
  • gave .6bowls of food to a rescued animal
Lastly, donated 3000grains of rice through

Hope you guys are able to check these sites out!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 46

This evenings volunteering was at the Kashi Atlanta Street Meals Program. I was surprised that there weren't as many volunteers as I usually see here, but the group of people there were very energetic and efficient! I packed the lunch bags today: snack, juice, and a sandwich. The best part of it - I had a 5year old helper! He did great! He had a 5year old's energy but stayed on task and did everything perfectly. His mum told me that she brings both her sons to help out whenever she can and that the 5year old really enjoys coming out to help. I've seen young kids here each night I've volunteered with Kashi and it really is a wonderful kid-friendly opportunity!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 45

Another amazing night at SafeHouse! Again there were a lot of new faces on the lot, but also many familiar. When I first got there this evening I spent some time talking to someone new, he told me about himself and his current goal to start up a business. We then discussed the perks of living in a bigger, fast-paced city like New York or LA.

A couple posts back I mentioned someone I see regularly but who is a little shy. Today he spent a lot of time hanging out and talking with me. I saw him across the lot, waved, and he came over and didn't leave till he was the last one on the lot. Normally he'll leave once someone else joins our conversation. This time he stuck around, he didn't join all the conversations, but this was definitely the most he'd hung out.

My highlight from tonight - of course hanging out with the other awesome volunteers/regulars who are always looking out for you on the lot - but tonight someone who used to always be there stopped by. I mentioned him a while back, he used to work there then left. Well he came by tonight, it was such a good surprise! So I spent some time catching up with him which was awesome.

So another fun night, much thanks to the guys who are always there!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 44

Dona and I went to SafeHouse this evening. I hadn't been all week so I was really looking forward to going. There was a huge church group there today and tons of volunteers. We decided to hang out on the lot and socialize and since there weren't a lot of familiar faces out today we made some new friends. We spoke to one gentleman about rickshaws and traffic in India; then spoke to another about eastern culture, religion, and food.
At one point out on the lot it got really quiet, and Dona and I walked over to the crowd to hear a couple singing. I've heard them sing before and they sound really good. So they gave a quick performance!

Overall, a good night filled with several small conversations!

Dona - thank you so much for joining me there today!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 43

I had the opportunity to do something fun today! I went to Scottish Rite Children's Hospital and spent some time working on arts and crafts with the kids. The hospital has an area called The Zone - a place where the kids can come to play video games or watch movies, and when a volunteer group is there, do some arts and crafts.

The kids were working on projects with their parents so I just walked around for a bit and looked at what each was doing. I came across a little girl just sitting with a blank piece of paper in front of her. So I asked her what she was working on, she said "I dunno". I then asked her what she would like to make, she said "I dunno". I asked if she wanted to make a Valentines Day card, her response "I dunno". So I sat down next to her and suggested the first thing I could think of - a day at the beach. She shrugged but started looking for things we could stick to our beach picture. Since the theme for today's arts and crafts was Valentine's day, this was a little more difficult than I thought, but she was starting to get enthusiastic about it, especially after we found the sun and a pool float. As she was doing this we kept talking and she kept laughing and smiling.

She didn't want to leave when her IV pump started beeping, and only got up because her mum promised they would come right back and I promised I would save her picture. While she was gone I cut up several pieces we could add to her picture, and when she came back she was so excited! She eagerly stuck all the pieces down and each time others walked by, she'd pick up the picture to show it off. She was such a sweetheart!

This was a really cool project and I look forward to going back soon! I volunteered through Kashi Atlanta but you can volunteer through as well.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 42

My friend, Richard Basantes, invited me to a fundraiser for Safehouse Outreach at Flip Flops because he knew we volunteered there regularly.

It was interesting to see another facet to the organization. I loved it!

Tracy Alvie, a supporter and volunteer at Safehouse, had organized an '11 for 2011' Fundraisers for Safehouse at a local bar, Flip Flops, at which a percentage of the proceeds would be donated to Safehouse. On the 11th day of every month in 2011, we would gather together to discuss the needs of and raise funds for SHO.

Drink for a cause?!
That's effortless!!
That's an event many of us can participate in, with ease. It's a matter of rearranging the events on our social calendar...

In meeting Jenna (and her date Dave), Vlad and Shelly, and several others that donated time and money to the organization; I must say, I was enlightened.

Nurez Madhani, owner of Sutra, stopped by and gave us some insight into the organization and a few ideas to what we could possibly do in the future to raise more awareness for SHO.

I enjoyed myself at Flip Flops tonight!
Thank you everyone for coming out tonight and contributing to an amazing event!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 41

I sent out some more Amnesty International emails today. This is becoming one of my preferred virtual volunteering opportunities! Primarily because they give you a lot of information on what's happening with each cause/issue. So as you are sending out your emails you really get to know what's going on.

Today I did a variety of emails. My first one was for Darfur. While international attention has mostly focused on the South Sudan referendum, grave violations of human rights continue in neighboring Darfur. Whole villages in the Negeha region of South Darfur have been burned to the ground as recently as December. And unless the international community demands accountability for these atrocities and others committed, those responsible will continue to evade justice.

The next was for Jafar Panahi - an acclaimed film maker from Iran. He was sentenced to six years in prison as well as a total ban on his artistic activities for a period of twenty years. He was convicted of "propaganda against the state" for making a film deemed to be against the government, and for his alleged involvement in inciting the protests following last year's presidential election.

I did one for Angola. Nearly 40 members of an organization peacefully calling for economic and administrative autonomy of the diamond rich Lunda provinces were arrested between April 2009 and October 2010. Most were charged with contravening the now repealed Article 26 of Law on Crimes Against the Security of the State. Angolan authorities have not responded to the detainees’ lawyers appeal for their release nor provided an explanation for their continued detention.Their continued detention is a violation of their human rights.

This next one about David Kato was in the news recently. Last fall, Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato successfully sued a national newspaper that published the article "100 Top Ugandan Homos” with the caption “hang them." On January 26, Kato was brutally murdered in his home, the latest tragic example of the constant threat so many LGBT people face in Uganda.

I did one for the continuing unrest in Kashmir, where over 100 people have been killed during protests last summer and fall, mostly by Indian security forces. Amnesty International is urging Indian authorities to ensure that all killings of protesters are investigated independently, and if excess force is found to have been used, the responsible parties should be brought to justice. Amnesty has also called upon the Government of India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives special powers of immunity to Indian security forces in areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Repeal of this legislation would help protect civilians from grave abuses such as disappearance, unlawful killings, torture, and rape.

And lastly, I did one for change in Tunisia. The new government in Tunisia now has the opportunity to break with the legacy of 23 years of human rights abuses. Bold and far-reaching changes to overhaul the institutions that have failed the Tunisian people are imperative. The authorities need to acknowledge the true scale and severity of past human rights violations. They now have a historic opportunity to break with this infamous legacy and to carry out a human rights agenda for change.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 40

So there was more candle making by Raksha's a summary of how she makes them (pictures coming soon!). They are made from 100percent organic soy wax and she custom blends a fragrance using natural essential oils. The soy wax is melted and the fragrance and color are added to it. This is then poured into whatever container she is using (the wick is pre-placed in the container) and allowed to cool. It's really not as simple as I make it sound but she is a pro!

I wasn't able to join her today either so I did some more virtual giving at freerice and donated 5000 grains of rice this evening! 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 39

A few weeks back I wrote about the Japan Dolphins ( and how we can all make a difference to put an end to the slaughter of dolphins and stop the capture and live trade of dolphins to zoos and aquariums around the world. Raksha took this a step further and found a way to give back while doing something she really enjoys.

She chose to help out by raising money for the cause by making hand-made, soy candles to sell, part of the profits from this will go to The candles will soon be available for sale through Ribbon Nutrition, but if you'd like one sooner, comment to this post and I'll get you the details. Scroll down to see a picture of the finished candle. She'll be making more tomorrow and promises to send pictures of the candle making process!

Since I'm not able to help with making candles today, I visited the website and did some virtual giving through their Take Action page. Hope you guys can take a couple of minutes to do the same :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 38

Many of us have heard about Amnesty International. If you haven't here's some info: Founded in London in 1961, Amnesty International is a Nobel Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with over 2.8 million members worldwide. Amnesty International undertakes research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.

I first heard about them in high school and remember writing letters to different nations urging them to put an end to some human rights violation. As a school, we sent out thousands of letters each year. It was a great way of giving back! This evening I chose to go back to it. Through their website ( I was able to send out emails to leaders across the world. There are many different issues that you can choose to address. For today, I did the entire page on Women's Rights.

So for those of  you looking to give back in a different way, check out Amnesty International. It takes just a few minutes to send out an email, and even less time on a pre-filled form!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 37

Jiten (my younger brother) and I delivered meals this morning for Open Hand. It was his first time volunteering with me so I wanted to make sure he had a good experience. We got there at 9am, signed in, picked up our route and meals and headed out. Today's drop off was really simple, all the meals were going to one building and would be distributed by the staff there. Once that was done we headed back to Open Hand.

When I asked my brother what he thought about today's volunteering his response was that we really didn't do much. But we did. Even though we only dropped food off to one location, we were providing meals to 6 or 7 people who aren't able to make their own meals. Giving back can be as simple as that!

Thanks for coming to help out today kid!!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 36

Fun times at SafeHouse tonight! I walked in to a choir practicing - they sounded amazing!! I spent most of the evening helping out in the kitchen, it's been a while since I've done that so it was fun. The group there tonight gave everyone chocolates and cookies for Valentine's day, which they all appreciated. By the time I got outside most of the crowd had left but I got to talk to one person who I had briefly met last week - he was impressed that I remembered his name. He was talking to me about going back to school and how it has taken him a while to make that decision. He also told me that he sings and raps - I told him that he'll have to rap/sing for us next time!

I also spent some time talking to one of the guys who is a little more shy. He says hello everytime but we haven't had a long conversation before. So today when I saw him I made it a point to talk to him for a little while longer, he talked to me when I asked him questions, and he slowly started opening up a little. I'm going to try to keep having these short conversations with him and maybe he will be comfortable talking to me.

Now it's time for a girls night out!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 35

On my way home this evening I stopped at SafeHouse for a little while. It was a quiet night because of the rain but I still made some new friends and had some interesting conversations. Mostly about being street smart and living on the streets. I met some other volunteers who come to SafeHouse regularly as well so it was nice sharing stories with them. Highlight of the evening - meeting others who come out to make a difference in somebody else's day!

Day 34

We'd been so engaged with Safehouse Outreach for the past month, we had to PRY ourselves away from there and try something new.

Thanks to Hands on Atlanta, I bumped into this project: English for Successful Living English Teachers and i signed up to be a volunteer teacher! Volunteers a 90 minute class each week for a twelve-week session.

For all the teachers out there, this is something that you may want to check!

Unfortunately, I'd missed the dates for orientation and was unable to teach a class, but they did need help up at the front desk for registration!

A large majority of the students were Hispanic, but there also a few Ukranian (or Croatian) students that came in.

So the organization basically serves as an ESL class for adults. We have textbooks, workbooks, and guides that make the teaching process simple. And the students are absolutely amazing! They're so receptive to criticism and you see that they give you their 100%!

The next training for volunteer teachers is in April for classes that start in May!
I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 33

It was a day of giving from there was freerice - donated over 3000 grains of rice and polished up on some french and geography. The hungersite - gave 1.1 cups of food; helped a woman in need get a free mammogram; helped provide a child with lifesaving healthcare; gave a child in need a book; helped protect 11.4sq feet of rainforest habitat for wildlife; and gave .6 bowls of food to a rescued animal. And lastly from - sponsored 1 child in need; saved 7.4sq ft of rainforest; protected 11,000 sq. ft. of big cat habitat; supported life saving research; helped a shelter pet; helped protect baby seals; protected 100sq ft of ocean; fed a rescued primate; offset my computer's energy use; and helped provide justice for women worldwide.

Hope everyone gets a chance to try out these online opportunities to give back!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 32

What an exhausting day! But I made it to SafeHouse this evening. There was a church group there to serve dinner, they had quite a few volunteers but were able to use an extra set of hands, so I pitched in. They had all the food ready we just had to make the dinner boxes and then stack them on a table to serve. This group comes every month but they have a huge impact on people (at least, that's what it looked like). The individuals coming to dinner knew different members of the church group, asked them for advice, looked for specific people to talk to, and even volunteered! It was refreshing to see a group come in and know not just the people they were serving, but also know about them and their lives.