Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 242

Another evening of virtual volunteering, this time on care2.com

I went through the click to donate tabs.
I completed today's daily action to help stop whaling in Iceland.
And I signed several petitions for a variety of causes:

- petition to pressure the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to instate security regulations, set up rape support services, and create temporary emergency housing for Somali refugees who face rising rates of sexual assault

- petition to stand with Ahlem Belhaj and other activists working to stem the tide of Islamic conservatism and ensure freedom and security for future generations of Tunisian women

- petition to say "YES" to the reusable bag movement by saying "NO" to needless wasteful litigation and bully tactics. Telling the plastic bag giants to drop their lawsuits against ChicoBag (a reusable bag company), Marin County, CA and the City of Long Beach, CA. 

- petition to to empower parents and increase school choice across America.

It took just a few minutes and can have a huge impact! Hope you check them out!  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 241

It's an evening of virtual volunteering and Dona and I chose to go to Amnesty International. Here's what she did:

"I really should volunteer online more... and while I've been facebooking and tweeting about our fundraiser on Wednesday, August 31st at 7pm at The Nook (shameless plug), I decided on Amnesty International today....
Today, I Took Action with Amnesty International to support Egyptian women's political participation, legal reforms protecting women from domestic violence and women's social, economic and cultural rights.
It wasn't a big ordeal... I logged on.. saw that I didn't agree with the governing body of Egypt and their extreme measures to silence women... and voiced my opinion.
Your turn!"
I signed petitions for: Egyptian women's rights; deadly and unaccountable militias in India to disband; to stop forced evictions in Egypt's informal settlements; and to free indigenous rights activist Kopa Kunjam. 

Hope you get a chance to check out some of the petitions!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 240

Before leaving to go out of town this evening, I stopped by SafeHouse for a few hours.

The weather was perfect to hang out on the lot and there were so many conversations to have! I started with conversations about the weekend and what people did; we chatted about technology and society's "obsession" with it (specifically cellphones). I talked to one gentleman who was reading a book - he said that was his way of pulling away from the chaos that is sometimes on the lot.

I also met some new people - one called me over to talk, he remembered me from a few weeks back when we passed out socks in the park; another said he is at SafeHouse most nights but that he usually sits quietly by himself - I'm really going to try find him in the crowd so I can at least say hello :)

I ended my night there with dropping off some deodorant - hopefully take some to pass out the next time I am there.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 239

Finally an evening at SafeHouse!! When I got there the gate was still closed so I wasn't sure if there was going to be a service today. But I waited for a bit and sure enough, they were open.

I started my evening talking to someone new - he has been on the streets for a month because his family "disowned" him but he is very positive that he will soon be off the streets. We talked for a while about school, his interest in fashion, Indian culture, and being respectful. He has been looking for a job for and is very persistent - I hope he finds something soon!

I didn't quite make it around to everyone but said hello to as many people as I could, and had several long conversations with some of the familiar faces.

Looking forward to going back tomorrow!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 238

Another travel day, so Jiten went to Books for Africa:

"I was at Books for Africa today. There weren't a lot of volunteers there today so we all got down to doing our part in either sorting or packing the books. We managed to pack five pallets of books of all primary school science and math books. That's a lot of books! It was a good day of volunteering and i'll be back there soon."

Thanks kid!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 237

Since it was a travel day for me, Jiten covered today's giving by volunteering in a project at school. While I waited for him to send me his write up I went back to sparked.com to transcribe some more for OutLoud Radio. I did another two minutes of subtitles, this time it was about the Riot Girls - a feminist punk rock group from the early 90s. Definitely learned about their movement through music!

Here's what Jiten did:

"I volunteered at school today. The civil engineering department is doing a test on rubble houses. It's where houses are built from broken pieces of concrete and well rubble. They are all put together in a netted cage for support and then plastered with cement to make a smooth finish. The purpose of this is to test how strong they are because according to the numbers they should be stronger than regular walls for earthquake prone areas and also because this is what is currently being done in Haiti to help rebuild houses.

This is still the beginning of the project, so today we poured the foundation for the walls and next week we will begin building the house and evetually test the strength of the building. It was really hot today but we had a lot of fun! It was also worthwhile knowing that this would help so many people who are in Haiti because they can be assured that the houses they are rebuilding will be strong enough to withstand another earthquake if it occurred."

This sounds like another awesome idea, and I'm hoping he gets to follow this one to see what a difference it can make! Thanks kid!!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 236

So I went back to transcribing the audio piece for OutLoud Radio on www.sparked.com
The piece is about love and what people think about love.
(Check it out here: http://www.universalsubtitles.org/en/videos/O8Rbxb5O7J1k/ )

As far as doing the subtitles - I made it up to 7minutes! It's a lot of work! I didn't think it would be that difficult, but it is and...I am actually enjoying it :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 235

I took on a sparked.com challenge today and it was tough!

The organization I volunteered for was OutLoud Radio. Their mission is to increase the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer young people by helping them develop the skills and confidence to decide for themselves how they will be represented, advance social justice and make the most of their lives.

The challenge was to create subtitles for stories created by queer youth using the Universal Subtitles interface. It started off easy because it was just one person talking at a time. But a couple of seconds into it there were several people talking (not in the same conversation) and it got really difficult. In about 45mins I only did subtitles for 2mins of audio!!

I will probably revisit this one tomorrow...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 234

Traveling this week so I gave through www.freerice.com

Donated 2500 grains of rice and learned some Spanish. Also read through some articles on the World Food Programme website regarding the crisis in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

Just a few minutes of your time makes a difference...and if you need anymore convincing check out:

Happy giving!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 233

I spent the evening at SafeHouse enjoying the usual conversations with different people. The gentleman who was not doing so well a couple of days ago is in a better, positive mood, so we chatted about work, our like/dislike for weekends - he says there's nothing to do on the weekends because most public places are closed, so he does not like weekends.

As the conversations continued, the evening wore on, and there was no sign of today's church group. A group who had passed food out elsewhere this afternoon drove by SafeHouse, saw the crowd of people, and asked if they could hand out their leftover food to the people here. Of course we said YES! Some food is always better than no food. So the group came in, got the meals together, and did a quick service before handing out the meals. Since it was what was left from their previous service, there weren't enough meals for everyone, so a lot of people had to go elsewhere tonight. But they were all still grateful to the group that just showed up!!

I know this is difficult, but I want to find a way to always have a Plan B - all ideas are welcome!! :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 232

I've been at Piedmont Park a couple of times this year and love how pretty and clean it is! Well today I was on the other side - I was cleaning it (well a bit of it)! I volunteered with the Piedmont Park Conservancy this morning and now have a greater appreciation of the park and the work that goes in to keeping it the way it is.

Piedmont Park Conservancy (which started off as a group of volunteers) is the nonprofit organization, working with the City of Atlanta for the preservation of historic Piedmont Park. Since their inception over 20 years ago, the Piedmont Park Conservancy has successfully transformed the once dilapidated Park into the most visited in green space in Atlanta. The Conservancy currently manages more than 90 percent of the Park’s daily maintenance care and security.

Today a small group of us took on the task of pulling weeds from various shrub bushes and from the day lily patch. One of the bushes was covered in a blanket of weeds, you couldn't see the shrubs anymore. We spent all morning pulling, cutting, and gathering weeds. The group was pretty quiet and really focused. We got done just a little before time so the coordinator treated us to a golf cart tour around the park.

This was the first time I'd done a project like this and I enjoyed it. I would definitely go back, once it cools down a little!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 231

It was an evening full of conversations at SafeHouse today.

It started with a conversation about a possible TV show with Tyler Perry. This is the same gentleman who once told me how he would help people with addictions. He told me the TV show is his top idea and that he is going to start working on it really soon.

From there I moved to a conversation about Facebook, YouTube, and using social media to promote talented people. I then spoke to others about operating agreements, jobs, recruiting firms, and the job market. I ended my evening there talking to someone who seemed a little down. He said he's usually better at hiding his feelings but today he just couldn't. He didn't want to talk about it so we talked about random stuff. He needed to get in touch with someone and once he did his mood got a little better, hope his day gets better!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 230

Today's SafeHouse conversation was about energy and how it can pretty much make you (positive energy) or break you (negative energy). I was talking to a gentleman about his plans for the future - he said he was hoping to stop having to come to SafeHouse by the end of the month and that he has been working on getting his life back together. He said he was trying to focus on being positive and that that would help him in getting things fixed.

We talked about his life experiences and how much he enjoyed each, regardless of it being a good or bad experience, because he always learned from them. In this sense he said he was rich, because when he looks back on his life he only feels happiness. He doesn't measure his wealth by money; he measures his wealth by the relationships he has with people and the experiences he has been through.

Our conversation ended with a compliment he gave me that reminded me of the power of a simple conversation. He is someone I have talked to regularly since I started going to SafeHouse. He reminded me of this and told me that I have always given him lots of positive energy just from talking to him and that it has finally rubbed off on him. He went on to say that he thought my positive energy would eventually "rub off" on most people there. I was pleasantly surprised by the reminder that a conversation goes a long way for all of us :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hoops for Humanity - The Impact

We have finally used up the funds raised from Hoops for Humanity in May and are so grateful to everyone who was able to help out!

Here is how we were able to help the people who come to SafeHouse:
- donated MARTA cards
- donated Chick-fil-A gift cards
- donated over 300pairs of socks
- donated 10 back packs filled with school supplies for the year
- donated over 400 sticks of deodorant

I am truly humbled by everyone's support and hope we can continue to make a difference, one day at a time...

Thank you!

Day 229

The weather was PERFECT for walking around the city.

Lablanc and I headed out this evening to pass out subs, water, and socks to our friends in the city. We started off at Hurt Park handing out food and talking to some people who come to SafeHouse most nights. These guys were so grateful because they hadn't gotten any food today. We talked about vampires, food, the weather. Another group of us talked about living on the streets, sleeping on the streets, people who are homeless stealing from one another, the atmosphere at one of the shelters - this conversation was really informative for me, especially some of the details on living at a shelter. The guys also talked about the service held at Garnett Station and the chaos that it usually is. Before we left here I got to see something wonderful - one of the guys asked another if he had eaten yet. The second responded that he hadn't. The first then told him what food he had and offered it to the second - he made my day, and I thanked him for being so generous :)

We moved on to a popular church spot and saw some more familiar faces. Here we met a gentleman who goes to Home Depot early each morning in search for a job as a day laborer. He also talked a little about the things he sees from sleeping out on the streets. From there we walked down Peachtree, handing out socks to people that needed a pair, and made it back all out of food, water, and socks!

It takes so little to make a difference, and this random giving was amazing - can't wait to do it again!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 228

I had a tough day at SafeHouse today.

Hema and I made it there after work this evening. We started with talking to a gentleman across the street from SafeHouse. We talked about work, family, hunting, food. He and I always have a good time talking and he gets most people laughing, so we had a fun conversation.

Once inside we caught up with some of the regulars, got asked if we were twins, and got to watch a playful game of basketball. We also got to talk to one of the guys about relationships, his most recent heartbreak, and how each person moves on in a different way.

After that, my night became a little stressful. Tomorrow there won't be a group serving (that's twice this week and we're not even half way through the week!). Apparently there are going to be some changes at SafeHouse and, for a variety of reasons, the nightly impact service may no longer be every night. I know people will find elsewhere to eat, but will they have a place to go where they can be themselves, where they don't have to sit through service to get a meal, where they can socialize, play games, just chill out and still get a meal? I don't know. What can I do about it? Not sure, but for now I'll take meals to whoever I can...so for tomorrow's giving I am going to try take some meals to the park. If you're interested in helping, let me know :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 227

I made it out to SafeHouse today only to find out that this evenings church had cancelled and they were turning people away. So I hung out for a little bit and talked to one of the guys about his future plans of opening up a coffee shop on the beach. We talked about what else he thought he would serve there and we came up with herbal tea and possibly juice. Sounds like a place I would go to...now he just has to actually open up one of these!

I got back and figured I'd do some actual giving on freerice. Lablanc and Jiten joined me and together we donated 3000 grains of rice.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 226

After a weekend full of activities I chose to stay in and volunteer from home so that I could spend some time with my wonderful family :)

I used the time to go to care2 make a difference

I did the usual click to donate tabs and learned that overall we have provided 757 months of child sponsorship, saved 9,369 acres of rainforest, protected 17,120,515 acres of big cat habitat, clicked 21,149,902 times to end breast cancer forever, helped feed 19,645,972 pets in shelters, clicked 18,921,030 times to fund IFAW's seal hunt observers, protected 48,381.5 acres of oceans, fed rescued primates 19,179,670 times, offset 13,367,537 days of computer energy use, clicked 14,760,756 times to end violence against women, and provided 125,245 days of wolf adoption. 

Collectively, we're definitely making a difference!

I also took today's daily action challenge and signed a petition to urge President Obama to impose tough trade sanctions on Icelandic companies tied to whaling. For years, Iceland has flouted the international ban on commercial whaling by killing hundreds of whales - including the endangered fin whale.

Lastly, I signed a petition to help children with disabilities survive the famine in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.  

Related to this last piece, a friend sent on some information about the amazing work IMANA is doing in this part of Africa.  Here's some quick information on what is going on:

"Dr. Ismail Mehr, IMANA Vice President and Chair of IMANA Medical Relief is in East Africa assessing the crisis in Somalia, where over 12.4 million are affected and hundreds of thousands are dead. 3.7 million people are in immediate need or they will not survive, of which 1.25 million are children.

Dr. Mehr visited UNHCR IFO Refugee Camp, in Dadaab,Kenya first and witnessed the devastation first hand. On the route to the camp, the effects of the drought are apparent everywhere, as the roads are littered with remains of animals that could not escape the drought. Outside of the Dadaab Refugee camp are the fresh graves of the many people who died while waiting to be registered at the camp by the UN. Sadly, most of these are the graves of children, as 29,000 children under the age of 5 have died in the last 90 days. Dr. Mehr says, "I'm at a complete loss for words, the situation is just horrific. To see children dying of hunger is unbelievable we need to do something now". Refugees are walking hundreds of miles from Somalia to receive help in Kenya."

Check it out and please help their efforts if you are able to!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 225

I went to Must Ministries for the first time this morning. This organization provides food, clothing, financial aid, education and employment assistance; interview, assessment and referral services, to families and individuals in crisis. They also  have Integrated Housing Programs in Cobb, Cherokee, and Douglas Counties dedicated to helping 200+ residents break their own cycle of homelessness. Emergency shelter, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing and a host of wrap around services provide a healthy environment to foster whole life change.

A group of us were helping out in their warehouse. I started with sorting hygiene products then moved on to sorting clothes. They have a huge warehouse and they have lots of donations. With the clothes, they sort through them, keep what they need, then send the extras on to other shelters. There were a lot of items they weren't keeping today because they have so much already. It was encouraging to see a shelter have more than they need, thanks to some awesome givers!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 224

I had another good evening at SafeHouse today. Of course I spent some time on the usual catch up conversations - there was a lot of good news to be shared. I didn't see on of the guys on my last visit there so he and I talked for a bit and he shared that he would be moving back home this week and that he would go back to work and try to get things together again.

I spoke to another gentleman who I also had not seen in a while. He told me that his cousin had sent him a round trip train ticket to go visit them! He is so excited and is really looking forward to the trip. I am really really happy for him and hope he has a good family visit.

Another gentleman (who is a talented singer) told me that he started his job yesterday!! He said he was going to be getting off the streets but that he was going to wait till his first pay period to start looking for a place to stay. He definitely made me proud and he was so happy to share his story with me today. Seeing the guys move forward really makes me proud of them. As I get to know them, their stories, and what brought them to where they are I am amazed at the ways they get themselves off the streets. It takes strength, courage, and persistence in addition to several other things. And they're making it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 223

Back in town!! So I started my time back with a SafeHouse fundraiser at Tavern 99 in Buckhead. Hema and I headed there to support the cause but also to have a night to unwind. It was fabulous catching up and enjoying the evening on the patio.

We met a few SafeHouse friends and spent the evening laughing and sharing stories. Lablanc caught me up on how things were going at SafeHouse this week with the people we serve, we talked about shelters, upcoming events, and getting people involved.

Overall the night was just what I needed. Thank you Mike, for a delicious chocolate Mojito - I'll be back for these :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 222

Back to volunteering online so I went to freerice.com

Between humanities, basic math, and multiplication tables I donated 3000 grains of rice in about an hour.
Another simple and easy way to give back!

Can't wait to be out in the community starting tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 221

Thanks for covering kid!!!

"It was the busiest I have ever seen Books for Africa. There were a lot of volunteers there today and in all the commotion of having so many people we all were working in some sort of synchronized fashion. We were in 4 different group, with each group having there own section to be responsible for. I was with 10 other people working on secondary school books. We were sorting, packing, and getting ready for shipments. They also had a pickup today - a container of books went out to Angola and Malawi. There were a lot of good conversations today with an entirely new group of people. We talked about school, and how important it is to volunteer and of course ended up talking about Botswana and South Africa. It was a good day and I'll be back on Thursday to help them with sending out another container load."

~ Jiten

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 220

Another week of traveling, another few days of volunteering virtually, and another few days of Jiten covering for me :)

Tonight I went back to Amnesty International to write some letters. I started with a letter to support funding that protects Indigenous women from rape and sexual violence. Native American and Alaskan Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than other women in the US. It is estimated that one in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, with nearly 86% of rapes perpetrated by non-Native men.

The next was to stop Kenya from deporting Eritreans facing torture. Seven Eritrean refugees are currently being held at the Nairobi airport. They are seeking asylum in Kenya, but are not being granted asylee status. Instead, Kenyan officials are threatening to deport them. If returned to Eritrea, they are likely to be tortured, held incommunicado, and otherwise mistreated. Eritrean asylum seekers who are deported to their home country often face serious human rights abuses.

Another letter was for the release of internationally renowned HIV and AIDS researcher Arash Alaei. In June 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Amnesty International is concerned the charges against Arash Alaei are based solely on vaguely-worded national security laws. He is a prisoner of conscience, targeted solely for his medical research and advocacy efforts and for his peaceful collaboration with non-governmental organizations in other countries.

The last was for a human rights lawyer who disappeared in China. Gao Zhisheng represented human rights defenders, Falun Gong practitioners and individuals facing the death penalty. He received a three-year prison sentence, suspended for five years, in December 2006, for "inciting subversion." In April 2007, Gao Zhisheng told other activists he was tortured during pre-trial detention. In September 2007, his open letter to the US Congress about the deterioration of human rights in China was published in a US-based newspaper. About a week after the publication, plainclothes police went into his home, stripped off his clothes and beat him unconscious. In February 2009, he was taken away from home by security agents. His whereabouts remain unknown since then.

Amnesty International has many success stories because we keep writing our letters. Get involved and make a difference!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 219

Bottomless Beer with the "Boot Scootin Boo Bees"!

What better way to wrap up the last day of your weekend!

Lubna invited us all out to FROGS Cantina to support a group of ladies walking for the Susan G. Komen 2-Day walk.

And I was the first one there. What does that say about me? THAT I TAKE THESE COCKTAIL FOR A CAUSE EVENTS SERIOUSLY!

I spent about an hour introducing myself to the ladies that planned the event, and sipped on the best bloody mary ever!

I headed out as soon as our friends Lubna and Vishant came in. I had to pass the mantle of drinking for the day off to someone... And it looked like the four of them were ready to take on the burden.

It was fun! And the ladies were lovely.
I'm rooting for the "boot Scootin Boo Bees" to have a fabulous time at the walk (hope you can walk straight towards the end of the day, ladies) and meet their target!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 218

I made it through this evenings downpour and made it to SafeHouse. The few people who were there were already inside. I walked in the front door to a leaking/falling roof, so we cleaned up as much as we could and mopped the floor to keep from slipping.

As the rain let up more people came through. I had as many conversations as I could: one gentleman told me about his visit with his mum, another told me about meeting his cousin after 10years, another group of us talked about accents and vocabulary used by different people. Another group of us talked about addictions and scenes from the streets.

The night was full of laughs and light conversation. Once service was over I passed out socks. There wasn't much to clean up and the drizzle was starting, so a lot of people left as soon as they got their dinner. Hopefully they all find somewhere dry to sleep tonight!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 217

I finally made it back to SafeHouse!! I missed it and everyone there so it was really nice to be back. I also dropped off the back packs we put together for tomorrow. Service was held outside this evening since they had all the back packs. There was only a small group there this evening because its the first week of the month. There were only a couple of familiar faces there, so I played catch up with those few.
I spent most of the evening talking to one gentleman about luck, life, and ice cream! We kept going off on food tangents, but that's usually how our conversations go :)

We ended the night with cleaning up and treating some of the guys to wings from Hooters, a good end to a good day! Looking forward to tomorrow :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 216

Jiten covered today's giving at Global Soap - he didn't have as much fun as Dona and I usually do. Here's what he has to say:

"I went to global soap today. They have a very good thing going on there with recycling soap for distribution to certain African countries. Today was an elder group of volunteers but still we talked about schools and education in GA and also about Africa. All we did was peeled soap all day today. It was very tiring and also blazing down in that warehouse."

Hopefully he'll be able to go back with us one day and enjoy himself! I finally get back to volunteering for real tomorrow and I'm going to be at SafeHouse - can't wait!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 215

Jiten went to MedShare this morning, an organization that sends our extra medical supplies to countries that need those supplies. This is one that I've tried before but just haven't gone back to in a while, here's what he thought of it:

"I tried out MedShare today. It was actually a lot of fun...we had a good group of people volunteering. We did a sort of the supplies they had into the different bins. The time flew by! We had a lot of jokes and good conversations going on...and that too across the entire warehouse...which is always fun. It was my first time there so I had a lot of questions about what goes where, the others were really helpful by teaching you what goes where and how to quicken the process. It was a lot of fun and I'm going to try this place out again...maybe I can run into some of the volunteers from today next time :)"

Thanks for giving back today kid!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 214

Unfortunately Jiten could not go volunteer today because the activity scheduled for today was canceled by the organization. So, instead, I visited care2.com for today's giving.

I went through all the click to donate tabs and made a difference in many different areas. I also signed petitions for: saving bees from harmful pesticides; to protect the manatee habitat in Florida; to protect wild black bears in New York; children in Somalia who are forced to become soldiers; to protect mail-order brides in South Korea; to demand justice for Kelly Thomas who is mentally ill and homeless and a victim of police brutality.

In a couple of minutes I was able to give back in areas/issues that are important to me. Hope you get a chance to check out some of the petitions and support issues that are important to you!

Happy giving!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 213

So one of the ideas with this project was to get people in my life also involved in giving back, and for them to commit to giving for a certain period of time. As most of the readers know, my brother Jiten has really been involved in helping and this week he is committing to several days. He started off by volunteering with me, then started taking a day here or there for me, and now is taking almost the entire week!

Today he was at his usual - Books for Africa, here's his recap:

"It was a busy day at Books for Africa...there were just 3 volunteers today: me and the 2 okes doing community service. I spent the entire time packing books into boxes and getting them ready for shipping. Also today, one of the volunteers had done some extra volunteering and managed to bring in a donation of almost $60 from collections he had done last weekend at six flags. It just goes to show you can volunteer almost anywhere you are, even when you are out having fun."

Thanks for taking on this week kid!!