Last November, the outdoor recreation and sporting goods retailer REI did something rather unheard of. On Black Friday, they closed all of their stores and paid their 12,000 employees to spend time outside. They dubbed this campaign #OptOutside, and they encouraged everyone else to join them in the great outdoors instead of at the shopping mall. What a refreshing idea!
This year I’m thrilled to report that REI has partnered with Subaru, and together they are inviting dog lovers to #OptOutside with their pups this Friday. I simply cannot think of a better way to spend a day than being outside enjoying nature with my best friend—my basset hound—so I’m all for this. If you need help deciding what to do with your pup, check out REI’s list of dog-friendly activities.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was established 150 years ago, making it the oldest humane society in the United States. As the President & CEO of the ASPCA Matthew Bershadker said, their “focus is to get pets out of shelters and keep them in homes, while increasing the protections of animals under the law. We are helping to shape a society that continuously improves the lives of animals.”
True to their motto—“We are their voice”—the ASPCA strives to make lives better for animals in a variety of ways. They work with the government to enact and enforce animal protection laws, perform spay/neuter operations across the country, run an adoption centre in NYC, transport animals to shelters, save animals from horrible conditions, and much, much more. Working to protect those who have no voice is a noble mission indeed.
I truly hope that everyone will venture outdoors with their dogs this Friday to pause and enjoy the beauty of nature. If you do, don’t forget to post a photo on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook using the #OptOutside and #MakeADogsDay hashtags to help raise money for the ASPCA! Additionally, if you want to give more to the animals, you can always donate to the ASPCA in honour of a loved one or host a Holiday Campaign.
When I heard about what the good folks at Mobile Loaves & Fishes were doing, I knew I just had to share. This non-profit serves meals to the homeless and the working poor every single day of the year. Not only do they provide quality, fresh food, they also provide other items we may typically take for granted: clothing, toiletries, relationships, and opportunities.
Since the organization’s inception in 1998, they have served over 4 million meals! As you can imagine, it takes a lot of dedicated people to make that happen. In fact, more than 18,000 volunteers have rolled up their sleeves to help over the years. How do they do it, you ask? They prep the yummy fares, load up the food truck, and then make several stops around the Austin, Texas area.
Serving food and basic necessities is not all that Mobile Loaves & Fishes does for the metro Austin community. They are actively striving to build community and supply people with means to reestablish themselves through their Genesis Gardens, Community First!, and Community Works programs. This short video sums up their mission and the impact that Mobile Loaves and Fishes has on impoverished people’s lives.
To learn more about volunteering for this admirable organization, click here. If the work of Mobile Loaves & Fishes speaks to you, consider supporting them by making a tax-deductible donation online.
For most of us, our basic necessities are met, and we can easily access the other things we need. But for many others around the world, resources are limited, and they need a helping hand to get back on their feet. That’s where Kiva comes in.
Kiva is on a mission to alleviate poverty by supporting people around the globe. How does it work? People like you lend money through Kiva to help impoverished people grow or start their business, or help with education costs. The loans are dispersed through Kiva’s Field Partners, which are microfinance institutions who interact directly with the lendees. When the lendees repay their loans, you can either withdraw your money or loan it again. In the spirit of giving, we are naturally in favor of lending it again to another person.
Giving is easy and fun! When you visit Kiva.org, you can choose who you want to lend the money to. If you love South American culture, you can choose an artisan or other small business owner that interests you. Have you always wanted to visit Africa? Perhaps you’d like to choose someone from Kenya or Nigeria—or any other country, for that matter! In this way, you can support people and business that are special to you.
If you want to join the millions who lend through Kiva, there are several ways to get involved.
Give Kiva Goods as Christmas Gifts
Visit the Kiva Store to purchase gifts, such as a water bottle or iPhone case. Sales from the store help support the organization as they spread the word about Kiva.
Create a Campaign
Instead of asking for presents for Christmas (or any other life event: birthday, graduation, etc.), ask your friends and family to donate to your Kiva campaign. Learn how to start a Kiva campaign here.
Send a Kiva Card
If you know someone who doesn’t need anything for Christmas, then sending a Kiva Card is great way to give your loved one a meaningful gift! When you give a Kiva Card, the recipient can hop on Kiva’s website and choose who they want to receive the loan. The great thing about this is that the recipient can pick a lendee who inspires them. If you’re giving a Kiva Card to a family, I’m certain the children would enjoy selecting who they lend the money to! Plus, because Kiva has such a high repayment rate, the family can lend the money again and again, making this a gift that really does keep on giving.
Dedicate a Kiva Loan
Dedicating a Kiva Loan in honor of a loved one or in someone’s memory is another way to give. There are two big differences between a dedicated loan and a Kiva Card. The first is that you select the recipient of the loan, which means that the recipient doesn’t have to do anything to redeem the gift. The second difference is that when the loan is repaid, the funds convert to a donation to Kiva (instead of being returned to the lender). Personalize a dedicated loan to fit the personality of the recipient: for the coffee fanatic, give a coffee loan; for someone with a sweet tooth, give a bakery loan; for your bestie who loves to travel, give a loan that reminds her of a favorite destination.
There are a few different ways you can volunteer for Kiva, and the easiest way is to volunteer from your own home! Kiva’s Review and Translation Program is operated by folks who volunteer their time translating and reviewing loan profiles. For others who desire a more hands-on approach, click here to learn about Kiva’s Internship Program and Fellowship Program.
Take a moment to imagine your life without clean water. The thought is kind of hard to wrap your mind around, isn’t it? Well, for many folks, it’s a reality, as 663 million people on this planet [1 in 11!] do not have access to clean, safe water. But charity: water hopes to change that for the better.
On a mission to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, charity: water has already funded more than 16,000 water projects in 24 countries since being founded in 2006! Water projects such as hand-dug and drilled wells, rainwater catchments, water purification systems, and more have brought clean water to 5.2 million people.
When charity: water helps folks gain easy access to clean drinking water, many wonderful things happen in their community: health improves, medical expenses lower, equality is increased, girls get more time in school, and women are given the chance to grow food or earn income. How incredible is that? As charity: water’s slogan says, water changes everything.
If you would like to get involved with this admirable organization, there are several ways to do so.
Give in Honour of a Loved One
For a more unique gift this Christmas, honour a loved one by making a donation to charity: water in their name. The recipient will receive a lovely card explaining your gift and charity: water’s mission. It’s a great present for the person who already has everything!
Purchase charity: water Goodies as Gifts
If you still have more Christmas shopping to do, consider purchasing some of the goodies from charity: water’s store to give to your family and friends. The profits from your purchase help fund charity: water’s operating costs and helps them grow, plus they offer some fun items! Here are a few of my favourites:
If you’re in the New York City area, you can volunteer to hand-write thank you notes, help out at special events, and more.
charity: water follows a 100% model, meaning that 100% of public donations funds clean water projects. They depend on private donors, foundations, and sponsors to cover salaries and other operating costs, so all of your donation will go directly to a water project! Click here to give a donation to support clean water around the world.
It all started in 1980 with Chris, a seven-year-old boy with leukemia. His dream was to be a police officer, so family friends and members of the community pulled together to make his dream come true. He received a custom-made officer’s uniform and hat, earned motorcycle officer’s wings, rode in a helicopter, but shortly thereafter, Chris passed. As the story of Chris’ wish spread, it inspired a group of officers, friends, and family to start an organization. Later that year, Make-A-Wish was formed.
Here’s a video that describes Chris’ story more in depth:
Today, Make-A-Wish’s vision is as strong as it was over 30 years ago, and this vision is fueled by the belief that granting wishes of severely ill children fills them with joy and helps them to feel like a normal kid again. But granting wishes is so much more than just making a child happy—the impact of a fulfilled wish has a far-reaching impact! Such positive experiences help kids feel stronger, enabling them to fight their illnesses and face certain medical treatments.
In 2014 alone, Make-A-Wish granted 14,000 wishes, which averages out to one every 38 minutes! While that is certainly a lot of wishes, this covers only about half of all eligible children. Make-A-Wish wants to be able to grant a wish to every eligible child.
Volunteer at Your Local Chapter
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of help to grant wishes to so many children, which is why volunteers and donors are so instrumental in carrying out Make-A-Wish’s mission. If you’re interested in volunteering, consider this: Volunteering takes on many different roles and tasks, so use your strengths and talents to find a volunteering project that suits you. The easiest way to find volunteer opportunities is to check out your local chapter’s website. You can search for a chapter here.