Saturday, February 28, 2015

Positive Post-it Day!

Caitlin Prater-Haacke is a high school student in Alberta, Canada, who was recently the victim of a bullying incident. Someone broke into her locker in late September of this year and wrote a Facebook status using her iPad that encouraged her to die. It's hard to imagine that those words were an easy pill to swallow, but Caitlin responded with nothing but grace and maturity.  Watch the video to see what she does in response.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Vertical Farm Innovation for Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson, Wyoming, is an unlikely place for urban farming: At an altitude over a mile high, with snow that can last until May, the growing season is sometimes only a couple of months long. It's also an expensive place to plant a garden, since an average vacant lot can cost well over $1 million.

But the town is about to become home to one of the only vertical farms in the world. On a thin slice of vacant land next to a parking lot, a startup called Vertical Harvest recently broke ground on a new three-story stack of greenhouses that will be filled with crops like microgreens and tomatoes.

"We're replacing food that was being grown in Mexico or California and shipped in," explains Penny McBride, one of the co-founders. "We feel like the community's really ready for a project like this. Everybody's so much more aware of the need to reduce transportation, and people like to know their farmer and where food's coming from."

The small plot of land is owned by the town, and the building that houses the farm will be owned by the town as well, as part of a partnership. The founders spent five years working with the city to fully vet the idea—from how well the business model can support itself to how the efficient the new building will be.

"One of the things the town of Jackson was concerned with was if we using more energy than if a tomatoes was trucked in here," says Nona Yehia, the architect of the vertical farm and one of the company's co-founders. Greenhouses do typically use a lot of energy, especially in a cold climate, but the math worked out, in part because of the farm's design.

The startup plans to employ workers with developmental disabilities who have few local options for a job. "We have a certain number of hours of work and divide it up based on ability, desire, and skill," Yehia explains. "The job is developed based on how many hours someone wants to work and can work."

--From Fast CoExist

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Free Lunch Thank You

Photo by Chef Dakota Weiss
From my local newspaper's Letters to the Editor:

On Feb. 5, my neighbor and I drove up the coast for lnch.  After a delicious lunch of crab cakes and a glass of wine, the waitress informed us that somebody had paid for our lunch and wished us well.  We were dumbstruck.  What a nice thing to have happen to you.  We will both remember this for a long, long time.  We both thank you very much.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Wishing Tree Gift

A wishing tree, an old oak in San Luis Obispo, Ca., began as a Valentine's Day opportunity for passers by to write their hopes, wishes and dreams on colorful scraps of paper to hang on the tree with colorful ribbon.

Over 100 wishes flap into the air, written by children and adults.  Some of the wishes read, "RAIN," "Mom get better," and from a homeless person, "I wish I had my own home and a place to call mine."

The owners of the tree, who initiated the project told the local newspaper, "People that we never met, people who pass you and there's no eye contact--now those same people, they come by and can't resist, they reach up and read one wish and the another."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sanitation Facilities For Rural Uganda School

Hands of Action Uganda, a previous grantee of The Pollination Project, is a non-profit dedicated to empowering impoverished rural communities in the Bududa District of Eastern Uganda. Formed in 2006, the organization has made a name for itself by organizing campaigns, providing support to peoples diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, and by providing basic services to vulnerable populations. Now, Hands of Action is taking a stand against the all-but-absent sanitation infrastructure at a local school for orphans and special needs children through The School Hygiene and Sanitation Education Initiative.

Through their new initiative, Hands of Action seeks to address the lack of waste facilities available to students and faculty at the Shikhuyu Needy Primary School by constructing washrooms on the grounds. At present, the institution provides basic education for approximately 450 children, however, the only waste facilities accessible to students are a few dilapidated pit-latrines enclosed by dried foliage, only a few of which have roofs or doors. Not only is there no running water for washing, but these open pits pose a significant health hazard, both to the young students and the surrounding community.

By constructing washrooms for the school, Hands of Action will ensure the health and safety of the entire community, whilst helping to create a healthier educational environment that is more conducive of learning.

Funds provided by The Pollination Project will be used for the construction of washrooms and waste facilities at the Shikhuyu Needy Primary School.

For more information on Hands of Action, please see their Twitter account, Facebook, or website.

Monday, February 23, 2015

More Warm Deeds in a Frigid Winter

NOTTOWAY COUNTY, Va. -- A Virginia high school senior who spends snow days clearing snow
and ice from neighborhood driveways and sidewalks saw something out of his mother's car window that compelled him to tell her to stop the car, CBS Richmond affiliate WTVR-TV reports.

Teresa Adams and her son Tommy were driving home from the DMV when they drove past an older man who was trying to shovel snow from his driveway. The man was using a walker to get around.

"Tommy said 'Mamma stop the car,'" Teresa Adams said. "I got scared and asked, 'What's wrong?'"

He said, "There's an older man with a walker shoveling snow -- I'll help him out," she added.

Tommy approached the man and asked him for the snow shovel.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Empathy for Elephants

EWN Photo
"Elephant Watch Nepal (EWN) is an international community of elephant lovers and experts who are concerned about the fate of the wild and captive Asian Elephant in Nepal. Its main aim is improve the welfare status of Nepal’s majestic elephants through increased awareness among stakeholders, better welfare regulations, and improved conditions for working elephants."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Norwegian Muslims to Form "Peace Ring" around Synagogue

In the wake of a deadly shooting attack at a synagogue in Denmark last week, a group of Norwegian Muslims intends to hold an anti-violence demonstration at an Oslo synagogue this coming weekend by forming a “peace ring” around the building.

One of the event organizers, 17-year-old Hajrad Arshad, explained that the intention was to make a clear statement that Muslims don’t support anti-Semitism.

“We think that after the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, it is the perfect time for us Muslims to distance ourselves from the harassment of Jews that is happening,” Arshad told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK in an interview cited by The Local News website on Tuesday.

She noted that the group aimed to “extinguish the prejudices people have against Jews and against Muslims.”

Read more: Norwegian Muslims volunteer to protect synagogue | The Times of Israel 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Calling all Volunteer Neighborhood Yetis

If your secret desire is to be Yeti for a day (or more), a Boston “professional neighbor,” has plenty of opportunity for you to play out your fantasy—help neighbors dig out from the snow.

Since 2012, Snowcrew has helped neighbors in need get dugout from snowstorms.

The Boston Globe reports, Today the project has grown into a national website, and it’s bracing for a flood of offers and requests for help after this forthcoming storm.

At, residents can post a description of the shoveling help they need: A car, a driveway, something else—and able volunteers, or “Yetis” in Snow Crew parlance, can find and assist them.

“If there’s snow covering the cars, the more specific you are the better,” Porcelli said. He suggests sharing only what information you are comfortable leaving up on the Web. “You can just say, I need help shoveling.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Recycled Bottles Help Feed Homeless Animals

Meet Pugedon - the vending machine where you put the drink bottles in, and out comes a portion of food for Istanbul's stray dogs and cats to gobble up.

The profit made from the recycled bottles covers the cost of the pet food, so the machine works economically, while it is also super eco-friendly, as it runs off solar power.

Engin Girgin, inventor of the machine, told Der Spiegel: 'My primary goal was to make people see that they don't have to spend any money to help stray dogs. And I also wanted to show that people can do good deeds with things they would normally throw away.

'At the same time, of course, I know that we don't give much priority to recycling here in Turkey. In my opinion, this has to change. So I basically killed two birds with one stone.'

--From Daily Mail

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

She Brings Them Water

Water depleted California reservoir
Last July in a drought-plagued California town where wells have run dry and school kids go without baths because there's no more running water in their homes, a 72-year-old woman took it upon herself to help her dry and thirsty neighbors.

Her well went dry too, but after a local newspaper wrote about the water problems and then shared the contacts of the drought victims with her, “The next day there were pallets of plastic bottles under her tarp carport,” writes a Los Angeles Times report. It goes on, “(The 72-year-old ) deputized a 19-year-old former neighbor, as her right-hand man to make the deliveries. The calls from people needing water came as quickly as the donated bottles.”

Once the rest of the community understood the gravity of the situation, local nonprofits began collecting and distributing water to families with dry wells, along with the woman who first took to helping out her dry community.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Used Fashion Dolls Go Natural

Used, broken, and hyper-sexy plastic dolls wind up in landfills, while the lucky ones go to second hand shops.  The really lucky used, broken and hyper-sexy fashion dolls wind up in a Tasmanian second hand shop, and land into the hands of a woman who repairs and transforms the glamor fashion dolls into dolls that might look a bit more like real little girls.

The “doll rescuer” explains from her Etsy page,   “My sisters and I grew up playing with second-hand dolls and home-made toys in the beautiful Tasmanian natural environment. I love the satisfaction of repairing and reusing discarded items to give them a new lease on life...I hand repaint the dolls faces, mold new shoes, and my Mum sews and knits their clothing."

Friday, February 13, 2015

No Estate Tax Left For Bullets

Gert Boyle is 90-something chairman of sports apparel company, Columbia Sportswear in Portland, Ore. When she no longer walks the earth, a vast portion of her estate will have already been given to charity.  Why? She doesn't want the estate taxes go towards war. "I wanted to give it some place rather than have government buy bullets," she says. "Bullets are not going to do anybody any good. All you have to do is look at history; killing people isn’t going to do anybody any good."

Included among the charities benefitting from Boyle's success is her pledge $100-million pledged to the Knight Cancer Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland, according to Philanthropy Today.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Don't Kill That Dog! I'll Pay Its Vet Bill--A True Story

A true personal story:

"Three dogs rushed up to my truck when I arrived at Mrs. Jones' house to repair her appliance yesterday.  One of the dogs was completely shaved from his underbelly to his tail.  So I asked Mrs. Jones what happened.

"She said, 'I took this little one (pointing to the little mixed breed Chihuahua barking up a storm) to the vet last week.  While there, the vet explained to a man that his dog needed a very expensive operation.  He told the vet to just put the dog down. He couldn't afford the surgery and the dog was old anyway.  I jumped into the conversation and said that it would be a shame to kill the dog if the surgery would save its life.  The short of it is, I said that I'd pay for the surgery and keep the dog.'"

Mrs. Jones negotiated payments with the veterinarian, the dog had its life-saving surgery, and now lives in its new forever home with Mrs. Jones and her other two dogs.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

International Good Deeds Day set for March 15, 2015

Good Deeds Day is an annual celebration of good deeds. All over the world, hundreds of thousands choose to volunteer and help others, putting into practice the simple idea that every single person can do something good, be it large or small, to improve the lives of others and positively change the world.

Good Deeds Day was initiated in 2007 by businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison..."I believe that if people will think good, speak good and do good, the circles of goodness will grow in the world. Good Deeds Day has become the leading day of giving and this year individuals, school children, students, soldiers and employees from many businesses are joining in for the annual Good Deeds Day with the aim of doing a good deed for others," says Shari Arison.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Big Philanthropy" Transformation

GoPro Tech Donors Among Silicon Valley Philanthropy Changers
By Alex Daniels and Maria Di Mento from Philanthropy Today

America’s 50 most generous donors increased their giving by 27.5 percent last year—powered in large part by a $1.5-billion gift from Bill and Melinda Gates and a stunning rise in the number of tech entrepreneurs under 40, three of whom gave more than $500-million each.

The increase is striking compared with 2012, when giving by the Philanthropy 50 rose just 4 percent.

Two of the technology wunderkinder who are transforming the profile of big philanthropy have not previously disclosed the extent of their giving. They are Jan Koum, the 38-year-old founder of the messaging company WhatsApp, who donated $556-million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, putting him at No. 4 on The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50, and Sean Parker, the 35-year-old former Facebook president and founder of Napster, who ranked No. 5 by contributing $550-million, split between his family foundation and a donor-advised fund.

They are followed by Nicholas Woodman, 39, and his wife, Jill, 38, founders of the high-tech camera company GoPro, who donated slightly more than $500-million, also to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

The giving by tech donors is outsize compared with that of people in other industries: It represents 47 percent of the $9.8-billion in donations made by the Philanthropy 50, a list based on total charitable contributions a person made in 2014.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Grant Program Funds Peace Projects

Peace Projects is a grant program launched by The Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) to support innovative conflict resolution and peace building projects focused on preventing, managing and resolving violent conflict and promoting post-conflict peace building. Peace Projects Grant Program awards will support projects up to US$50,000 that apply a broad range of disciplines, skills and approaches promoting peaceful coexistence through dialogue and reconciliation; fostering pluralism, good governance, freedom of belief; advancing social and economic development and environmental responsibility; upholding respect for human rights, and gender equality and empowerment, among others. Not-for-profit organizations are eligible to apply.

--From the Peace Projects website

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Send Maddie a Valentine Today

Today's news comes from a popular local radio personality:

Send Maddie a Valentine!
Meet Maddie. She's 5. She's been fighting a rare form of cancer since 3 and she's now in Stage 4. The doctors up at Stanford consider her terminal. My friend and her grandmother Verena has decided to try to make this upcoming Valentine's Day special for this special little girl. Verena is driving up to Stanford on Valentine's Day and she would like to bring Maddie as many Valentines as possible. I'm asking two things from you: (1) Share this on Facebook with all your friends and (2) Send Maddie a valentine (not a get well card, but a VALENTINE). You can either put it in the mail or drop it off at Verena's store in Arroyo Grande: Verena's Go Gourmet, 127 E. Branch St. Arroyo Grande, Ca 93420. Thank you for spreading the love.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Hospital For Sea Turtles

The Turtle Hospital opened its doors 1986 with four main goals: 1) rehab injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat, 2) educate the public through outreach programs and visit local schools, 3) conduct and assist with research aiding to sea turtles (in conjunction with state universities), and 4) work toward environmental legislation making the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.

The Turtle Hospital (Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, Inc.) is a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation. The Hidden Harbor Motel provides the space and buildings needed to house and care for the sea turtles. The Turtle Hospital offers Guided Educational Experiences to the public daily 7 days a week. Please call 305-743-2552 for further information and reservations.

The Turtle Hospital contains up-to-date equipment needed to perform a variety of surgeries on different species and sizes of sea turtles. More than half of this equipment has been donated by local hospitals and doctors, and some equipment has been donated by environmentally- friendly organizations and individuals.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Medical Outreach to People Who Are Homeless

Operation Safety Net, part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and Trinity Health, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, touches the lives of hundreds of men and women living on the streets in Pittsburgh annually by providing them with access to health care, hope, and dignity.

Operation Safety Net reaches out to those in need by meeting people where they are in life. Operation Safety Net’s roots were in making “house calls” to people in Pittsburgh wherever they call home – in door and alleyways, along river banks, or beneath bridges and highway overpasses.

Good News Rules!

While big news outlets reported humanity-discouraging news this week, they also reported on the absolute kindness of humans.  In fact, there were more stories of kind acts than brutal acts.  At The Daily Prism, we'll focus on the good and know this is the way of most people.


A Detroit man’s daily 21-mile walk to work has inspired people across the country to raise more than $60,000 to buy him a car and pay for his auto insurance. And at least two car dealerships have offered to donate brand new vehicles to ease his travel.

Every weekday, James Robertson, 56, leaves his home in Detroit and travels miles to his factory job in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Public transportation doesn’t cover the full route of his commute, so he walks about eight miles to work and about 13 miles home. He also takes a bus ride part-way to work. He has endured the trek since his Honda Accord stopped working in 2005. But despite the challenges, Robertson reportedly has perfect attendance at his job, where he earns $10.55 per hour molding parts.

From NBC News

Coast Guard crews rescued a dog from an icy Michigan lake on Tuesday morning, after the dog jumped into a channel and fell through a sheet of ice. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, fire officials rescued a black Labrador puppy who also fell into frigid waters Tuesday afternoon.

Members of the Coast Guard Station at Frankfort, Michigan, were having a meeting Tuesday morning when one of them spotted the dog in the icy waters of Betsie Lake.

"The dog went straight down and was in the water," Tim Putnam, a boatswain mate third class, told NBC News. "We knew he wasn't getting out himself."

The Coast Guard crew rushed to the lake, with Putnam swimming out about 200 feet into the channel that was covered in loose ice, he said.

"I had to push a lot of the ice out of the way, it was pretty exhausting," he said. Putnam said he could see the dog was shivering, but the pooch attempted to swim towards him as he got closer.

"It was almost like he knew it was his last chance. Luckily we got him out in time, it didn't look like he had too much left in him."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fireman Wears Full Gear in Charitable Marathon

Christopher Martinez packed on the extra 50 pounds to run the Surf City USA Marathon in Huntington Beach.

He did it to raise money for 2-year-old Mateo Cota, and 9-year-old Phinneus McKenna, who are both fighting cancer and from the Central Coast.

“Life has taught me that you’re not alone — to keep moving forward,” said Martinez, 39. “I wanted to do something to show them that they’re not alone. I’ll be right there, fighting for them.”

Phinn, 9, was diagnosed in January 2014 with level 4 primitive neuroectodermal tumors, cancerous tumors that can develop in or spread to the brain or spinal cord.

Mateo, 3, is undergoing a lengthy treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was diagnosed in September 2013.

“They’re going through chemo, and that sucks,” Martinez said. “I wanted to put myself in an extreme situation to say I’m fighting but not giving up. I know I’ll have to dig deep sometime during the marathon.”

Running 26.2 miles while wearing full gear, including turnouts — the outer protective gear that firefighters wear — represents his values as a firefighter: service to the community, teamwork and never giving up, he said.

Chris had a goal to raise $10,000 for the boys to split, and he crushed that goal, raising more than $17,000.

--From local news sources, KSBY and SLO Tribune

Monday, February 2, 2015

Music: "...amazingly powerful"

Lilla Frerichs photo
“Music affects deep emotional centers in the brain, “ says Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist at McGill University who studies the brain on music. “A single sound tone is not really pleasurable in itself; but if these sounds are organized over time in some sort of arrangement, it’s amazingly powerful.”

In one of Salimpoor's studies, she and her colleagues hooked up participants to an fMRI machine and recorded their brain activity as they listened to a favorite piece of music. During peak emotional moments in the songs identified by the listeners, dopamine was released in the nucleus accumbens, a structure deep within the older part of our human brain.

“That’s a big deal, because dopamine is released with biological rewards, like eating and sex, for example,” says Salimpoor. “It’s also released with drugs that are very powerful and addictive, like cocaine or amphetamines.”

There’s another part of the brain that seeps dopamine, specifically just before those peak emotional moments in a song: the caudate nucleus, which is involved in the anticipation of pleasure.

Presumably, the anticipatory pleasure comes from familiarity with the song—you have a memory of the song you enjoyed in the past embedded in your brain, and you anticipate the high points that are coming. This pairing of anticipation and pleasure is a potent combination, one that suggests we are biologically-driven to listen to music we like.