NBC Nightly News Headline on the American Red Cross is Deeply Misleading

Photo Credit: @Redcross Twitter

Recently, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt headlined a story entitled “American Red Cross Fails to Pay Funds Promised to Many Harvey Victims”. The report discussed the failure of the American Red Cross to disburse funding to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. As a volunteer with Red Cross, this report raised my concerns for several reasons, and I immediately contacted them in order gain some insight into the causes preventing the Red Cross from distributing emergency funding.

According to the American Red Cross website, the primary function of the charity is “providing relief to victims of disaster, blood to hospital patients, health, and safety training to the public, or emergency social services to U.S. military families.” For more information on how the American Red Cross spends its donations, you can visit their website. After speaking with staff, I am now able to provide some clarity on the issues causing the delay with the disbursements.

Website Crashed

The website crashed from the 1 million displaced people trying to access it (plus repeat tries). Not only is the Red Cross attempting to aid those displaced by Hurricane Harvey, they are also handling an equally major crisis in Florida due to Hurricane Irma. Both Hurricanes have left a destabilized communications infrastructure with limited wifi and cell phone access in which to process aid. Everyone in flood areas is also still fighting the shaky access and embattled communication infrastructure in place. Many residents were showing up at the Red Cross HQ in hopes of gaining connectivity through the Red Cross. Unfortunately, the office has been experiencing the same connectivity issues.

Headlines about “High Overhead” feed into Confusion for Donors

When donors don’t understand that upgrading systems and IT staff, hiring volunteer coordinators and trainers, and other administrative staff duties are necessary to make it possible to handle 1 million plus displaced victims in multiple disasters at the same time, it breeds confusion and misinformation. The American Red Cross is not a governmental agency, but it is responsible for the bulk of relief efforts when a disaster happens. With Congress continuous cuts to FEMA, the American Red Cross will not be able to continue mass scale relief if they are denied donor support due to misinformation. This is a dangerous way to share information about life-saving charities. Without the American Red Cross, who else is equipped to handle natural disasters on this scale?

Emergency Funding

The $400 funds allocation from the Red Cross is an attempt to fill the gap that insurance and governmental delays create for desperate families. However, the reality is that it is dangerous to have volunteers standing on street corners handing out cash. However, this crisis may help the Red Cross identify innovative ways to distribute funds to help expedite funding to families. Currently, funds are being distributed to local centers like Wal-Mart for a more orderly disbursement. However, each disbursement center in affected areas is also still dealing with their own infrastructure issues.

At the end of the day, the American Red Cross is an organization run by 90% plus volunteers working at least 15 hours per day in harsh conditions because they want to help others. More paid employees would help with consistency and efficiency (deployments are only weeks long), but it would also create higher overhead in which donors don’t want.

With all of the disaster pile-ons we are experiencing with even more looming in the distance, we need to take a good look at our charities and how we expect them to function like a governmental agency or corporation while relying on donor support. How does the Red Cross run operations that cover a million people in a single disaster without the funding to hire people at salaries that will attract those with the talent and the willingness to risk such public scrutiny?

SKIP: A Holistic Approach to Promoting Education for Disadvantaged Children

Supporting Kids in Peru (SKIP) is a UK, US, and Peruvian NGO charity, working with impoverished families in El Porvenir and Alto Trujillo, in Peru. The primary aim is to enable children to utilise their right to an education, however by taking a holistic approach, SKIP works with the entire familial unit to do this. This means focusing on key aspects such as education, economic stability, emotional well-being, and healthy and safe living environments. SKIP promotes empowerment and believes that by working in partnership within communities, people can be empowered to make change.

SKIP is comprised of volunteers from these communities as well as volunteers from overseas. When SKIP formed in 2003, local professionals were motivated by the need for education support and joined in on the mission. Many children had never studied and were too old to attend primary school, however, with the help of volunteers 85 children who had been selected were able to commence school after passing placement exams.

The need for a holistic approach soon followed and as the project grew training was provided to parents so that they could create their own businesses and obtain an income to prevent their children from having to work. It wasn’t until 2012 that SKIP gained registration as an international NGO which meant that volunteering visas could be granted to long term volunteers the following year.

SKIP has a variety of programmes available for the communities they serve. The primary education system in Peru is disadvantaged and involves little emphasis on understanding, analytical skills, or problem solving. When SKIP first tested the student’s academic performance, most of the students were performing years below their grade level.

Therefore, SKIP aims to fully finance education, and support the development of emotional intelligence alongside therapeutic treatment for children by using individual therapy or group sessions.  In 2014, SKIP was able to improve Math scores by 29% with reading comprehension scores improving by nearly 50% showing the determination and motivation of the staff.

Additionally, SKIP also trains and supports parents and carers so that they are more aware of their child’s educational needs which maximises parental involvement and allow parents to acquire behaviour management techniques that will impact the family dynamics. Feedback found that the parents or carers felt valued and empowered with a commitment to continuous learning.

Also, SKIP promotes daily access to a library so that children can get help with their homework. This also encourages children to source information for themselves using the reading materials available. SKIP values the importance of this because some parents may not be literate, and so help may not be readily available at home. The library also provides a safe place where children can be intellectually challenged. Once homework is completed, there are educational games available for children to explore other interests.

Children are unlikely to have similar reading materials at home due to poverty and disadvantage which means they are not able to practice reading and so cannot develop skills. SKIP also offers a library that has at least two volunteer tutors to attend each three hour library session so that support can be offered.

There are also family support programmes available which include a dental campaign that not only checks children’s teeth and provides fillings when necessary. There is also preventative care and children are taught to properly brush their teeth. There are also sight tests in which glasses are provided to children if they are required.

The social work team focuses on empowering parents to expand their skills and abilities and can access advice daily with home visits being carried out twice a year at a minimum. By doing this, 14% of the people who were living in poverty in 2010, by 2014 had crossed the poverty line.

SKIP also have an economic development programme that stresses the importance of saving. There are also business workshops aimed at those who may want to develop a business, attendance in these workshops was over 85% with 36 women participating showing the emphasis on promoting equality.

Liz Wilson, the director of SKIP believes that by using a holistic and evidence-based approach, families are empowered and work can be done to help stabilise the entire unit. By working with families and witnessing their commitment and aspiring nature, it is hard to not find it motivating and inspiring. SKIP promote the availability of the services, but Liz Wilson believes it is the families that put the hard work into these interventions.

Whilst volunteering is extremely rewarding, it is not without its challenges. Liz Wilson stresses the importance of stepping back from fulfilling the volunteers’ own needs and looking at those of the project and how some tasks may be necessary and beneficial overall. Individually, we cannot change the world, but there is enormous value in shared contribution.

Include Youth’s Commitment to Northern Ireland Care Leavers

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Located in Northern Ireland, Include Youth supports vulnerable and disadvantage youth by helping them to improve their educational and employment training outcomes, and their main objectives are to increase employment opportunities for disadvantage youth in addition to boosting their self-esteem and life skills.

According to a commissioned review by Include Youth, criminal justice reform and policing were acknowledged as two major areas of concern impacting disadvantage youth with early intervention/family support and diversion programs listed as interventions to reduce risks and increase protective factors for this vulnerable group.

Sharon Whittaker from Include Youth courteously agreed to facilitate a Q&A with us to highlight the amazing work of Include Youth.

SWH: Could you tell us about the mission and vision for Include Youth?

SW: Include Youth is an independent rights-based charity which promotes the rights of and best practice with disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people in Northern Ireland.  In particular Include Youth supports those involved with the criminal justice system and those who need education, employment and training.

Inspired by the experiences of young people Include Youth works to ensure that their rights are being realised. Young people’s views guide us in our advocacy work to achieve social justice, change and promote a greater understanding of their lives in government and across statutory organisations and the community and voluntary sectors.

We provide direct services to support young people to develop their employability and life skills, which are based on working at the young person’s pace and understanding their needs.

SWH: What are the main barriers affecting young people in Northern Ireland?

SW: Overall youth unemployment remains consistently high at 17.5 per cent in Northern Ireland, this is three times that of the adult population.  There are high levels of suicide and self-harm among young people generally, as well as other recognised mental health issues, including severe depression and anxiety.  Almost half of children in care or placed in custody at the Juvenile Justice Centre have serious mental health concerns.

We work specifically with 16-24 year olds from socially disadvantaged areas, have had poor educational experiences, have committed or are at risk of committing crime, misuse drugs and/or alcohol, engage in unsafe or harmful sexual behaviour or at risk of being harmed themselves.   All of the young people we work with are not in education, employment or training and many will have experience of the care system.

Education and employment is a huge barrier for young people in care.  Almost 3,000 children are in the care of the state here and only a quarter will go on to achieve five GCSE’s (grade A*-C) compared with more than 80 per cent of the general school population.  More than 350 young people aged 16 to 21 in care here are not in education, employment or training at any one time.  The unemployment rate for care leavers is double that of young people who grew up in the community.

SWH: What types of challenges have you run into?

SW: How children and young people are perceived in their community is a real challenge for Include Youth. A simple thing like how a young person might be portrayed in the media can impact on social policy is made and on how services to children and young people are delivered.

The young people we work are often most in need or at risk, yet do not have their voices heard and acted upon by organisational representatives and decision-makers.  This means the most vulnerable young people in society are more likely to suffer the consequences of inadequate policies and poor services.

Piecemeal and short-term funding is a challenge for our organisation, as to address the long-term needs of children in care a more sustained and cohesive approach is needed.  There is funding available for short-term projects, which will only ever help long-term goals to an extent.

SWH: Do you think enough is being done to help children in care?

SW: Too many young people from a care background are being detained in the Juvenile Justice Centre under PACE because suitable accommodation cannot be found.  Custody should only be used as a last resort, so not enough is being done to redress the overrepresentation of looked after children within the justice system.

In figures supplied to us by the Youth Justice Agency looked after children represented 40% of individual young people admitted under PACE, between October 2014-September 2015.  Up to 50% of these young people did not receive a custodial sentence, evidence that custody is not being used as a last resort.

We also continually look to Scotland to see what is happening there, as they tend to have more positive policies and practices around their responsibility to children and young people in care.  However some progress has been made to increase labour market opportunities for young people in care.  Business in the Community and Include Youth run targeted initiatives and the Employability Services run by all five health and social care trusts.  Each health and social care trust has employability and guidance schemes in place to help prepare young people for employment and have developed a range of service models, for example, ring-fenced posts and social clause provision in partnership with a number of companies.

SWH: What other vulnerable groups of young people does Include Youth support?

SW: We work in partnership with community-based organisations to deliver cross-community or employability programmes to young people aged 16-24.  Most of these young people won’t have experience of care, therefore their needs vary from young parents, to carers, substance abuse issues to early school leavers.

We also lobby on behalf of children and young people in our formal youth justice system.  Currently 10 year olds living in Northern Ireland can be arrested, prosecuted, get a criminal record and even be locked up however we’re seeking legislative change so that 10 and 11 year olds who commit crime are dealt with in a much more effective way.

SWH: Is there any way people can support Include Youth?

SW: There are a number of different ways people can support our work.  If you’re an employer, public, private or charity sector you may be able to provide a workplace tour or experience for the young people on our programmes or you may wish to join our Board of Directors.  We’re also always on the lookout for volunteer mentors who can support a young person in their area on a one to one basis.  Finally, you can get involved in our Raise the Age campaign and help us raise the age of criminal responsibility in Northern Ireland.

SWH: What is next for Include Youth?

SW: To continually improve our services for the young people we work with.

You can keep up-to-date with Include Youth on Facebook, Twitter and their website on the latest services they offer young people in Northern Ireland.

Global Citizen Encourages You to Help Eradicate Extreme Poverty by 2030

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With poverty and inequality being extremely prominent in the media recently, the Global Citizen’s Festival is well timed to advocate on behalf of their goal to end extreme poverty by 2030. So what is Global Citizen and how does it aim to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030? It’s a mission that can not be achieved without your help.

Global Citizen is a community of people committed to tackling societal challenges in the world and encouraging other people to do the same. Global Citizen believes courageous actions taken by those who believe in a better world will shape history and change society. Extreme poverty is one of the greatest injustices at the present time and it strips people of their basic rights as well as access to opportunities.

Whilst extreme poverty has halved in the last 30 years, there is still more work to do. Poverty can be a vicious cycle but if we come together to learn and take action we can change the rules trapping people in these cycles. Global Citizen does not ask for charity, it asks for help in fighting injustice. Global citizen wants people to advocate and use their passion to take action on issues that will help eradicate extreme poverty.

Global Citizen have several themes that we all can become involved in:

The first theme is food and hunger, and it is thought that people who are well fed will perform better in education and create more stable communities which will allow them to take advantage of the opportunities to end extreme poverty. The world has enough food to feed everyone, and we need to ensure this is spread more equally! The second theme is education, and by focusing on education for all children, it will encourage more leaders to lead society out of poverty and build communities that will thrive.

There are still millions of children without a good standard of education. Education is a basic right that we all deserve. The third theme focuses on health because everyone must be healthy in order to end extreme poverty. Healthy people can live fuller lives and take more opportunities to develop themselves. Health is vital for pregnant mothers, new-borns and children who require vaccines and access to healthcare that many are not receiving.

It is estimated that over a billion people suffer the indignity of having to defecate in open areas which is why water and sanitation is a top priority of Global Citizen. Waste systems and clean water are not a luxury, and it is a necessity that could save millions of lives each year and help eliminate diseases. Finance and innovation is also highly important. By funding development, it will help the global community to empower people to make changes and innovate in order to help themselves break the poverty cycle.

Women and girls are often subjected to some of the harshest aspects of poverty.  Global Citizen believes promoting better education for women and girls will also them become powerful leaders. A great example of the power of education for women and girls is Malala Yousafazi who was shot by the Taliban for speaking publicly about the importance of girl’s education. I received an email that Malala has now started a petition to encourage support to stand up for over 60 million girls around the world who do not receive the opportunity of education, which you can also sign here. This shows we can all make change, but we need to take the steps to do it like Malala Yousafazi.

Most importantly, we should not forget about the environment. Working towards these goals will mean more healthy people who can help take care of the earth and protect those who live on it. To participate and work on these themes Global Citizen have recommended actions such as tweeting, writing, making phone calls and/or email. These can all be found by clicking on each theme on the Global Citizen website. By completing these simple actions, we can make the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 happen a lot sooner!

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Anthony Quintano via Flikr

On September 26th, Global Citizen will host its annual Global Citizen Festival on the Great Lawn of New York’s Central Park which also coincides with the launch of the United Nation’s global goals. To date more than 150,000 people have attended the festival with more than 30 million watching the festival.

The festival channels the power of thousands of global citizens to achieve policy and financial commitments that shape success. The Global Citizen Festival is supported by many brands from YouTube, to H&M to Unilever and many more. YouTube will feature a special livestream and a live simulcast of the full concert will be available on MSNBC and msnbc.com.

Screenwriter Richard Curtis will also produce a one-hour special to air on NBC on Sunday, September 27th. For all those in the UK, don’t worry. It will also air on BBC One on Monday, September 28th. The festival also involves artists such as Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay to name a few. The Global Poverty Project is a registered non-profit organisation who works in partnership with business leaders, world leaders and global citizens to call on governments to support policies that would impact the poor.

So far, Global Citizens have taken a massive 2.3 million actions to fight against extreme poverty in the last four years which have resulted in 87 commitments and policy announcements including cash commitments which are valued at around $18.3 billion.

With your help, extreme poverty can be ended and Global Citizen encourages us all to help in that journey. We tweet and email every day, let’s do it today to create change! Global Citizen has taken on an amazing goal which encourages everyone to participate, and we can eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

Voluntourism – How to Find an Ethical Project?

“Voluntourism” is a portmanteau of “volunteer” and “tourism”, describing tourists that combine a trip abroad with volunteer work. The idea is often met with scepticism and has caused a lot of controversy. One reason for this is that researchers have found that some of the companies involved with voluntourism are misrepresenting their products, i.e. trying to make a profit out of volunteers that come to help. But with hundreds of opportunities offered by agencies, charities and grassroot projects, how does a potential volunteer know which organisations are ethically a good choice and which ones are unhelpful to the very communities they claim to help?

During my bachelor’s education, I considered volunteering abroad. However, I was overwhelmed and shocked by how difficult it seemed to find information on projects. Much of the international volunteer industry seemed ethically ambiguous to say the least. Most projects I found charged thousands of dollars which in the end discouraged me from joining any program at all. Nevertheless, there are many ethical options out there for everyone interested in volunteering, however finding them is tougher than it should be. It is the very nature of this dilemma that motivated me to join Team Social Work, a social enterprise dedicated to making the voluntourism market more transparent

Step One: Be realistic

Make sure you have realistic expectations about what to expect to experience on your trip and what you can accomplish

  • You came to help, keep that in mind throughout your stay. This does not just mean that first you have to think about the beneficiaries of your stay first and put the community needs ahead of yours, but also remember that your efforts are ultimately for the community you’re serving, despite the pivotal role you can play. Your ultimate goal should be to to assist them with their vision, whichEducationh ever part you may play in it.
  • Remember that change takes time. If you’re only going to be there for a short period, then the chances are that you won’t be there long enough to witness the impact your efforts will have on the community that you have elected to h
    elp. Nevertheless, consider the bigger picture to appreciate that your contribution has made a significant contribution and indeed a difference.
  • Last but not least – don’t underestimate the importance of a smile or other acts of kindness. They can have a bigger impact than you might realise.

Step Two: Choose a Good-Fit Type of Volunteering

A lot of volunteers have only a few weeks of their time to donate to a project and are worried that they can’t make a difference in such a short period. So how can you make short-term voluntourism worthwhile?

Short-term voluntourism isn’t necessarily bad. It really depends on the project that you want to volunteer for. As a general rule of thumb, you should always ask yourself whether or not your position at the project is effected by a personal relationship. E.g. within a conservation project, your duration of stay will have limited impact on the animals or biodiversity; often these projects need an extra hand, so it won’t make so much difference if you are only there for a short period. If you want to volunteer with a project that involves community development or working with children, carefully evaluate whether your short term stay will be useful to them or if you will do more harm than good. You might help to build a school in a few weeks, but you won’t become a counsellor for traumatised children. In any case, be sure that you are matched according to your skills.

Step Three: Ask the Right Questions

To ensure that you are joining an ethically sound volunteering project, the organisation should be able to provide you with answers to your questions. But what are the right questions to ask?

Before getting in touch with someone at the organisation, think about the following:

  • Many projects will provide you with a great vision of what they are trying to achieve, but only genuine projects will be able to provide you with details of how to get there. Ask whether or not there has been a needs assessment establishing exactly what help is required. Only projects that plan ahead will be able to make a lasting difference, so be sure to enquire about specific goals and why these are of importance in advance.
  • Take careful consideration over how the communities and projects are talked about by their relevant organisations. If they are degrading the locals they claim to be helping and belting their situation, then this should be sending you warning signs – taking advantage of their poverty to market the volunteering project in question is not respectful in the slightest.
  • Furthermore, every project should break down where the money you pay will go, and how the money from past volunteers has made a difference to the community they are working in. If they don’t, I recommend reconsidering your choice.

Get in touch with someone who has volunteered there beforehand: 

  • We live in the age of social media, so make sure you use it to your advantage. Sincere organisations should provide links to their social media sites. Use them to get in touch with former volunteers of the projects and ask them for their personal experience.
  • Make sure to ask what the exact nature of their volunteer work was, and what level of volunteer support they experienced. If the program description doesn’t match what former volunteers describe, you should be cautious and ask the project why this was the case.

Have you been on a volunteer holiday? Share your views and experiences in the comments below.

Hugh Jackman Turns Buying Coffee into a Social Good

For years, Hugh Jackman has made a living portraying larger than life characters such as Wolverine in the X-Men film series and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. But now, the Australian-born actor is diverting his attention to the world of free trade coffee as the founder of Laughing Man Coffee & Tea which is a brand under the umbrella organization Laughing Man Worldwide.

3022172-slide-s-jackmenThe idea for this venture came a few years ago after Hugh Jackman served in Ethiopia as an ambassador for World Vision. While there, he encountered Dukale, a small-time coffee farmer whose hard work and level of commitment made a profound impression on him at the time. Later, Jackman wrote of his experience in an article on Fast Company, “I also sensed a kinship with Dukale…like me, he was a worker and a father who wanted to thrive and provide for his family.”

Hugh soon discovered that the coffee business was not set up to benefit the small farmer. Upon his return from Ethiopia, Jackman voiced his concern to the United Nations about the need to work with farmers like Dukale, so they could realize a fair trade price for the coffee they produced. As a result of these circumstances, Hugh Jackman partnered with David and Barry Steingard to create Laughing Man Worldwide in order to help create a fair and equitable market for the small coffee farmer.

According to an official statement on the company’s website, Laughing Man Worldwide was established to recognize the power of entrepreneurship, ingenuity, livelihood, and access to such opportunities. The company helps entrepreneurs by creating and developing new businesses, and in return for that help, Laughing Man Worldwide receives some ownership. 100 percent of their revenue goes back to education, community development, and new business development. Laughing Man Coffee & Tea is the first venture under this model.

3022172-inline-menu-image-coffeeIn October 2011, Laughing Man Coffee & Tea opened its first café in the lower Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca. The tiny, stylish establishment is adorned with wooden shelves displaying the brand’s signature coffee beans and grounds, teas, and hot chocolate, which are also available for purchase on the Laughing Man website. Its products are made with crops from farms in Ethiopia, Peru, Guatemala, and Papa New Guinea.  There is even an espresso blend bearing Dukale’s namesake.

Hugh Jack has often stated in interviews that his charitable work with Laughing Man Coffee was inspired by the late Paul Newman. In 2005, the legendary actor established Newman’s Own Foundation to sustain the legacy of his philanthropic outreach. To this day their business model remains true to Paul’s original mission and values, using only all-natural, high-quality foods and donating 100 percent of their profits to charity.

Choosing the name Laughing Man was no accident. Their official motto is “All be happy,” which is the atmosphere their customers experience when visiting their Tribeca café.

“What I love about this place is their ethos; they’ve created something that makes everyone happy. They’re living and breathing their life philosophy through their business and I believe this is the way all businesses will have to operate in order to survive in the immediate future”, wrote Claire Storrow, who visited on a 2013 trip to New York.

5 Charities That Help Fight Global Climate Change

The fight to prevent climate change is a big part of the consciousness in modern society. The recent extreme cold weather conditions are causing more people to be concerned about the effects of global climate changes. As we all try to implement changes to make our society greener in smaller ways, there are few organisations doing real work towards improving the environment. Despite these worthwhile efforts, much of the fight against global climate change falls heavily on the charity and nonprofit sector. Getting involved in charity work is a great way to help fight against climate change and make a real difference to your children’s future. It can also help to improve your chances of finding environmental work in the commercial sector, and here are five charities to consider supporting.

Greenpeace

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Greenpeace.org

It’s just about impossible to talk about charity work in the climate change sector without talking about Greenpeace. Greenpeace is a huge international charity which works around the world to help protect and conserve the environment. If there is an environmental cause, Greenpeace are likely to be involved in finding a solution. The charity works to protect the worlds oceans and ancient forests, campaigns against toxic waste and works to promote green energy and sustainable agriculture.

Renewable Energy Foundation

It is hoped that renewable energy will be able to meet our energy needs and reduce the harm done to the environment by the use of fossil fuels. The Renewable Energy Foundation is a charitable organisation which works to promote green power as well as energy efficiency. It is privately funded, with no affiliations to any major commercial organisations. The charity works to provide accurate reports on environmental data as well as consultancy services on renewable energy.

The Global Cool Foundation

The Global Cool Foundation is another charity which works towards a greener and more sustainable future. The charity runs an online magazine which works with celebrities to promote green issues and green trends. The foundation also works with large organisations such as Vodafone and Eurostar to help promote a sustainable lifestyle around the world.

The Woodland Trust

Whilst some charities operate on a global scale, some focus on a particular region and issue. This can help them to have a bigger impact on a smaller scale. The Woodlands Trust is a UK based organisation which works to help preserve, restore and grow the ancient forests and woodland across the UK.

The Canal & River Trust

The Canal and River Trust is another UK based charity, but this is focused on preserving and protecting rivers and canals across the UK and the wildlife they support. The organisation takes on the responsibility of looking after 2,000 miles of waterways, maintaining bridges, aqueducts, reservoirs and more. There are a huge range of opportunities for volunteers all across the UK to get involved in the work they do.

Careers in Charity Work

Charity work is a great way to get involved in protecting our environment and fighting against climate change. It can be a hugely rewarding career and requires a wide variety of skills and talents. If you are interested in finding work in the environment and climate change sector, working with a charity is a great place to start.

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What To Do With Those Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Whether it’s a book that you are never going to read or a jumper that just isn’t suited to your style, the chances are that many of us will have received unwanted Christmas gifts that we have no use for. This isn’t to say that these gifts were not appreciated, but they didn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to the type of gift you were hoping for.

However, there may be other reasons why a gift may be unwanted, though such as being damaged or it could even be a duplicate present. Whatever the reason, here are a few options that you can choose from to help you figure out what to do with them.

Problems with Unwanted Christmas Gifts
Problems with Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Talk To The Giver 

There is a need to tread carefully here. Whatever the gift was, it was given with love. The person giving it is likely to have been pleased with their purchase, so you need to consider their feelings. If you don’t know them too well, maybe they’re a work colleague or the spouse of a distant family member, you may want to avoid telling them.

For closer family members and friends, a bit of honesty can go a long way. Not only will this mean they know your preference for next time, you also have a chance to see if they have the receipt or ask where they got it from.

Refunds And Credit 

If you can get hold of the receipt or you know that the shop the gift was bought from has a more relaxed returns policy, then the best thing to do is attempt to take it back. If the issue is just with the size, then you can always exchange it for one that fits better.

Sadly, not all companies will be open to offering refunds. It is your right to a refund if the product is faulty. If you are returning an item for no other reason apart from the fact that you don’t like it, the shop may have no obligation to accept your return.

However, most places will have a goodwill policy in the period after Christmas and those that don’t offer money back should give store credit, which is still better than something you are never going to use.

Re-gifting 

Re-gifting may be frowned upon by some people, but it’s much better that someone gets to enjoy the gift than it sitting in a drawer for the foreseeable future. If you know someone who would love that jumper you didn’t really want or you know someone with a child that would love the unwanted toy your child was bought, then there is no harm in passing the parcel. Again, it is a good idea to be honest with whoever gave you the gift in case they also know the person you are re-gifting it to.

Selling Online 

Ebay has been a massive success since it was founded in 1995 and this site acts as a great platform for you to sell your unwanted presents. The fees for selling are scaled according to how much the gift costs, and it offers you the chance to give your gift to people who are actively searching it out.

Ebay is not the only site that’s available though. There are specialist websites all over the internet for various types of gifts. Got a new mobile that you don’t need or want or you want to get rid of your old one, try sellmymobile.com. Got some clothes that don’t fit or aren’t in your style, try recycleyourfashions.com. For everything else, there’s always Gumtree.

Charity 

All this talk of unwanted gifts can make some of us feel a little spoilt and so if you really want your redundant gifts to make a difference, you could always drop them off at your local charity shop. Alternatively, you could give any unwanted toys to a children’s hospital or day care centre in your area.

If you want to avoid the embarrassment of giving an unwanted gift, then why not consider gift baskets for the next big occasion in your family. Gift hampers always go down well and can be filled with plenty of goodies, so the recipient is at least likely to enjoy one of them.

photo credit: MRHSfan

The Uncharitable World of Policy: Dan Pallotta TED

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One of the biggest threats that all nonprofits face is the injustice and discrimination from our own government. Our current Congress wants nonprofits to survive without government spending at the same time it is creating policies that increase dependency on the services nonprofits provide.

If the government does not want to fund these services, then they must allow these facilities to find innovative ways to fund themselves.  Who or what will pay for these much needed services? Nonprofits are struggling to survive. However, if there were some sort of revenue, benefit to donate to these nonprofits, and a way to market the valuable work they do, they could greatly expand the number of people who are helped.

According to activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta, everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, and this bleeds into the policy arena as well.  This creates misconceptions and injustice that target vulnerable populations. Dan claims there are a few specific ways that nonprofits are discriminated against in the economic world.

First through compensation, by providing more opportunities for incentives to other businesses instead of finding ways to incentivize people to produce more in the service population.   Secondly, through advertising and marketing, because investors don’t like to see their donations spent on advertising in the non-profit sector. Dan states, “You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.” (Dan Pallotta, 2008)

Most nonprofits must get their advertising donated, and this forces them to work at a capacity much lower than their other business counterparts. Thirdly by not allowing nonprofits to try innovative ideas because they are risky. In other profit businesses, taking risks is almost necessary and a loss is expected. However, in the nonprofit sector, these sorts of business risks are not allowed and could even be viewed as failures. Only Dan states when we prohibit failure we also stop innovation. The fourth way is through time limits.

For example, Dan states, that if a nonprofit told investors and donors that for six years no money was going to go to the needy, it was all going to be invested in building their nonprofit they would not be supported. However that is exactly what Amazon did, and they were supported in this by their investors. Most nonprofits have time limits for success and don’t have the opportunity to grow their nonprofit before they must close doors. And lastly being seen as a drain on the community rather than a value. In our society we value independence and vulnerable populations are not seen as worthy, only as unsustainable.

But this idea of individuality is an illusion, we cannot exist without being dependent on several variables. There is so much discrimination against vulnerable populations, it is almost as if it is purposeful and intentional to make it so difficult for the nonprofit sector. As long as we have this belief in our society things will not change. It is disappointing that in our society we value things that hurt us or isolate us however helping members of the community that is struggling is unfavorable.

Jackie Chan’s Dedication to Charity is Amazing

Jackie Chan Sits With Kids As They Learn

Many of us know Jackie Chan as one of the most memorable actors of our generation. His stunts have dazzled people for decades. Although his role as an actor may be what we remember him by, his dedication and loyalty to charity are just as amazing as him leaping off of a building onto a moving train.

In 1988, Jackie Chan founded The Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation. A foundation that aids Honk Kong’s occupants by offering scholarships, medical services, and assisting with natural disasters and illness. In October of 2002, Jackie also founded The Dragon Heart Foundation.

The foundation is driven to fulfill the needs of the less fortunate populations in China. Since the foundation’s birth, it has helped build over a dozen schools. The organization has also raised over one million dollars toward the education of poor kids and reached out to the elderly by donating warm clothes and wheelchairs.

Dragon Heart Foundation School
School Building Funded by The Dragon Heart Foundation

Chan’s long list of charity work is truly one of the more amazing things any man could do for his country. Below is a list of charity work and events he has sponsored from 2010 to 2011.

  • Organized “Love Without Borders 3/11 Candlelight Gala” to benefit Japan earthquake/tsunami victims.
  • Donated books to poor children in Qindao, China
  • Raised US $2 million for the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in Hong Kong
  • Ninth Annual Bazaar Charity Night sold Jackie Chan’s Dragon’s Heart
  • Richard Mille watch for US $800,000
  • Attends Wuhan Charity Concert
  • Hosted the “Believe in Love” charity event in Beijing
  • Sponsored Dragon’s Heart Summer Camp in Beijing
  • Donated 5 million RMB (US $732,000) to help Haiti earthquake victims.
  • Worked with WildAid to support preservation of endangered tigers.
  • Donation of school supplies to “Charming Schools” in China
  • Raised US $5.2 million in donations for the Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution
  • Helped raise US 29 million for drought relief in China.
  • Visited Qinghai, China to bring food, water, and supplies to victims of the April 14, 6.9 magnitude earthquake
  • Participated in the “Artistes 414 Fundraising Campaign” concert to raise money for victims of the April 14th earthquake in China
  • Charity mission to Tongren in the Guizhou province of China to bring much-needed water and supplies to the drought-stricken area.

This list can’t even begin to sum up the hard work and dedication that Jackie Chan has put into charity. It gives you some insight into what change he has made in only a small period of time. Jackie Chan’s dedication to charity is still as strong as it has ever been.

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