Monday, August 31, 2015

Every Kid in a Park Begins Sept. 1, 2015

Sequoia National Park. C. Coimbra photo

Did you know that you own millions of acres of national parks, historic structures, cultural artifacts, ancient forests, snow-capped mountains, and clear blue lakes? Our public lands and waters belong to all Americans and are waiting for you to explore them!

To help engage and create our next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates, we are kicking off the Every Kid in a Park initiative. The immediate goal is to provide an opportunity for each and every 4th grade student across the country to experience their public lands and waters in person throughout the 2015-2016 school year.

Beginning September 1st you will have access to your own Every Kid in a Park pass. This pass will give you free access to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more!

The Every Kid in a Park pass will be available starting September 1st, 2015 and will be good for the 2015-2016 school year until August 31, 2016. More information will be available beginning in September.

Every Kid in a Park joins the Foundation's Open Outdoors for Kids program in helping children learn history, culture, and science while exploring the great outdoors. The initiative is an administration-wide effort among the National Park Service, Forest Service, Department of Education, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mexico Sets to Save the Vaquita

Paula Olson, NOAA -

"The vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) is considered by many to be the rarest and most-endangered species of marine mammal in the world. It is Critically Endangered with an estimated 245 remaining in 2008 and less than 100 in 2014 (CIRVA 2014). It is the smallest of only seven species of true porpoises, and is the only one that lives in warm waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is found in a tiny area in the extreme northern Gulf of California, near Baja California, Mexico," states the website Viva Vaquita!

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, "To its credit, Mexico has not given up and neither should we. Earlier this year, the Mexican government put in place a new program to save the vaquita, banning gillnets for two years in all vaquita habitat (not just the refuge), providing fishermen with compensation, and purchasing new boats for patrolling the gillnet exclusion zone."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Homeless Manage Rooftop Garden

C. Coimbra photo

 A homeless shelter in Atlanta decided that their residents desperately needed access to healthy food—but instead of sourcing out, encouraged residents to grow their own. Now, the shelter is home to a huge rooftop garden planted by the residents themselves, which is expected to yield hundreds of pounds of great quality greens.

The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, who runs the gardening program, wanted to give homeless people access to food previously considered out-of-reach. Now, residents are responsible for 80 garden beds, producing kale, carrots, chard, and squash, among other vegetables. A full meal, featuring freshly produced greens, is available on site every day.

Outside of the garden, the Task Force also provides a transitional shelter, a 24-hour hotline, and casework services.  Residents who participate in the gardening program also learn certifiable gardening and marketing skills—which the Task Force believes may help them find future jobs.

---Excerpted from Peaceful Warrior

How Forgiving Are You?

The ability to forgive another's transgressions is not always easy.  There's the anger, the hurt, the frustration. Our ability to forgive impacts our daily lives, and, in fact, the planet. 
"Forgiveness is emotionally difficult because evolution has endowed us with the psychological motivation to avoid being exploited by others, and the easiest way to prevent exploitation is to hit back or simply avoid the exploiter. Therefore, our discussion of forgiveness must begin by understanding that the urge to retaliate is very deeply rooted in evolutionary history," writes Anthony Lopez for the Science of a Meaningful Life.
Personally, I'm all over the map when it comes to forgiveness.  Curiosity on this subject brought me to this quiz: How forgiving are you? When someone hurts you, are you more likely to turn the other cheek--or slash their tires?
From the same site:
The quiz draws on a scale created by forgiveness research pioneer Michael McCullough and his colleagues, offering insight into how we respond to those who do us wrong.

Before starting the quiz, think about someone—a friend, a spouse, a family member, a co-worker—who has hurt you. Then respond as honestly as possible to the following 12 questions with that person in mind, indicating how much you agree or disagree with each statement.

When you’re done, you’ll learn your score and what it suggests about your typical response when someone mistreats you.

Click this link to take the quiz and learn more about your ability to forgive.  Forgiveness Quiz

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Free Reintegration Services for Combat Veterans

C. Coimbra photo

There & Back Again is a nonprofit organization that supports the well-being of service-members. The mission is to provide reintegration support services to combat veterans of all conflicts.

There & Back Again was founded by a veteran for veterans as a non-profit organization dedicated to providing combat veterans with resiliency and reintegration services, free of charge, to help them navigate life after war.

A multifaceted approach to wellness, including yoga, Reiki, acupuncture, meditation and other alternative therapies help empower veterans to manage their own challenges of reintegration.

There & Back Again incorporates a whole body approach to wellness.  Recognizing the three parts of our “self” – our mind/thoughts, our physical body and our emotional/spiritual self.  A combat experience is an extreme experience that can disconnect us from one or all of aspects of our “self.”  There & Back Again provides veterans an opportunity to reconnect and reintegrate all parts of their “self.”

Many veterans have found that these tools, along with traditional therapies, help them manage their challenges better allowing them to fully participate in their lives.

--From the There & Back Again website

Monday, August 24, 2015

American Samoan Firefighters Join California Fire Battles

Petr Kratochvil photo

Fighting the fires in the western portions of the United States has required manpower that many regions simply do not have.  Fire fighters from Samoa have arrived in California to battle fires in the northern portion of the state.

Samoa News reports:

A 16-person National Park of American Samoa (NPAS) crew and crew leader departed Wednesday night from American Samoa for Northern California to fight wild land fires for 30-days.

Once in California, the national park’s fire crew will receive their assignment and work side-by-side with fire crews from across the nation, the NPAS said in a news release yesterday.

Park Superintendent Scott Burch the local wild land firefighters represent a talented mix of employees from the national park, the American Samoa Government, and local businesses from both Tutuila and the Manu’a islands.

“We are proud to send our crew to help protect natural resources and keep communities safe during this severe fire season on the mainland,” Burch said. “The skill and dedication of our Samoan crew is well known and very much respected on the mainland and fire crews there are eager for our crew to come join them in their work.”

Here's the team after their arrival:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Compounding Every Day Good

C. Coimbra photo
There is no link to follow on this shard of light from the prism, just my word from a conversation I had yesterday.  My project was to photograph a woman who I will feature in an upcoming  newspaper column I write for my local newspaper.

I like to chat with the subject that I'm photographing.  It puts them at ease and I might catch that perfectly natural moment.  But what I did catch was how one good deed leads to another.

While my subject volunteered to tidy up a garden that she previously volunteered to plant for a community center, she shared the following:

"Our church group volunteers to pick up trash along the highway.  When we are out on the roadside, there is a man who sometimes sees us while driving by. He stops and hands us coupons for a free meal at his restaurant, and then says, 'Thanks for doing this.'"

Every day people compounding every day good. It all adds up.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Marine Debris Removal from Sacred Lands

C. Coimbra photo
In June, the Wiyot Tribe completed a major marine debris removal effort on Indian Island in Humboldt Bay in Northern California. The removal of legacy industrial marine debris from the Tribe’s sacred lands at Tuluwat Village was part of a major project that also included public outreach and education and the removal of abandoned concrete floating-dock sections scattered throughout Humboldt Bay.

With the assistance of NOAA’s Community-Based Marine Removal Program, the Wiyot Tribe completed the removal and disposal of more than ten tons of assorted debris. In addition, they removed 30 concrete and Styrofoam floats from Humboldt Bay and 2 others from Samoa Beach before the floats weathered, broke apart, or entered the Pacific Ocean. The Tribe and its partners broadened this effort's reach through a number of public outreach and education events, including two volunteer cleanup days, a Humboldt Bay Boat Tour, and a Marine Debris themed “Ocean Night” at the Arcata Community Theater.

--From NOAA

Thursday, August 20, 2015

$20 Million Pledged for Refugee Syrian Children

Relief International photo

A Turkey philanthropist agreed to donate $20 million to the international nonprofit, Relief International, to support a five-year relief strategy for children suffering from the Syrian conflict.

The donor, Sezgin Baan Korkmaz explains in a Relief International media release, "As someone who grew up as a very poor child in Turkey, I have lived through the crisis of not having basic life necessities like food and clothing. I, myself, was the recipient of kindness as a child, and I dream for a world where children do not need to suffer. I hope through this partnership, the people of this conflicted part of our world will be given a chance for dignity and prosperity."

The media release reads, "Through this historic partnership, Relief International and Korkmaz will join forces to build schools, create healthcare facilities and launch social impact ventures to provide humanitarian relief in the region. Korkmaz will be the strategic partner in providing local guidance and support locally to develop innovative solutions for delivery of more efficient and effective relief initiatives through the region."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bringing Solar Energy to Developing Nations

C. Coimbra photo

A solar company... has found an innovative way to energize its employees while bringing electricity to schools in developing countries.

SolarCity created the GivePower Foundation to install a solar-powered lighting system in one school for every megawatt of energy the company deploys for clients. In 2014, GivePower installed systems in 511 schools in Africa and Central America.

And there’s a bonus in the plan for some top-performing SolarCity employees: They get to go on five-day service trips to install the equipment. The competition is stiff; SolarCity has more than 13,000 employees at 80 centers across the U.S., and only 10 to 15 are selected for each trip. There are about four trips per year.

"Employees really rally around meaning and impact," said Hayes Barnard, foundation president and chief revenue officer at SolarCity.

GivePower collaborates with other, established international aid groups, including BuildOn, that can provide translation services and help manage logistics.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Teen's Birthday Raises Funds For Wildlife Rescue

Blind Owl, now a "Wildlife Ambassador"  Photo courtesy
of Gaelen Casey Photography
A local teen celebrated her birthday by giving back.
McKaila Lewis turned 14 with a fundraiser party. Instead of bringing gifts, she asked friends to make donations to Pacific Wildlife Care.
The organization gave a presentation at Lewis' party, using three owls, a falcon, and an opossum.
McKaila is starting high school next week, but she had her first fundraiser party in the first grade and has had several others since.
This year, she raised about $750.


Monday, August 17, 2015

A Promise to Help Youth At-Risk

The Daily Prism discovered this proposed piece of legislation that seems to be a bipartisan proposal to help American youth at-risk become a positive force.

From the website:

The Youth PROMISE Act as proposed in the House and Senate is a breakthrough piece of legislation that will implement and fund evidence-based practices related to juvenile justice and criminal gang activity. It will work to interrupt the cradle to prison pipeline that is far too common today by supporting proven prevention and intervention strategies. The act will both encourage and require leadership and oversight of these programs through community-based committees. Research shows that evidenced-based prevention programs for at-risk youth greatly reduce crime and save much more than they cost. And most importantly, these programs also save lives.

The Youth PROMISE Act will:

Fund, implement and evaluate evidence-based, locally controlled youth and gang violence prevention and intervention practices.

Hold communities accountable by linking funding to measurable success and requiring that at least 85% of funding be spent directly on programs.

Create a PROMISE Advisory Panel of state representatives to aid in assessing community needs and resources, developing and enforcing program evaluation standards and overseeing implementation.

Engage a wide range of community stakeholders to serve on local PROMISE Coordinating Councils, which will develop and implement custom PROMISE Plans for their communities. The Councils will include:

  • Community and Faith-Based Groups
  • Schools, Parents and Youth
  • Courts and Law Enforcement
  • Health Providers and Social Services
  • Nonprofit Organizations and Other Stakeholders
  • Build on local strengths by partnering with colleges and universities as regional research partners.
  • Establish a National Research Center for Proven Juvenile Justice Practices.
  • Create a new purpose area for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Grant.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Travel for Good

"Whether you’re planting a community garden in Jamaica, practicing Spanish in Colombia, or cycling with locals in Germany, every personal friendship you create when you travel plays a small part in building a more peaceful world.

Multiply that effect by 18,000 – that’s the number of people around the world already committed to peace through friendship. They are the Friendship Force.

With volunteers on the ground in 70 countries, our programs bring these diverse people together, into one another’s cultures and even homes, to share one-of-a-kind experiences not available to regular tourists.

Through these exciting personal encounters, strangers become friends – and if we can build a world of friends, we can build a world of peace."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Vacationers Save Historic Sites

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

HistoriCorps photo
HistoriCorps offers what some would consider an alternative vacation or escape from one’s daily routine. But it also has a bigger purpose.

“We are kind of a hybrid between a nonprofit construction company and an outdoor adventure company,” says Townsend Anderson, who has been part of HistoriCorps since 2009 and now serves as its executive director.

HistoriCorps mobilizes and engages a volunteer workforce to work on historic preservation projects on public and publicly accessible lands. Based in Denver, it manages projects throughout the country, assembling teams of volunteers and skilled tradespeople who provide training and supervision throughout a project.

“Over the course of a weekend, week, or summer volunteers have the opportunity to gain many valuable trades skills that they can apply to their personal and professional lives,” says the nonprofit group's website. While there is no fee to participate, travel to and from a project site is the responsibility of each volunteer.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Gleaning for the Community

C. Coimbra photo

 The mission of a local food bank, GleanSLO (San Luis Obispo County) depends on volunteers -- probably some like me who love the act of harvesting.

From the nonprofit's website:

GleanSLO Mission:
Rescuing nature's bounty for the benefit of our community

GleanSLO Vision:
Through the act of harvesting and sharing food, we connect and nourish our community to build stronger relationships and a deeper appreciation for our food.


Healthy food for all. We live in an area of agricultural abundance, yet there are many people in SLO County that go hungry. We believe in simple solutions such as harvesting extra produce and getting it to our neighbors in need.

Reduce waste. Growing food requires resources such as water, land, labor, and energy. By gleaning we more fully utilize our region's resources.

Gleaning grows communities. We create opportunities for a diverse array of people to collaborate and celebrate the act of harvesting and sharing nutritious food. By working together and sharing ideas we discover our broader sense of connectedness and common purpose.

Knowledge empowers. We believe that through collaborations and sharing ideas we can inspire a healthier food culture.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Philanthropy Group Donates $3.9 Million for Coral Research

Australian Institute of Marine ScienceResearcher Madeleine van Oppen collects coral fragments for her breeding project.
In Hawaii this summer, as corals engage in their once-a-year courtship ritual of releasing sperm and eggs into the water by moonlight, Ruth Gates will oversee a unique mating: the coming together of “super-corals” in her lab.

Gates and her team at the Institute of Marine Biology in Kaneohe tagged corals in their local waters that thrived through a heinous hot spell last September. A few of those rugged specimens will be picked for arranged marriages this month, hopefully yielding some offspring even better suited to thriving in the warmer waters of the future. It will be, she thinks, the first selective mating of corals to try to help them thrive in the face of climate change.

Gates and her colleague, Madeleine van Oppen at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, have been awarded $3.9 million from Paul G. Allen’s philanthropic organization Vulcan Inc. for this and other work into the “assisted evolution” of corals — an attempt to intentionally beef up the genetic stock of reefs to survive the onslaught of climate change.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A School for Syrian Refugee Children

UNICEF reports that over 2.6 million Syrian children have been unable to attend school for three or more years.

"We had a lot of students who missed one or two years from their academic years,"  Hazar al-Mahayni, the principal and founder of Al Salam School in Reyhanli in southern Turkey, told NPR. "So we try in summer to give them the chance to pass a full year in three months."

The NPR report goes on to note:

Mahayni, a 63-year-old pharmacist from Montreal, opened Al Salam in 2012. ... When the Syrian crisis began in 2011, others donated food, clothing and even weapons. But Mahayni insisted that education was the answer.

"The future of Syria will come from these children," she says in a Skype connection from Montreal.

She tapped into private donors in Canada and the U.S., and partnered with a Canadian school and an American aid group. She now divides her time between Canada and Al Salam's students in Reyhanli.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Houses of Hope

Tyler Bloom, 8, talks about having his bird house on display at White Marsh Mall as part of the Cool Kids Campaign's Houses of Hope program. WBAL TV photo.

It's called the Houses of Hope. Designed through the Cool Kids Campaign, the birdhouses on display were made by childhood cancer survivors or those still battling the disease.

Tyler Bloom is one of those artists. The 8-year-old was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 3 1/2 years old. He said he loves seeing his work on display.

There are 36 birdhouses on display divided between White Marsh Mall, Towson Town Center and the Mall in Columbia. The houses are not for sale or part of a fundraiser. They are there just to raise awareness about pediatric cancer and those battling the disease.

"It really is the positive sign of hope, and it gives them an outlet to be creative and to express themselves and to take them out of the world of cancer treatment and diagnosis," said Lisa Bisenius, general manager at White Marsh Mall.

The hope is that people will stop for a moment, check them out and reflect of what they mean to those that created them.

"I think there is something in each of them in how to look at life," Chandra Bloom, Tyler's mother, said.

---from WBAL TV

Monday, August 3, 2015

Philanthropists Pledge Donation Matches for Lion Preservation

Family photo

In the wake of news that an American dentist killed a lion he lured out of a national park in Zimbabwe, two philanthropists have pledged to match donations of up to $100,000 for wildlife conservation, the Associated Press reports.

Tom Kaplan and his wife, Daphne, will donate to Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Unit, which tracks the movements of hundreds of large wild cats and operates an anti-poaching team. The unit had tracked the lion in Zimbabwe, named Cecil, since 2008.

Mr. Kaplan is chairman of Panthera, a foundation dedicated to preserving lions, tigers, and other species of big cats.

$100 Shopping Spree for Underprivileged Kids

More often than not, I can find shards of light from my Facebook page when friends and associates post their most recent events, like this one posted yesterday by a friend: 

At 5:00 a.m. this morning, had to get up from that comfy bed of mine to help out with United Way's Kidspree in Paso Robles.

I was joined by hubby and my visiting mom, who helped with translating Spanish to English. The program asks volunteers, who were previously fingerprinted and cleared, to assist underprivileged children on a $100 shopping spree.

The children, along with an assigned volunteer, enter the store prior to opening to the public, and selects what they need for their upcoming school year, from clothing, shoes, backpacks, anything in the store. My first teenage girl and I saved over $140 on her purchases by ensuring that we stayed with sale items and with the benefit of a 20% off everything coupon. Her total sales was $107.00 and the Kohl's manager kindly 'forgave' the $7 overage. She was sooooo happy with her 2 sets of jeans, 2 shirts, a $90 backpack for $19.99, 4 t-shirts, and a little jacket.

After their shopping spree, the children and their families were provided a nice breakfast (provided by the Paso Optimist Club).