Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Promoting Self-Suffciency And Helping Immigrants Transition To A New Life

Los Angeles resident Owliya Dima, a former immigrant herself,  along with her daughter Meymuna  are founders of the Tiyya Foundation. Their premise is that for the most part residents of American immigrant communities are often preoccupied with helping others overseas.  

Having lived the experience of  transitioning to American life Owliya and her family created the Orange County based nonprofit. The Tiyya Foundation helps not only provide basic necessities to refugees and displaced American families the organization also helps families with the transition to become active participants in society.

Services for clients include English as a second language coaching, homework tutoring, a community soccer program to help children with their transition and volunteers that help families navigate social and civic processes. The ultimate goal is to foster self-sufficiency.   

Through a partnership with the University of California Irvine Tiyya  provides college campus tours  and field trips for Tiyya's youth. Basic necessities provided by the foundation include beds, refrigerators, hygiene products and cleaning supplies.

Services are available to all who are in need regardless of religion, nationality or political beliefs.  Currently the majority of their clients are from Afghanistan, Burma, Eritrea, Iraq, Russia, Somalia and other conflict areas. They are currently serving around 400 clients.

In addition to financial and in-kind donations the Tiyya Foundation seeks out vocational and occupational training for adults.  Companies providing training for immigrants within their first year here in the States are eligible to receive a tax benefit. For information on how you can get involved  or to make a donation, visit

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

City Year Changes Focus To Improving High School Graduation Rates

Founded in 1988 the charity whose volunteers once built hiking trails, worked in libraries, and did myriad other tasks, has overhauled its service program to focus on a single mission: improving graduation rates in struggling public schools. The transformation was tied to a Johns Hopkins research study worked on by Robert Balfanz, brother of City Year's President  Jim Balfanz.

According to the Johns Hopkins study the high-school dropout crisis is concentrated. Roughly 12 percent of the country’s high schools account for 50 percent of the students who don’t graduate.

Says Robert Balfanz,  “It all sort of clicked in my mind,” he says. “They can give us a team of 10 to 15 corps members who are trained and focused and are in the building 7 to 7.” If each volunteer works with 15 students who show warning signs that they might drop out, he says, “we can now reach 150 to 200 kids a day with that constant nagging and nurturing.”

The math and English tutoring and the volunteers’ work to encourage good attendance are important, says Rashida Tyler, principal of Browne Education Campus. But their ability to do that is based on the relationships they build with students.

Ms. Tyler says that when she thinks about the impact City Year has made in her school, she thinks of the improved confidence of a student who has developed a good relationship with her tutor. Ad when the student meets one of her goals, she gets to wear the corps member’s City Year pin or jacket for the day.

“It reaffirms her self-esteem,” says Ms. Tyler. “Little things like that really go a long way.”

Today, across the country, 2,000 City Year corps members ages 17 to 24 serve full time in 187 struggling public schools in poor neighborhoods.

They tutor students, call their homes to check on them when they’re absent from school, help teachers with classroom activities, and lead projects to improve school buildings and grounds. In return, the volunteers get living stipends and an educational award of $5,550 when they complete their year of service. The organization currently operates in 25 cities across the U.S.

To learn more and support City Year visit

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

United Nations Association- Citizens Engaged To Support the Millennium Goals Of The UN

If you’re a member of a local chapter of the United Nations Association stand up and take a bow. If you even know what the United Nations Association (UNA) IS raise your hand. 

The UNA is a nonprofit citizens' organization, separate from the United Nations, dedicated to supporting the mission of the United Nations, and with a key goal of making more citizens like themselves, and government officials, aware of the vital role the United Nations plays in global peace keeping, addressing global environmental challenges,  bringing war criminals to justice,  providing women and families in developing countries with family planning resources,  fighting for gender equality, universal primary education, reducing infant mortality and work to eradicate HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases.

Local UNA chapters reach out to educate politician and local folks about the missions of the United Nations. Chapter members help assure citizens and politicians are engaged in U.S. political dialogue, legislation and initiatives related to UN global efforts as global citizens.
Participation opportunities for local chapter members are only limited by the membership’s own creativity. Chapters host documentary film festivals, partner with the Levitt Pavilion summer concert series,  host community talks with professors from nearby colleges and university and hold meetings with local government officials. 

One of the UNA’s cornerstone programs is called “The Model UN.” Through this program, locally high school student actually join to act as a “model” United Nations, as “representatives” of a variety countries to discuss real issues the United Nations is dealing with.

To find a chapter near you or to learn more about the United Nations Association visit

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Musicorps Wounded Warrior Band - Inspirational Music-Inspirational Lives

If you didn't have the chance to see it I think  the most beautifully performed and inspirational version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" I have ever heard was performed as an Internet exclusive onThe Corbert Report.

It was a performance by the MusiCorps Wounded Warrior Band. This particular performance  infused  the incredible vocal compliment of renowned performer Aaron Neville with the voice of Lieutenant Corporal Tim Donley . The band has also performed with Yo-Yo Ma and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and The Bleeding Heart Band. 

The MusiCorp program, and the band, have been praised in The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post as well as by Congress...... and featured on CNN, ABC and CBS.

MusiCorps began when composer and founder of Renovation In Music Education (RIME), Arthur Bloom, was invited to visit a soldier recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The soldier, a musician who had been badly injured by an roadside bomb. In his conversations with Bloom the soldier  expressed  concerns about the effects of his injuries on his ability to play music. In conversations with Bloom the soldier  shared his pain and frustration.  And there the seed of an idea took root growing into enthusiasm for an unprecedented music program not just for this soldier but openly embracing wounded vets. Whether wounded in Iraq,  Afghanistan or elsewhere many have had their lives blown up in every sense of the word. MusiCorps is an intensive rehabilitation program that helps them play music and recover their lives. 

And the program brings a real world , real work perspective. It brings hours of motivating work, individualized projects, performances and regular visits by professional musicians.

MusiCorps also aids recovery from war-related trauma, including PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury). Concussive blasts from roadside bombs cause TBI, and it has been called the signature injury of the war on terror. Learning, creating, and performing music involves so many aspects of brain function that it is believed to recruit uninjured parts of the brain to compensate for parts that have been injured.

You can support these vets and the program, by booking them for performances... if you are a working musician you can engage through hospital and program visits, lending your skills and expertise... and of course we can all engage by providing donations of instruments and equipment and financial support. You can view the performance that inspired me to write this post at

To learn more about Musicorp and the Wounded Warrior Band visit their website, www. or their Facebook page

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Robin Hood Tax To Take On Poverty and Climate Change?

Started in the UK and spreading  to  25 countries and counting The Robin Hood Tax initiative is a collaboration and partnership between many nonprofit organizations, politicians and activist volunteers in countries including England, Canada, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands and more. The idea is to turn our global financial crisis into an opportunity to provide funds to address gender equality, climate change, international maternal healthcare.  The thinking is-  as result of the financial crisis  created by  hedge funds, banks and other financial institutions  these issues have gotten worse.  An example from Britain is that according to an IMF report as a result of the global financial crisis 1 in 5 British families has to choose between food or paying for heat.

Now think of conditions in  impoverished developing countries that were in the worse economic circumstances to begin with and where the  result of the financial crisis has resulted in even more devastating poverty, slower progress toward access to clean water sources and towards improving conditions  for the healthcare of infants and mothers. 

The idea of The Robin Hood Tax is that the financial institutions that caused the global meltdown need to pay to clean up the mess they made. The idea is that instead of mega bonuses and government  bailouts these financial institutions be charged a tiny tax on their billions that would go toward improved education, cleaner environment,   healthcare, gender equality and more.  This coalition of nonprofits, politicians and volunteers is not only spreading an idea they are getting legislation enacted.  In March 2013  volunteers protested in Washington DC. American celebrity supporters  include Russell Simmons, actor Mark Alan Ruffalo, Michael Moore and Tom Morello Grammy winning guitarist for Rage Against The Machine. To learn more visit the Robin Hood Tax YouTube Channel

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

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 to learn more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bell After School and Summer Education Program Battles Summer Learning Loss

Building Educated Leaders for Life, or BELL, operates in 11 cities. The average American student loses one month of math and reading skills per summer, according to a 2011 study by the RAND Corporation and for low-income the study finds skills are set back two months.

BELL’s summer programs serve 10,000 children in kindergarten through eighth grade. And, by contrast, students participating in BELL’s summer program gain the equivalent of 1.7 months in reading skills and 1.4 months in math.

Participating students can get up to 8 hours assistance, 5 days a week for up to six weeks. Students also participate in music, art and science activities and receive breakfast and lunch.

The program was born in the 1990’s out of a discovery by black and Latino Harvard law students volunteering to mentor teenagers at public schools. They learned their students could read at only a second-grade level. As a result several volunteers led by Earl Martin Phalen and Andrew L. Carter, created BELL in 1992.  The program has a waiting list of 3,000 students.

They are opening a new location in Dayton, Ohio and expanding as quickly as they can. They also plan a pre-kindergarten program. According to Tiffany Cooper Gueye, leader of BELL, in Boston, “They come back as graduates of high school and as college students and serve as tutors for the next generation of BELL scholars.”

For program evaluation reports, to volunteer, donate or sponsor a scholarship visit