Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting Cheeky - Erica's Story, and why you should be swabbed

There's nothing like a little cancer to put life in perspective. Small word. BIG implications.

I received an email from a woman on the On Your Feet Project board about her friend's roommate, Erica. You guessed it, Erica has cancer. Leukemia, to be exact. She's been fighting it for two years while attending the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, MA, and thought it was in remission. But that's the nasty thing about cancer: It Can Come Back.

Erica and her family are looking for a bone marrow donor. Erica is of mixed race - Asian / Caucasion / I'm Just Guessing - and is encouraging everyone, but especially minorities, to get their cheeks swabbed for inclusion in the bone marrow registry.

Maybe Erica's story hit closer to home because she's around my age, going to a grad school I myself have considered, and she looks like a lot of fun. Even when having cancer. I mean, who sings a modified kareoke cover of [Bare Naked Ladies] [edited...] with her sister - "If I had a real good donor, I'd be alive" - while laughing and enjoying it? I don't even think "awesome sense of humor" even begins to cover it.

You have the potential to save someone's life, and according to the email I received (the interweb is always truthful) and the National Marrow Registry, if you are actually a match for someone, the donation process is fairly painless. You get some shots for about a week in order to build up the "counts" in your blood (and my friend who had it done last year it said all it does is make you feel like you're fighting off a cold) and then you go in for what is like an extended blood donation - they draw blood, strain out what they need from it, and then the blood goes back in.

Now I don't know about all y'all, but I can't remember all that many times where I've saved someone's life. Maybe once, or twice.

So. Go register, and get your cheek swabbed, and bring along a friend of "mixed race." (If you're of "mixed race" already, that will make two of you! If not, this way you'll be increasing the chances of finding Erica a donor.) Now. Do it.

Happy Swabbing. And good luck, Erica. My thoughts are with you.

***Note: Yes, you do have to pay to get your cheek swabbed, unless it's during a special drive where sponsors are covering the cost. Just $52. Think of it as a donation to the world. If you have a flexible spending account, you may be able to expense the cost...
- Upcoming marrow drives in the Boston area

Rock On Your Feet. Boston Charity Benefit Concert.

For more than five years, Glenn Michael has served as the charismatic front man for the Los Angeles based rock band Deepdown. After countless performances on the Sunset Strip and across the Southwest, Glenn Michael is branching off on his own. Glenn Michael is now acoustic, melodic, soulful and completely inspired. He sings from his heart which he proudly wears on his sleeve and he makes memorable music. He's powerful, he's polished and he tells it like it is.

On Thursday, April 10th, at 9pm Glenn Michael will be performing at
Church nightclub for OYFP's First Annual Charity Concert: Rock On Your Feet. In addition to Glenn Michael, other performers include The Powers That Be, and The Slap Happies.

John R.: "Thank you Glenn for donating your time and talents to
OYFP and our non-profit partners. Have you ever played a charity event before?"

Glenn M.: “Hi John! I am honored to perform at this event. In L.A., I played a show to benefit the homeless, and recently here in Boston, I did a fundraiser concert to benefit First Church Somerville - which is a fine non-conservative church that does a lot of good for the community.”

John R.: "Well, we’re really glad you’re on board. So, can you tell me a little more about your music?"

Glenn M.: “Well, I'm a singer/songwriter. I like to keep my music diverse and not be cornered into one kind of sound. Sometimes it's mellow and peaceful, and at other times it's very intense and wailing. I suppose it's a little more edgy than a lot of today's singer/songwriters.”

John R.: "Nice, what do you think of the Boston music scene?"

Glenn M.: “Since moving here from L.A., it's a breath of fresh air honestly. L.A. used to be a good place for musicians, but it's so saturated these days. I'm glad I relocated to Boston. The fact that being a dedicated musician in any city is very taxing at times, I like Boston, and feel there is a lot of little nooks around here to plant my musical seeds and watch them grow. I've gotten a very warm reception so far, and am blessed to be in such a thriving scene with a lot of local talent.”

John R.: "What artists or bands would you say have influenced you over the years?"

Glenn M.: “My influences are vast. Anything that moves me emotionally, or inspires me in one way or another. I'm a big fan of
Bright Eyes, KT Tunstall, Sun Kil Moon, Richard Ashcroft, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Janes Addiction, Ray LaMontagne, PJ Harvey, Bloc Party, Fionn Regan. I like folk music. I like rock music. I like alternative music, whatever that means? I live my life as an artist. Everything I experience is influential, in some way or any another.”

John R.: “What's on tap for Glenn Michael? Any upcoming tours in the near future?”

Glenn M.: “I've been doing a lot of performances all over New England to support my new CD, and that will continue. My Spring/Summer 08' tour schedule right now is pretty thriving. I'll be doing some touring until the fall, at which time I'll be going back in the studio to start recording my 3rd CD. In this business, you've got to have stamina to survive. I'm prepared for the battle.”

John R.: “Ha! Thanks man. I’m looking forward to the show.”

Glenn Michael is currently living in Boston, MA and just released his 2nd full-length CD entitled Reflections. His debut CD entitled Heart On My Sleeve is currently for sale on ITUNES.

Come see Glenn Michael and the other bands Thursday, April 10th, at 9pm at
Church nightclub for OYFP's First Annual Charity Concert: Rock On Your Feet. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online, 100% of proceeds go to non-profit charities in our community.

glenn michael

Spring Cleaning: An investigation?

Krystle, I hope you did your spring cleaning this weekend... all of Boston knows that you were planning on it! Hopefully they won't be stopping by to investigate.

Krystle's spring cleaning article in today's BostonNOW:

Sunday, March 30, 2008

How you doin?

Spring is here. Time to get started on that spring cleaning and it's time to get your general affairs in order.

Hey, by the way, how are you doing on your New Year resolutions four months into the year? Are you spending more time with family? Did you finally quit smoking? Are you sticking to your workout routine? Are you saving more money? And, are you volunteering and helping others?

At the start of this year I wrote I don’t do resolutions. Where I shared my view that “when something is labeled a resolution it isn’t really a main priority.” If it was a main concern then why wait until the last day of the year to face it?

Hopefully, you’ve kept your new affirmations. But, no worries if you’ve fallen off keeping those resolutions, start now! Why wait? I’ll check back in August.

Photograph from

Want Real Answers? Real Fast?

This piece isn’t about the political fallout over Hillary Clintons admitted misstatement about running from sniper fire during her visit to Tuzla, Bosnia, in 1996 as first lady. "I remember landing under sniper fire," she said. “There was no greeting ceremony and we were basically told to run to our cars. That is what happened.”

This article is not about the fact that she repeated this misstatement for nearly three months, well after the media had exposed it. Moreover, I won't comment on statements made by Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor, who said Clinton's Bosnia sniper fire tale "joins a growing list of instances in which Senator Clinton has exaggerated her role in foreign and domestic policymaking.” Because that’s not what this article is about.

This article is about AnswerTips from that I discovered while reading Hillary’s St. Patrick’s Day Massacre.

AnswerTips is a very useful tool that is integrated into web pages and allows users to look up any word or phrase for the best explanation or definition on the Web. When a user double-clicks any word on a participating site, a small pop-up window appears with an AnswerTip, which is simply an explanation of the word or phrase.

For bloggers, this is great because its keeps your visitors from wandering off your page onto outbound links when looking for information. To learn how to use AnswerTips and to enable it for your blog check out their Blogger Portal.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Hour: Keeping us in the dark

This Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 8 PM, you can celebrate the World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour with hundreds of thousands of people across the world. [Earth Hour 2009 info here.]

Well, actually, they'll all be celebrating at 8 PM their time, but you can celebrate knowing that other people are going to do it, or have done it, at 8 PM their time.

What is Earth Hour? It's an hour, once a year, when you turn off all lights to make a statement about global climate change. ALL the lights. So it's dark in your house. You could try burning soy candles for a few rays... but the dark can be fun. You could play "hide 'n' seek in the dark," or make a fort out of blankets and camp under it.

Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia last year, where their combined efforts turning off lights resulted in the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road. Whoa. The whole city participated - governments, businesses, and more.

While Boston's not officially participating, you can still practice what I'm preaching - turn off those lights!

Related Posts: Earth Hour in Boston 2009
Event notice courtesy of the Ideal Bite.

Spring Cleaning, part deux

I just looked at the weather forcast for this weekend and signs point to staying inside burrowing under a blanket and catching up on my Netflix Que. Wait I did that the last couple of weekends. Maybe it's about time I do some spring cleaning around the apartment?

But what should I do with all the stuff I am not using and is just currently taking up space in my apartment. I don't want it to end up in a landfill and I believe all of it can be donated. With a little research, turns out I was right, check out my checklist of what I can donate.

  • Pile of VHS tapes that I no longer watch because I have the same movies in DVD- donate them to accepts more than just VHS Tapes they accept, books, and LP records. They will even come to my home and pick up books and VHS tapes I wish to donate!

  • Yards of Fabric leftover from Halloween Costumes- donate to Extras for Creative Learning. Their mission is to help enhance children's creativity with the use and play of reusable, recycled, and surplus material.

  • My car that is sitting on the side of the road and is only used for groceries and trips to the gym -donate to Habitat for Humanity. Not only will this help the environment but it would be put to good use to help build homes for those that need affordable shelter. Okay so I am not willing to part with my car just yet, but if you are I would definitely suggest to donate it to Habitat for Humanity.

I think that should give me the minimalist look I have always wished for. If you have something that you think is donatable and aren't sure where to go for it. Go to, which provides a search engine on where to recycle or reuse anything you have lying around the house. You might find it surprising how much you can donate and how close it is to your home.

Photo courtesy of Yes, I will be wearing the same outfit when I clean.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More News about News

We are a lucky bunch. It seems BostonNOW can't get enough of our sassy, informative articles (and we hope, neither can you!). Take a look at page 15 of today's BostonNOW. That article on riding your bicycle? It's by me.

Hopefully later today we'll have a more interesting blog post than just, "Hey, look at me!" I'll try to reach deep down into my pot of inspiration for something to say. Or get one of the other bloggers to do so. :-)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bigfoot Seen in Charles River...?

i always knew i lived in a unique place. i used to think it was because boston was such an intellectual hub of bright minds and motivated, impassioned people. now i find out we gots dirty water and bigfoot, too!

okay, not really, but here are two cool ways to get involved locally to keep boston the funky town it is:

"Dirty Water":
The Charles River Watershed Association has been working to protect the health and beauty of the Charles River since 1965. They will be holding their 26th Annual Run of the Charles Canoe & Kayak Race, which takes place on the Charles River in Boston, MA. They are looking for volunteers who would like to spend a great day helping 1,500 paddlers enjoy this historic river.

Volunteer tasks include check-in/registration, set-up, boat number spotting, safety, and clean-up, and experienced canoeists/kayakers are also needed to follow racers on the river as “sweep” boats. Please contact Meg Schermerhorn or Sally Berkowitz at (508) 698-6810,, or visit

826 boston is the 7th branch of author dave eggers' non-profit (826 national) which started with 826 valencia in california. they are dedicated to helping students from the ages of 6 to 18 develop their expository and creative writing skills.

in order to raise funds, inspire
creativity, and advertise their programs to each local community, most of the writing centers include a street-front retail store filled with unusual products, entertaining signage, and their books for sale. in boston, it's the greater boston big foot research institute. as they prepare for the grand opening of this store front, they're looking for volunteers to do various tasks:

1) Product Assembly
Help us bag monoculars, label piasa bird talons, and tie leather tags onto camo vests. Reply to if you are able to come for any part of the following times to 826 Boston:
Thursday, March 27, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 29, 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Monday, March 31, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

2) Publicity Pick-Up
Our lovely intern, Katie, will be at the Tam, 222 Tremont St. (right at the Boylston T Stop), from 3:00-5:30 p.m. on this Friday, March 28, with posters, postcards, and other promotional materials. Swing by, grab some promotional materials, have a pint, and then flyer the town with the lovely NASSR postcard (which is also downloadable from our website). Katie will be the one with the GBBRI T-Shirt on.

3) Events & Fundraising Team Meeting
Help us pin down the logistics leading up to April 12, organize and assign tasks, and plan additional fundraising opportunities for that day & night. Reply to if you are able to attend the meeting on Thursday, April 3, 6:00 p.m. at 826 Boston.

*casey inevitably will find some nice pictures to accompany with this post! she's an internet superstar (you know what i mean. keep it clean, people, keep it clean.)

Photo numero uno is courtesy of
Photo numero dos is courtesy of some random site posted on

John's Sudan Story is in BostonNOW today

Look, John, you're famous again! Well, anonymously famous (is that even possible?). The OYFP Volunteer Boston blog was in the World section of today's BostonNOW.

Are you interested in being interviewed on this blog? Email boston at oyfp dot org with the subject line, "Interview Me, I have an interesting volunteer story" (or something along those lines).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Springtime, Gasoline, and a Solution

Spring has sprung, or so goes the old moniker. Sadly, our wallets have sprung open as well - to pay for the gas that goes into our adored automobiles. Though average gas prices in New England fell 1 cent this week to $3.12 a gallon for self-serve regular (according to AAA Southern New England), it's still not low enough for many of our budgets.

The solution? If you don't want to carpool with Raymond from the IT group or take public transportation, consider dusting off your old two wheeler - your bicycle, that is. I used to ride two miles each way to my first job at Boston Market. Not only did I save the earth (and my mother from having to give me a ride), but I dropped 15 pounds. Now there's a side benefit I could really get into.

Though Boston is far from a bike-safe city, chances are you will get to and from work without a scratch on you. Some tips to make that commute a little safer:

1. Wear a helmet. You can fix your hair once you get there. Just stick a little comb and travel gel in your bike pack.
2. Wear a helmet. You only have one brain.
3. Wear a helmet. Are you getting the message?
4. Wear bright, reflective clothing.
5. Have a blinking front and rear light in case you're riding home in twilight or at night.
6. Follow traffic laws. That's right - you renegade bikers risk a lot when you dart out into the intersection when it's not your turn.
7. Stay off really busy roads that don't have bike lanes.

For more tips, visit the Bike Commuters blog.

If you choose to take the two wheeler to work, your wallet will certainly thank you. And your waistline. Oh, and so will our dear Mother Earth.

A bicycle parking garage at the train station in Europe somewhere - Amsterdam, I think.
Can you imagine if that many people in the US rode bikes instead of riding in cars?

Thanks, Mom, for the story idea!

First photo courtesy of
Second photo courtesy of my cousin Liz.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Empowerment, Education, and Self-sufficiency – The Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation

Laura is planning a trip to the Sudan this May to volunteer with the Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation. The Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation is a Cambridge, Massachusetts based non-profit organization that, according to their website, helps "Sudanese women and girls realize their highest potential for personal and social growth through self-empowerment, education, and self-sufficiency. Our goal is to promote positive change in women's lives and enhance the communities in which they live."

John R.: "Good morning Laura. Thank you for taking the time to give us a little insight on what it is that the
Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation does. Please briefly describe what that is."

Laura: "Basically, we promote women's empowerment, education, and self sufficiency through various initiatives on both the local and national levels. In the Boston area we hold film screenings, fundraisers, and other events to raise awareness about the status of women in Sudan as well as to raise money for our programs. Through our website,, we work with volunteers around the country who raise money through online fundraising pages as well as through planning events in their communities.

"Our current programs include: The Empower-a-Woman Campaign, The Sudan-Reach Scholarship Program, The Women's Education Initiative, The Orphan Project, and The Women's Self-Sufficiency Project. We will also be taking a group of volunteers to Sudan for two weeks this May to rebuild schools, help refugees, distribute relief supplies, teach, and visit orphanages.

"Sudan-Reach is unique in that we are staffed entirely by women who work on a volunteer basis. All of the funds we raise go directly to our programs and the women who need it most in Sudan."

John: "I have a simple question that might not have a simple answer - Can you tell me why the
Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation is necessary? In other words, can you shed some light on the issues women face in that part of the world?”

Laura: "Absolutely. We feel one of the most problematic aspects of the conflict in Sudan is the overall lack of women's human rights. Even though women traditionally lack many rights in Sudan regardless of the conflicts that have occurred there, the current situation in Darfur has worsened an already dire human rights situation.

"One example is the sexual violence that is a huge problem not only in Darfur, but also in the refugee camps. This pressing issue, however, tends be overlooked not only within the camps, but also on the global humanitarian level. Women in the refugee camps who have been raped fear reporting it because of the social stigma that is attached to women who have been sexually abused. Many women choose not to report the abuse for fear of being ostracized and consequently forgo any medical treatment and/or emotional support. The few women who do report being raped are often shunned by their friends and family because of it.

"Another common problem for Sudanese women occurs because many women lose their husbands to the ongoing violence in Darfur. As a result, they are left with no means to support themselves and their children because they never received proper education or job training.

"Our goal is to help any woman or girl in Sudan who faces poverty and distress as a result of the ongoing conflicts happening there by providing them with the means to empower themselves and become self-sufficient। We plan to accomplish this through our programs that foster women's education, support orphanages around the country, promote self-sufficiency through micro-economic projects and business opportunities for women, and we offer small grants to Sudanese women.

"We hope that by providing these women with the means to heal themselves and their communities through education and self-sufficiency that we can slowly change the social structure in Sudan to be more accepting of women's education and empowerment."

John: “It sounds like Sudan-Reach is impacting the lives of so many Sudanese women from across the Atlantic. What are you expecting to see, learn and/or experience when you visit Sudan during your volunteer trip in May?”

Laura: "Although our Director, Loloa Ibrahim, who is from Khartoum, has described to me many times what I can expect to see there in terms of the harsh divide between rich and poor as well as the abysmal conditions in the refugee camps, I know that these images will still come as a shock to me when I see them up close and in person for the first time. I hope to learn as much as I can about the conditions that women in Sudan are facing because the more we know about them the more we can do to help.

"After the trip, I plan on using my experience in Sudan not only as a reference point for my work with Sudan-Reach, but also as a way to let as many people as I can know what the situation for women is like there from my own point of view. Lots of people have read about or heard on TV something about the condition of women in Sudan, but when you can actually hear someone you know recount their personal experience there, the situation becomes that much more real to the listener. The more real the situation becomes to a person, the harder it is for them to ignore it."

John: “I think you should be applauded for this effort and for your desire to take action to cause positive and lasting change in the lives of Sudanese women. Do you have any stories of how you’ve seen Sudan-Research cause positive change in the lives of the women you serve?”

Laura: "I think the most heartening thing I've seen while working for Sudan-Reach is the overwhelmingly positive response from women and girls all over the US to the plight of women in Sudan. We've had girls in high school from places like rural Tennessee who could easily feel disconnected from the suffering of women in Sudan, yet they choose to be proactive and contact us asking what they can do to help, instead of just feeling powerless over the situation.

"I believe women everywhere, regardless of country or background, can feel this connection to one another if they are made aware of it and open themselves up to it. I've found that women's empowerment can by cyclical; not only are we helping women in Sudan empower themselves by giving them access to education, we are also in turn empowering women in the US by showing them that regardless of where they live or how old they are, it is still possible for them to make a difference in the lives of Sudanese women."

John: “Thank you Laura. We’ve learned a lot about Sudan-Reach and how important a role that it plays in bettering the lives of women in the Sudan.”

Every day the
Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation continues to advance its mission of creating positive change in women's lives and enhancing the communities in which they live. Through their many programs they have seen many lives changed for the better. With the help of donations from supporters such as you and from the efforts of volunteers such as Laura, I truly hope they continue to see improvements in the care they provide.

If you would like to support Laura in her effort to visit the Sudan, please visit
her fundraising page. If you would like to learn more about the Sudan-Reach Women's Foundation please visit their website.

"There is still work to be done"

On Thursday evening I attended the Ford Hall Forum's presentation of the 2008 Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award to Anita Hill, lawyer, civil rights activist, professor at Brandeis, and a living historical figure.

Prof. Hill's testimony against the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court opened the national dialog on sexual harassment law and civil rights in the workplace. This happened not too long ago; 1991 was within my own lifetime but I still learned about it in 8th grad civics. It is so easy to distance yourself from history. In my cushy white-collar workplace, most of my peers and I take for granted the ideas of equal pay and PC office decorum.

She was without question an inspiring speaker who shared her motivation and reflections in a frank and open manner, although she did demur from answering which Democratic presidential candidate she supported when prompted by the discussion moderator.

In her parting words to the audience, Prof. Hill said that she continues to be a public speaker because there is still work to be done, noting incidents such as the recent Ledbetter v. Goodyear case. It was an important reminder least we forget that the rights we enjoy today were won by those who fought before us, and that others can only share in those rights if we continue the fight.

If you'd like to listen to the presentation and discussion, you can find it at WGBH Free Online Lectures.

Photo courtesy of

Talking about race in BostonNOW

A snippet from Krystle's post "Let the dialogue begin" was included in today's issue of BostonNOW.

Race is often one of those things not discussed, for fear of violating the PC code of conduct. Barack Obama's speech is just the first step in starting the dialogue. . . and BostonNOW is helping us start that conversation, as is blogger CJ32inBOS with his/her interesting post on Obama's speech.

What do you think about race in America today?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Do you have an interesting volunteer story?

We're interested in hearing about it! OYFP's mission is to promote volunteerism, and if you have a good (or bad) volunteer story, we're like to hear it. Chances are we'll even put it up on this blog, which means it might be featured in BostonNOW. You could be famous, just like Fred!

Email us at boston at oyfp dot org with your story and a few photos. We can also provide a list of questions to guide your story if that makes it easier.

Don't worry, you don't have to get dressed up for this interview

Photo courtesy of abchick.

Dialogue Anyone?

On Tuesday of this past week, Barack Obama gave a powerful speech on racism. It got a lot of people talking about a subject that is too often swept under the rug. People talking about these issues can hopefully lead to a greater understanding of the community around us. If you are as passionate about this subject matter as I am and no one in your office cares to listen to you, then you need an outlet to speak about these issues. Boston Dialogues may be the venue for you

A couple of years ago I was referred to the Boston Dialogues. This was an organization that was started by one man who wanted to get people from all different age, ethnic, and religious backgrounds in Boston to start talking about some of these tough issues. There was a small group of 10-15 of us who met at a school in our neighborhood, one night per week, for four weeks. Everyone was really honest and open, which really helped the process and almost everyone had something they wanted to get off his/her chest.

It was a great learning experience for me and I met many people in my neighborhood, some with which I am still in contact with and consider my friends. What I took away from it is how lasting the effects of any sort of discrimination are, and that there is a lot we can learn from each other.

A new dialogue session begins Wednesday, March 26 and will meet for four consecutive Wednesdays, until April 16. All dialogue sessions will meet from 6:30-8:30pm. Register online or call 617-318-1257.

Come on Boston - let's start talking!

Photo courtesy of

BostonNOW: Helping quench the thirst

Krystle's article on the TapProject is on page 10 of today's BostonNOW.

Thanks, BostonNOW for helping us help the TapProject to help people get clean drinking water.

Wow. That's convoluted. But good. Helping people help other people to help people is still helping. :-)

At left, a screenshot of Krystle's article in BostonNOW. It's in looonnnngggg format... which makes this blog entry long even though there's not much to say.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's still the economy, stupid.

James Carville, former political strategist for Bill Clinton during his presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush, originally coined the term “The economy, stupid”.

At that time, George H.W. was the strong favorite in the race for the White House until the (Bill) Clinton campaign adopted messaging that echoed the public’s fears of the economic slowdown caused by the stock market collapse on Black Monday in October 1987, and proven in the actual recessions in 1990 and 1991. Why was George H.W. Bush way ahead early in the polls? Because he was seen as having more experience with national security.

It's still the economy, stupid. "From concerns about the economy and the war in Iraq to the perennial topics of Social Security and the health care system, a range of issues are guiding this year's presidential race," goes on to list the issues and show the poll results. Many of the polls suggest that the most important, if not the main, issue Americans care about is the economy.

So, we know the economy is a concern and we know the credit crisis is almost certainly the biggest concern lately. But, what exactly is the problem? The problem is that we don’t know where the problems are.

As the Economist put it: “There is still vast uncertainty about how much toxic debt remains, and who owns it. This has led banks to hoard money and call in loans.” Until the bad investments are uncovered we don’t know of their existence and banks will remain very conservative. This unknown has created a panic on Wall Street and caused severe cutbacks, speculation and major stock fluctuations over the past few months.

One thing is certain, confidence is key and the current uncertainty will certainly lead to further bumps in the road. Hold on and strap in because its still the economy, stupid.

Water, Water Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Drink

There is nothing like a good glass of water. Water helps you replinish liquids you sweat off during exercise, it rehydrates you from St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and clean the clothes you wear. Water is in everything, from the coffee you are sipping right now, to the food you may also be eating right now. It is such an intricate part of your life and you can’t survive without clean and accessible water. That’s why I think The Tap Project cause is so important.

So what is Boston doing about it? This week, beginning on Sunday, March 16, 2008 through Saturday, March 22, 2008 select restaurants are asking that you donate at least $1.00 for the tap water that is typically free. This will hopefully raise some much need money and awareness for those who don’t have access to clean tap water.

Take it from Fatima, who is from Mabuia, Angola where there used to be no clean water. “A mother must take care of her children,” echoed Fatima, as she emptied her load of clean water into a bucket at her grass hut. “But we cannot do that when we have only dirty water. This project has changed the fortunes of this village,” she said.

Photo Courtesy of

YouthBuild, OYFP, and BostonNOW

Look! We're there again! Check out page 10 of today's edition of BostonNOW.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Clean Out Your Closet For A Good Cause

Thursday marks the first day of spring and it's time to gear up for the traditional ritual of spring cleaning. While it isn’t time to break out the shorts and flip flops just yet in Boston, it’s a good time to clean out your closet and put the clothes you have outgrown to good use.

While there are a variety of organizations that are in need of charitable clothing donations, the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation makes it easy for me to donate. I don’t have a car and I really appreciate that they come and pick up the items from my apartment so I don’t need to carry garbage bags of clothing across town on the T.

Your unwanted clothing and household items can help
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay serve more kids. How? The Big Brother Big Sister Foundation will pick up these items from your home. And you benefit by receiving a tax deduction for the fair market value of the donated items. The proceeds from the sales of these items at consignment shops are used to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay and other Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in the region.

To arrange a pick up, visit the Schedule a Pick-Up Web page.
You can also call 800-483-5503 or send an e-mail with your name, address, phone number and best time to pick up these items to

Just make sure anything you donate is clean and in good condition. It’s a great feeling to donate old clothes and items that you don’t want or need knowing that you’ve cleaned out your space and helped others in the process.

Related Posts: Don't throw out your old TV; Spring Cleaning, part deux, How you doin?; Clean out your closet for a good cause; Turn Off Your TV Week

Does your non-profit office need a facelift?

I'm lucky. My day job is at a cool internet marketing company in a renovated old factory-type building. Our office has neon green walls and exposed ceilings, free sodas, a Segway, ping pong table, Golden Tee, pool, and a large TV with cable. Sweet, right? (Well, except the neon green. Sometimes it hurts my eyes.)

If you work for a non-profit whose digs aren't quite as swank, don't despair. YouthBuild Boston is accepting proposals from community organizations in the Boston area for construction, design, and landscaping services. They have over 750 volunteers who help their trainees to help you! Projects range from increasing usable space, to "greening" offices or improving handicap accessibility.

If you're interested in volunteering with YouthBuild, talk to your HR department. It looks like they have corporate sponsors for each project that provide both funding and volunteers. It could be a great PR opportunity for your company.. and something really popular with employees. Who doesn't like building stuff?

YouthBuild Boston is a nonprofit organization in Roxbury that empowers young people. Their academic and vocational training programs reopen closed doors to opportunity and extend the scope of possibilities. They serve young people, ages 14-24, addressing the various barriers they face.

For more information about this opportunity for your non-profit, visit their website at or contact Loreen Zwible at 617.445.8887 x19 or email her at lzwible at ybboston dot org.

Putting together cabinets for Boston Rescue Mission with Boston Private Bank volunteers.
I sure could have used experts like these guys when trying to assemble my furniture from IKEA!

Monday, March 17, 2008

BostonNOW and OYFP: Volunteering gets its day in the papers

2, 4, 6, 8
Who do we appreciate?
BostonNOW! BostonNOW! BostonNOW!

BostonNOW featured our interview of Fred C.'s volunteering experience in their paper today, Monday, March 17.

And we think BostonNOW is doing the same cheer about us. After all, they're getting quality text (if we do say so ourselves) from us, for free. We certainly don't mind. :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Doubts about Volunteering? Read about Fred.

A lot of us are hesitant to volunteer - I think in large part due to doubts about the amount of time we think it will take, and the length of the commitment.

"But what if I want to go on a snowboarding trip to Austria?"
"What if I have to work late?"
"What if I want to move to another city?"

Well, Fred C. does all of that and more - read below about his experience volunteering in Boston.

Where do you volunteer?
Big Brother Big Sister in Boston. My little brother lives in Roxbury.

Why did you start volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters, and where did you hear about the opportunity?
I started volunteering because I was involved in coaching in Little League and youth soccer teams. I enjoy these very much, but I felt I was missing out on making that more personal one on one connection with the kids. This way I can become more involved in making an impact on a less-fortunate child’s life. I actually heard about this at an OYFP event (whiskey tasting) and signed up on the spot.

Nice! So OYFP is making a difference. Anyway. How many hours a week do you work there? Did you have to give up anything in order to have the time to volunteer?
My little brother and I usually get together every two weeks; the weekends work best for both of us. We’ll usually spend between 5-7 hours together when we hang out. I don’t really feel like I’m giving up anything when we get together. It’s nice because it gets both of us outside, and since we’re both active (and competitive) we can have a really good time.

What do you do with your little brother? Do you ever have a hard time coming up with activities?
We have gone rock climbing a few times, played some baseball, and basketball. When it’s cold or rainy out, we’ve played Nintendo Wii for awhile. Again, as it’s a fairly active game, and we’re both competitive, it’s lead to some intense (but very fun) tennis and boxing matches. There is always something to do - and the activities make it easy for us to get to know one another.

Oooo a Nintendo Wii. I just got one. There's nothing like a little sweating and yelling at your TV. I hope you two haven't "accidentally" thrown the Wii-motes at each other...
Not yet, no.

What is your favorite thing about mentoring, besides playing competitive Wii?

My favorite thing about mentoring is having that one on one relationship with someone and knowing you’re making an impact on that person. It’s also nice to see the progression of friendship starting with the first time I met Terrell, my little brother, up to this point. At first he was a bit shy and didn’t talk that much. Now, he’s very talkative, and we give each other a hard time when we play sports or other activities, like friends would normally do.

How does it compare to your other volunteer experiences?
This is definitely different, in a good way. It’s nice to be someone that can be depended on for someone who hasn’t had luck with dependable people in the past.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to jump on the mentoring bandwagon?
I’ve spoken with a few people who may have heard horror stories of hyperactive kids who don’t listen, or whose parents basically use it as a babysitting program. I haven't had that experience at all. People are also hesitant to commit - but meeting twice a month really isn't a big deal.

What have you personally (or professionally) gotten out of the experience?
I feel like I’m actually making a significant impact in someone else’s life, but not only that, I’ve had a lot of exposure to his community, and it’s given me the opportunity to reach out to others as well.

When you move to Chicago this fall, will you find a new little brother?
It will be hard to say good bye to Terrell, but I hope I can continue to make a difference, even if it's not in Boston.

Fred (on the far right) tells the whippersnappers how to play ball.
(We didn't have any photos of Fred and Terrell, but you can see Fred's clearly a good guy, involved in his community.)

This story is part of Casey's series of interviews with people who volunteer. Past interviews can be found on the OYFP Boston Blog.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Getting away from it all

I don't know many people who don't like vacation. There are always a few workaholics who claim to hate time away, but I think they have bigger issues.

Vacation is a chance for us to get away, escape the mundane, leave behind our responsibilities and just concentrate on the here and now. You can go everywhere from the exotic to the green to a dude ranch (ride 'em, cowboy!).

More and more, people are choosing to go on humanitarian / volunteer vacations. Not only do you get to escape your own worries and cares, you can take on someone else's!! Cynical, perhaps, but all things considered, taking on someone else's worries and cares can be refreshing. You learn about someone else, and then act to help make a difference (if only a small one). For an opportunity of your own, visit

This past week, I traveled to exotic New Hampshire. No computer, no email, no snail mail.. no cares, right? Sadly, real life follows you everywhere. My dad called about his website. My mom called about Easter brunch. I thought about one of my client's problems. My best friend texted me about restaurant week. My boyfriend's sister called to let us know his uncle died suddenly. Now there's some real life for you.

The lesson learned? No matter how far you travel or how hard you try, "real life" is right there, staring you in the face, whether it be through your cell phone or via your brain. The only way to truly escape is to learn how to relax, set aside your worries and cares, and just "be." And you don't have to travel far to do that.

What do you do to relax? Where do you want to go on your next vacation?

Chihuahuas like vacations too.

Record Day for OYFP and BostonNOW

Well, well, well. I should go on vacation more often!

This past Friday, March 12, two of our blog entries were featured in BostonNOW. Congrats go out to Krystle and Hannah for their first publication in BostonNOW.... and here's to many more.

Krystle's post on a proposed law in Boston to tax each plastic bag.
I get my fabric bags online at No, they didn't pay for this link. I just love their products that much!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

St. Patrick’s Day 2008

St. Patrick's Day is almost upon us. In the United States we officially celebrate St. Patrick's Day on March 17. In Boston, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day for about three weeks in March.

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, would be proud. This year, South Boston’s Saint Patrick's Day Parade will be held on Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 1:00 p.m. The parade begins at the Broadway 'T' Station, it proceeds down West Broadway to East Broadway, to East 4th, to 5th Street and around Thomas Park. Marchers continue to Telegraph Street, to Dorchester Street, ending at Andrew Square.

In addition to marching, dancing the jig, gathering to sing songs, wearing green garb, and of course drinking Guinness and Jameson's Irish Whisky there are many other things to do around town. Here are a few:

- Laser U2. (March 14-15) U2 laser-light show at The Museum of Science. 8:30 p.m. $6.50 for adults.

- Celtic Invasion. (March 15) The Orpheum will showcase Ireland's top young boxing prospects as they face up-and-coming American fighters. 7-11 p.m. 21+, ID required. Tickets range from $40-$125

- Eastern Standard (March 15) is offering a prix-fixe Irish breakfast from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 15. Your choices will include white liver pudding, sunny-side up eggs, soda bread with Irish jams, boxty (traditional Irish potato pancake), Guinness braised beef, and poached egg. Cost is $14, which does not include beverages and gratuity.

- Ned Devine's Irish Pub. (March 15-16) Irish breakfast will be served this weekend beginning at 10 a.m. The pub's traditional Irish lunch and dinner menu, including corned beef and cabbage, beef stew, and fish and chips, will be served until 11 p.m.

- The Black Rose (March 17) will host WFNX as they broadcast live beginning at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day. The first 100 people to arrive will get a free Irish breakfast. Live performance by Saint Poitin and an acoustic performance by Louis XIV. Visit and you may just win a trip for two to Ireland.

- Blarney Stone Bar (March 16-17) will have traditional boiled dinner and shepherd’s pie on the menu Sunday and Monday.

- Doyle's Cafe is great on St. Patrick's Day. There's live Irish music and The Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums often stop here to entertain the crowd.

- The Burren in Davis Square will be serving a full Irish breakfast, and doors open at 8 a.m. At noon, Irish music will play in the front bar while McGowan's Rovers play back followed by Johnny Come Lately's and Spike Island. WAAF will broadcast from The Burren at 8 a.m.

- Dropkick Murphys (March 16-17) Boston's favorite Irish punk band will being playing the Paradise Rock Club for two nights. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8.

- 'Bee Irish!' (March 17) The Bee Hive is celebrating in Irish Style. 5 p.m.-2 a.m. No cover charge. (617) 423.0069.

- Boston's Irish Heritage Trail: “The Irish Heritage Trail is a self-guided, three mile walking tour
(click for map) that takes you through Boston's downtown, North End, Beacon Hill and Back Bay. You'll learn about famous politicians, artists, matriarchs and war heroes, part of a rich tradition of rebellion, leadership and triumph that personifies the Boston Irish. Tour starts at the Rose Kennedy Garden along the waterfront and proceeds throughout downtown Boston and into the Back Bay, ending up at the John Boyle O’Reilly Memorial in the Fens, not far from Fenway Park.”

No matter what you do this St. Patrick’s Day, “May luck be your companion. May friends stand by your side. May history remind us all, of Ireland's faith and pride. May God bless us with happiness and may love and faith abide.”

Smoking kills.... Your Wii

This is just too ironic to pass up. According to this story the bad habit of smoking can kill your Wii! So not only is smoking bad for your health but for your machines as well.

Apparently to operate the new game Super Smash Bros. Brawl your Wii has to have a large capacity for memory. Any dirt or smoke film left within the system leaves the system too dirty to operate. Nintendo is offering to clean it for free, if you have suffered a malfunctioning Super Smash Bros. Brawl game.

Hopefully, smokers will take note and take gaming serious and quit smoking or smoke outside for the health of your Wii! If you have a Wii you may want to post this picture on it, to let people know there is no smoking around your precious gaming system.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

To Have or Not to Have Plastic Bags

That is the question. In the news today, the Boston City Council is considering a two cent fee for every shopping plastic bag that people use. This amount could increase to 15 cents by 2015.

According to Councilor Robert Consalvo, who sponsored this bill, wants this bill to also institute a recycling program for the current amount of plastic bags and introduce bio-degradable bags into these stores.

In this article it goes on and talks about the concern for the elderly folks who ride the T. The claim is that it is easier to for these folks to carry plastic bags. I have switched over to reusable bags for probably close to a year now and I find they are WAY easier to carry then the plastic bags that leave my fingers numb from all the weight of my food. I love food too, so I have a huge grocery list and these reusable bags make the climb to my third floor apartment much easier.

Additionally, reusable bags don't break as easily. I often see grocers double bag items because of the weight of the food could easily make one plastic bag break. I used to get so annoyed with grocers when they would put one item in one plastic bag because of the weight of it.

It also cuts down on the amount of plastic bags around your place. I used to have a big pile in the corner that would keep piling up until I remembered to bring it to the store and by that time I was overrun with plastic bags.

When the weather gets warmer you can find reusable bags that keep your food cool while you shop. Jamie and I use a bag that is originally designed to keep your food and drinks cool while at the beach. It keeps the food fresher from the grocer's freezer to my freezer. I have even seen backpacks used, which are even easier to carry compared with traditional reusable shopping bags.

What are your thoughts of this proposed bill?

What a mess!

Photo courstesy of

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Well I would walk 500 miles...

Well would you? Sounds like a copious amount of walking not to mention a great song by the Proclaimers.

What if I told you only had to walk 3 miles and raise a few pledges, and it would be supporting one of the poorest nations (arguably the poorest) in the Western hemisphere? Now that is something you can do.

On April 5, 2008 come out and support Parters in Health in trying to raise money for the nation of Haiti . Starting location is at 29 Auburn Street, Harvard Square, and registration begins at 12:30pm.

This is the 4th annual walk which has helped raise much needed money for providing basic health care to a population which has a high percentage of malnutrition. The fact is the life expectancy in Haiti is 47 years for men and 51 years for women. Compare that to the life expectancy in US is 74.4 for men and 79.8 years for women. Can you believe it?

So come walk for your health and for the health of others.

"champions" of a cause

i stand corrected... sort of.

professional athletes have been the source of many a (heated) discussion for me. i just can't accept the fact that these sports "stars" make such exorbitant amounts of money but don't give back to their communities to the extent that they are able.

for example, i have always thought, "how cool would it be if the superbowl champions chose *not* to get superbowl rings and *instead* donated that money to charity? how big of an impact would that make?"

then, i find out that the colts did something with a few of their rings - they held a raffle for five superbowl rings in hopes of raising $1 million. not nearly the impact they could have made if they donated *all* their rings (apparently, the nfl fronts $5000 per ring for up to 150 rings, and the teams make up the rest. recent superbowl rings have been appraised for about $20,000, which means 150 of them amount to $3 million.) but it was something nonetheless.

furthermore, the red sox and patriots aim to do quite a bit in the boston area (in fact, we're raffling off a baseball signed by youkilis at our next concert event on april 10th), and i read that the celtics and bruins are looking to increase their giving as well. but when i think about what these individual players could be doing, especially when they get signed to multi-million dollar contracts, i feel the heat rise up within me.

according to fox sports, the patriots make $122,890,313 as a team. if they gave just 10% of that (i mean, i can't ask for more than god himself asks for, right?), imagine how many families impacted by AIDS might find hope or how many families would have clean water or how many cancer patients could find a cure... i imagine it sometimes and then force myself think about all the good (no matter how disproportionate) the players and teams do in order to remain positive.

but here we are, all these non-profits, thinking about and searching for ways to get people involved and committed to a cause. we strategize to get joe-schmoes to volunteer, donate, and remain connected to their communities. and while these "average" members of society try to better the world in which we all live, these so-called superstars dump a few pennies into the proverbial bucket without a second thought and call it an act of charity.

now i don't mean to forget or ignore the individuals and teams who might be doing more (and if you know of any, please comment because i certainly would be encouraged by any and all such stories), but how often have you heard of a player say, "i only need $50,000 to live comfortably. i'll give the rest of my salary for this one year to autism research."?

random post, i guess. but something i've been chewing on for quite some time, especially in this time of recession fears and so many families becoming homeless. and although i will admit that professional athletes and teams are doing *something,* i won't concede that it's enough. and please, don't even get me started on hollywood...

Monday, March 10, 2008

What is This Credit Crisis You Speak Of? And Why Do I Care?

I thought it might be useful to follow up on Casey's post regarding the credit crisis and its recent impact on the student loan market. The events of the past nine months have been a sobering statement about what it means to be able to borrow money. From the most complex transactions at the largest banks in the world to your grad school loan or home mortgage, all the way down to the woman in rural Vietnam taking out $35 for a six month loan so that she can buy a pig, the wheels of economic mobility are greased by - better yet, completely stuck without - someone being there to lend you the money.

We borrow money every day: from the credit card company when we go to the grocery store or the mall, from Dell when we buy a computer, from the dealership when we buy a car... the list goes on. We also lend money every day.... to the banks where we keep our savings. They pay us a little interest on that money so that they can lend it out to other people for their home mortgages, cars, etc. Importantly, banks also raise money by selling off their loans to investors in packages (think of it as putting 1,000 loans in one box and shipping it to someone else), so that they can use that money make more loans.

What happened that messed everything up? Well, at its core, borrowing and lending money is not just a legal contract, it's a social contract, a chain where all the links in the chain must be solid in order for the system to work. If someone takes out a loan they can't afford; when lenders push inappropriate loans on borrowers in order to generate origination fees; when banks don't explain to borrowers that in two years their interest rates will increase and their mortgage payments could double, then the links in the chain start getting pulled pretty tight.

When you can't afford your mortgage, you can try to sell your house and bail yourself out, but what if it isn't enough to pay back the mortgage? What if this started happening to thousands of people? Well it did. And when enough people can't pay back their loans, then a link in the chain breaks. Housing prices start decreasing, the packages of loans the investors bought from the banks is worth much less, and somewhere, whoever the investors borrowed money from to buy that package of loans wants their money back yesterday. That's when things get really dicey.

[As a detour, I would like to point out one market that has not failed: The microfinance market. In developing countries around the world, women (and a few men) are borrowing small amounts of money in numbers unimagined even a decade ago...and paying it back! When five women get together and say to each other, "if one of us fails, we're all responsible," that means something. There are many microfinance organizations to which you can donate, or even lend, money, but I will save that for another time.]

The social contract of borrower and lender in the U.S. has faltered, and as a result the trust we depend on that makes lending money possible has been severely impaired. And that is where we are today, an accelerating lack of trust: no trust for home mortgages, no trust for student borrowers, for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or the U.S. dollar. What is the U.S. dollar backed by? Not gold. Not diamonds. Not Warren Buffet. Our currency is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.

Take note, because those words, "faith and credit," they go hand in hand. In order to believe in our economy, we must believe in our government. So, Government, pretty please, give us something to believe in.

Will the credit crisis reduce people to laundering money?

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