Category Archives: Blogging for Better

African-centric foundation inspired by young Malawian who “harnessed the wind”

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so goes the famous quote from the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato. 

Yet, while necessity might be the mother, sometimes, it takes a child’s dream, determination and fortitude to bring that invention to life.

William Kamkwamba was one such boy.

When a severe famine hit is country, Malawi, William defied the odds and found a way to produce a windmill that could produce enough power to pump water for crop irrigation.

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Working off of an old textbook, written in English, a language William didn’t know well, William was able to use the diagrams to deduce how to construct a windmill. He found materials at the scrap yard, and with a little ingenuity, was able to build what would be the first of several windmills in his community, Dowa.

William did all this at just 14, and with only the help of the local library, as he was forced to drop out of school due to his family’s inability to pay the fees.

But, William wasn’t done there. Continue reading

Boston nonprofit helps child heart patients and their families

It’s the flicker of a heartbeat on that first sonogram, showing a healthy baby is growing inside you.

Later, it’s the 20-week scan, relieving fears and worries, when baby’s heart is shown to be strong and developing properly.

Throughout, pregnancy and after birth, we moms know a healthy heart is crucial for our baby’s survival. We take every test and scan, and hope and pray all will be OK.

Creating a healthy baby is a miracle of human creation, and for those of us, who had babies with no medical challenges, we can only imagine the hurt and heartache endured by parents whose babies need extra care.

During my time as a blogger, I have met several extraordinary writers, who have faced the difficult news of learning their child has a birth defect.

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Mia Carella is one such mom.

Her daughter, Evalyn was born with a congenital heart defect, which meant she had to go through several surgeries from the time she was just an infant. Her difficult start also caused some developmental delays, meaning Mia would be a special needs mom, a role, which she has embraced with grace and strength.

Through Mia’s incredible writing, I have gotten to know Evalyn. I have learned about her amazing courage, her unwavering joy and the pride she brings her parents.

She is truly special. Continue reading

Fires put Australian wildlife at risk, here’s how to help

Like most people who grew up outside of Australia, I’ve always been fascinated by the country’s unique ecosystem and variety of animals found only in that part of the world.

Viewing koalas, kangaroos and other native Australian animals at local zoos was the closest I ever got to witness this incredible wildlife, and my hope is still to someday make it to Australia, so I can experience these creatures in their natural habitats. australiananimals.png

Sadly, those habitats are in grave danger, as fires continue to rage across Australia, leaving many animals without food, water, shelter and other means for survival. According to WIRES, an Australian organization leading the efforts to conserve local wildlife, more than 800 million animals have been effected since September.

WIRES has been working round the clock to rescue as many animals as possible, and is great need of financial support to carry out their mission. The organization has established a special emergency fund to address the dire needs of animals impacted by the wildfires.

Visa and Mastercard holders can donate directly through the WIRES website via these links:

https://www.wires.org.au/donate/online
https://www.wires.org.au/donate/emergency-fund

PayPal donations can be made here:

https://www.paypal.com/au/fundraiser/112574447199339912/charity/3562115

Donate through Facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/1386120504919105/10158318179549750/

For those donating from the United States, the exchange rate is favorable and your contribution can make a huge difference.

The impact of the Australian wildfires has yet to be fully understood, but it is clear they will have far-reaching effects on the Australian ecosystem and beyond. The BBC provides a thorough explanation of the causes, current status and implications of the wildfires.

For more ways to help the people, places and wildlife effected by the fires, check out this link from PBS.org.

 

 

 

Supporting our Vets beyond Veterans Day

The parades have ended, the uniforms are folded and tucked away, the little American Flags go back into storage, and life goes on. Veterans Day has come and gone, and while those of us who never served will go back to our regular lives, many of our veterans remain some of the most vulnerable members of society.

After giving so much to serve our country, many of Americans veterans come home to little support financially, mentally, and emotionally, and are left to cope with the difficulty of returning to civilian life all on their own. Far too many vets are in serious financial trouble, without stable employment, or living on the streets.

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Leave No Veteran Behind is an organization working hard to ensure that those who serve are not forgotten once they come home. Through education, as well as job training and support, Leave No Veteran Behind, helps get veterans back on their feet, while helping to bring these highly skilled people back into the workforce.

In my religion, Judaism, one of the highest forms of charity you can perform is to help someone who is struggling find a stable source of income. The dignity one attains by being able to support themselves and their families is unmatched, and to be able to give back in this way is an incredible honor. Therefore, I am thrilled to help spread the word about Leave No Veteran Behind and the great work they are doing to help our veterans.

Veterans are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Let’s honor them not only with special celebrations and parades, but with real support and guidance.

Click here to support Leave No Veteran Behind.

 

Writing can save lives

The first few months or so after I gave birth to my first child were a blur of sleepless nights, days without a decent shower, and scrambling to eat to keep up with the never-ending hunger I felt from constant breastfeeding.

I was often exhausted, overwhelmed, angry, sad and confused.

New motherhood brought on a slew of emotions I had little experience with before I had kids.

I needed a way to process those emotions — to make sense of what I was experiencing — so, I turned to writing.

I started this blog in 2013, shortly after I made the decision to leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom.

My first entries were short, often nonsensical ramblings, I never intended many people to see. Though, I guess, subconsciously, I was hoping others would read it, otherwise I would have stuck with an old-school journal.

Regardless of my intent, getting my thoughts about parenting out of my head and on to the screen helped me to work through some of the harder parts of motherhood.

Writing might seem like a simple solution, but for me and others, like Kimberly Zapata, the founder of Greater Than Illness, there is so much more to writing than words on paper. 

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Continue reading

Two dads are on a mission to “solve” childhood cancer

I was maybe eleven or twelve years old, when I first knew of a parent to lose a child to cancer. A family in my community had a little girl who was very ill. I knew she had cancer, but not what kind. I understood she was suffering, and her parents were working hard to care for her.

That little girl passed away, and I remember seeing her father in the days, weeks, months and even years after; always amazed by how positive he always remained. At my age, I couldn’t comprehend the depth of child loss, the unique experience of caring for a child with cancer, or how grief manifests itself in many ways.

I wish I could say that little girl would be the last time I knew of a child lost to cancer, but year after year, a family I know — whether from my “real life” or online community — has to bear the unbearable and mourn the death of a child to this horrible disease.

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What inspires me most about so many of these families is how even in the face of unspeakable grief they find hope and the will to seek out ways to help others dealing with a child’s cancer diagnosis. As a parent, I can say, most of us would do almost anything for our children, and it is no surprise parents are often at the forefront of movements to better our world.

Parents like John London and Scott Kennedy, the co-founders of Solving Kids’ Cancer.

Inspired by their children Penelope (John’s daughter) and Hazen (Scott’s son), who even while dealing with their own illness, remained hopeful other kids wouldn’t have to suffer, John and Scott came together in 2007 to form a foundation dedicated to addressing the unique issues of childhood cancer. Continue reading

Foundation seeks to make college a reality for deserving youth

My parents drove me up to my dorm, the family car stuffed with clothes, bedding and more to get me through the coming year. I was filled with excitement and a little bit of fear, as I was about to embark on my collegiate journey.

I had the typical freshmen concerns:

Will I like my roommate?

Will my classes be hard?

Will I have a good time?

One question, I never had to ask, however was:

Will I be able to afford my education.

I am privileged to have had my entire college education paid for by my parents. Not once in my four years as a student did I ever have to worry about where I would find money for books, room and board, or even food. I was fortunate. More fortunate than many of my peers.

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Knowing my financial situation was always stable, I was better able to focus on my studies and handle the other pressures of college life.

But, my family support wasn’t limited to money, I also had parents, who, were actively invested in ensuring myself and my two siblings made it through school and earned our degrees.

They knew getting through college is not a task easily accomplished without help. Continue reading

Growing a love for gardening one community at a time

I was volunteering in my son’s classroom, when his teacher asked me help a few students do some weeding in the school garden. She handed me an example of what to look for, and I thanked her, as I am as far from a “green thumb” as one can get.

My shortcomings in gardening mattered little, as the children themselves schooled me on the finer points of tending to their little plot of various flowers and produce. I thought about how fortunate they were to be part of a educational community that values the importance of learning where our food comes from and teaching future generations to care for and respect the Earth.

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The benefits of spending time outdoors working in the soil are evident, and one Chicago-based woman has made it her mission to show the world that anyone can be a gardener — no matter where they live or their level of experience. Researching for this blog has even started to convince me I might have a shot!

Natasha Nicholes, saw the empty plots of land in her Chicago neighborhood as opportunities. From one small, West Pullman community garden plot started in 2016, the We Sow We Grow project was born. Today, Nicholes spreads her enthusiasm about gardening beyond the reaches of Illinois and has indeed launched a movement to make gardeners out of all of us. Continue reading

Announcing the Blogging For Better Facebook page

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Last fall, I started a campaign known as Blogging for Better (#bloggingforbetter) as a way of raising awareness and money for various nonprofits. My dream was to bring together a network of bloggers, writers and influencers and use our collective platform to champion those smaller, grassroots organizations which don’t always have the time or money to engage on social media.

Since September, we have raised hundreds of dollars for foundations serving victims of sexual violence, homeless families, children in need of speech services, our veterans and much more.

Though, we still have a long way to go in terms of raising the amount of money I believe these organizations deserve, I am proud of how much this movement has grown over the past nine months.

To support our the efforts of Blogging For Better (#bloggingforbetter), I am excited to announce we are launching a public Facebook page. This page will serve as one-stop place to find all of the great content about our various nonprofits, as well as a home for inspirational stories and ways you can help your community.

In a time when social media can often leave us feeling sad, angry or defeated, Blogging For Better (#bloggingforbetter) will serve to bring some hope and good will to the digital world.

I invite you to like our page, comment on our posts, and share our content.  Also, please feel free to comment on this post with any suggestions or ideas on what type of stories you’d like to hear more about.

Here’s to blogging for better.

Foundation seeks to make play possible for all kids

We all know how important play is for childhood development, and, few things are as magical as watching a child’s face light up when exploring a favorite toy.

For special needs children, however, toys designed for neuro-typical and physically-typical kids, often fail to meet their fundamental need for play.

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The Gerlach family wants to make the world a more inclusive one for all children. Children, like their son Benjamin, who was born at only 25 weeks old on June 30, 2012. Along with his brother Colin and sister Ava, Ben spent 4-5 months in the NICU.

Once discharged, Ben’s challenges would continue. He relied on a feeding tube, had limited motor ability, visual impairment and was nonverbal. The Gerlachs knew he would have a tough road ahead of him.

Four years later, Ben passed away of respiratory failure on May 2, 2016. Though his life was brief, and often difficult, the Gerlachs were blessed with a happy, thriving child, thanks to the support of friends, family, doctors, therapists and more, who helped him live his best life.

The Gerlachs wanted to honor their sons memory, and honor those heroes who helped him along the way. To do so, they launched the Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation to bring adaptive toys to deserving children and to help spread acceptance of kids with all abilities. Continue reading