Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Light Bringer Projects Creative Contributions + Room 13

Light Bringer is a Pasadena California based nonprofit with signature events including the Annual Chalk Festival- the largest street painting festival in the world and the annual Pasadena Doo Dah Parade –a spoof on the Pasadena Rose Parade.

The organization is credited with opening the first young artists’ Room 13, an international network of self-sustaining young artists driven creative studios, to the U.S.A. To date Light Bringer is credited with spearheading the opening of five Room 13 young artists’ studios in the greater Pasadena and Los Angeles County area and the momentum of more Room 13 studios opening across the country.

Other studios are now open in Missouri, Colorado, North Carolina and Indiana. A recent display showing in Pasadena’s Public Library was inspiration for a Room 13 to start in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Room 13 studio model is based upon four pillars of learning: philosophical inquiry, creative expression, reciprocal learning, and business enterprise. Each studio is guided by an adult artist-in-residence/mentor, referred to as AiR, who facilitates the students in their studio practice and achievement of the four stated objectives.  Each studio is led by a student management team, responsible for decision-making and implementation of the business model.

Other Light Bringer programs include “L.A. Futures” providing real-world experiences to high school graphic design students to project mentoring by creative professionals, “Literature for Life” which brings creative works of Los Angeles area writers to the classroom and state of the art writing curriculum to teacher as well as their “Expressing Feelings Through Art” program.
To donate or learn more visit http://lightbringerproject.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Art Aids Art Creating Sustainable Development Through Art, Literacy and Self-Image

Art Aids Art is an Altadena California and Cape Town South Africa based nonprofit founded in 2003 by educators and human services professionals. The organizations serves two key initiatives; educating American citizenry about South African culture and the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis and serving women and children in the impoverished areas surrounding Cape Town.

The organization provides economic opportunities to South African artists collectives through art sales in the U.S.A. Annually the organizations  leads an intergenerational group to Cape Town to provide services in partnership with South African organizations.

Art Aids Art also has an ongoing “Babies And Books” program collecting gently used black dolls and multicultural literature for the children of eKhaya eKasi Center in Khayelitsha township. Books are prohibitively expensive in South Africa and still often limited to the Afrikaans and in South African child centers dramatic play areas tend to have only white dolls – providing no opportunity for children to see a reflection and validation of themselves.

To find out more about getting involved through cash contributions and donations of dolls and books visit http://www.artaidsart.org

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Shine On Sierra Leone-Shining A Light Creating Sustainability And Self-Sufficiency

Shine On Sierra Leone (SOSL) has made great and impactful strides since I first spotlighted them two years ago.  Everything has been achieved through the sheer determination, positive spirit and a conviction to change things for the better in the 7th poorest country in the world. Behind it all are founder Tiffany Persons and the organization’s committed and energized teamof staff and volunteers.

Since I last posted here SOSL’s projects have expanded form education, microcredits (through a partnership with Salone Microfinance Trust, SMT) and sustainable development—adding the SOSL Maternal and Child Healthcare program and a nationwide Computer and Adult Literacy, partnership with ST Foundations' Digital Unify Program, and Ecotourism.

They have also added some impressive and impact-adding partnerships; Operation USA privately funded NGO focused on providing reconstruction and development aid around the world, the Lower Eastside Girls Club of NYC creating a SOSL chapter of the organization focusing on entrepreneurship and educational programs and Cash & Rocket a luxury brand platform. through one initiative Cash & Rocket engaged 70 of its female entrepreneurs driving from Barcelona to Cannes to Florence to Rome successfully raising $170,000 for SOSL.

To date SOSL has built 5 primary and secondary schools today serving over 1,700 students.  The adult and computer literacy program outreaches to 6,000 individuals annually.

With all of this momentum, including a planned groundbreaking a new secondary school, SOSL is now facing the added challenge of the impacts of EBOLA. As Tiffany says, "We have come a long way grown exponentially and fought tooth and nail every step of the way.”  

SOSL has stepped up and is leading an active role in the fight against EBOLA. As of Tiffany's most recent update SOSL was the only organization in this fight on the frontline in this battle in the Kono region of Sierra Leone where SOSL Muddy Lotus School and the planned news secondary school are located. They are responding by providing education on and resources against this threat in their region in partnership with Well Body Alliance. This includes training of more than 100 community workers doing outreach as well as creation and distribution of a “Village Kit” including preventative supplies and resources. SOSL along with Well Body Alliance, has a goal to put together and distribute 10,000 of these kits which each cost $150.

There are a number of ways to support SOSL and those it serves- donate to provide one Village Kit which saves many lives, sponsor a Shine On Sierra Leone school student, pay a teacher’s salary. Get involved spread the word through YOUR social media, donate and learn more at  http://shineonsierraleone.org

Monday, March 16, 2015

WELIFTLA – Providing Former Foster Youth Needed Adult Transition and Life Skills

Nationwide, according a report from Children Uniting Nations, as of 2014 463,000 American children live in foster care. California has a larger number of children in the system than any other state based on a 2009 AFCARS report.

Generally at age 18 these young adults are considered “emancipated” and “age out” of the foster care system.  According to an article by John Kelly Editor-In-Chief of the Chronicle For Social Change and the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the number of young adults in California staying in the system for extended foster care up to age 21 has more than doubled since 2012 from 2,000 to over 5,000. The fact is whether at age 18 or 21 these young adults exit the system and then what?

The answers are in the data from WELIFTLA and Alliance for Children’s Rights .
·         The stats for those exiting without any sort of housing have varied from 30 – 65% depending on the year
·         50% of those aging out in Los Angeles County don’t graduate high school
·         Nationally 99% will not successfully complete college. In California this stat though still abysmal is a tiny bit better with a shameful 3% exiting the system completing college
·         70%  of those incarcerated in California are former foster care youth
·         36% of those “aged out” are homeless within 18 months
·         40% are receiving public assistance within 2 years
·         50% of all female former foster care youth become pregnant by age 19

The elephant in the room? There is a glaring lack of mentoring, guidance and opportunities to learn by example, which these youth have never had. These are missing building blocks for the skills and attributes for successful transition to positive and productive adulthood and life skills for self-sufficiency. 

The goal of WELIFTLA is to make a difference by filling in some of these missing building blocks. Joyce Harmon the organization’s CEO and Founder spent years as a successful executive in the textile industry. She’d begun questioning what she really wanted her life to be about.  She felt an undeniable desire to do something meaningful for others.  In 2006 she founded The Work Of Angels while still working fulltime. It was a work in progress with an initial direction to do something to help youth.

 It all came together in 2009 while watching a Lifetime Television movie called “America.” The film was produced by Rosie O’Donnell and she starred as a psychiatrist treating a biracial 17-year old boy named America who had experienced a difficult life of foster care and sexual abuse.  According to Joyce, “I was struck by these kids that were falling through the cracks.”  Then and there it became her life’s mission to do something about it. WELIFTLA was born.

The organization partners with independent living group homes including Penny Lane, Women’s Care Cottage and Pacific Lodge Youth Services. Using the services of volunteers WELIFTLA provides mentorship, parenting, career and financial planning workshops as well as academic counseling and anger management programs.

The organization recently began working with California State University’s Resilient Scholars Program and acquired a home that will provide campus housing and in-home support for five CSUN students who are former foster care youth. 

In addition volunteer services and general donation needs to provide program support and materials the organization currently has a special fundraising matching gift initiative to help with renovation and other needs of their new CSUN WELIFTLA House. For every dollar donated up to $10,000 for the house two loyal supporters have committed to a dollar for dollar match doubling the impact of your contribution.

To learn how you can get involved and to make a donation visit http://www.weliftla.org

Monday, March 2, 2015

Homeboy Industries--Nothing Stops A Bullet Like A Job

According to Will Lopez, a graduate trainee of Homeboys and their current facilitator in domestic violence prevention, “Homeboy Industries is a place of second chances.”

Homeboy Industries provides training, support, counseling and real world work opportunities for previously incarcerated men and women.  You might find their delicious salsas and chips on the shelves of your grocery store.

If you are ever anywhere near Los Angeles’ Union Station their cafe and bakery is a MUST destination just 2 blocks from the train station.  They have the best coffee drinks! I am not talking wimpy- I mean tasty, substantial, authentically good and baked goods that are a match for any bakery you can name. My favorite is the cranberry muffin with fresh juicy cranberries and large chunks of walnuts.

The organization also provides a top notch charter high school and childcare for the children of the clients they serve to help create a supportive family environment and eliminate bumps and distractions to participation in its programs.

The program actually grew out of “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle while he was serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights – at the time one of the roughest gang neighborhoods in the country. Father Greg remains a cornerstone and inspiring center of the program. Father Greg is also the author of the New York Times Bestselling book, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.”

Homeboy Industries is recognized as the largest gang intervention, re-hab and re-entry program in the county, and has become a national model. To find out how to volunteer, provide financial support or even have Father Greg speak at one of your events visit their website www.homeboyindustries.org
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Empowering LGBTQ Youth, Homeless Veterans, Teen Parents and War Survivors

Dove Pressnall, founder of Survivors' Truths, was compelled to take action. From 2004 - 2006, while working as a trainer and field supervisor of Liberian counselors and social workers she listened to the stories of war survivors including women survivors of targeted sexual violence, male and female torture survivors of all ages, and conscripted child soldiers. She found that by getting victims to  tell their stories it not only empowered them but also helped change perceptions of them and their experiences from negative to positive. Survivors' Truths has since greatly expanded its mission since Dove relocated to Los Angeles in 2007. 

The organization's goal is to transform media coverage and  media imagery of not only war survivors but here in the U.S also  homeless veterans, LGBTQ youth and teen parents from negative to positive. Their work transforms impressions and stereotypes by telling positive stories and empowering those society has tended to victimize. The organization's vision- social service meets social media for social change. You can use your social media klout and social networks to help Survivors' Truths. Spread the word, donate..... go to http://survivorstruths.org/ to learn more.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Amigos de los Rios Building Parks and Engaging Community

Amigos de los Ríos (AMIGOS) was founded in 2003 with the mission of building parks with a bigger use while fostering environmental sustainability.

AMIGOS focuses on developing  and implementing  multi-purpose, state-of-the-art parks in park-deficient neighborhoods. Their projects use green techniques such as on-site water filtration, bioswales, and low-water-use irrigation. In their park projects they also integrate  drought-tolerant and native-plant landscaping to conserve water, protect biodiversity and natural resources.

They are currently working to make their amazing vision of “The Emerald Necklace” -an unbroken network of parks and connecting nature trails and bike paths that stretches from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Sea- a reality.

AMIGOS  is committed to engaging the community while reflecting community needs through programs including curriculum creation for K-12,  family-oriented environmental education program,  developing vocational green collar training certification programs and encouraging community involvement in all aspects of their parks projects development.

An initiative spear-headed by AMIGOS has resulted in approximately 2 acres of exterior space at the historic Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center being transformed into the innovative LAC USC Wellness Park and Fitness Trail.  With outdoor exercise equipment along the trail it is available for the health and enjoyment of the public and definitely worth a visit.

If you are looking for a hands on way to make a difference in local environmental sustainability- or you’d like a fun meaningful way to meet a community service requirement- this may very well be the cause for you!

They have a wonderful, highly skilled Volunteer Coordinator, John Latsko, who is extremely knowledge about indigenous California plants.  And they are always in need of extra helping hands. To volunteer, donate and learn more visit http://www.amigosdelosrios.org.