Friday, May 30, 2008

Pick Our New Partner

It is coming time for On Your Feet Project to select another partner and we want YOUR help! We partner up with other non-profits in the Boston area to help them get on their feet.... get it?

Our current partners are Christopher's Haven & the Italian Home for Children, which are both spectacular causes that help children, and that we are proud to support.

For our next partner, we are looking to broaden our focus because there are so many other great causes that we would like to be a part of. So which one do we focus on, which one do we put our energies into?

Perhaps you care about Mother earth and think we should focus on getting Boston to be more green? Maybe we should help those in underdeveloped nations with the basic necessities? Maybe you are an animal lover and would like us support animal related causes? You can help us choose which great cause we will focus our energy into by voting in our pole to the right.

You can also help us if you are a part of/or know of a non-profit in the area who could use our help in creating awareness to their cause. The guidelines for OYFP partners:
  • MUST be 501(c)(3) certified.
  • Have a volunteer component that is not stuffing envelopes, or cold calling.
  • Preferably have a Boston chapter or be located in the metro Boston area.
So take a minute, place your vote. I promise you will be done by the time you finish your coffee. Also while you are in the voting mood, don't forget to vote for this blog as the Best Hobby Blog for 2007!

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Earthier than Earthfest?

Hats off to John R, whose post about the not-so-green EarthFest was mentioned in a Bostonist round-up of links today: Series of Tubes. We're fans of Bostonist - glad to see they may feel the same way. :-)

Apparently John has also received some correspondence from select environmentalists in the Boston area. And who said the voice of the people was dead? Well, no one, I suppose. But know this - if you have a reaction to one of our posts, don't be shy. We respond to all comments and emails.

Green Line Crash - Statistics

The recent accident on the D line of the Green Line of Boston's T was unfortunate and sad. There was one fatality and approximately 12 people went to the hospital - but the networks covered the event as though hundreds had been injured or killed. Indeed, we were lucky that only a few people suffered.

In case you're having second thoughts about riding the T due to the recent spate of rail accidents, keep this in mind:
  • According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there are just 3.3 accidents per million train miles. That's miniscule compared to the number of car crashes.
  • Since 2004, the FRA reports that the number of train accidents has decreased by 23.3 percent due to improvements made across the rail system.
  • In 2007, there were 14.24 fatalities in car crashes per 100,000 people, and we traveled over 3,014 billion miles in cars. Our chances of being hurt or killed is much higher in a car than on the rail. (Source: FARS Encylopedia) Some sources report over 6 million car accidents per year.
All in all, despite recent events it is important to remember we are far safer in the hands of the MBTA than behind the wheel.

Our thoughts are with the family of the conductor who was killed.

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "Best Hobby Blog"!

Related Posts: Biking to work in Boston; Springtime, Gasoline, and a Solution

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Was It Green? EarthFest 2008

On Saturday, May 24 2008 I attended Boston’s 15th annual EarthFest at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade along with 50,000 to 100,000 other Bostonians.

This annual event was presented by Whole Foods Market and Radio 92.9 and it was, as always, free to the public. The main artists: Cake, Cracker, The English Beat, and BoDeans all preformed on a solar-powered stage this year. And Cake, a band from Sacramento, California, pledged to record its next album entirely with solar power. Cake also gave away a tree to a volunteer and as a contingent asked her to take a photo with the tree every few years and send it to their website – “no matter how old she got.”

In addition to the music there were many vendors giving out freebees like organic energy drinks, granola, coffee drinks, yogurt, reusable bags, energy bars, raffle stubs for LCD televisions - and even hugs were free.

Local companies and non-profits staffed booths showcasing their ideas for a more sustainable community and environment. I took a picture with the IzzItGreen mascot, picture to right.
IzzItGreen is a ratings and review site that asks, "Is it good?" and "IzzItGreen?" about a businesses products and actions. IzzItGreen believes “the answers aren't always in a book, or on the internet, or buried under a pile of dirty laundry (although sometimes they are). Answers often sprout from curious folks and their communities, connections, and conversations.”

I wonder if IzzItGreen reviewed EarthFest how would it score. Speaking anonymously a local government official said: “There was rampant consumption taking place [at EarthFest] without really any thought to it. The recycling containers were poorly marked and poorly distributed. There should have been separate containers for all sorts of recycling not just plastics and paper, but also food waste and packaging - if you took a look at the lawn after the last show [Cake] it was littered with crap - how easily people forget they were actually at EarthFest.”

You’re not green just by attending EarthFest, you’re not green if you just blog about it. Being green means seriously taking a look at what you do and how your actions will have an effect on the environment.

EarthFest 2008 was an opportunity for individuals to enjoy the great weather, listen to live music, get a few freebees, but it also served as a reminder that environmentalism, conservation and “going green” are significant issues that affect all of us.

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "
Best Hobby Blog"!

Related Posts: The Greenest Generation, Biking to Work in Boston, Get Green by Knowing Your Green, Invite Plant Grow Enjoy

We are the best - if you say so

As you may have heard, the Volunteer Boston blog is up for the "Best of Hobby Blogs" award on the website. I may be biased, but I truly believe we're the best blog nominated this year.. not to mention the only altruistic, non-profit, save the children, earth, and people and help cure cancer blog.

We're closing in on the win. There's just one blog that has more votes than we do, but we're slowly chipping away at their lead. Help us by voting daily. This is your chance to show the world that volunteering is important, and the humanitarian and community issues we discuss here are not only informative, but interesting. And funny. And serious.

We need your help to win. It just takes one click, you don't even have to register.

Thanks in advance!

One day I hope to win a trophy with a goat on top.

Related Posts: Non-Profit: We join the 21st century

Photo courtesy of Arlette.

One Little Drip of Water

As Krystle has written about before, clean, drinkable water is a major issue across the world. According to, water problems affect half of humanity, and some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.

Here in the good ole US of A, we use a lot of water. I'm guilty of it. In fact, according to the same source, the average person in the US uses 600 liters of water a day. To put that in perspective, the 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometer, but not in their house or yard, consume around 20 liters per day. 20 liters compared to 600 liters. Wow.

So. How can I reduce the amount of water I waste? The obvious answer is to eliminate the drip drip drip in my shower that I can hear from my bedroom, no matter how hard I try to turn off the water. Just how much water could come out of the slow drip? Well... I was surprised after the 24 hour test I performed:

That's a lot of water, every day, all the time, coming out of my tap. I can fix it, probably by just replacing a washer or two.. at least according to this water information website (scroll down to the section on dripping). Hopefully by making small changes, we can avoid having to resort to recycling sewage into clean water like some California cities...

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "Best Hobby Blog"!

Related posts: Water, Water Everywhere

Monday, May 26, 2008

Help the Burmese by Eating

"Hmm..." you're thinking. "How can I help people who are starving and in need of disaster relief by eating? Seems contradictory."

Well, lucky for us Bostonians, it's not. If you're one of the thousands who receive the email newsletter Daily Candy, you no doubt noted the mention of the relatively new restaurant BanQ's fundraiser for the Burmese disaster. However, true to Daily Candy fashion, the listing was a bit scant on details, so I took it upon myself to contact the restaurant to find out a little more.

And what I found out is pretty cool.

BanQ serves French-Asian fusion cuisine (oo-la-la!). The owners of BanQ, Hemant Chowdhry and Mark Raab, and the chef, Ranveer Brar, were anxious to help Burmese cyclone victims because of the affinity they feel with Burma as the link between the Indian subcontintent (Chowdhry and Brar are Indian) and Southeast Asia. So, they came up with a special dish - spicy halibut wrapped in a banana leaf for which Chef Brar used the Burmese guiding principles of simple food with tropical influences. Proceeds from the dish, which will be on the menu at $26, will go to CARE International.

Why CARE? According to the BanQ newsletter, "Because CARE International has been working for 14 years in Burma (renamed Myanmar by the ruling junta), it has been successful in bypassing the aid backlog and getting immediate help to those affected."

CARE officials report that its 500 workers in the country are focusing on providing clean water and sanitation, distributing rice and high-energy biscuits, and assembling family kits containing blankets, plastic sheeting, clothes and kitchen and hygiene items. CARE will work in coming months to help the Burmese re-establish farming and small businesses."

Sounds like a win-win situation - you can kill two birds with one stone. You order the spicy halibut to satiate your hunger, and the profits are sent to CARE, fulfilling your desire to help but perhaps your lack of an appropriate outlet. There is no reported upper limit to the amount BanQ will donate or how long this dish will be offered - so go often, and enjoy.

For more information about BanQ, read the glowing reviews on Yelp or visit the South End restaurant's website.

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "Best Hobby Blog"!

Related Posts:
Tornadoes, Cyclones, and Disaster Relief - Oh My!; Myanmar cyclones and what you can do to help; Champions of a Cause

Photos courtesy of BanQ.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Street Performers Festival

We have been talking about some pretty serious global issues lately and I thought that I would write about supporting the local community and the artists that entertain us. I sometimes wander to Faneuil Hall during my lunch break and happen to catch various acts of street performances. I am in awe of the talent and showmanship of these performers and find them highly entertaining for my lunch break. It has become quite the tourist attraction, as I always see huge crowds around these street performers.

My personal favorite is the guy who juggles all sorts of interesting objects, including sticks with flames on them. Sometimes these stunts can be dangerous for the performer, such as juggling with flames, but I am glad they take the risk because it makes it more entertaining for me and the other members of the stunned audience.

If you haven't seen a street performer in Fanueil Hall yet, this weekend is your perfect chance! From 11:30- 3:00 pm this Saturday and Sunday a wide variety of acts will be performing in front of the infamous shops around Faneuil Hall. It's free but I would suggest to give a donation to these performers, especially if they make you happy. I promise it will be a wicked good time.

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "Best Hobby Blog"!

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Myanmar, Burma, and Celebrities

There's a lot of controversy around celebrities and their pet causes. Some people think celebrities (and the media who covers them) should leave political and social commentary out of the spotlight. Others think celebrities should be doing more to promote their charities of choice.

I happen to be in that first camp - if celebrities are taking the time to think outside of themselves and their hairstyles and what kind of sunglasses they should be seen wearing, and they can get the gossip rags to cover more than their hairstyles, sunglasses, and rehab stints, more power to 'em.

The recent natural disasters have wrought havoc on the developing nations of China and Myanmar (also known as Burma). Hopefully the sun-kissed celebs will start rallying behind fundraising causes for both disasters. Even though Myanmar has been less "accepting" of donations (and press, whose coverage often inspires more donations), the situation there is quite grave on both the disaster front and the human rights front.

Luckily for us, though, prior to this disaster, our friends in tinsel town were already promoting awareness about Myanmar's human rights issues. Various celebrities have helped create videos as part of the Burma: It Can't Wait campaign, which is trying to raise 1 million voices in support of Burma in the month of May.

Some videos are funny (heyyyyy Sarah Silverman and Will Ferrell), others are more serious, like the one below by Ellen Page. Stars of all stripes and sorts from Sylvester Stallone to Jennifer Aniston are taking the time and using their stardom to raise awareness of important issues. And no matter your personal opinion on the matter of Burmese human rights, I think you should give the celebs kudos for standing up for something.

What do you stand for?

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "Best Hobby Blog"!

Related Posts:
Earthquake in China; Global Volunteering; How you can help with a mullet; Tornadoes, Cyclones, and Disaster Relief - Oh My!; Myanmar cyclones and what you can do to help; Champions of a Cause

Photo of the traveling chicken courtesy of Roger_Travels.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Unexpected Volunteering

It was a usual walk home from the T after work on Monday. My iPOD was on shuffle, it was a nice evening, and I was thinking about all the housework I was going to catch up on because I had to work this past weekend.

That's when three children caught my attention, they had a stray dog and were trying to corral it and keep it occupied so that it didn't get hit by any of the cars passing by on the busy road in front of us. I approached the dog, it didn't seem unfriendly, and promptly held on to its collar while petting it. I should mention there were no tags on the collar.

I look down the street and see a police cruiser coming down the street, I flagged him down thinking, "Hey, he can take this dog". So Mr. Police Officer came and looked at the dog and told me where I have to bring the dog (5min drive) . At this spot, someone else would meet me and they would put the dog up overnight in a kennel until the animal control officer will look at it in the morning.

I didn't think this was the best solution. If I lost my dog I would be frantic with worry and would have been thrilled if someone took a more active approach to watching over my dog. So I told the police my phone number and told them if anyone contacted them to have them contact me. Meanwhile I took him to the doggie play group I usually take my dog in hopes that someone would recognize this dog.

Unfortunately no one recognized this dog, so I was forced to bring him back home. I fed him and gave him some water. I corralled the dog in the kitchen because I was unsure if he was potty trained.

Meanwhile, my current dog, Chai, did not know what to do with him. She was not used to having other dogs in the house and she took to playing with this dog more aggressively then this dog likes. For a good hour I tried to keep them apart, but they were both so needy for attention it left me exhausted!

I made the decision then that despite my good intentions I could not watch over this dog until its owner was found. So I was forced to bring the other dog to Somerville Department of Public Works, and there it joined another dog who was currently held captive.

So, if you know of anyone who is missing a small black fur, Lhasa Apso mix of some sort, please contact the Somerville Animal Control at 617-666-3311 .

Needless to say I didn't get to accomplish what I wanted to that night (i.e. cleaning my house), but that's okay because I helped a stray dog - probably someone's dear pet.

You may think you are too busy to take time out of your busy life to help someone out, but then you realize how important it is. If I kept on walking like the other people I saw walk by me when I was holding on to the dog then, yes, I could have done many of errands I wanted to have completed, but then something awful could have happened to the dog and that wouldn't sit right with me. Get on your feet and help those around you - you'll feel better in the end.

Related Posts: The Recycling Dog, Spring Cleaning part deux, Who is Happier?, How to be Happier, and Cleaning out your closet for a good cause.

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "Best Hobby Blog"!

Photo courtesy of I didn't actually take a picture of the dog, but it did look similar to this dog with black fur instead of grey.

Boston’s Run to Remember 2008

On Saturday May 24th and Sunday May 25th The Boston Police Department and Boston Police Runner's Club will hold the fourth running of Boston's Run to Remember.

The “Run to Remember” is held in honor of Massachusetts law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. This event is a two day run (one 5 mile road race and one half marathon) in celebration of the fallen officer’s lives as well as a show of respect for their ultimate sacrifice.

The net proceeds benefit Kids At Risk Programs throughout the City of Boston. “Kids At Risk Programs provide safe and nurturing environments encouraging inner city youths to make healthy choices and an alternative to gangs and acts leading to incarceration.” Since 1994, over $500,000 has been raised funding two primary programs for youths:

-Boys and Girls Club Memberships, YMCAs and other after school programs.
-Summer programs and camps for over 600 youths annually.

Other organizations benefiting from the Kids At Risk Program include:

-BGCB Young Leaders Program
-The Boston Youth Fund
-Dorchester YMCA Summer Camp
-Ella J Baker House Science Camp
-Frank A. Day Summer Camp
-Franklin Field Boys and Girls Club
-Kevin Kennedy All Star Baseball Camp
-The Reggie Lewis Athletic Center
-Side Kick Karate Camp
-South Boston Boys and Girls Club
-Young Graffiti Masters”

Join thousands of runners for the fourth annual Run to Remember. This 5-mile road race and half marathon runs through historic downtown Boston will be held in honor of the men and women killed in the line of duty. The event will not only will celebrate their lives, all proceeds from the run will go to benefit Kids at Risk programs in the city. All inquiries into this event can be directed to

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Earthquake in China: Volunteer opportunities

Our posts about the earthquake in China have gotten a lot of traffic over the past week. It seems as though people are genuinely interested in helping the victims of the earthquake in the Sichuan province, whether it's sending money, hosting displaced persons, or going to China to help rebuild.

I have searched high and low, and have yet to find any specific volunteer trips to Chengdu or the surrounding areas, outside of trips undertaken by non-profits that do disaster relief. If you're a regular citizen who is not already a trained member of a group like Doctors without Borders, you may have to either wait for such trips to get organized, organize your own trip, or find other ways to help.

If you are bound and determined to travel to China to help with the rebuilding effort, I would suggest getting in touch with local organizations with ties to China. This includes various weekend Chinese schools, Chinese cultural associations, and Chinese media outlets. Some of the groups I found include:
If you're looking to donate funds, the Chinese language TV station KyLinTV is matching all donations made for earthquake relief (click on the English button on the upper right if you can't read Chinese). Cathay Bank in Boston is also collecting donations. Mercy Corps has partnered with the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation

Don't forget - there is always the option of doing it yourself. You can make a difference. Just start making the phone calls, doing the research, getting the answers. S/he who is determined will not fail.

The conditions in China are not getting better. Dozens of large dams are threatening to collapse, which would cause floods and even more damage. Please, do your part - help the survivors of this tragedy.

Related Posts: Earthquake in China; Global Volunteering; How you can help with a mullet; Tornadoes, Cyclones, and Disaster Relief - Oh My!; Myanmar cyclones and what you can do to help; Food Crisis - Get on the Seoul Train

Photos courtesy of this Chinese web forum.

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "Best Hobby Blog"!

Public libraries are your friend

Those who know me know that I'm an avid reader. Heck, I started Water for Elephants last night, slept 8 hours, and finished it this morning (it's great story about life with a circus). Because of my voracious appetite for books, I am a loyal patron of my local public library. Heck, I even reviewed the library on Yelp!

What I didn't really think about, though, is what the library offers beyond books.

For example, they have DVDs that you can take out, no charge. They also have books on CD - great for those of us with long commutes. They offer free internet access. Their research librarians have answers to all your questions (no really, they do).

Ok, maybe you knew all that. What I didn't know, however, was that my local library is really more of a community center. They have events of all kinds, from children's reading hours to talks by authors, storytellers, or film screenings. They host public forums about neighborhood happenings (like Harvard's expansion, new parks, or Mayor Menino's breakfast meetings).

My local library is really more than just a place from which to borrow materials. It's a community hub; an integral part to life in Allston-Brighton.

A few of the upcoming events that caught my eye:

Picnic in the Park -- Wednesday, May 28, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. Enjoy a picnic barbeque while you share your thoughts with the Harvard landscape architects designing the new Library Park behind the library. Alternatively, attend the Ice Cream Social on Saturday, May 31 from 1:00 to 3:00 PM.

Book Donations -- Donate your gently used books to the Honan-Allston library for their annual book sales. All proceeds will go to support the library's various programs. Make sure to drop off your books by June 1st.

Have You Screen It? The Future of Food -- Monday, June 2, at 5:30 p.m. A documentary film and discussion. This film offers an investigation into the truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled grocery store shelves for the past decade.

What are you waiting for? Scoot on over to your local library. There may be more there than you thought. In the meantime, make sure you vote for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the Best Hobby Blog. Thanks in advance!

Some of the decorations in the Children's section o f the Honan-Allston library.

Related Posts: Pangea Day; Food Crisis - Get on the Seoul Train; I am Legend, Today

First photo courtesy of Ansy.
Second photo courtesy of KHChao.

bringing sexy back~

i've never been one for "fashion." in fact, i'd probably be a prime candidate for "what not to wear" since stacy and clinton cringe anytime they hear someone say she dresses for comfort.

well, guess who's a (comfortable) fashionista now?!

apparently, social issues, volunteering, and blogging about social issues and volunteering is the hip new thing. kenneth cole has begun the AWEARNESS blog, which is a blog that "provides daily updates under four socially-aware pillars of discussion: Social Rights, Well-Being, Political Landscape and Hard Times [and] hopes to raise awareness around the issues that fall under these four areas in a dynamic and engaging format."

The blog also features "Q&As, original content from Kenneth Cole himself and contributions from staff members of Kenneth Cole Productions."

you can also contribute to the AWEARNESS fund, which is a not-for-profit established by Kenneth Cole, by purchasing an AWEARNESS t-shirt. the non-profit currently helps fund amfAR, the Foundation for AIDs research, and Help USA, which provides homes, jobs, and services for america's homeless.

so, who knew you could look so good just by bettering the world around you?! what are you waiting for? fashion doesn't get any easier or more comfortable than this!

(of course, if you've met the rest of the oyfp crew, you already knew that caring is sexy!) ;)

after you're done perusing the awearness blog, make sure you scoot on over to the Best of Blogs site and vote for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the Best Hobby Blog.

Images taken from the
Awearness blog and Awearness site.

Monday, May 19, 2008

BostonCares Corporate Volunteer Day on May 17

Swinging a sledgehammer felt good. Really good.

I wouldn't classify myself as a violent person - high spirited for sure, but far from violent. I didn't expect the sledgehammer to be quite so satisfying. When I woke up at 7:30 AM this past Saturday for BostonCares' Corporate Volunteer Day, I certainly didn't expect to be wielding such heavy hand machinery. Raking mulch, sure. Digging a hole, OK. But demolition? Now that I had no idea about.

Once a year, my employer sponsors a portion of Boston Cares' corporate volunteer day, and a group of dedicated employees shows up on a Saturday morning to complete their assigned project. This year, our project was the demolition of the rotten wooden bleachers at a playing field on the Stony Brook Reservation, hence the sledgehammers, pickaxes, and backhoes. We were part of the Park Serve Day going on across the Massachusetts state parks, and boy oh boy was it fun.

Hats off to BostonCares for organizing the event. OYFP gets frequent requests from local businesses with groups looking to volunteer, but many times non-profits organizations who need the help simply don't have the capacity or time to organize such an event. BostonCares convinces businesses to donate a fair chunk of change to support the project, and the employees of said businesses come out to help.

Perhaps OYFP should consider organizing a similar day for its partners. There certainly is the desire to help, though all too often it's on a limited basis. There is the hope, though, that a positive short term volunteer experience will lead to longer term, committed volunteering.

Let us know what you think - would you participate in a volunteer day event?

The bleachers, pre-demolition

I'm on the left, wielding the sledgehammer. Look out!

Related Posts: How you can help with a mullet; Global Volunteering; Doubts about Volunteering? Read about Fred; Hearts and Crafts; Volunteering - A generational mindset?

Photos courtesy of co-workers.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Food for Thought

As you may have heard from various media outlets recently, there is an escalating problem of food shortages for the world's population to consume. Haiti's poor population has been forced to find other ways of feeding their stomachs and have been eating cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.

So what can you do about it?

Reduce the amount of meat products you consume or if at all possible become vegetarian. I realize this it going to be a tough with grilling season almost upon us but it takes at least three times as much produce to feed livestock as it takes to feed us humans. According to the Worldwatch Institute, the total amount of soy and grain fed to livestock in the US each year could feed everyone on the planet, including enough food leftover to feed a population approximately five times as big!

Additionally the book, "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan talks about how the food we eat now a days are "edible food like substances -- no longer the products of nature but of food science."

Cows nowadays are much bigger than they were 100 years ago. They are bred to be bigger and are sometimes given steroids or antibiotics to optimize the amount of meat that is produced by that cow. This makes it cheaper to sell and easier to mass market the inexpensive, fatty, high-calorie food that has fueled epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

Also with the addition of bio-fuels to help alleviate the high oil prices, much of the corn and grain that would be used to feed us or our livestock are going to create ethanol for our cars. Again this cuts down on the resources available to feed the world. So instead of using your car try reducing your amount of driving by riding a bike.

So take your bike to have a vegetarian meal, and donate money to help feed the poor in Haiti.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chinese Earthquake: How to Help

I'm an avid NPR listener.

This past week when I heard news on the BBC of the earthquake in Chengdu in the Sichuan province I thought, "Isn't that where the NPR people were going to report on the massive changes in China?" Before traveling there, they described the wonderful cuisine of the region, the burgeoning population, and the economic upheaval, and I was quite interested to hear their reports from the area.

I'm sure these NPR reporters were not expecting to experience an earthquake firsthand. However, they have been working diligently to get the story of the thousands of people impacted by the quake out to the rest of the world. It's heart wrenching to hear a parent's sobs when they talk about their missing children, describe collapsed homes, and tell of trapped family members. I only hope that their reporting helps inspire people to give, or to travel to the area and help.

The Chinese government's response to the situation contrasts sharply with the response of Myanmar to the cyclones. Once upon a time in a not too recent past, China would have prevented reporters from traveling to the epicenter of the disaster.

However, this time they are being much more open, perhaps having realized that being open will get them more aid. In addition, like I mentioned before, the upcoming Olympics are likely playing a role in this. The country is under increased scrutiny and don't want additional criticism for their humanitarian mistakes.

If you are interested in volunteering to help the earthquake victims in China, consider the following:

International Organizations
  • Red Cross - Provides disaster relief
  • Mercy Corps - Works within "disasters, conflicts, chronic poverty and instability to unleash the potential of people who can win against nearly impossible odds"
  • Feed the Children - Provides food to children and families around the world
  • Peace Corps - Places volunteers in two year positions to serve the USA in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries
  • ORBIS International - Works to build local capacity and develop long-term, sustainable solutions to the tragedy of unnecessary blindness
China-Specific Non-Profits
  • Organize a small fundraising event. With a few friends, contact a local bar or restaurant. Convince the owners to give you deals on food and or beverages, charge a $10 cover fee, and promote the heck out of it to your friends and family, reminding them of the people impacted by the event. Donate the funds to a larger organization.
  • If your employer has a dress code, organize a "$5 for China so you can wear jeans to work" day. Donate the funds.
  • Follow Fred's example - collect donations to do something ridiculous, like cutting your hair into a mullet, fasting for a week, or eating 20 chili peppers.

Don't forget to vote daily for the Volunteer Boston Blog as the "Best Hobby Blog"!

First photo courtesy of a Chinese message board:
Second photo courtesy of the NPR blog on the reporters' Chengdu journey

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Greenest Generation

I know this dog. I don't know her name. I call her The Recycling Dog.

The Recycling Dog lives on my street, somewhere. The Recycling Dog is a German Shorthaired Pointer, I think. The Recycling Dog recycles, it’s awesome.

Every few days I see The Recycling Dog heading out for a walk. When I see The Recycling Dog returning from a walk, with a plastic bottle in her mouth, it’s a real prize.

I know it’s her natural instinct to retrieve but sometimes I imagine, if only for a second, that she knows what she’s doing. As she trots along, with a bottle in her mouth and her tail in full wag, I imagine her saying: “Hey, look at me. If I can do it, you can too.”

Traditionally, German Shorthaired Pointers are hunting dogs, they are bred to retrieve game. It's easy to understand how a dog with such a strong natural instinct adapts this instinct to focus on retrieving other things. Adapting her desire for retrieval fulfills an internal need and coincidentally, it helps the environment. It just happens that her desire involves retrieving the plastic bottles that litter the streets of Brookline and Allston.

When I see The Recycling Dog in action the one thing that stands out in my mind is the idea that adapting to a changing environment can be a win-win situation. More importantly, adapting the way we view energy efficiency can be a win-win situation too. The Green Movement isn’t an idea that we can afford to brush off as something only liberals or tree huggers support, not anymore. Reducing our dependence on oil will make our country stronger in the long run, not to mention reduce the transfer of our wealth to the Middle East.

Thomas Friedman, in his essay
The Power of Green, notes: “Being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do.”

As gas prices climb to all-time highs people are changing many things including the ways they commute. In an effort to offset transportation costs some people are deciding to
ride their bike to work. The benefits are twofold; it’s a win-win situation. The first benefit is the decreased carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and the second is a healthier lifestyle for the biker.

Driving less and biking more can make you live longer. Recycling makes the world more sustainable. Thinking green is patriotic. And, even retrieving bottles can be rewarding. What does this all mean? It means green is the new red, white and blue.

Look, I know everyone can’t ride their bike to work and I know that a dog isn’t going reverse global warming. But, as the world becomes
Hot, Flat, and Crowded we need to encourage new, renewable energy technologies not support backwards thinking ideas like a gas tax holiday. We need to renew the Clean Energy Tax Stimulus Act that is set to expire in December 2008, to stimulate investment in solar energy and the production of wind energy.

We need to adapt to a changing environment, just like The Recycling Dog, we need to start thinking differently. Once we set in motion these small changes we can become the change that we want to encourage. When future generations look back on this era they will judge us for how we responded to this crisis. I hope they judge us The Greenest Generation.

How You Can Help - with a mullet?

Sometimes, the world's needs seem overwhelming.

There are so many starving people, sick people, abused people, lost kids, and hurt animals, that it is easier just to block it out. Our mind is occupied enough with the basics - go to work, pay bills, buy food, talk with friends, hang out with family, etc.

But we shouldn't forget. We shouldn't block it out. OYFP tries to give you easy ways to donate time and/or money, but we can't help everyone. Or come up with some of the awesome ideas you all do.

One of my co-workers, Fred, who was profiled on this blog for his volunteer work, decided he wanted to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of New England. As he told us, Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack normal tissue, resulting in inflammation in various parts of the body - particularly the skin, joints, blood system and kidneys.

Fred went further than walking 20 miles, running 5 miles, or getting some beer and a bar donated for an evening event. He sent an email around to our company pledging to cut his hair into a certifiable mullet if he raised $500+ for the Lupus Foundation of New England by Friday. He was willing to put his personal fashion reputation on the line for a cause.

Well, Fred did more than raise $500. Our co-workers chipped in a total of $750, and got the pleasure of seeing him wear a fine mullet (and matching fung chu 'stache) for a few days (see below for photographic evidence).

Fred believed in an organization. He came up with a creative way to get people to pledge money. He followed through. We got to laugh at/with Fred's nice 'do, and feel happy that some of our beer money went to research to end a painful disease. We were all winners.

The point is this: You too can help those less fortunate, whether it's cutting your hair into a mohawk, attending an OYFP fundraiser, or cheering on MSPCA Walk for Animal participants, you can contribute to those less fortunate. It's not hard. It might even be fun. Like a mullet, say. :-)

Fred with the bowl used to determine his bang length. 100% professional.

The final result: A real mullet.

Vote for Volunteer Boston on

While we know you're busy reading about the cyclones, tornadoes, and earthquakes, take a little time out of your day to vote for the Volunteer Boston blog as the "Best of Hobby Blogs" on the website.

We are the only non-profit blog on this list. This is your chance to show the world that volunteering is important, and the humanitarian and community issues we discuss here are not only informative, but interesting. And funny. And serious.

We need your help to win. It just takes one click, you don't even have to register.

Thanks in advance!

We want to have as many ribbons as this little guy.

Related Posts: Non-Profit: We join the 21st century

Photo courtesy of
Crimson Flame Wolf.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Earthquake in China - How it's different than in the past

Recently, it seems as though I just keep writing about natural disasters. Cyclones and massive flooding in Myanmar, tornadoes in the Midwestern USA, and now the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in central China.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake is no laughing matter. Once when I was in college we had a minor earthquake - I think it was under a magnitude of 3.0, but it was still unsettling. I can't imagine what such a large earthquake would feel like. Reports from people 150 kilometers from the epicenter say it felt like a rolling and shaking, but that sounds too tame. "Rolling and shaking" is what disco dancers used to do; an earthquake has terrible destructive power that far outweighs the impact of the groovy fashions and moves of the disco era.

Over 5,000 people are reported dead in just one county in central China, with more deaths expected to be reported as this area of China has over 78 million residents (Source: BBC). The quake struck at around 2:30 PM, when kids were still in school and people were still at work. Apparently 900 children are trapped in their collapsed school. Can you imagine anything so terrifying as being trapped?

The only positive thing about this event is the Chinese government's reaction. In the past, it shut down access and tried desperately to control the flow of information within China and to the rest of the world. I suppose the government wanted to make sure a positive spin was put on the event, or more specifically, on their reaction to the event.

However, this time it's different. The Chinese government is very quickly disseminating information, and reacting to the event. The media (well, the BBC, which is where I first heard of the quake) is taken aback, in a good way, at the ease with which information has come forth. With information comes the ability to help. This contrasts starkly with Myanmar's response to the cyclones, though aid is slowly trickling in.

I think the reason China is being more forthright about the earthquake is the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. The country is already under a microscope for the way it's handling the Tibet issue. The last thing they need is further condemnation for their mishandling of a natural disaster. So, if the world wanted to influence Chinese politics by giving them the Olympic hosting responsibilities, I would say they have succeeded... at least in this small way.

If you would like to help victims of the earthquake in China, consider the following organizations:
  • Red Cross - Provides disaster relief
  • Mercy Corps - Works within "disasters, conflicts, chronic poverty and instability to unleash the potential of people who can win against nearly impossible odds"
  • China Tomorrow Education Foundation - Builds schools in rural China to ensure education for all
  • Alpha Communities - Works with people and communities to realize potential, initiate change, and create opportunities in rural China and Mongolia
Related Posts: Chinese Earthquake: How to help; Global Volunteering; Myanmar Cyclones and What you can do to help; Tornadoes, Cyclones, and Disaster Relief, Oh My! ; An Olympic Debate

Photo courtesy of and Getty Images.

Tornadoes, Cyclones, and Disaster Relief, Oh My!

Tornadoes struck Oklahoma, Missouri, and Georgia on Saturday. Twenty one people have been confirmed dead, and the tornadoes left devastation in their paths. Small towns across the midwest, many of which were already suffering economically, now have to mount an enormous recovery effort.

Thank goodness, though, our government and our strong network of non-profits are able to provide aid to those families in need. Yes, sometimes the response is imperfect or severely lacking (Hurricane Katrina, anyone?), but some is better than none.

Many people in Myanmar are still waiting for disaster relief, ten days out from when the cyclones struck and massive flooding occurred.

Did I say many? I meant most. The military junta in control of the country has insisted on distributing all aid, and are preventing most donated supplies from even entering the country. Slowly, though, the government is letting in air shipments of supplies and distributing it themselves (and taking credit for it). Unfortunately a boat bearing Red Cross supplies intended for victims living in the Irawaddy Delta hit a tree in the flood waters and sank, leaving even more families without food and fresh water.

Many disaster relief experts talk about the "ten day mark," which is when we can expect to see another wave of deaths due to the lack of clean water, food, and shelter. Today is the tenth day since the cyclones in Burma, and we can only expect the news to get worse.

Still, even in the face of all this death and suffering, the Myanmar government will still not let trained disaster relief staff into the country to help their people, nor will it let in all the supplies that the world is willing to give!

If you wish to help victims of the recent tornadoes in the US or the cyclones in Myanmar, please consider donating to the Red Cross. You can specify where your donation will be used.

A section of the Irawaddy Delta, which has been completely flooded.

Related Posts: Global Volunteering; Myanmar Cyclones and what you can do to help

Photo of US tornado courtesy of the Associated Press.
Photo of flooded Myanman courtesy of Doctors Without Borders.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Videos from OYFP's First Charity Concert are here!

Well, I finally got around to posting some videos of the rock groups who performed at OYFP's First Charity Concert that rocked Boston on April 10th, 2008! Check this talent out:

Glenn Michael

The Powers That Be

Stop by our site to see what we're planning for you in the next few weeks!

Over and out.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Non-Profit Auctions and Raffles

One of the things On Your Feet Project struggles with is the conflict between raising awareness of our non-profit partners among young professionals, and raising money for our partners. We try to keep our events low cost or free in order to get more people in the door. That way more of our target audience will become aware of the charities, and perhaps in the future volunteer their time or donate significant funds.

However, Seth Godin raises an interesting point with his post on "Marketing the charity auction." The idea is to get people to pay MORE than what the object (or event, in our case) is worth, versus trying to get a bargain. While I agree with his point, I wonder how exactly you get people to do that.

I suppose people are willing to spend more if they believe in the non-profit, or in the non-profit's cause. In our case, our young professional audience often times is not even aware of the non-profit, and/or are not willing to pony up major cash (more than $25) no matter the cause.

I think OYFP is in the business of convincing people to care, or showing them why they should care, kind of like those TV commercials with the faces of foreign children in poverty. "It only takes $1 a day..."

Instead of using kids' faces to guilt people into charity work, we try to convince our young professionals audience that volunteering can be fun, that it can be good for your career, and that giving will make you happier.

I won't lie - it's a hard sell. OYFP is committed to the cause, though. Hopefully, though, in the long run our work will lead to more people giving more. I can hope so, anyway.

Related Posts: We Rocked, Words for Sale?, Adventures in Recruiting

Pangea Day

Pangea =The theoretical landmass that existed when all continents were joined, from about 300 to 200 million years ago.

Pangea Day = a global event held on May 10, 2008, in hopes to bring the world together through film. The details: 4 hours, 24 films, broadcasted worldwide in seven languages which can be seen at approximately 14:00 (2:00pm) Boston time. If so desired you can even see it on your mobile phone.

The films selected to participate in the Pangea Day were chosen based on their ability "To inspire, transform, and allow us see the world through another person's eyes". There will even be live music and inspirational speakers! Click here to see the trailer for the event.

So where can you go see it in Boston? Simmons College is hosting an event to the public this Saturday from 2:00pm - 6:00pm at the Linda K. Paresky Conference Center. You can also view it online, or even on your mobile phone.

The event is going to be watched by millions of people worldwide, shouldn't you be one of them?

Photo courtesy of EdwardOlive.

Biking to Work in Boston - My first time

It was 7:11 PM, and I just finished a delectable seafood pasta dinner. Perhaps not the smartest time to try riding my bike the 2 miles to work and back, but I felt the biking itch. After all, I am the head of the green team at work and I don't even drive a hybrid car (tsk, tsk).

May is, after all, National Ride Your Bike to Work Month, and gas prices are just going up. Why pay $4 a gallon when I can depend on my own fuel? I had to at least try riding my bike. I wanted to give it a test run before depending on the bike as my transportation in the morning and perhaps missing an important client meeting or being embarrassed by my co-workers seeing me fall off my bike on the way in.

So. I struggled to get the bike out of the basement, strapped my helmet on, and hopped on board.

The ride to work was a breeze. I concentrated on shifting, signaling, and avoiding potholes (my car could take them, but I don't know that my rear end could). I think it helped that most of the trip was downhill. I felt the breeze in my hair, sweat just a little at some tiny uphills, and thought, "wow, this isn't bad."

When a Prius passed me, I laughed. "You think you're green? Ha!"

I got to work safely. Believe it or not, the ride took just about the same amount of time as driving - I'd say about 10 minutes with traffic lights, etc. Maybe even quicker. After all, on my bike I can coast up to the front of every intersection. I had but a few drops of sweat on my brow. I would have felt comfortable throwing on my work clothes and heels without showering - I think I sweat more climbing the 3 flights of stairs to my office.

The ride back was a little more difficult. After all, I had to make it to the top of a hill that my car couldn't climb last winter. Make that several hills. I was holding onto my handle bars with a kungfu death grip. It felt like it took forever, but in actuality took about 14 minutes.

So. All in all, my test commute by bike was a success, and I would recommend it to anyone in the city.

If you're interested in riding your bike to work but are a little intimidated, check out these bike commuting tips or Mayor Menino's bicycling information site. Since next week (May 12 - 16, 2008) is official the Bay State Bike Week, there are many bike friendly events including "breakfast pit stops" in Cambridge and near Government Center. There's nothing like a little food to motivate you to ride.

This morning, though, I climbed in my car and drove. It's supposed to POUR today, after all!

Boston Bike Resources

You don't have to look as professional as my cousin Tim here. Just make sure you have a helmet. Oh, and a bike.

Related Posts: Springtime, Gasoline, and a Solution, Make Boston Greener, and Green Tips for the New Year.

Photo of Boston bikers and Kick Gas logo courtesy of Bay State Bike Week.
Photo of my cousin Tim courtesy of, well, my cousin Tim.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Myanmar cyclones and what you can do to help

The most experience I have had with Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) was my culinary adventures at the tasty Allston Burmese restaurant YoMa. However, recently the country has been briefly mentioned in newscasts after reports of terrible cyclones in the region that have caused massive flooding and distruction.

At first, it was reported just 250 people died, then 22,000, but now it is believed that over 100,000 people have died [updated 5PM 5/7] and thousands of people are missing. If the same percentage of the total population of the United States were killed or missing in a disaster, it would represent over 550,000 people.

Point is, 100,000 people killed is a lot of people, and in a country I know practically nothing about. I didn't even know how to correctly spell "Myanmar." So, I looked up a map on Wikipedia:

It's a little smaller than Texas, a little bigger than Afghanistan, and the largest country in Southeastern Asia.

And then I read a little Burmese history. I knew the country was under some type of nefarious government, but I didn't know that it used to be a British colony back in the first half of the twentieth century. It was then briefly a Democracy before a military coup. For the past 10 years it has been run by a strict military regime not known for its humanitarian actions (and that's putting it lightly).

International sanctions are in place, people struggle to get their basic needs met, and they have very few personal freedoms.

The devastating cyclones are one event that the government doesn't want to keep under wraps... mostly because they're using it to show how "well" they treat their people. They're handing out a few blankets and some food, but the area really needs significant help. From the director of Mercy Corps' European office:
"Burma is a country that had great needs even before this emergency. Now those needs are magnified immensely, and it will require a response that's beyond the capacity of any one country to restore normalcy to people's lives."
If you're interested in contributing to the relief efforts, try one of the following organizations:
  • Mercy Corps, which works to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression
  • Red Cross, which shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters
  • Foundation for the People of Burma, which has worked for nine years to provide humanitarian aid to Burmese residents regardless of religion or ethnicity
  • Feed the Children, which brings bringing emergency aid to homeless and needy children and families
  • Global Giving, which raises funds to help grassroots efforts internationally
A video from Aljazeera gives you a better idea of what's going on:

Please, help any way you can.

Related Posts: Chinese Earthquake: How to Help; Global Volunteering; Tornadoes, Cyclones, and Disaster Relief - Oh My!; Food Crisis - Get on the Seoul train

Numbers dead and missing taken from news reports citing the Myanmar government's estimated figures. Population statistics used to calculate the equivalent number of US victims taken from US census figures and Burmese population estimates as cited on Wikipedia.

Photos courtesy of the New York Times.