How the Vicente Ferrer Foundation is saving lives in rural India

It is almost unimaginable how vastly different life in the pandemic is here in the United States and thousands of miles away in India and other parts of the world. As Memorial Day Weekend comes to a close and life has bounded back to almost as it was before the pandemic across much of the United States, India is faced with a second wave of Covid-19 that is more aggressive and deadly than ever before. While the US still sightly leads the world in number of reported cases and deaths, a huge difference exists in the overall impact of the fierce second wave that is striking India and other parts of the developing world: The desperate lack of healthcare and infrastructure that was problematic well before the pandemic struck.

Due to the crowded living conditions of disadvantaged communities, lack of adequate sanitation, and proper health care services, India is very vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 especially in its rural communities which represent a vast majority of India’s 1.3 billion people of population. Furthermore, with vaccination rates well below that of the United States (41.2% fully vaccinated) and only 3.2% of India’s 1.3 billion fully vaccinated, India has a long, difficult road ahead.

For over 20 years, the Rural Development Trust’s Bathalapalli Hospital has provided quality healthcare in rural India. Today it is on the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic and thankfully organizations such as the Vicente Ferrer Foundation and its local partner, the Rural Development Trust (RDT) in India are taking charge and doing whatever they can to save lives. While the challenges ahead are huge, there is hope.

Learn more about what they are doing on the ground to change and save lives, and how you can help today in this thought-provoking interview with Moncho Ferrer, President of the Board of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation.

For the cost of two cups of coffee, you could refill an oxygen cylinder and save a life in rural India through Vicente Ferrer USA’s COVID Relief Fund

Global Health Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD
LifeStraw Follow the Liters

Why every shot matters: My stint as a volunteer at a Covid vaccination site

For the past few months I’ve been volunteering at M Fairview Hospitals and Clinics at their Ambulatory Covid Vaccine clinics. I’ve done all different roles ranging from greeter, observer, labeler to patient registration, and I have truly enjoyed interacting and talking with people from all walks of life. It has been a profound experience participating in the massive effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. In the first few days of working my four-hour shift, our team vaccinated over 400 people just in the morning at the site.

Since January,  M Fairview, one of the many mass vaccination clinics in our state, has provided over 300,000 vaccines to over 150,000 individuals (including me!) in the state of Minnesota. As of today, over 60%  percent of Minnesotans who are eligible are totally vaccinated.

It has been an astounding feat and also for me, a very rewarding experience being a part of it especially in the beginning when people would literally be crying tears of joy because they were so happy to get the life-saving vaccine. After over a year of isolation at home and hardly any social face-to-face interaction with people, I was able to suddenly be around people again and make connections with strangers from all walks of life. As an extrovert, it has been a healing experience after so much isolation this past year.

Humanitarian SOCIAL GOOD
George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

Minneapolis: As the world watches, we wait

It is hard to believe that it has almost been a year since that fateful late spring day in May on the corner of Cup Foods, roughly three miles away from my house. For the past eleven months, like most Minneapolitans we have struggled to understand the trauma that has happened in our beloved city. And now here we are once again, with our stores boarded up, police and National Guard patrolling our city, awaiting in anxiety over what the verdict will be. While we pray for justice and peace, we wonder what will become of our city. Minneapolis is not a bad place. Yes, it has many problems but so does so many other places around the world. Racism exists everywhere and always has. Dismantling such a powerful system will take generations and generations of hard, relentless work. While I have so many opinions about what is going on and wish I felt that I could share them,  I also have hope. Hope in our children who understand a lot more than I ever did at that age. So, as we await the verdict we will pray for a better future for all.

While many of these incredibly powerful murals have disappeared, their messages still remain strong.

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

George Floyd Mural at Cup Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

CULTURE

One Year In: Life in a Pandemic

Last week marks one year since I penned my fateful post Life in the Midst of a Pandemic, as the first case of COVID-19 came to my home state of Minnesota, and life as we had known it was gone. The pandemic had officially arrived and the world had come to a roaring, startling stop as country after country, state after state, and store after store shut down and such simple commodities as toilet paper, hand wipes and bleach became rare commodities worthy of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. From home office-ing in your yoga pants to home schooling at the dining room table to do-it-yourself haircuts, Netflix binges, new found hobbies and Zoom call and Zoom call and Zoom call, slowly we molded into the bland, isolation and routine of a lonely, colorless pandemic life.

While I’ve picked up my pen many times throughout the past year, trying to capture everything that I’ve felt over this rollercoaster of a crazy ride, the moment I tried to put ink to paper I stopped, paralyzed by an overwhelming weight of inertia and ennui. My thoughts unclear, my feelings murky, and at times simply lost. How do I want to remember this past year and look back? So much has been lost and there has been so much pain.

Then you throw in the violent death of George Floyd roughly two miles from my home, riots, protests, and one of the most divisive elections in U.S. history, and my once talkative soul has been left utterly speechless. Too much to process, too much to try to understand and too much pain. It certainly has been one hell of a year! But without wanting to dwell and get too depressing, there is also a silver lining of hope.

For me personally, I look at this past year as a total reset. It has given me a lot of time to think, and also do some of those things I’ve always wanted to do like take that darn Spanish class, fix up the house, and quite frankly spend more time just being instead of always doing. Getting used to the uncomfortable, the isolation, and dread of routine. Spending more time together as a family of four while missing deeply our extended family and friends. It has also been a time for reflection and to be grateful for everything I’ve been able to do so far and all I’ve been able to see of this amazing planet.

CULTURE
Mount Rushmore

January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021 is a day that Americans and much of the world will never forget. After the numbing, emotional rollercoaster of the past ten months of a global pandemic, racial tensions, riots, violence, economic hardship and political madness, we arrived at the biggest threat on our democracy in modern times.

As we watched with horror and disbelief, our nation fell on one of the darkest moments in history. Four days later I’m still trying to comprehend and digest what had happened and wonder where on earth our future lies.

CULTURE
Eagle River, Michigan

Nevertheless, She Persisted: Welcoming 2021 with Cautious Hope

As we finally close the door to an immensely challenging, dark 2020, it is time to once again renew ourselves for a new year. A fresh start and hopefully a break from a very difficult, painful year. I debated over and over again if I even had the emotional strength to pen a blog post. But in the end, I decided that I can’t give up and it is time to restore my optimism and hope for a brighter, less complicated new year ahead.

As I look back over the past year, like everyone, it was an emotional rollercoaster filled with many ups and downs. It was frightening, angering and at many times difficult to even comprehend. Yet through those trying months, there were sprinkles of happiness and a somewhat peaceful realization of the utter importance of living each day as it comes, not thinking ahead or dwelling on the past. On enjoying and being grateful for the positive things in our lives and blessed for our family, our friends, our health and most of all, this incredible life we’ve been given.

2020 brought so many changes in the world and has impacted each one of us in our own lives. For me, 2020 meant a lot of changes. I stopped blogging, traveling, seeing my family and the people I love. I went from always running around and doing things I love to being at home almost all the time except for walks and grocery shopping. I’ve tried to settle my restless soul with finding peace in the little things and the beauty of nature and family. It has been a trying, emotionally complicated year but nevertheless, I persisted.

CULTURE
My 2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide for the holidays

2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide

For the past six years, I have curated an ever-growing list of amazing Gifts that Give Back. My guide has become so popular that I have devoted an entire page on my blog that is updated frequently and features these wonderful organizations and the causes they support. Whether it be fighting hunger, gender inequality or providing educational or income opportunities, there are a ton of ways you can use your buying power as a consumer to do good and make a difference in someone’s life.

This giving season is by far like none most of us have ever experienced. Despite all the hardship and challenges during this unprecedented time, this year consumers have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on the world at a time when it’s most needed. Let’s come together to support one another in the fight against COVID-19, and make this holiday season, a giving season. Wishing you and your family health, strength, and hope during this challenging time. 

Happy Shopping! And if you like this post, please share. Together, our collective buying can help change the world and make a difference. Also, be sure to check out my earlier post on Gifts that Give Back to Support the Fight Against COVID-19. There are so many amazing companies out there doing good.

Like this post? Pin it for later! 

My 2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide for the holidays

 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Northernair Lodge, Ely MN

When COVID hits your home

It started as a cough. At first, we thought nothing of it except that it was our 15-year old son’s normal fall cold. He gets a bad cold every single year and it always starts with a cough and then a stuffy nose. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that this cold was about a month earlier.

Besides the cough, our son was fine and continued to get up to do his online school. Over the weekend, we hosted our usual small “bubble” of friends at our house, one of my daughter’s friends and our neighbor, the small group who we have been hanging out with since the pandemic began. We told them about Max’s cough but honestly thought nothing of it. We live in a city of a million people and out of everyone we knew, only one person in our circle of friends had tested positive for COVID. It still felt like something we only read about every day in the newspaper but that hadn’t truly reached us.

Like most of my family and friends, we have spent the past eight months following all the Covid rules and living a pretty boring, isolated life. We wear masks everywhere (thankfully it is a state mandate), my husband works from home, we don’t go out to eat indoors at a restaurant, have not flown anywhere, don’t go to the gym or do anything considered risky. We have hardly socialized with friends except for outside, socially distanced. Since March, we have basically lived a very sheltered, limited life and have only allowed our small bubble inside our home. The only risk we took was allowing both of our teenage kids to play outdoor sports. I had felt as a parent that so much has been taken away from them, and sports was the one thing they had left. The risk was small since they were outdoors but it was there.

Despite all the precautions we took, somehow Covid made it to our house, and when I got the call from our doctor that my son tested positive, I was completely shocked and terrified.

CULTURE
Oberg Mountain Lookout onto Oberg Lake

The Top Four Fall Hikes along Minnesota’s North Shore to View the Fall Colors

Fall is a glorious time to be outside in Minnesota and there is no better way to explore the stunning fall foliage than during a hike along Minnesota’s North Shore. Less than four hours away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, it is easy to make a weekend trip to the North Shore where you will find countless trails at your fingertips to explore the pristine beauty and nature along the 310-miles long Super hiking Trail or through one of the many state parks. 

Generally, the third week of September is the best time to go to the North Shore when the leaves are at their peak colors, however, the last weekend of September can also be just as spectacular. We just returned from a visit this past weekend and the colors were extraordinary with breathtaking vistas of reds, yellows, and orange coating the landscape. Further inland, towards the Boundary Water Canoe and Wilderness Area and the Eagle Mountain Trail, the leaves were just starting to turn so I can only imagine that over the upcoming week it will be at its peak.

Oberg Mountain Lookout onto Oberg Lake

One of the spectacular technicolor lookouts on top of Oberg Mountain, looking down on Oberg Lake

Minnesota TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION United States

#IStandForGirls: Why Getting Girls to School is More Important than Ever

Did you know that over 132 million girls around the world are out of school?  This number was before the COVID pandemic began and now millions of more girls are at risk of not receiving an education this school year. As my own thirteen-year-old daughter prepares to begin her hybrid version of 8th grade, I often realize how incredibly blessed we are to have the opportunity and the resources to continue her education. Millions of children, especially girls, will miss out this year and not have the opportunity to learn. However, there is something we can do to help out and make a difference.

I’m thrilled to be partnering for the fourth year in a row with Kurandza this month for the #IStandForGirls campaign. I learned about Kurandza’s work five years ago when I started researching my popular Gifts that Give Back page and international nonprofits that are changing the world. I shared Elisabetta and Percina’s powerful story about why they founded Kurandza on the blog and have been an avid supporter of their work in Mozambique ever since.

While the global pandemic has impacted us all, it has impacted some of the most vulnerable communities around the world even more. Thanks to organizations like Kurandza girls are able to continue to receive an education and continue learning and thriving despite these new challenges. Now it is more important than ever before to stand up and support girls’ education.

#IStandForGirls because I believe all girls around the world should have equal access to education and opportunities no matter where they’re from. I believe in the power of education, and that all girls have the ability to reach their dreams when given the chance at an education.

When a girl gets an education she…

  • Is less likely to become a child bride

  • Has improved nutrition and access to better health care

  • Is likely to do what she can to uplift other girls in her community

  • Can dream about a bright future!

Photo courtesy of Kurandza

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD
Eagle River, Michigan

A Family Road Trip to Michigan’s Remote Keweenaw Peninsula

After five long months of being cooped up at home without a real vacation, it was time for our family of four to head out of town for a break. Like most people, all of our summer plans that involved flying had been canceled due to the pandemic. Given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., we wanted to travel safely and also be mindful of where we were going. We also preferred to find a destination that we could drive to in one day.

Living in Minneapolis, we are rather isolated in terms of where we can drive to under eight hours. We are blessed to have Lake Superior only a few hours away and have spent several fantastic family vacations along Minnesota’s rugged North Shore up in Lutsen, Minnesota, and have also visited Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the Apostle Islands. One place that we had not yet been to was Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on the other side of Lake Superior. We had heard a lot of wonderful things about the U.P. as locals call it so decided on a whim to plan a family trip.  I did a search on Airbnb and found a weekly rental of an entire house in Eagle River along the U.P’s remote Keweenaw Peninsula. We left on Saturday, July 4th in time to celebrate our 20-year wedding anniversary on July 8th. It was going to be a wonderful week of rest, rejuvenation, and priceless family time.

On the hot, sultry night of July 4th, we watched the sun dip below the horizon of an uncharacteristically calm Lake Superior. The water was like glass and the fresh lake air filled my lungs and touched my soul with ease. For just a week, I finally let my weary, stressed-out soul completely relax and break free of the chaos of the last few months living through a global pandemic, uprisings, and endless stress. Life as it was meant to be returned to me for one short week, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Eagle River, Lake Superior

Family Travel Michigan North America TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION United States

Our First Trip Away During a Global Pandemic: A Weekend in Ely, Minnesota

March 13, 2020, is a day I will never forget. It is the last day that my children went to school and was a few days before life as we have known it had dramatically changed. The rapid shutdown of our state, our country, and the world began shortly thereafter as the venomous reach of the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States like a match in a dry forest waiting to burn.

Never in our wildest dreams could we have anticipated or even imagined such a devastating, life-changing global pandemic could take place and rock the world. Now over three months later, after canceled plans and completely rearranged lives, we have all settled into the new “normal”. A life of social-distancing, working at home, wearing a mask when out in public, not traveling or doing much of anything outside of the home except our daily walks, and wondering when on earth our lives will ever be the same.

Then just as we were finally beginning to accept our unsettled lives in the midst of the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd happened less than three miles away from our Minneapolis home setting off angst, rage, a few days of absolute lawlessness, fear, rioting, looting, pain, and destruction. When our city finally regained control and the massive clean up began, our hearts were broken. It was devastating and traumatizing on so many levels that it is hard to explain. We needed to get out.

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

After three long, challenging months of fear, anxiety, isolation, and sadness, it was time to break free and leave home. We booked a weekend away, our first trip since the pandemic began, to Ely, Minnesota, a remote town on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe and Wildnerness Area, four hours north of Minneapolis. It was time for a change of scenery and a mental break.

We decided to rent a cabin at a small remote resort that we had stayed at a few times before, called the Northernair Lodge. We knew that it was isolated enough to safely socially-distance and since we could drive there we would not have to worry about traveling by plane.  Ely is a small town of only a couple thousand people so we were more concerned with potentially bringing COVID-19 there (where they have few reported cases) than actually catching it ourselves.

As we left the city, and slowly headed north I could feel the tension in my back and shoulders dissipate. For a woman who loves to travel, this was the first time I had left a ten-mile radius of my house in the city in over three months. It was liberating. Yet it also made me feel sad for all that has been lost in these past three months. I was hoping that the pure, untouched beauty of northern Minnesota would ease some of the sorrow and pain.

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

We made two stops along the way to use the restroom and even that felt strange. None of the typical restroom stops were open save the gas stations and we were almost the only ones wearing our masks (it is required in our city to wear a face mask indoors so it has become normal for us). The further north we went, the less it felt that COVID was real until we arrived in Ely.  The harsh impact on the economy in such a small town was evident by the boarded up shops and stores. The big tourist draws such as the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center were still closed due to the pandemic (Both have reopened since we were there). Yet of course being outside and enjoying nature was not canceled. Nor was sitting by a campfire, kayaking on a pristine lake or listening to the melodic cry of the loon at sunset.

Three days relaxing and restoring some of our faith in mankind would be helpful.

Family Travel Minnesota National Parks North America TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION United States