Where it is Best and Worst in the World to be a Child

Save the Children, the world’s leading independent organization for children, has released the second annual End of Childhood Index in honor of International Children’s Day, a day to celebrate and raise awareness on children’s rights and wellbeing around the world. Save the Children’s annual End of Childhood Index ranks 175 countries based on eight childhood “ender” events that jeopardize children’s chance of a happy, healthy and safe childhood. While the report shows that the majority of countries have made progress for children since last year (95 out of 175 countries), conditions in about 40 countries appear significantly worse and are not improving fast enough.

No country is on track to meet the 2030 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) for children.  Over 1 billion children around the world live in countries plagued by poverty and it is not just a developing world problem. In the 2018 report, the United States didn’t rank in the top 10 or top 25. Instead, the U.S. shockingly ranked 36th place smack between Belarus and Russia. The growing urban and rural child poverty rate within the United States continues to widen.  The results of the report may surprise you.

This year’s report has two components: “The Many Faces of Exclusion” and “Growing Up in Rural America”, a new U.S. complement that offers first-of-its kind analysis of rural child poverty rates across America as well as state by state ranking of where childhood is most and least threatened. In advance of the report’s release, I listened in on a telebriefing by Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children to get some of the key highlights of the report and a call to action by governments around the world.

Here are some of the key findings worldwide and in America.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Food Security Global Health Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Humanitarian Poverty SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls
Ignite

Meet Ignite: Journeys that Connect, Inspire and Transform

Over the past decade I have been fortunate to have been able to travel the world and also do good along the way. For me, it all began during that fateful trip to Nepal in 2010. I had gone on four different volunteer trips before Nepal but for some reason this trip truly changed my life and made me realize that even I can make a difference and impact in people’s lives. After returning from the trip, I engaged my children in helping me raise $4,000 to open up a reading center in rural Nepal through the non-profit organization  Read Global. I realized that little things can make a big difference and have a ripple effect within a community. I was hooked. And, I’ve realized that I am not the only one.

There is a growing market for impact-based travel as more people like myself want to travel and do good. However, finding those opportunities can be a bit daunting especially ensuring that “the doing good” is truly doing more good than damage.  For instance, there has been a call by many international children’s welfare organizations to put an end to orphanage volunteering as it can have a negative impact on vulnerable children. In the past, I have volunteered with children in developing countries and wasn’t fully aware of some of the potential consequences and ethical complications until I became more involved in social justice work.

Over the next several months, I am working on putting together a list of the best ethical impact-focused and sustainable travel organizations around the globe. While I’m researching these different organizations, I am rounding up guest posts to uncover each organization’s unique mission and how you can travel for good. This guest post is written by the team at Ignite, an organization whose mission is to provide experiences that benefit humanity and the planet.

Ignite Journeys

Hiking in Nicaragua. Photo credit: Ignite

Ignite: Journeys that Connect, Inspire and Transform

There is a growing demand among travelers to engage in travel for good. More than $2 billion is spent annually on impact-focused travel and year-over-year demand continues to increase, as people look for something more than a stay at an all-inclusive resort. They want to travel responsibly and support sustainable development around the world.

Ignite is energized by this growing demand to pursue purpose, social responsibility and global citizenship. Fundamentally, Ignite is a people development company. We help people become the best versions of themselves through purposeful journeys that combine cultural immersion and adventure. We provide these journeys for individual travelers and we also work with companies who offer our journeys as a way to recognize and develop their employees.

Study Abroad TRAVEL TRAVEL RESOURCES Volunteering Abroad
LifeStraw Follow the Liters

I’m Heading to Kenya with LifeStraw and Here is Why #Lifestraw1million

“For it is in giving that we receive”. – Francis of Assisi

Sometimes life takes an unexpected curve and you just have to go for it. Back in December, as I was preparing for the busiest time of the year for me and my family I received an email telling me about an opportunity to join LifeStraw, a water filtration social enterprise owned by Vestergaard, on their upcoming trip to Kenya in February on a special project: To reach the one millionth child to receive safe drinking water.

I dropped everything I was doing that December day and applied for one of three spots to attend as a storyteller and volunteer on the trip. I hoped for the best and left for the holidays returning right after the New Year to receive the exciting news that I was selected to join the 2018 Follow the Liters team to Kenya!

As I prepare to leave for the trip today, I want to tell you a little bit more about LifeStraw and the what I will be doing for the next week in Kenya. I am thrilled to be going and doing the work I love so much. Traveling, volunteering and doing good! Making a difference has become so important to me throughout the years. I have been blessed with so many opportunities to travel and have realized how inequitable the world can be. Giving back to my family, friends, community and those around the world in need is a critical aspect of my life. I look forward to making a difference over the next week.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Health Global Issues Kenya SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL

How Sunshine Nut Company is Transforming Lives in Mozambique

“Providing hope never tasted so good”. – Don Larson, founder and CEO of Sunshine Nut Company

I am always inspired by the amazing people out there who are making the world a better place and giving back. Meet Don Larson, founder and CEO of Sunshine Nut Company, a cashew company that is harnessing the food industry to create lasting economic transformation in Mozambique. In 2011, Larson and his family left a 25-year high-level career in the food industry to launch Sunshine Nut Company with the belief that a food company can be the catalyst for lasting economic transformation in some of the poorest countries in the world.

When Larson and his family left the comforts of their home in the US to set off on a new adventure in Mozambique, many thought he was a little nuts. However, in the past six years Larson has done amazing things to help the community in Mozambique and change the world, one package of nuts at a time.

Sunshine Nut Company grows, roasts and packages cashews in Matola, Mozambique where they operate a world-class cashew factory and are able to go from tree to package in just three weeks. Thirty years ago, cashews were one of Mozambique’s top cash makers however almost two decades of civil war and poor economic conditions nearly destroyed the once lucrative industry. Larson found this as an opportunity to not only bring back the cashew industry but create lasting sustainable change by empowering the local community.

Sunshine Nut Company directly employs over 50 people at their factory, hiring primarily adult orphans and promoting from within. 90% of their distributed profits are reinvested back into the community: 30% to orphan care, 30% to farming communities, and 30% to replicate the business model elsewhere. Now in over 3,000 stores across the US, Sunshine Nut Company hopes that when you purchase their cashews, you taste the difference in the freshness and quality, and find hope in knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of the poor and orphaned in Mozambique.

I had the opportunity to interview Don and here is what he has to say about the mission behind Sunshine Nut Company and what his visions for the future are.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Faces of Ethiopia

US +THEM: Why It Took Roger Waters to Wake Me Up

“Us and them
And after all we’re only ordinary men.
Me and you
God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do”. 

Lyrics to “Us and Them”, by Songwriters Roger Waters and Rick Wright

 

November 8, 2016.

Looking back now how would I know how that a single day would impact my life? I was so demoralized after the results of the US Presidential election, that I felt a part of myself had died that day. Everything I had fought for was in jeopardy. All of my beliefs in humanity were lost.

Then came the resistance. The strong will to fight for my beliefs of what I felt was right. Yet over the short course of a couple of months, I went from a global advocate, traveler and world citizen to a hopeless overwhelmed lost soul. I had lost my motivation to fight feeling like everything I believed in was gone.

Tour de Vanoise France

I am ashamed to say that I became complacent. I gave up. My burning urge to resist was gone. I wasn’t alone. Many of those who had inspired me had also begun to loose steam. Even advocacy groups and non-profits felt like they were always singing the same old song. Each message in my inbox crying for help was deleted. I was just simply too overwhelmed to deal with it.

So what have I done? Nothing. I’ve been sitting on the coach, ignoring the terrible news each day and giving in to complacency.

Tour de Vanoise France

I felt like a part of me was dying.

As in the soulful voices in this song….

I had somehow lost myself along the way. That bouncing, energetic, “carpe diem” kind of woman had been caught up in the numbness of daily life and all that was happening in the world that I could not control. I had become uncomfortably numb.

SOCIAL GOOD

“The Story of US”: How Humanity Unified is Supporting Women Farmers in Rwanda

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”. – Desmond Tutu

Do you ever feel like the connections we make in life sometimes seems like fate? The more I work in this tiny niche of social good travel bloggers, the more amazed I am by the incredible friendships and network I’ve made online. I’ve met countless inspiring bloggers and humanitarians online through blogging and social media. One such person is Maria Russo, founder of the award-wining online media platform for travel and social good, The Culture-ist and the non-profit Humanity UnifiedIt all happened because I follow her on Instagram where I noticed the amazing photographs her organization was posting on women and girls during a trip to Rwanda.

I commented on the photos and began a relationship online that resulted in an interview  and a post on her and her husband Anthony’s work as the founders of Humanity Unified. I was instantly drawn to Maria and Anthony’s passion for making the world a better place by starting at the grassroots level by improving the lives of women and girls in Rwanda. I have been working with Maria ever since.

This past International Women’s Day (on March 8th), I held a fundraising dinner to support Humanity Unified and I was elated by the results. In one night, we raised over $400! Although that may seem like a small amount to you and me, in Rwanda that money goes a long way. Roughly 70 % of Rwandans are substance farmers who rely on their harvests for income and with unpredictable weather, environmental disasters and climate change, a good or bad harvest can make a tremendous difference. Humanity Unified is trying to change this reality by empowering rural communities to rise out of poverty through education, food security projects and economic opportunities. They start by investing in women.

Humanity Unifed

Photo credit: Anthony Russo

Since 2015, Humanity Unified has been working in Rwanda with their partner Aspire Rwanda, a local NGO that empowers poor women to rise above poverty. The two organizations share similar missions dedicated to poverty alleviation through education, food security projects and economic opportunities.

Humanity Unifed

Photo credit: Anthony Russo

Humanity Unifed

Photo credit: Anthony Russo

Currently, the organization is empowering 110 women through a farming cooperative project that will ensure each woman earns a self-sustaining, livable income after completing a one-year intensive educational program.

The program provides the women with the skills and knowledge necessary to triple the cooperative’s yields over the course of one year. The 100 women enrolled in the cooperative, most of whom earn less than a dollar per day, are also attending workshops on gender-based violence, women and children’s rights, nutrition, positive masculinity (which includes male partners) and workshops designed specifically for single and widowed women. The program also provides training in cooperative management, financial planning and effective agriculture methods.

Food Security Gifts that Give Back Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

10 Amazing Wines that Give Back

“For it is in giving that we receive”. – Francis of Assisi

If you have followed my blog for awhile, then you know how much I love curating my ever growing list of Gifts that Give Back on my blog. It has become my most popular page and is the most widely searched of all my content. When I saw a post on my friend’s blog Epicure & Culture on wines that give back I was elated. I love wine and I had no idea that there are wines that taste delicious and also give back to a cause to make a difference. She agreed to let me share the post here. I look forward to ordering some of these wines and knowing that I am also doing good while enjoying a delightful glass of vino!

Sip These Ten Wonderful Wines to Help Change the World 

This is an original post that first appeared here on Epicure & Culture and was written by Katie Foote, Epicure & Culture Contributor

wines that give back
There’s nothing like a glass of wine to help you relax after a stressful day at work or to complement a meal. While the alcohol in wine helps make you feel good, you can enhance that warm fuzzy feeling by purchasing the following bottles. With these you won’t just be sipping your everyday merlot; but wine that gives back to social causes and the environment.

Read on to choose which sip you want to support, from sustainable seafood to stopping animal cruelty to providing jobs for ex-inmates and beyond. Cheers to that!

wine that gives back

Berlin, creator of Proud Pour and bottles. Photo courtesy of Proud Pour.

1) Save The Oysters With Sauvignon Blanc

Proud Pour (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

When Proud Pour CEOs Berlin Kelly and Brian Thurber realized they shared a love for Mother Earth — and wine — a genius beverage was born. Their sauvignon blanc donates 100% of proceeds to the planet. In fact, the purchase of each bottle restores 100 oysters, which in turn helps clean 3,000 gallons of water per day. Adds Kelly, “Often times 100% of our profits aren’t enough to restore 100 oysters or plant 875 wildflowers per bottle, so we’ll forego salaries and use our personal savings to do the work.”

Their sauvignon blanc is sustainably grown on a family-owned vineyard in California. The wine’s floral notes are well balanced with minimal acidity and a smooth minerality to pair perfectly with farmed oysters.

wine that gives back

Meg Murray of Nasty Woman Wines. Photo courtesy of Nasty Woman Wines.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

Kiva: Be Bold for Change, Invest in Her

“Kiva is a simple concept that can change a person’s life.” – Oprah Winfrey

I learned about Kiva years ago after reading the life-changing book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  This book could not have been more timely in my life as after reading it, I immediately began investing in women at Kiva and also using my voice as a blogger and social good advocate to help improve the lives of women and girls.

Kiva is an international nonprofit founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. What I love about Kiva is the brilliant concept of using small micro loans to empower people in the developing world to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. These are normally people who do not have access to traditional bank accounts and Kiva’s micro loans provide the missing link that they need to succeed. Kiva’s loans not only improve but change thousands of lives and what a greater gift than providing opportunity and empowerment, especially to women.

In honor of International Women’s Day this Wednesday, March 8th, Kiva has launched an exciting campaign called “Be Bold for Change, Invest in Her”.  The ambitious goal is to crowd fund $3 million in loads for thousands of women from March 1-8Kiva is offering 10,000 new visitors the chance to lend the equivalent of $25 on Kiva for free as part of the campaign.  You can choose which woman you want to support – a woman starting or growing a business, going to school, accessing clean energy or investing in her community. 

invest_in_her-preview

 

 

Individual loans of $25 are collected until that woman’s loan request is fully “crowdfunded.” It doesn’t cost new visitors a thing and they can be part of achieving the campaign’s overall $3 million goal alongside Kiva’s 1.6 million individual lenders. Furthermore, 100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes to funding loans. Kiva covers costs primarily through optional donations, as well as through support from grants and sponsors.

Gifts that Give Back Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

The Refugee Crisis in Lesbos, Greece: A Story of Heartbreak and Hope

“Our goal is to place a human face on this world event and meaning to the term refugee. This ongoing crisis is changing the world. We believe there is an urgent need to educate and offer an opportunity for people to connect to the human side of this tragedy.” – Robin and Robert Jones

It was a typical warm April evening on the Greek Island of Lesbos when the first raft arrived that would change this island community and the world forever. Santa Barbara-based couple Robin and Robert Jones had been living part-time in the small, beautiful village of Molyvos on Lesbos for the past 42 years and had witnessed the town develop from a fishing and agricultural community to one dependent on tourism.

View from Robin and Robert Jones house

View from Robin and Robert Jones house. Photo credit: Robin Shanti Jones

They were dining with friends at their beautiful home when they looked out the window and off in the distance approaching perilously in the sea was an inflatable raft filled over capacity with people wearing bright orange life vests. There were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, babies and grandparents. It would be the first of many rafts to come ashore to their tiny town of 1,000 people.

For these refugees, Lesbos was a beacon of hope from the dark, cruel world of war and death that they were escaping in Syria and other parts of the world. Despite the dangerous, treacherous passing across the sea, reaching Lesbos represented a promise of safety and hope for a better life.

Map of Lesbos, Greece.

Map of Lesbos, Greece.

Coming ashore. Photo credit: Robin Shanti Jones

Coming ashore. Photo credit: Robin Shanti Jones

 

Refugees arriving by raft. Photo credit: Robin Shanti Jones

Refugees arriving by raft. Photo credit: Robin Shanti Jones

In 2015 Lesbos became an epicenter for the refugee crisis sweeping across Europe and Asia. At the beginning, fewer than 150 refugees a week were landing on the island. By the time the Jones returned to the US in November, 3,000 desperate people were pouring onto their beaches every day after having made the dangerous crossing from Turkey. They arrived wet, cold, scared and hungry yet filled with hope.

For the first several months as the rafts began trickling in, there was no organized help set up. The town and the world were completely taken by surprise and unprepared at how to provide aid and services to all the refugees. Thankfully, a large group of volunteers took over and helped the refugees by providing food, water, and whatever help they could. Tragically this was only the beginning of their long mass exodus to safety.

The Jones’s joined other volunteers to help the refugees, over half of whom were women and children. Until buses started in the fall they had to walk 60 kilometers over mountain roads in sweltering heat to cross the island to the official Registration centers. Picking up refugees in personal cars was illegal but many people like the Jones helped transport refugee families.

The long walk to the registration center. Photo credit: Robin Shanti Jones

The long walk to the registration center. Photo credit: Robin Shanti Jones

At a rest stop set up for the refugees, Robin, an art teacher, provided paper, colored pens and a blue and white checkered Greek tablecloth she spread on the ground to give the children a place to draw. They sketched tanks and guns but also flowers and homes. Streaks of blue represented the water they had just crossed. The kids were at first a little shy but then they began to draw. And as more and more children got involved, an amazing scene developed. The activity offered a moment of relief to the many children arriving on the beach or entering the temporary chaos of the transit camps.

Robin brought table cloths, pads of paper and colored pens to give the children, who had just made the horrendous sea crossing a few hour before, the opportunity to draw pictures and give them a sense of normalcy in the chaotic environment. Photo credit: Robin Shanti Jones

Global Issues Humanitarian SOCIAL GOOD
Love your Melon hats

Gifts that Give Back to and for Children

“For it is in giving that we receive”. – Francis of Assisi

My Gifts that Give Back Gift Guide has been the most viewed post on my blog for over a year straight which says a lot since I have been blogging for almost six years and have well over 1,000 posts. It has become so popular that I created a permanent page on my blog of Gifts that Give Back and am updating it all the time with new, inspiring organizations.

The wonderful news is that business is booming for these organizations and I am utterly blessed that I have played a small role in helping give back. From buying a handmade scarf that helps send a girl to school in India or a candle made by Syrian refugees, there is so much you can do to help out.

Even better is that Gifts that Give Back don’t have to be only for adults. There are also several wonderful gifts that give back to and for children. Without further ado, here is a list of some of the best gifts for children that help other children around the world.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

Gifts that Give Back: b.a.r.e soaps

I am always looking for inspiring social good enterprises to feature on my blog. This past month, I had the opportunity to speak with Jessie Yoh, Co-Founder and CEO of b.a.r.e. soaps, an all natural, socially conscious soap and candle company that helps women and children in Uganda and India. b.a.r.e. stands for “bringing antiseptic resources to everyone” and was built on the idea that something as simple as a bar of soap can effectively help prevent the spread of diseases and illnesses while improving overall health and hygiene.

b.a.r.e soaps was inspired by Jessie’s friend Clare Li’s mission trips to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Uganda where she witnessed the desperate need for basic health necessities. After every mission trip, Clare returned energized to make a difference but was never sure how. The idea behind b.a.r.e. soaps didn’t arise until August 2012 when Clare was in Uganda, and brainstormed an idea to make her own soap and use proceeds to invest in developing communities that lacked basic sanitation.

b.a.r.e. soaps

b.a.r.e. soaps

After Clare returned to the US, she pitched her good friend Jessie her idea. Jessie, a business major, hopped on board immediately. Upon further research, the pair realized that there was a problem also at home. The soap we typically buy from our local grocer or drugstore isn’t really soap. In actuality, it’s made with synthetic and artificial compounds. Thus, a two-fold mission for b.a.r.e. soaps began: First, to educate and provide an all-natural product for those at home, and second to create a sustainable sanitation program for the children in Kaberamaido, Uganda. While working full-time, the pair launched the business in September 2013 and have been changing lives ever since.

Here is their inspiring story. 

b.a.r.e. soaps

b.a.r.e. soaps

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

One women’s courageous fight with Mesothelioma

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along”.-  Eleanor Roosevelt

Every so often I get that one email that truly touches my heart and moves me to action. It came about a month ago from a fellow Minnesota mom named Heather Von St. James. Heather is a 10-year survivor of a rare cancer called mesothelioma, who against all odds beat the disease, and is a prominent advocate for mesothelioma awareness and an outspoken proponent of banning asbestos. Her beautiful blog “Beating the Odds – My Decade of Mesothelioma Survivorship” and advocacy work for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance continues to spread awareness of the disease, give hope to those fighting the battle and seek justice to stop the use of asbestos in the United States. Here is a brief part of Heather’s story that drew me in. 

Heather, her husband Cameron and daughter Lily

Heather, her husband Cameron and daughter Lily

“A diagnosis that would change my life” written by Heather Von St. James

I remember the waiting. From the cold patient waiting rooms, on hospital beds waiting for the CT machine and biopsy to start and especially the long, to angst filled days at home waiting for results. After all the testing, the poking, prodding and questions to try to figure out my breathlessness, sallow skin and all-consuming exhaustion…my husband, Cameron and I were left to wait for the answers.

These things happened to other people, not to me. That’s all I could think, how surreal all of this was. I had just given birth to my daughter, Lily, how could I be back in the hospital hearing the words CT scan, thoracentesis and “there’s a mass in your lower left lung.” After the years I spent working in a salon and farther back to when I had smoked, I was trying to block out the million thoughts racing through my mind, the heaviest and most terrifying of all – cancer.

Finally, on November 21, 2005, the answer came. It was malignant pleural mesothelioma. Cancer had overtaken the lining of my left lung. Cams and I sat in my doctor’s office too stunned to speak. When Dr. Flink asked me if a family member had worked around asbestos, the image of my father’s dusty work jacket I wore each day as a child to do my chores came flooding back to me.

It was his next words that rocked me back to life, “If you don’t do anything, you have about 15 months to live.” With chemo and radiation I could get up to five years. Five years. Maybe.

SOCIAL GOOD