Friday, May 30, 2014

Simple Acts of Kindness: Surprise Offer

“Last week, I was shopping at an estate sale and found a craft chest perfect for what I was looking for.
“After my purchase I tried to fit it in the car, but no luck. I returned to the salesperson and asked how much it would be for delivery. She wasn't sure, so she made a phone call.
“One of the other customers overheard me ask how much the delivery charge would be. She came over and said she lived right near me and that she and her husband would deliver it in their truck to my home.
“Scott and Shelley, what a fabulous random act of kindness. It certainly made my day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Simple Acts of Kindness: Surprising a Kind Person

"I teach at a small private school. We have an employee, I don't even know exactly what her title is, but if you want anything, she does it for you. She is the most selfless person I have ever met, and she never let's anyone do something nice for her without her paying you back tenfold. For my Day #1 act of kindness I picked up a pastry from her favorite bakery, and snuck it into her box with a little note that said "You are awesome!" It drove her crazy that she didn't know who it was from and that she couldn't repay them."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Simple Acts of Kindness: Giving to Homeless

SALT LAKE CITY — On a snowy spring morning armed with a dozen bags of food, water and blankets, Daniel Smith is on a mission.
One by one, he approaches individuals in downtown Salt Lake City who look like they’re struggling to stay warm or are in need of a little help.
“(I'm) just trying to give back and make a difference,” he replied when asked why he was out handing out care packages in the snow.
At his side is a man with a video camera capturing every tender moment, every exchange, every expression of thanks and every odd moment in between.
“I’ve been kind of fortunate my whole life,” Smith said. “And it just kind of hit me one day that it’s long past due that I stand up and do something.”


Simple Acts of Kindness: Paralyzed Man Donates Surgical Funds to Child with Cerebral Palsy

Daniel Black was paralysed after breaking his neck in a cycling accident in 2009. Determined to walk again, the 26-year-old set about raising the money needed for an operation that would get him back on his feet. But after reading the story of six-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Brecon Vaughan, who also needed pioneering surgery to help him walk again, Daniel gave him every penny of the £22,000 he had collected. Brecon to flew out to the United States for his operation in October 2013. Daniel, who was given a Daily Mirror Pride of Britain award for his huge generosity, said: “For me, things are not getting better soon. I wanted to help someone whose life could get better.”

From:  The Mirror

Simple Acts of Kindness: A Smile and a Gift--Just Because

“I was on my way to work when I passed by a church that just had a funeral and a family of 4 came out of the church (mother, father, a little girl, and little boy) they started walking in the same direction of me. They jumped in their vehicle and headed off. While walking to work I passed by a convenience store and bought a $50 Toys"R" Us gift-card and a $50 Boston Pizza gift card, I didn't expect to see them again But If I did I would give them those gift cards. I work at a fitness studio and there is a McDonalds across the street I think It was meant to be because on my break I saw the same family sitting eating ice cream talking with sad faces, I walked up and gave them the gift cards and said, "I saw you earlier today beside the church I am sorry for your lose but I thought you could get the little ones some new toys and go out for a family dinner on me.”  I left it on the table and started walking away the father and mother rushed after me and gave me hugs and said thank you for my kindness. I told them to pay it forward.”

Simple Acts of Kindness: Listening with Empathetic Ear

"Not long ago I visited a friend in the hospital. When I walked into her room, she began complaining about the male nurse she had. She said he was forgetful, rude, short with her, and not very pleasant. When my friend left the room for her therapy, her nurse came in to change the sheets. I could see the pain and anguish on his face. I offered a few kind words about how much I appreciated his hard work and dedication. That opened the way for him to reveal the incredible hardship in his life. His wife still lived in South Africa and his two children had recently died from medical complications. He was working a double shift, just to make ends meet. When I heard all this, I felt a deep, loving kindness for him. Before he left the room, I gave him a big hug. He started to cry. You know how that can be sometimes? All it takes is a hug or kind word and the emotional floodgates open. During the following couple of weeks, whenever I visited my friend, I took the nurse some of my homemade organic granola, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, or bread, which he loved and appreciated. Both my hospitalized friend and I learned a valuable lesson during those two weeks on how important it is to reach out to others with tenderheartedness even though you have no guarantees of what you’ll get in return.
"Each of us can make a difference in the world. By our intentions and through our attitudes, we can create Heaven or Hell."

Simple Acts of Kindness: Stranger Funds Bicycle Purchase

"With the help of bariatric surgery, I've spent the last year trying to lose weight and get my health in order.
"Having had pretty good success thus far, I decided to post some "progress pictures" in my favorite online weight loss forum. It's requested that in the posts you provide information as to how you've lost weight, so I mentioned that I now walk everywhere but was saving up to buy a cheap bike that I could use to commute to and from work.
"The next evening, I was messaged privately by an individual asking if I had a PayPal account and if I would be comfortable accepting a small donation for a bike. I passed along my PayPal email address, thinking that nothing would come of this. Much to my surprise, I awoke the next morning with an email from PayPal saying this man, a complete Internet stranger I had never met, had sent me $200."

Simple Acts of Kindness: Sea Lion Pup Rescue

A newborn sea lion was caught between piling and dock in the waters of Morro Bay.  Trapped, The pup was drowning.  Fortunately, one man risked all and wrangled the pup from the piling and then handed the sea lion to its mother.  

Photo courtesy of Sub Sea Tours

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Science Works with Islander Tradition

“We are a diverse team of university and college faculty, students, researchers, and Yap outer island community members, working together with the people of Yap State Outer Islands, including Ulithi Atoll (Federated States of Micronesia) to help understand the challenges facing the coral reefs and the communities that rely on them. This is a positive story, making positive change in a revolutionary way -- combining tradition with science.   Learn more about us and our affiliations below, and read on to learn about and support this effort…

“…There are many ways to approach conservation and management.  Yet the vast majority of efforts focus on only a few methods.  We are doing it differently -- letting communities lead, and focusing on combining tradition with modern science. In 2010, recognizing a decline in reef health and fish populations, islanders from the remote Micronesian outer islands of Ulithi Atoll, Yap State realized that their health, their communities, and their future were being threatened by rapid environmental and cultural change.  They asked for help to learn how to manage a sustainable food supply from their oceans, a critical issue for their present and future wellbeing.  We are a team of scientists who came together to respond to the islanders' call for assistance.  This project is realizing unprecedented success.  You can learn more about us and read our reports at:"

Friday, May 23, 2014

Geneva Charity Announces Immunization Goals for Developing Nations

The GAVI Alliance, the world’s biggest supporter of vaccines for poor countries, aims to raise $7.5-billion for an ambitious program to immunize 300 million children over five years, Bloomberg writes.
The Geneva-based charity has raised some $12-billion from governments and private donors since its inception in 2000, more than $2.5-billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. GAVI has made deals with 14 pharmaceutical firms to reduce vaccine costs in the developing world, helping to inoculate 440 million children in 70 countries.

Unveiling a program Tuesday for its work from 2016 to 2020, the alliance raised concerns about vaccine prices in 22 countries whose economic growth will make them ineligible for GAVI aid by the end of that period. Ramping up immunizations could add $100-billion to developing nations’ economies via lower health-care spending and greater productivity, helping them ultimately pay more for vaccines, the organization said.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kindness is Everywhere

When curmudgeons, negative folks, people with ill intentions, unkind words and actions seem to dominate your day, turn them off like the radio when a bad song airs.  It's not easy to smile back at the face of unpleasantness, but it is the best way to make it go away--and, perhaps, turn that unpleasantness into a positive.

Too many negative and hateful websites?  That's when the delete key on your computer becomes a force of positive action.

The Daily Prism enjoys websites like Random Acts of Kindness -- with daily showcasing of acts of kindness, a calendar of ideas, kindness stories, and resources, and we promise positive inspiration.

There are a gazillion YouTube videos featuring random acts of kindness. Here's one of the many:

Regardless of the headlines, kindness is everywhere.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Grandmothers--Activists for Political Justice, Literacy and More

"Groups of activist grandmothers all over the globe, determined to create a better future for their grandchildren, are tackling a wide range of social, economic and political justice issues: running literacy programs, child abuse hot lines, bringing solar electricity to dark villages, and fighting against human rights abuses. Today's grandmothers are younger, better educated, healthier and more numerous than they have ever been—and they are energetically and effectively changing the world. Grandmothers are a powerful resource for important social change... but not many people know about the activists, much less a whole movement of them...(Samples are) After their dictatorship suppressed the freedom to read for years, Argentine grandmothers are bringing the gift of reading to a new generation.Through the “Storytelling Grandmothers” program, grandmothers across Argentina are helping to re-engage children with books…In India, grandmothers learned solar engineering and brought electricity to their villages. Their work was so effective that the United Nations began sending grandmothers from other countries to learn from them…The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, all healers and shamans, hold public meetings where each grandmother conducts a ceremony according to her own tradition, to heal the environment and pray for peace.”

For more information visit the Grandmother Power website and the photos by Paola Gianturco’s, in her book, Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon.  

Human and Whale Similarities: Compassion and Music

In an animated short film called Song of the Spindle, Seattle-based illustrator Drew Christie presents
an interaction between a human and a whale to show that the two have more in common than one might think.

Among the similarities between humans and whales—the need to nurture their young and travel in family pods—is a microscopic component of the brain called a spindle neuron. Spindle neurons facilitate the transmission of feelings of compassion. It’s that capacity to think outside ourselves that differentiates humans and whales from other creatures. The two species also share the capacity to sing, a fact made famous in Pixar’s animated film Finding Nemo by everyone’s favorite musical fish, Dory the Pacific Blue Regal Tang when she attracts a new whale friend.

From Good Is

After rattling off a list of humanity’s species-centric tendencies, the whale insists that our two best similarities, compassion and music, could be best be used together. Instead of infighting and destruction, the whale says, try a song of compassion.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Compassion Changes Your Brain

C. Coimbra Photo

Mounting evidence of the impact of contemplative practices like meditation (which we now know can, quite literally, rewire the brain) are finally bringing modern science up to speed with ancient wisdom.
Mindfulness and compassion -- the practices of cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment, and extending a loving awareness to others -- are part of every religion and wisdom tradition, and we're at last beginning to understand the profound impact that they have on the brain, says psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Dr. Dan Siegel…
…Here's what recent findings in neuroscience and neurobiology can teach us about compassion.
  • We can change the brain through changing the mind.
  • We can increase our capacity for compassion through integration.
  • Being mindful can help us become more compassionate.
  • Healthy relationships can boost your brain power.
  • Compassion is integration of the mind made visible.
To read the entire story, click the link in the title above.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Protecting World Waterways

By Nicole Wallace
On rivers, bays, and estuaries around the world, a new breed of activist is plying the waters to protect the health of waterways and put polluters on notice.
The Waterkeeper Alliance is a network of 218 local environmental groups that identify and document sources of pollution and galvanize communities to fight for clean water.
“The laws are on the books to protect our waterways, for them to be swimmable, drinkable, and fishable, but the problem is the laws aren’t being implemented or enforced,” says Marc Yaggi, executive director of the Waterkeeper Alliance. “The government isn’t doing its job to protect our waterways and our communities. The waterkeepers are important because they step in and they fill that role.”
Among the first waterkeepers were blue-collar fishermen who took to the Hudson River in 1966 to call attention to industrial pollution that threatened their livelihood. Their advocacy led to the cleanup of the Hudson River and inspired local activists to follow their example.
The movement continues to grow. When the alliance was formed in 1999, it had 34 member organizations­—33 in the United States and one in Canada. Today roughly 40 percent of the 218 member groups are outside the United States.
Mr. Yaggi recently returned from meetings in Nepal with the Gyalwang Drukpa, spiritual leader of the Drukpa Buddhists, who wants to create a network of waterkeepers working out of his monasteries in Bhutan, India, and Nepal.
“It’s such a critical area to protect,” says Mr. Yaggi, who notes that the region is an important source of water for Central Asia.
The hands-on style of environmentalism practiced by waterkeepers often brings them face-to-face with the damage wrought by pollution. In his patrols after the 2010 BP oil spill, Paul Orr, who serves as riverkeeper for the Lower Mississippi, came upon a small island covered with dead and dying birds.
Mr. Orr says crises like the oil-rig disaster only make him more determined.
“The Mississippi River is the biggest, wildest river in the country,” he says. “There are really incredibly beautiful places, and then there are these crazy industrial areas with ships and barges and big industrial complexes. It’s exciting and interesting, and there’s plenty of work to do from an environmental standpoint.”

The Waterkeeper Alliance relies on foundation grants, gifts from individuals, and corporate contributions for its $4.7-million budget.


“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
— John Bunyan

Photo Courtesy of Tip A Cop 
Over the last few days I have witnessed hundreds and hundreds (perhaps thousands and thousands) of people show acts of generosity, from volunteers for the Breakaway From Cancer campaign  ("Breakaway from Cancer represents a partnership between Amgen and four nonprofit organizations dedicated to empowering patients with education, resources and hope, wherever they may be in the cancer care continuum");  to the hundreds of people volunteering to walk in oppressive heat to raise awareness and funds towards this campaign; followed by at least 400 people who either volunteered or donated funds in support of Special Olympics--in just one of many communities.

What is generosity?  From the University of Notre Dame, College of Arts and Letters:  

The Science of Generosity Usage
For our purposes, we use the word generosity to refer to the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly.
Generosity thus conceived is a learned character trait that involves both attitude and action—entailing as a virtue both an inclination or predilection to give liberally and an actual practice of giving liberally.
Generosity is therefore not a random idea or haphazard behavior but rather, in its mature form, a basic, personal, moral orientation to life. Furthermore, in a world of moral contrasts, generosity entails not only the moral good expressed but also many vices rejected (selfishness, greed, fear, meanness).
Generosity also involves giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather giving those things that are good for others. Generosity always intends to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives.
What exactly generosity gives can be various things: money, possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more.
Generosity, to be clear, is not identical to pure altruism, since people can be authentically generous in part for reasons that serve their own interests as well as those of others. Indeed, insofar as generosity is a virtue, to practice it for the good of others also necessarily means that doing so achieves one’s own true, long–term good as well.
And so generosity, like all of the virtues, is in people’s genuine enlightened self-interest to learn and practice.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bringing Education to African Girls

Camfed photo
"In 1991, Ann Cotton visited Zimbabwe to investigate why girls’ school enrollment in rural areas was so low. What she found surprised her. Contrary to the common assumption that families weren’t sending girls to school for cultural reasons, Ann discovered poverty was the main roadblock. Families couldn’t afford to buy books or pay school fees for all their children, so they had to choose who would receive an education. Girls were rarely chosen. The reason was simple: boys had a better chance of getting a paid job after graduation.
"So Ann wondered: Could an economic solution open school doors to girls? Could it lead to economic, social and cultural benefits for rural Africa?" reads the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) website.
The results, according to the website:  "More than 3,000,000 children in the poorest areas of Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe have benefited from our innovative education programs. Investing in girls and women is a proven way to improve the health and wealth of a whole nation.
"In sub-Saharan Africa, 24 million girls can't afford to go to school. A girl may marry as young as 13 and has a one in 22 chance of dying in childbirth. One in six of her children will die before the age of five. Research shows if you educate a girl she’ll:
Earn up to 25% more and reinvest 90% in her family.
Be three times less likely to become HIV-positive.
Have fewer, healthier children who are 40% more likely to live past the age of five."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thanks, Kellon. Now Homeless Kids Have Socks

From Points of Light

At age 5, Illinois’ Kellon Oldenettel has already tapped into his power to spark change. 

As a 3-year-old, he participated in a neighborhood clean-up project with his family. Last Christmas, when Kellon began to understand that some kids don’t get holiday presents, he asked his mom what else kids are missing.

She talked about kids without homes and enough food to eat. “Does that mean they don’t have socks?” Kellon asked. When he got his answer, Kellon set out to collect and donate socks for children and adults in his community. So far, he’s donated more than 1,200 new pairs to people who need them.

Kellon’s story shows that kids are never too young to serve – and to lead. They bring fresh perspective, new tactics and renewed energy to the world of volunteer service. They create real change, and while they’re at it, they inspire their friends and the rest of us to join them. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thoughts on Peace

C. Coimbra Photo
"Like peace, progress on human rights will not come about just by making good wishes, it will require action...Peace is actually related to inner peace. Anger destroys our inner peace, while love, compassion and forgiveness are its source. As for why I laugh and smile, that's my secret! Laughter is one of our unique human abilities."   His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Norway.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Citizen Scientists Hit the Field

“Science is everywhere. Take a walk, visit a park or garden, and help us paint a picture of California’s food and water resources. Your answers will help us build a more secure future for you and your community,” encouraged the University of California, Cooperative Extension for its recent Day Of Science and Service.

Citizen scientists throughout the state observed, logged and reported their finds in either pollinators, water or food.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Murals for Oceans: Art & Activism

From Indiegogo
Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans is a ground-breaking street art project created by PangeaSeed to bring the beauty and the plight of the world’s oceans into streets around the globe. By collaborating with internationally renowned artists, we create large-scale murals that focus attention on pressing environmental issues the oceans are facing.
In collaboration with our friends at 1xRUN we are embarking on our biggest Sea Walls project yet. We’ve invited some of today’s biggest names in contemporary street art to join us on our first-ever Sea Walls expedition.
The mission of the expedition is to offer these artists the opportunity to swim with and study endangered whale sharks and oceanic manta rays off the coast of the island of Isla Mujeres, Mexico from July 20-28, 2014. Inspired by their interactions with these majestic giants in the wild, the artists will create a series of large-scale public murals on the island to help educate and raise greatly needed awareness within the local and tourist communities for the plight of these animals and the oceans. The murals will also highlight the benefits of ecotourism and long-term sustainability of natural resources.

Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans is a new approach to ocean conservation, marrying art and activism. The Sea Walls expedition will make a large impact and gain global media attention – with your help.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The 5 Elements of Making Peace, Including Photo Exhibits

From the website, Making

Making Peace is a major public (indoor/outdoor) event that aims to teach the public, especially young people what key elements are necessary to create a 'sustainable peace'; providing an opportunity for people of all ages to get involved in bringing about positive change. Activities include a large outdoor photographic exhibition curated by Ashley Woods (formerly with Magnum Photos) that pays tribute to the people who — all over the planet — devote their time, energy and resources to the cause of peace.
Making Peace was first produced to mark the centenary of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Peace Bureau (IPB) in 1910.

While there are many meanings and definitions of peace, the IPB believes that there are five main elements that go together to form peace, and that they can be represented by five colours. Only by bringing these five elements together can we create a sustainable peace.

  • Disarmament and nonviolence
  • Conflict prevention and resolution
  • Economic and social justice
  • Human rights, law and democracy
  • Environment and sustainable development
The newest exhibit opened this month in Strasbourg.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Peace Corps Alumni Work to Continue Education in Nigeria

For unclear reasons, there are fundamentalists who appear to thrive on fear and hate--two words that dwell in the underground regions of the soul.  When we read of extreme behavior against humanity, much like the behavior of a few Nigerian fundamentalists taking worldwide headlines, one cannot help but ask why.  

"Fundamentalism is terrifying because it is based purely on emotion, rather than intelligence;  it prevents followers from thinking as individuals and about the good of the world, " says the Dalai Lama.   

We use this quote because it demonstrates the behavior of the fundamentalist terrorists' recent video taking credit for kidnapping hundreds of young female students in the middle of the night. 

Counteracting a drive to remove education from Nigerian girls is a small group of former Peace Corps members called, Peace Corps Nigeria Alumni Foundation.  It works in partnership with the Forum For African Women Educationalists (FAWE).

From FAWE's website:

FAWE is a pan-African Non-Governmental Organisation working in 33 African countries to empower girls and women through gender-responsive education.

We believe that through education of women and girls, livelihoods are improved for entire communities and civic education and liberties are enhanced. Educated girls become educated women who have the knowledge, skills and opportunity to play a role in governance and democratic processes and to influence the direction of their societies.

We work hand-in-hand with communities, schools, civil society, Non-Governmental Organisations and ministries to achieve gender equity and equality in education through targeted programmes.

We encourage our partners to enact policies and provide positive learning environments that treat girls and boys equally.

Our work influences government policy, builds public awareness, demonstrates best educational practice through effective models, and encourages the adoption of these models by governments and institutions of education.

This has led to increased rates of girls’ enrollment, retention and completion of school in countries in which our National Chapters operate.

Through our work, girls and women across sub-Saharan Africa have the chance to attend school and overcome material deprivation and social and political exclusion.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Youth Works to Conserve Frogs, "An Indicator Species"

Conserve It Forward, Inc. came to being in 2010 via a nine-year-old girl, “…because of her interest and concern for the environment and living things,” notes a blog for  
Avalon Theisen explained to the writer, “I hope to show others, especially youth, that no matter what you believe in and enjoy, DO something about it. Learn, act and share. Your interest may not be environmental. It may be speaking out for human rights, or developing new technology, but you can make a difference, no matter your age.”

The non profit’s mission statement reads, “To promote environmental education, awareness and action that benefits both the natural world and people, inspiring youth and communities to Conserve It Forward.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

Everest Region Photos to Benefit Sherpa Families

On April 18, an avalanche on Mount Everest swept through a line of Sherpas preparing the climbing route for their commercial clients. Sixteen men were killed, making it the deadliest day in the mountain’s history. 
We are a group of ten photographers who have worked extensively with the Sherpa people and are devastated by this tragedy. For us, this is a moment to ask how we can help our Sherpa friends—both in this time of crisis and in the years to come. As a first step, we are donating the prints you see here, a selection of our photographs of the Everest region and its people, curated by our editors, National Geographic’s Sadie Quarrier and Outside’s Amy Silverman. One-hundred percent of proceeds from this sale (after the cost of printing) will go to the Sherpa community via the nonprofit Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, which has been working with Sherpa climbers in the Khumbu since 2003.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Securing Urban Habitat for Bees

C Coimbra photo
By Tom Held
When a swarm of bees invaded his organic garden in Los Angeles, Rob McFarland embraced the pollinators.
A lifelong naturalist, he quickly sought to learn more about his visitors and pursued a form of backyard conservation that can have worldwide impact: securing urban habitat for bees and supporting their vital role in producing food.
Just a few months after that first swarm appeared, Mr. McFarland and his wife, Chelsea, contributed $50,000 of their own money to start HoneyLove, a nonprofit that teaches urbanites how to host bees in backyard hives.
The McFarlands, along with other experts, host three workshops every month instructing prospective beekeepers on how to set up hives, attract a swarm, harvest honey, and make candles and other products from the bees’ production.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Liberating Food in Austin: The Food is Free Project

From the Food is Free Project in Austin, Texas:
The Food is Free Project grows community and food, while helping gain independence from a broken agricultural system.  The Food is Free Project is a community building and gardening movement that launched in January of 2012. We teach people how to connect with their neighbors and line their street with front yard community gardens which provide free harvests to anyone.
The gardens are built and offered for free using salvaged resources that would otherwise be headed to the landfill. By using drought-tolerant, wicking bed gardens, these low maintenance gardens only need to be watered every 2-4 weeks. This simple tool introduces people to a very easy method of growing organic food with very little work. A wide variety of vegetables along the block promote neighbors to interact and connect, strengthening our communities while empowering them to grow their own food.