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
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.

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My 2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide for the holidays

 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

#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

Gifts that Give Back to Support Fight Against COVID-19

In unprecedented times of COVID-19, now more than ever your purchasing power matters. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, many social enterprises, business and nonprofits are offering ways that you can use your purchasing power to help give back by either providing medical masks, supplies or your own facemasks to keep you and your loved ones healthy. Here are a few of my favorites.

Anchal  

www.anchalproject.org

Anchal [on-chal] believes design can change lives. As a non-profit social enterprise, Anchal uses design thinking to create innovative products and sustainable employment for exploited women worldwide. To date, Anchal has provided alternative careers in textiles and design to over 200 women in Ajmer, India and Louisville, KY.

Anchal is committed to producing the highest quality home goods & accessories while maintaining the integrity of our artisans and natural resources. Distinct design, craftsmanship and a personal signature connect you to the individual maker. Our eco-friendly products are entirely hand-stitched from vintage materials, certified organic cotton and low-impact dyes.

Anchal’s organic and vintage cotton face masks are made from two layers of quilted fabric. The dense weave of this durable cotton barrier provides protection and breathability. Anchal’s cotton bandanas also make for a versatile face mask option that can still be worn when COVID-19 pandemic ends. You can learn how to make your own Bandana Mask here. All masks are washable and reusable. The fabric is hand embroidered by an Artisan in Ajmer, India. The mask is cut and sewn by our team in Louisville, KY. All masks are pre-washed and delivered in polybags. Cost $20.00.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

International Women’s Day 2020 #EqualForEach

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. It is International Women’s Day, a day around the world to celebrate women and girls and to look at the progress that has been made and the work that remains to be done. For those who have followed my blog for a while, you know that the rights of women and girls lie near and dear to my heart. I’ve witnessed the inequities and injustice firsthand throughout my travels around the world.

This year’s theme is Equal for Each, meaning an equal world is an enabled world. Per the World Bank, “not a single country has achieved economic equality between women and men. As of 2019, women only had equal rights in six countries.” Global Citizen states that we will never end extreme poverty without tackling gender inequality.

Women and girls are more likely to be poor, unable to go to school, be married young and not have the same opportunities as boys and men. Women still die during childbirth at alarming rates and are being victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and human trafficking even here in the United States. The list of tragedies goes on and on.

However, the exciting news is this reality is rapidly changing. More women and girls are being empowered with education, training, and access to healthcare, mobile money, micro-financing, and technology. The future is looking much brighter for women and girls than it did just a decade ago. So instead of dwelling on the bad things, I want to honor the good things that are happening by highlighting a few of my favorite women and girls I’ve met along the way.

Bolivia

Woman in La Paz Bolivia

SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

A Float in the Dead Sea and the Quest to Save it

On my last day in Jordan, there was one culturally and historically significant place left to visit: The Dead Sea. After an incredible week exploring this magical kingdom, I had opened my mind to an ancient world from the surreal beauty of the Wadi Rum to the Roman Ruins of Jerash and of course the icing on the cake, a day and a half exploring the ancient city of Petra. I was disappointed with our visit to the Red Sea, overwhelmed walking the hot, dusty streets of Amman and wishing I had more time to spend a night and hike in the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Yet taking a float in the Dead Sea was that last one thing on my traveler’s bucket list to do in Jordan and thankfully I’d get to experience it before I left.

The Dead Sea has been a place of refuge and mystique since Biblical times. Formed over 3 million years ago, the Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water in the world with a salinity of 34% (9.6 times saltier than the ocean) and its salty waters and nutrient-rich mud have been attracting humans to its shores for millennia. Due to its high levels of salt, no animals or plants can survive hence the name “Dead Sea” however tourists and industry alike flock to the Dead Sea to reap the health and financial benefits of its products. In fact, the global market for Dead Sea mud-based cosmetics hit 678 million US dollars in 2015 and is predicted to grow. Tourism to the Dead Sea is also significant with an explosion in tourism. I could hardly wait to be one of those tourists, covering myself in mud, basking in the sun like a turtle and then floating in the Dead Sea.

The Magical Dead Sea. Photo credit: Pixabay

After a delightful morning exploring the Roman Ruins of Jerash, we set off for an hour and a half drive south to the Dead Sea. Many people chose to spend a night or two at one of the fancy resorts and spas located along the Dead Sea however since we were on a set seven-day tour of Jordan we would only have the afternoon. For me, that was all I needed as I’m not one who likes to lounge around however there were a few fellow travelers on our tour who opted to spend their last few days in Jordan there. Either way, the Dead Sea is only an hour’s drive from Amman so it is easy to do for a half a day or full-day trip from the capital.

As we left Jerash, we learned from our Jordan guide about the importance of the olive tree in Jordan culture and industry. The northern part of Jordan, where Jerash is located, is considered to be the breadbasket of this arid nation and is where 72% of the olive trees are grown in Jordan. You cannot find a breakfast table in Jordan without olive oil and Jordan is the 10th largest producer of olive oil in the world. It was surprising to see a greener landscape but it wasn’t long until the trees disappeared and the landscape returned to its dusty, sandy self.

Located in the Jordan Rift Valley, the Dead Sea sits at the lowest point on Earth at 422 meters (1,385 feet) below sea level. As you descend to the Dead Sea, your ears begin to pop similar to how you feel when descending in an airplane. It is a rather strange sensation but perhaps not as surreal as catching your first glimpse of the Dead Sea. It first appears almost as an apparition off in the distance of hazy, stirred up sand and it is hard to get a true idea of how big it is. The Dead Sea measures roughly 50 km (31 miles) long by and 15 km (9.3 miles) long and borders Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. The main tributary is the Jordan River and that has been part of the problem. The Dead Sea is rapidly shrinking at a rate of 3 feet (1 meter) annually and humans are to blame. Without swift intervention, the Dead Sea could almost disappear by 2050 some scientists warn.

Dead Sea, Jordan

The first sight of the tourist beach at the Dead Sea

Conservation/Environment SOCIAL GOOD

2019 Gifts that Give Back Guide for the Holidays

For the past five 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.

Every holiday season, I gather up a list of my most favorite gifts that give back to inspire you to purchase something more meaningful this holiday season and put your money towards a fabulous present that supports a good cause. The products and organizations listed below are just a few that these amazing organizations have to offer. Please visit their website to browse the entire collection. You can also view my extended list of Gifts that Give Back on my blog which also has links to past guides as well.

As you look through the post, you will notice that I included a brief description of each product in the caption. To read it in full or view the image at a larger size, click on the image and it will enlarge. You may also find more detailed information on the organization’s website. I hope you enjoy this year’s guide! If so, please share!

Happy Shopping!

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Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

Smile Network International: Kim Valentini’s Quest to Change Lives Around the World, One Smile at a Time

It was early May of 2003, Kim Valentini, an accomplished marketing and public relations executive and a mother of two had just quit her career after 25 years of moving up the ranks. She got her kids off to school and was lounging around the house in her pajamas when she heard Oprah say on TV, “If you are a woman in your forties, put down everything you are doing, grab a pen and paper, and listen to my show. This show is for you”. Little did Kim know, that that show would change her life forever and lead her to a greater purpose in her life.

Almost like a bit of fate, Oprah’s show featured author Po Bronson who just released his new book titled “What Should I Do with My Life”. Kim was wondering this exact same question.  Kim wanted to make a difference, be a voice for the people who didn’t have one. Immediately following the show, Kim launched a five-hour a week service project called the Smile Network. Little did she know, this five-hour a week service project would become a major global nonprofit organization.

Smile Network International is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides life-altering reconstructive surgeries to impoverished children and young adults around the world. Their mission is “to reconstruct lives, one bright, smiling face at a time”. Since 2003, Smile Network has become a truly global operation, performing over 4,000 life-changing surgeries in 11 countries across five continents.

I read about Kim’s story in a local magazine and I was so incredibly inspired by her story and her mission in life that I decided to meet with her in person and learn more. Over the next hour together we laughed, cried and bonded over what it means to be a woman, a mother and most of all, to find a deeper meaning and purpose in our lives. I realized that I had come to meet with Kim at a pivotal time in my own life where I have been searching myself for what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Here is Kim’s inspiring story of how she has transformed thousands of lives including her own.

Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Humanitarian SOCIAL GOOD

World Oceans Day: What it Means to Us and How You Can Help Conserve Our Oceans

Did you know that around 70% of our Earth’s surface is covered by oceans? June 8th is World Oceans Day, a day delegated by the United Nations to raise awareness, and to protect and celebrate the major role that oceans have in supporting everyday life. Oceans are critical to life as they provide most of the oxygen we breathe, are a major source of food and medicines and are an essential part of the biosphere. Oceans also intrinsically bless us with beauty and wonder.  However, between rising temperatures, climate change, ocean acidification, and single-use plastics polluting our seas, we are taking a detrimental toll on our oceans, not only negatively affecting marine life but also compromising human health. The good news is there are ways we as travelers can protect our oceans.

In honor of the 17th annual World Oceans Day on June 8, Impact Travel Alliance (the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professional) is asking travelers to take a stand for our oceans by making conscious changes to their routines as they explore the world. As a devoted member of the Impact Travel Alliance (ITA) and an ocean-lover myself, I wanted to share some tips and resources on how we as travelers can make a difference and help protect the future of our oceans. 

“Destinations on or near the ocean continue to be a favorite for travelers,” said Kelley Louise, ITA founder and executive director. “But with our oceans’ health at serious risk from climate change and overpopulation, it’s important to understand how we can make a difference with small, individual decisions we make while away from home.”

 


Ocean Conservation Travel Tips

The Ocean Project has worked in partnership with hundreds of organizations and networks from all sectors to help rally the world around World Oceans Day, a way to bring about a healthier ocean and a better future. Check out these guidelines on how you can make a difference and help conserve our oceans.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Conservation/Environment Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD

EOS International: Bringing Safe Drinking Water to Central America

For the past couple of months I’ve been doing a work-trade position at the Minneapolis Impact Hub to learn more about the incredible social impact work being done in my own hometown. The Impact Hub is part of a global network of over 100 hubs around the world that works to inspire, connect and provide resources to help entrepreneurs drive positive social impact. Through my work at the Impact Hub I’ve met a lot of amazing people doing some pretty inspiring work such as Wes Meier, CEO and Co-Founder of EOS International. EOS stands for Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability. EOS’s mission is to empower rural families in Central America with access to safe drinking water and opportunities to generate income through simple technology solutions and education. 

Since their founding in 2008, EOS has accomplished 2,325 installations of simple, inexpensive, and locally serviceable technologies helping over 534,167 Central Americans access safe drinking water improving lives and prosperity in Nicaragua and Honduras. I had the opportunity to talk with Wes about EOS International and here is what he had to say.

How did you get into this line of work?

I grew up in Iowa and studied Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University. After I graduated I was scared to jump right into a 9-5 job so I looked into other opportunities. I love travel and wanted to explore a new area and learn Spanish.  So, I decided to join the Peace Corps. 

In the Peace Corps, I served in the Agricultural and Food Security sector in Nicaragua. I lived in a rural community near El Sauce, Leon, and it was a truly life-changing experience. It opened my eyes to a lot of things and I realized that I was extremely passionate about this kind of work. 

I initially started working with local farmers to incorporate sustainable farming practices such as live erosion barriers, improved fertilization strategies, and planting nutritious family vegetable gardens. My work quickly morphed into technology design and implementation, where I implemented several of our early-stage technology solutions in the community. This quickly grew to other Peace Corps volunteer sites throughout the country.

The journey has kind of been a slow process but I’m really happy that I had the opportunity as a Peace Corps Volunteer to test out models, technology solutions and really understand some of the needs and resources available. It was during this time that I met our co-founder and current country director Alvaro Rodriguez, and we founded EOS International. That was back in 2008 and we have been learning and growing ever since. 

EOS International

Children in one of the local communities that EOS works with in Central America. Photo credit: EOS International

Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD Water and Sanitation
Above Safaris

Earth Day Travel Guide: Top Tours that Help Protect Wildlife Around the World

On April 22nd, the 49th annual Earth Day is being celebrated around the world. This year’s theme – to protect the Earth’s endangered and threatened species – could not be more important. The world is facing unprecedented climate change and a mass extinction of many of the amazing species of plants and wildlife that make our planet so incredibly unique. Unlike the extinction of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago, the devastating changes to our planet are driven by us. As concerns grow, there is still hope that we can fight climate change and reverse the mess we’ve made of our planet. As travelers, we have a choice on how we spend our money and we can make a difference by supporting travel organizations that help protect the environment and its wildlife.

In honor of Earth Day’s Protect Our Species campaign and as a member of Impact Travel Alliance (the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals), I am highlighting some of the amazing tour operators working to help travelers responsibly visit and protect wildlife around the world.

“Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat can become some of our most vivid travel memories. I was deeply impacted by a trip to Uganda where I watched gorillas go about their daily lives in the Bwindi National Park and I bonded deeply with elephants while interacting with them at a conservation park in Thailand,” said Kelley Louise, Impact Travel Alliance founder and executive director. “It’s important to take the time to research and book wildlife tours that put the animals and their environment first.” As an avid traveler and nature lover, I could not agree more. Whatever we can do as travelers to make a difference is better than not doing anything at all. By choosing to travel with an ethical organization, we are making a big difference in hope that these incredible animals will be around for future generations.

Photo credit Playa Viva and Dave Krugman

Leatherback Sea Turtles on the shore of Playa Viva, Mexico. Photo credit Playa Viva and Dave Krugman

Here is a list of sustainable tours that help travelers see and protect Earth’s wildlife:

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura’s mission is to inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we all share by offering unique trips, sharing stories, holding events and fostering a global community to create a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods.

Atlas Obscura offers some pretty fabulous trips such as tracking wild bumblebees in the wild with expert biologists. Travel to Sequoia National Park with Atlas Obscura and expert biologists to track, conduct research on and help protect wild bumblebee populations and explore this peaceful landscape. You will learn firsthand about the plight of the humble bumblebee while also supporting them.

Atlas Obscura

Giant sequoia grove near auburn california trees, nature landscapes. Photo credit: Atlas Obscura

Playa Viva

Playa Viva is a unique yoga retreat destination where you will enjoy the rugged, unspoiled beauty of Mexico in the guilt-free luxury of an environmentally conscious resort. Become immersed in nature, volunteer in the turtle sanctuary, give back to the local community, engage in a workshop, or just relax completely.

Stay in Playa Viva’s sustainable hotel in Mexico and participate in the Playa Viva Turtle Sanctuary’s efforts to protect leatherback sea turtle eggs from predators.

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Conservation/Environment Global Issues Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES