Saturdays are for Service

The age-old, yet notably profound, saying of “practice what you preach” is one that often stumps many nonprofit organizations and do-gooders alike. In the efforts of day-to-day life or ensuring that a company runs, this mentality can often get lost amongst the errands, paperwork, and email chains.

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At UniversalGiving, that is why the vision to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life” is not just a parroted goal, but an integral part of the company culture. This past weekend in particular, members of the team made their way to serve at the Northridge CommUNITY Garden in the Bayview. The garden itself is a part of the Northridge Cooperative Homes, an organization that seeks to provide safe and affordable housing to those looking to improve their quality of life. Two times per month, individuals from this community work in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and its volunteers for a ‘Park Beautification’ project.

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“I wasn’t sure what to expect when we showed up on Saturday, but working for Habitat for Humanity ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences so far this summer,” remarks CSR Intern Sheridan Wilbur about her day at Northridge. “Everyone was a stranger at first, but by the end of the shift, I had exchanged phone numbers with the coordinator, Laurel, listened to the program leader’s upcoming adventures in Yosemite, and heard about how one woman got herself out of alcohol addiction and now is following her passion in tech and sports. I left inspired and felt more connected to the San Francisco community.” Team member Angel Sun agrees, exclaiming that she “…[feels] connected and energized when serving the community and making our city better!”

During the day, volunteers completed tasks such as weeding, transplanting roses, removing debris, spreading mulch, and harvesting fruit from the community’s orchard. The shift concluded with a group lunch, where participants were able to talk to their experiences over rice, salad, and even some harvested plums. “Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite things to do — I get to be outside, work hard, and contribute to an important project,” says Mindy Bush, manager of UniversalGiving’s Corporate Client Services. “Most impactful for me, however, is the spirit of community that I feel. I loved having the time outside of work with [other team members] Katie, Sheridan and Angel and getting to know them all better. At the end of our shift, I felt inspired by all of the individuals who chose to be a part of the work that day!”

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The program is a part of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco’s Neighborhood Revitalization’ campaign, which strives to bring the organization’s work into neighborhoods where its houses have been built. With additional projects focused on improving the health and well-being of the Bayview and East Palo Alto areas — such as home repair and school renovation — the organization seeks to make the Bay Area a more comfortable and community-based place. Now that is the epitome of “practice what you preach.”

From the Bay Area? Want to learn more about volunteering with Habitat projects like the one mentioned in this article? Head to www.habitatgsf.org for Neighborhood Revitalization opportunities and more.

How Far Do People Walk for Water?

This is a guest blog from Drop in the Bucket! This video is a relatable representation of the time it takes for many Africans to collect their daily water. The average jug full of water can weigh about 40 lbs when full. The burden of fetching water is more commonly placed on women because in about two-thirds or 64% of households women collect water for the family. There is a strong need for clean and safe drinking water since nearly 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment. While this video highlights collecting water as an “African” problem, we must remember not to generalize because most African’s  communities do have access to water.

We must do all we can to assist those who have to walk hours to collect water. We can help is through supporting the construction of water pipelines for indigenous groups in Tanzania here.

“The video is titled “How long do people in Africa walk to get water?”. The video attempts to frame the water crisis in a different way by setting the long walk for water, that many people in Africa do every day, in an American location.

The video one was directed by Nathan Karma Cox and shot on location in Studio City, CA at Black Market Liquor who generously allowed us to shoot during the day before they opened. The video was produced by Cory Reeder and features music by Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga who played all of the instruments on the track including kazoo. Vocals were provided by Stone Sour guitarist Christian Martucci and the graphics were created by Rodrigo Gava from Gava Productions.” –Drop in the Bucket

NGO Spotlight: Nepal Orphans Home

Nepal Orphans Home (NOH) is many things to many people, but it is one thing to all: a lifeline extended by a warm smile, without politics, without judgment, simply with compassion.

With help from a widespread and deeply committed donor base comprised of everyday people working hard for a living and giving what they can, and sometimes really cannot, afford, NOH attends to the welfare of children in Nepal who are orphaned, abandoned, or not supported by their parents.

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NOH is the face an abandoned baby sees smiling down at them, the person that baby feels holding and feeding them. They are a child’s extended family during a medical crisis they would otherwise have to face without cash in a country operating on a pay-for-cure basis without insurance. They are the extension of a remote village where droughthas claimed the last of the food, where runners enter the village saying there is a truckload of rice and other staples where the road ends, waiting for them to come and get it.

NOH is the provider of education for 260 women in their community, free of cost but paid handsomely in return by the smiles, confidence, laughter, and the overall wellbeing of the community.

NOH is the buyer of chemotherapy and pain medication for terminally ill children whose families cannot afford it; they are the smiling presence in the ward, celebrating birthdays and granting last wishes.

NOH is the daily hot and nutritious lunch given to children in an “untouchables” village, who are attending the school built by NOH, taught by teachers whose salaries NOH supports.

NOH was the first face that many remote Nepalese children saw coming to their rescue days after the earthquake in 2015.

NOH provided shelter to hundreds of Kamlari (indentured servants) following their rescue and brought back those who wished to return to their Kathmandu homes to regain their childhood in a loving and secure environment.unnamed

NOH is a family welcoming in children, that for one reason or another have found themselves without anyone, with a loving embrace, good cheer, and daily reminders that they are supported to achieve their dreams. It is a family where every member supports each others’ goals and where everyone comes together to achieve them.

NOH is this and so much more, administered by a Board of professionals, dedicated to helping those in need with their expertise, compassion, and resources.

To learn more about opportunities to become involved with Nepal Orphans Home by supporting a child’s education or volunteering in Nepal, search for them on the UniversalGiving website.

NGO Spotlight: BiblioWorks

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BiblioWorks: strengthening communities through literacy and education

BiblioWorks is a nonprofit that promotes literacy and education in Bolivia. Their mission is to provide communities in need with tools and resources to develop sustainable literacy and educational programs through schools, libraries, and cultural institutions.

BiblioWorks was created in 2005 by a former American Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, Megan Sherar, and her brother. They fell in love with the country and decided to address the inadequate infrastructure interfering with Bolivia’s access to some of the most critical things on earth: literacy and education. Literacy and education are the first steps towards progress for every community in every country around the world.

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Today, this non-profit organization is managed in Bolivia by a team of dedicated Bolivians who understand the needs of both the organization and each individual library. The local team also helps BiblioWorks stay connected with the various communities to make the libraries lively and useful; they work closely with the local authorities to focus on the needs that people express in every community in which they intervene. After more than ten years of dedication, BiblioWorks is proud to run a network of fourteen libraries in the city of Sucre and in the surrounding countryside.

BiblioWorks is convinced that literacy and education are best spread by a fruitful exchange among cultures, identities, and origins; and therefore welcome volunteers from all across the world to work with them in their varying libraries. It is a great way for people to share their differences and learn from one another. When a volunteer comes from another country, their stay in Bolivia is an opportunity to know more about a new culture and learn Spanish as well. It is also an amazing chance for the children to be confronted with diversity.

Volunteers play a great role and make a direct and personal impact on the libraries theyimage.do
work with. For example, if a volunteer has some dance skills, they can set up a dance workshop. Additionally, as most of the volunteers are fluent in English they can provide the kids with basic English lessons. Often, what is considered simple or usual for a volunteer can have a great value for a child and can genuinely impact their lives. When volunteers come from abroad to BiblioWorks’ libraries, everyone benefits from the experience.

The BiblioWorks libraries would not exist without the plurality of actors that participate in the life of their organization; from the board in the United States to the team in Bolivia, from the volunteers coming from across the globe to the kids attending the libraries.

If you are interested in donating to BiblioWorks or participating in a volunteer trip to Bolivia, search for them on UniversalGiving.

NGO Spotlight: Develop Africa Small Business

In many parts of Africa people are living on around a dollar a day. Living at this type of poverty level makes it difficult to survive.  For a small business to stay afloat, they often need some sort of financial aid. However, for people living in Africa it can be extremely difficult to secure a loan because they often lack collateral.

Microfinance can help these individuals who cannot secure a loan. Microfinance is providing loans to impoverished and disadvantaged individuals. A typical microfinance loan is less than 200 dollars. These loans are often used to purchase supplies or ingredients needed to make a finished product to sell to the customer. It turns out that millions of people worldwide are positively affected by microfinance.

Develop Africa is giving out interest-free loans with the help of your donation. They call these loans booster shots because they will help a small business expand. In addition, the NGO will provide business training to these individuals. Develop Africa’s goal is to make individuals self-sufficient. They aim to specifically help talented youth and women entrepreneurs.

Develop Africa is, in turn, helping to not only alleviate poverty but to help stop the poverty cycle. This program empowers entrepreneurs to provide for themselves in the best way they see fit. If you want to give back, visit UniversalGiving!

Juliana Margulies – Smile at a Stranger, and the Important Reason Why

This post is by CEO Pamela Hawley’s from her blog Living and Giving.

 

“Walk down the street and smile at a stranger. He’ll smile at the next stranger passing by, and then the whole street is smiling. And no one knows why.”  — Juliana Margulies

I love this quote. The only reason why we need to smile…is simply to give joy.  Give joy to ourselves and to others…it’s one of our main reasons for being.  And while people may not know why you are smiling, they’ll soon find out:  It makes the world go around with peacefulness, graciousness, and lovingkindness.  That’s reason enough. 🙂

Juliana Margulies is an American actress who achieved success as a regular character on ER, for which she received an Emmy.  More recently, she took the lead role in The Good Wife, and has received a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild awards.

Five ways to give when you’re short on money

The economy can be a roller coaster, and with things like “Brexit” and climate change, the world can feel as if it is in turmoil. On top of that you’re worried about job security or paying back student loans, and giving seems like a secondary priority.

Don’t lose heart. Giving back and making a difference don’t have to break the bank. Here are some low-cost and meaningful ways to give.

1. Cultivate an attitude of abundance

Let’s start with our minds. Be courageous and realize that you have more than you think. If you have a bed, shelter, clothing, a job, and family or friends, then you are in a very “wealthy” state.

Go over the positives in your life. Write down heartfelt quotes that inspire you. As you fill yourself up with this goodness, you will be able to give to others.

2. Pick up the phone

Instead of being constantly worried about where the world is going, why not pick up the phone and find out how someone else is doing?

Calling someone “for no reason” is an important opportunity to show them that you are thinking of them. You are taking time out of your busy day to reach out. Everyone needs someone to just listen sometimes. They may be filled with joy or sadness. Be there to celebrate their good news, or support them with compassion.

3. Write a note

While some people enjoy receiving gifts, all of us appreciate a kind word. It is one thing to say it, but it can be even more meaningful to put it in writing. What if you made a commitment to write a thank-you note to someone every week?

You can congratulate friends on a new job, express condolences for the death of a loved one, or simply say you are thinking of them. You can think of any positive reason you like. Handwritten letters are memorable and heartfelt.

4. Invite someone over for dinner

You never know what someone might be going through – a painful divorce, a tough college semester, or just a bad day. Opening up your home will make someone feel appreciated. In addition, it costs less than going out. The leftovers from this dinner can be packaged up for homeless people. That’s double giving!

5. Set aside money from a daily ritual to donate

Giving doesn’t have to mean a life full of sacrifices. You can still buy a burger or get your nails done. But instead of buying several coffees every week, you can drink one fewer. Donate the money you save: Even $5 can make a difference in someone’s life. In the United States it can buy a small lunch, but abroad it can be used to build a library or buy mosquito nets to help prevent malaria.

Difficult financial times don’t mean your giving shuts down. Instead, they allow you to examine how your time and money are spent. There are so many ways to give back that won’t hurt your wallet and will enrich your life.

Take the Christian Science Monitor’s Quiz: What kind of giver are you?