Mandela Day – Now That’s My Kind of Holiday

nmdnodate copyToday, July 18, is Mandela Day, a cause for celebration and gratitude. A day for looking for connection with others, not distance or difference. A day to honor and touch others.

Especially now. Especially in days so dark in so many parts of the world.

July 18 is the birthday of Nelson Mandela, “Madiba” as a name of respect from his clan heritage…and it is the first Mandela Day to be celebrated since his death. A perfect day to look at how we respond to crisis, to disagreement, to discord. A shining opportunity to look at how we do for others and how we might do one thing more. A stunning day to look at how we sometimes retreat when chaos is too strong for us to navigate…when the exact opposite is the answer…to go forward and to reach out and do something for someone.

Today is a global call to action. Each of us has the power to change the world for the better. Each of us can make an impact on how we, as a global community, embrace peace and community and quality of life and assured safety. Each of us can.

Human rights for every human, no one more than another–that is when we know we did it. We have a lot, still, to do. Many minds must open. Many hearts must open. Many conversations must open. Many hands must open.

Find listings of actions and activities around the world here. Mandela worked for peace for 67 years–todays’ request is that we each start with just 67 minutes. Got an hour for the rest of us? If not today, use this special date to commit yourself to doing something soon.

How will you open hand and heart today, to touch another? For Madiba? For yourself? For all of us?

 

Now Boarding…

evoxandrew

Peak Volunteering – The Peace Corps Just Made it Easier

088d38c0-c883-11e2-cc13-e66f45590581The Peace Corps has long been the gold standard for American volunteering. A huge commitment most of us can’t make, two years in service to a foreign community is a lot…and it has immeasurable rewards. I have a few friends who have traveled the Peace Corps path and would not change those experiences for anything–a few who have done back-to-back stints, giving years to service.

For the longest time, since the organization’s founding in 1961, you signed up and crossed your fingers, waiting to hear when and where you would be sent and the type of work you would do. Your preference or desire wren’t part of the equation–you were willing to work, they would send you where they needed you most. Now, as of changes announced today, the exhaustive application process has been streamlined, and registrants can now CHOOSE what nation they will serve and the type of project in which they will engage (Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Education, Environment, Health, Youth in Development, or a grab bag “Anything” category, which still  plays by the old rules of matching able bodies to greatest need). This is huge. The website now lists all open projects, the type of work required for the project, and departure dates, so volunteers can more harmoniously engage in the work that inspires them most and where their talents and interests are strongest.

How about you? You busy for the next couple of years?

 

 

Heading Into Your Weekend, Remember to ReCORK

794575_88920138Even if you are a teetotaler, you definitely are aware that a summer weekend is a time when lots and lots of wine gets opened and finished. I’d wager a bet that most folks get the bottles into the recycling system more often than not…but what about the corks?

Now, of course, there are lots of very fine wines with screwtops (once upon a time the symbol of rotgut vino, but no more) and plastic corks…but the good old fashioned stripped form the tree cork? Unless you’re collecting them for your next Etsy craft adventure, they probably get tossed in the trash.

STOP!

Recycle your corks with ReCORK, America’s largest cork recycling initiative. With the help of over 1,700 recycling partners in the wine and hospitality industries, as well as individuals like you and me, they have recycled more than 49 million corks! They grind them up and up cycle them for use in shoes and other consumer goods. Harvesting cork is good for the cork trees and actually extends their lifecycle, and cork represents the lowest carbon footprint of wine stopper options…and now there is an aftermarket solution for responsible continued life. ReCORK goes the extra mile and plants new trees, too—over 8,000 planted so far!

Chances are good that there is a participating center or retailer near you that will receive your gathered corks—check for drop-off locations at this link. It’s a great and celebratory way to engage and get involved in the recycling/sustainability world…and besides…you don’t really want that wine cork bulletin board up on your wall, do you?

What Price Irony? Rich Potato Salad

483170_75337697So…I don’t blame the dude. The dude was just having fun. The dude was hungry.

Kickstarter went viral with the fundraising campaign of Zack Danger Brown who, being an irreverent fella, decided to start a fundraiser to crowd fund ten bucks so he could make some mediocre potato salad. Kickstarter and similar crowd-funding sites (like Indiegogo) are the life’s blood of many creative projects…and this guy has earned (thus far) over $45,000 from 5,571 donors. People jumped on the irony bandwagon, perhaps donation plea exhausted, like we all are, and threw money at this joke project. His total had actually been about $70K but then dropped 30 thousand to the low/mid forties…not sure what’s up with that–quite possibly people revoking their pledged donations.

The cynicism of this whole thing kind of weirds me out.

I get it. I get that it’s funny to fund potato salad. Having run projects through fundraising obstacle courses and angst pits myself, I wish I’d thought of it and just called a youth education program “Potato Salad” or similar…but that’s just it. Those five- and ten-dollar donations from around the country could make a real difference for some truly world-bettering work. If it is so inconsequential to us that we can toss a twenty at irony, why is it like pulling teeth to get $20 to fund a program for mentoring youth living on Native American reservations (mentorartists.org summer fundraiser for creative arts education for underserved youth–an organization I am proud to work with and support) or educational supplies to displaced kids in Haiti? These are just two examples of funding efforts I have personally undertaken.

I in no way mean to devalue the incredibly generous folks who have supported my efforts and the millions of other worthy causes out there. They truly make a huge difference, no question about it. Cynicism isn’t the guiding principle of most of us…and yet…here we are.

That potato salad thing really puts a burr under my saddle. There are rules that prevent Zac from donating the funds raised to charity, but that’s not his fault. I don’t blame him and have read he is looking for ways to give back and get around the bylaws of Kickstarter (maybe making tons of actual potato salad to donate to homeless shelters, or similar). This will assuage my rankled sensibilities…but that double-edged money is nothing haha vs. money is too tight to give to good causes dynamic has me perplexed and challenged.

Throwing money at a problem doesn’t often solve the problem, but funding worthy causes and tirelessly working service groups to empower them to do great work, essentially on our behalf, means the world to so many cash-strapped charitable and philanthropic organizations who are trying to keep the doors open. I know I’m preaching to the choir with readers of this blog…but isn’t that a little more profound than Russets and mayo and vinegar for a joke?

….annnnnd…now I’m hungry.

Hawaii Sustainable Tourism Certified Operators

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is important. It is easy to think of ecotourism and being responsible to the land when the land is as breathtakingly gorgeous as the Hawai`ian Islands…now if we can think this way everywhere!

Today, celebrate the 2014-2016 Sustainable Tourism Certified Operators of the Hawai`ian Islands. These businesses choose to go above and beyond normal standards, committing genuine energy and education about conserving the islands’ ecosystems and culture. This list is compiled by Hawaii Ecotourism Association, a non-profit that has, for the past 20 years, held island tourism to a higher standard. They are true industry leaders–if you are traveling to the islands (take me with you!)–please look to and explore these businesses for tours and activities:

Island of Oahu, Heart of Hawaii
Atlantis Submarines Hawaii (Atlantis Adventures – Oahu, Maui & BI)
Bike Hawaii
Holokai Kayak & Snorkel Adventure
Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks
Ko Olina Ocean Adventures
Kualoa Ranch
Pacific Islands Institute
Wild Side Specialty Tours

Visit Maui
Hawaiian Paddle Sports
Maui Kayak Adventures
Pacific Whale Foundation
Trilogy Excursions

Big Island Visitors Bureau
Big Island Divers
Fair Wind Cruises
Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (Hawaiian Legacy Tours)
VolcanoDiscovery Hawai`i
KapohoKine Adventures (pending)

Kauai Visitors Bureau
- Island Sails Kaua’i (pending)

Soccer, Futbol by Any Other Name Still Helps

Darfur United team. Photo: darfurunited.com

Darfur United team. Photo: darfurunited.com

The world is super energized by the FIFA World Cup these days, with the most popular sport inspiring fans around the globe.

Just like rejecting the metric system, here in the US we reject the sport’s name as well, and insist on calling it soccer–to, you know, add confusion–but no matter the vocabulary, it is a nearly universal language of sport, and also a great avenue through which we can directly help communities in need.

There is no shortage of controversy about the host nation for the World Cup glossing over extreme cultural problems, hunger, homelessness, and unrest…and we know that happens in most countries when the international spotlight is shone upon them (us as well–ask homeless cause workers what happened when Los Angeles hosted the Olympic Games).

It can also be a time to shine that great spotlight on some issues we can act upon, bringing attention and advocacy to address some, at least partially solvable, ills.

i-ACT is an organization seeking to “empower individuals within communities, institutions, and governments to take personal responsibility to act on behalf of those affected by genocide, mass atrocities, and crimes against humanity.” One of their flagship programs is Darfur United, an all-star, all-Darfuri refugee soccer team that travels internationally to play and tell their story.  The organization also has travel programs to visit the refugee camps of Chad, to open up lines of international activism. Additionally, their Little Ripples program is creating pre-school programs for this population exposed to severe trauma. Volunteer opportunities as well as ways to support are varied and vital–check them out.

So it’s not just painting faces and screaming until we are hoarse–the world of soccer can open up eyes to issues that truly must be recognized and addressed within our global family.

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