Take a Volunteer Trip in Thailand

The Little BIG Project_LogoUniversalGiving has recently been working with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), who have launched a contest to promote voluntourism, The Little Big Project.  One winner will receive a two-week volunteer trip to Thailand.  But everyone is invited to volunteer: TAT is partnering with other organizations, including UniversalGiving, to share volunteer opportunities.

Sound appealing?  Looking for adventure?  Here are some top opportunities to volunteer in Thailand with UniversalGiving’s vetted NGO partners:

And if you can’t resist the lure of winning a free volunteer trip from TAT, here’s an excerpt from their recent press release, describing The Little Big Project:

The mission of The Little Big Project is to help others, but it is also a competition: one overseas visitor and one Thai will team up for 2 weeks to work on anything from helping Save the Elephants at a nature park in Chiang Mai, to a community development project for Hill Tribe Children, to Marine Conservation in Koh Talu.

And, they’ll have the chance to share their philanthropy efforts with a world‐wide audience by making blog posts, uploading photos and videos, and telling their story through social media.

Prizes will be awarded, too!

  • The team with the most votes for their blog will win $5,000 USD for donation to their project for continued funding, plus a hotel voucher valued at $500 USD for their personal enjoyment.
  • The visiting competitor whose video receives the most views will win an Apple gift card worth $1,000.

TAT believes The Little Big Project will give people looking to do something different on vacation an opportunity to have a life‐changing adventure, and anyone interested should visit http://www.thelittlebigprojectthailand.com for details on how to enter.

TAT Banner

The Stories That Change Our Lives – Inspiration from Tamora Pierce

“Girls are 50% of the population. We deserve to represent 50% of the heroes.”

- Tamora Pierce

Sometimes the people who inspire us never existed.  And sometimes it’s the people who created those fictional characters who furnish the inspiration.

Tamora Pierce is an author of young adult fantasy novels, and at the risk of sounding like I’m exaggerating, I can tell you that she changed my life.  Tamora Pierce writes books about strong women, or “sheroes.”

When Pierce was starting out in writing, there was (and to some extent, still is) a belief that books about boys were more marketable.  The theory goes that young adult girls will read stories about male heroes, but young adult boys won’t read about female leads—write about a boy and you have twice the market, meaning there weren’t as many stories about heroic girls, and not as many role-models for girls to read about.

Song of the Lioness Quartet

But almost thirty years ago, Pierce wrote Song of the Lioness.  It’s a fantasy quartet about Alanna, a girl who desperately wants to become a knight, even though it’s a profession not open to women.  So Alanna disguises herself as a boy, and sets about to do it anyway.  She’s brave and strong, knows who she is and what she wants, keeps up with the boys and earns their respect.  It’s a wonderful story.  I read the books at a young age, and they made a huge impression on me.  Since then, I’ve read many other books about strong girls, and Pierce certainly isn’t the only author writing those characters.  But she was at the beginning of a changing trend, and she was one of the first to make a big impact with me.

I’m a firm believer that a girl can do anything a boy can do, that women should have the same rights as men, and that we all ought to be equal, whether in pay rates or in who cleans the house.  I’m sure a lot of that belief comes from my parents, especially my mom, but I think reading about Alanna at a young age helped.

I also know I’m not unique in this—off the top of my head I can think of three friends who were deeply influenced by Tamora Pierce’s writing.  Two of them I became friends with because we bonded over our shared love for her books (another way she changed my life!)

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Alanna when I grew up.  Now, I think I want to “grow up” to be Tamora Pierce, at least as a writer.

The world needs stories like Alanna’s, and Pierce’s other books.  We need stories that tell girls they’re as good as boys, that they can be strong and make a difference, that they don’t have to stay with their pushy boyfriend, that they can be themselves, whoever that is, and that they can achieve their dreams and do great things.  Boys need to hear some of that too, and Tamora Pierce’s books provide excellent role models of both genders.

My Tamora Pierce Collection

To quote Pierce again: “It’s not just children who need heroes.”

We all need heroes who will inspire us to become heroes.  That may be the ultimate magic of Pierce’s books—she didn’t just tell me about a heroic girl.  She told me I could be one too.

We all can be—and we can help other girls achieve their goals too.  In one of her later adventures, Alanna joined a desert tribe, took two girls under her wing and helped them gain acceptance and respect—and learned from them too.  We can all help someone, a relative, a friend, or a stranger thousands of miles away.  Thanks to our increasingly global world, we can find opportunities to help all over the world.  We can send a girl to college, help a woman start a business, or volunteer with women in the developing world.

Or we can find a way to inspire someone else.  Has there been an Alanna or a Tamora Pierce in your life?  Have you gone on to help someone else?  I’d love to hear your story!

Cheryl Mahoney is a writer for Tales of the Marvelous, sharing book reviews and reflections on writing.  She has reviewed more than fifteen books by Tamora Pierce, and many others about strong and inspiring girls. She is the Senior Marketing Associate at UniversalGiving and a managing writer for PhilanthroPost.

UniversalGiving Partners with SOCAP

UniversalGiving is thrilled to be working with SOCAP!  They’re preparing for their conference this May in Sweden, and we’re happy to help spread the word.  Here’s information on this exciting event:

On May 8-10th, 2012 join the world’s leading social impact innovators for SOCAP: Designing the Future in Malmö, Sweden (a short 20 minute train ride from the Copenhagen airport). Designing the Future gathers the world’s pioneering impact investors, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, government and civic leaders, and innovators to design a world that’s better for all.

What makes SOCAP different? SOCAP brings together more world-changing individuals than any other conference. SOCAP’s collaborative format includes keynotes, in-depth conversations, problem-solving sessions and explorations of new models mixed with practical lessons from the field on what’s working and what’s not.

Space is limited – Register Today!
>>> Register here

Participate in Our Writing Contest

By Cheryl Mahoney

We are excited to announce a writing contest: “Haiti’s Earthquake: Two Years After” in collaboration with Helium and GlobalPost.

In the spirit of citizen journalism, we’re asking you to dig in and learn what you can, then bring your knowledge back by writing articles on the topics we’ll provide–these will become available as soon as the contest launches.

The contest will begin at 12:01 am GMT on February 17th.  Submissions will be accepted for 10 days, until 11:59 pm GMT on February 26th. The contest will include five topics; these will be displayed on the contest page when the contest begins. After the 26th, they will be closed for submission for a one-week rating period. Winners of the Helium contest will be displayed on the leaderboard on March 5th, and winners of the best articles for each partnering organization will be announced on the contest page.

This unique collaboration offers numerous opportunities for you to win!  You could have your writing featured on UniversalGiving’s blog.  You could be published on GlobalPost’s Fault Line Special Reports page, with a payment of $250.  You could win a cash prize from Helium of up to $100.

Learn more details on Helium’s website.  Remember, the contest opens on February 17th, so come back to learn the article topics and start writing!

How You Can Support the People Who Make Your Gifts

By Cheryl Mahoney

Today, we’re excited to tell you about a UniversalGiving partner who’s doing great work for the world!  The Hoop Fund is located down the hall from us at the Hub SoMa, and they also share our international focus.

The Hoop’s mission is to create a more  connected marketplace, building links between consumers and the people who created the products they buy.  The Hoop partners with entrepreneurs, artisans, and farmers, and invites the people who buy their products to help fund their work.  The Hoop gives you two choices: you can directly fund a microloan to a project of your choice, or you can buy a bundle that combines a great product for you, and a microloan for the person who made it.

If you make a microloan, you get your money back when the loan is complete.  They have a 100% repayment rate so far, and loan recipients are charged zero interest!

The Hoop has recently launched gifting features for the holidays.  Every gift purchase also funds a microloan–or you can give a microloan on behalf of a loved one.  So you can buy a sweater that also supports women weavers, or give someone a beautiful necklace, and help build a daycare center.

This is a great opportunity to think about where the things you buy are coming from.  Contrary to the popular images, most gifts aren’t made by elves up at the North Pole.  :)  With the Hoop, you’ll know who made the gifts you’re wrapping up, and you’ll know that your gift also supported a great cause.  It’s an inspiring option for the holidays!