30 Days of Made // April 17, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

It’s been exactly one year this weekend that my son, Ty, finally learned about Down syndrome and I think it is a precious story to share, so here we go:

“Mommy, Mylie has Down syndrome?” Ty asks me as I am having a conversation with a representative from SELPA at the Valentine’s Day party last year. I did not know he was behind me listening, as we were at a huge party for people with special needs and their families. It was a fabulous party with hundreds of people and Ty had been running around with friends, dancing, playing at all the wonderful, creative booths and I had not thought about where he was. Not that talking about Down syndrome was a secret or anything, but Tyler and I had decided early on that we would approach the subject with Ty when it happened naturally. We were not going to label Mylie nor try to explain to her then 4 year old brother what it all meant. We felt strongly that we wanted Ty to grow up loving Mylie for the unique, beautiful little sister that she is.

So, as he was pulling on my blouse with wide eyes wanting to know what that word meant and why his sister had it, I figured well… this was as natural and as good of a time as any.

“She does, sweetie.” I respond.

“Well… what is it?” he asks, and by now he is looking worried.

“Nothing really, Ty. It just means she has an extra chromosome, that’s all.” I say nonchalantly.

“Uhm.. well… does she need one of mine?” he continues.

Knowing my son and knowing he is worried about this I say, “you don’t need to worry, Ty. Down syndrome is nothing to worry about. She is fine. She doesn’t need anything nor does she have to give away anything. She is created perfectly!”

And he knew I meant it. His face lit up, he got distracted by something or someone and ran off. I just sat back and realized this moment was one I would always remember because I was witnessing the love and devotion that my son has for his sister. In a heartbeat he was willing to give up a chromosome, not even knowing what that meant or how it would take place. I have to admit, this will be one of the greatest memories of my lifetime – seeing that kind of love in my children.

We have had great talks about Down syndrome since that day. We have explained in a little more detail what it means to have DS and the special needs Mylie has. He is 8 now and is able to wrap his mind and heart around the concept. He has grown up around people with special needs for half his life now and it is all normal to him. For the Alpha play last October, Ty clapped and whistled loudly. He was so proud of the Alpha actors and all their achievements. He knows in his heart of hearts that all people are created equal; all are created perfectly and uniquely.

… and this, my friends, is something to celebrate.

The Alpha Resource Center has been in the forefront of services and supports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Santa Barbara County since 1953. Founded in the early 1950s by three moms who had children with Down syndrome, Alpha was established to provide an education for children ineligible for public schools, provide a center for parent-to-parent support, education and resource sharing, and as a catalyst to transform the community to welcome and value the participation of all people. Today, Alpha continues this tradition and provides life-span supports for over 2200 families, family and sibling workshops, offers a teen recreation program and assists adults in gaining greater independence in employment, community living, fitness, recreation, the fine and performing arts, personal development and community access.

Support the Alpha Resource Center!

If you'd like to show your love for the Alpha Resource Center, use the buttons below to donate or volunteer! Or follow them on Twitter at @AlphaResoucesSB!

                                              


Mia is a young mother who blogs for the Alpha Resource Center. You can read her original post called "Mommy, Mylie Has Down Syndrome" here

Published in Current
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:36

30 Days of Made | Day 16: TreePeople

30 Days of Made // April 16, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

Sure, you could call them tree huggers, but TreePeople is so much more than that.

They are an environmental non-profit that creates nature-based solutions to literally heal Los Angeles’ ecosystem. They seek to educate and inspire people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment. TreePeople has become a leader in environmental education, citizen forestry and sustainable solutions to urban ecosystem problems. They train communities to plant and care for the urban forests in their neighborhoods, educate everyone from schoolchildren to adults about environmental issues, and work with government agencies to discuss solutions to critical problems in our natural world.

Founder Andy Lipkis even serves as a special advisor to the Mayor of Los Angeles’ climate change study. Through their innovative work they have found that a sustainable future for Los Angeles is possible by uniting people and nature-based solutions.


For over 40 years, TreePeople has connected people and trees, with a mission to protect our natural resources and ensure clean and abundant water in our city. They do this by re-creating the functions of a healthy forest in an urban setting. According to TreePeople, it takes five years to plant a tree: “Putting it in the ground is the easy part. Ensuring it survives takes a bit more sustained and conscious effort.”

TreePeople is special to me because I have been a recipient of the fruits of their labor. When I was in elementary school in the 90’s, we took field trips to TreePeople’s headquarters in Coldwater Canyon Park and they came out to teach my classmates about caring for trees. That week, classrooms across campus planted about a dozen trees together. I am happy to say that those trees are still there 20 years later providing other school children in my hometown with a safe and healthy playground that has shade, clean water and clean air. Believe it or not, I was even part of a community forest project that TreePeople organized in the neighborhood I grew up in. Those trees, too, are still in front of my mom’s house 20 years later.
 

TreePeople members and volunteers plant and care for trees, and integrate new technologies into the urban landscape.  They make additions like permeable paving, French drains, swales, rain barrels, cisterns and other relatively simple “forest-mimicking” innovations. These “Functioning Community Forests” replenish groundwater supplies, reduce the need for imported water, improve air quality, decrease soil erosion and lessen the effects of global warming. They are altering the way we see and approach solutions to restoring our schools, communities, cities, forests and nature all around us.

Back in 1997, TreePeople convinced the Los Angeles Unified School District to designate a portion of Proposition BB funds for greening projects instead of campus repaving. More recently, TreePeople and LAUSD engaged in a year-long community collaboration to transform 4,000 square feet of asphalt at Main Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles into a thriving, sustainable urban forest.
 

Thanks to their Fruit Tree Program, tens of thousands of fruit trees have been distributed and planted in backyards as well as in public orchards on school campuses and community gardens throughout L.A. County. This project not only provides education, training and nature restoration to lower income communities, but also provides fresh produce for years to come.

In addition to the work done in schools and local communities in Los Angeles, TreePeople has partnered up with the Department of Recreation and Parks on a big nature restoration project. Together, they will re-establish the underserved areas of the L.A. Harbor and Northeast San Fernando Valley. With the help of 7,500 trained volunteers, they will also restore more than 10,000 fire-damaged acres of forest and woodland areas that are unlikely to recover on their own.

I believe in a sustainable restored future for Los Angeles and I believe that TreePeople is spearheading this change. They have successfully undertaken many long-term projects over their 40-year history and they are truly making an impact.

Join TreePeople and get involved today!

In the years ahead, they are working to apply their ‘Functioning Community Forest’ model in neighborhoods throughout L.A. and to expand the Fruit Tree program. So Join TreePeople and get involved today! Make a donation, become a volunteer, dedicate a tree to someone special, tell a teacher about the eco-tour opportunities and/or visit their headquarters in Coldwater Canyon Park. You can also use the buttons below to give back or join in!


Penny Hinojosa was born as raised in West LA. Currently works as a project manager for FOXSports product development and serves on the FOXSports Supports committee. Has a passion for philanthropy and believes in touching people's lives positively on the daily.' Favorite quote 'You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you'- John Wooden

Published in Current

30 Days of Made // April 15, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

So what happens to foster kids when they “place out” of the foster care system?  

On their 18th birthday they are told that they have to move out of their house. They don’t own anything except the clothes they wear. They don’t have a mom or dad. They have no bank account, no drivers license, no food, and no plan for what they should do next.

This is the story that is lived out by hundreds of kids every year in the US and the data surrounding their outcomes are staggering.

  • 70% of all California State Prison inmates are former foster youth
  • Over 1/3 of California foster youth become homeless within 18 months of emancipation
  • One in four become incarcerated within two years of emancipation
  • 51% are unemployed within 2-4 years of emancipation
  • 40% are on public assistance within 2-4 years of emancipation
  • 50% of all female foster youth will become pregnant by age 19

(Statistics courtesy of unitedfriends.org)

There are many organizations whose goal is to provide kids with fun activities that keep them out of trouble, but few actually change the course of foster kids’ lives in sustainable ways. Until now.


Project WE is different. It’s an organization dedicated to changing the lives of young people through participation in the arts, entertainment, and fashion. But Project WE is not just driven to create fun events that temporarily distract kids from the real challenges they face. It is driven to give these young adults the tools to develop their character and professional skills to thrive in the world of business and industry.

Project We Groups :"Operation Head 2 Toe" Documentary from Project We Group on Vimeo.

The group was founded by Jeff Penix, a 20-year sports, fashion, and entertainment industry veteran. And to help him train and develop the kids for a career in these competitive industries, he brought in his friends and colleagues from companies like Zappos, And 1, and Nordstrom. Their workshops and internships cover everything from product design to business strategy. But self-reinvention and personal branding is the underlying focus of the program - a critical and often missing component in the lives of foster children who want a real career in our changing economy.

Love Project We Group? Give Back!

The group is gearing up for some new initiatives that will be launched this year.  For more information visit ProjectWEGroup.com and follow them on twitter at @projectwegroup. You can also use the button below to donate.


Published in Current
Sunday, 13 April 2014 16:36

30 Days of Made | Day 13: UNCF

30 Days of Made // April 13, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. UNCF strives to serve youth, the community and the nation by supporting students' education through the development of scholarships and other programs. In partnership with UNCF’s 37 member colleges and universities, along with thousands of advocates, the organization is able to underline the importance of minority education and college readiness.  

Each year, UNCF holds its annual An Evening of Stars® event, which brings students, celebrities and other supporters together to not only acknowledge students for their accomplishments; but also to present scholarships to them that will ultimately make a difference in their ability to graduate from college. To UNCF, each scholarship represents a whole new kind of investment with greater return than money— it's an investment in Better Futures.





 

An Evening of Stars® will air nationally tonight on BET at 10 p.m. EST. Over its 35-year history, the annual event has raised more than $200 million to help hundreds of thousands of students attend college and graduate. In recent years, An Evening of Stars® has featured a number remarkable talent, including Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Beyonce and more. Click the next page for a sneak peek of the event!

This year, celebrities such as Jill Scott, Usher and Trey Songz will participate by acknowledging UNCF’s "Rising Stars" and presenting these students with scholarships. Be sure to tune in to see amazing performances, hear student stories and learn how you can invest in Better Futures for us all.





 

UNCF administers more than 400 programs, such as scholarships, internships, mentoring and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities in the United States. As a result of UNCF’s effort, partner institutions and other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) award 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees.

Show Love for the UNCF! Give Back!

You can learn how you can be involved in supporting UNFC by visiting their website, and joining them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also use the buttons below to give back.



Host Anthony Anderson with Miss UNCF


Trey Songz & April Tucker present an award to a Rising Star


Jill Scott preformed at UNCF and presented an award to a Rising Star


Usher with UNCF Rising Start Donel Heflin


Cedric the Entertainer and Anthony Anderson congratulate UNCF Rising Star


Published in Current

30 Days of Made // April 10, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

Project for a Village, Inc. began with one mission—to improve the lives of people in rural villages in developing countries. The initiative began in Nepal, a country in dire need of help.  Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. With one third of the country living below the poverty line, the Project for a Village team realized that what we were able to do in Nepal would go very far.




Project for a Village was officially founded in Spring 2013, however the work in Nepal began three years earlier. Founders Rene and Kathy Perez-Silva, a doctor-nurse/husband-wife team, first visited Nepal in 2011 for a one-time medical-based charity trip. When they returned home, the Perez-Silva’s knew they couldn’t leave it all behind—the country, the culture, the people.  After several trips back to Nepal, Project for a Village was born with the primary goal of providing better access to health care and education.



During their second trip to Nepal, the Perez-Silva’s visited a home in the hills where a young mother had just delivered a daughter.  Dr. Perez-Silva was called there to examine the infant who had a mass on her spine.  After examination, he diagnosed her with spina bifida, a developmental disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube.  It is a terrible disorder, but one that is often preventable with folic acid supplements or prenatal vitamins—something that is hard to come by in Nepal, especially in these rural areas.  Babies born with spina bifida have a difficult life ahead of them.  They will have severe physical disabilities.  But in countries like Nepal, where the care for these afflicted children is lacking, their quality of life is bleaker.



Nepal faces a severe lack of maternal and infant care available to women outside of the larger cities. This has become Project for a Village's focus.  According to the CIA’s “The World Factbook,” Nepal ranks 53rd in Infant Mortality, and 61st in Maternal Mortality, with 4% of children dying before the age of five.  Most causes of death for both mother and child are related to infection, something that is easily preventable with proper and inexpensive care.


This organization is already creating change in Nepal. In the past year, Project for a Village has donated an ambulance so that a women in labor no longer have to make the four-hour walk down a hill to deliver their babies.  We have placed two young women in school to train to be midwives so that when a mother delivers her baby, she does so in a clean and safe environment.  And most recently, we distributed vitamins to the pregnant women in the village so that their children can hopefully have a healthy and happy childhood.




Just last month, Project for a Village sponsored a general health camp in the village of Rupakot, the small town in North-Central Nepal that the Perez-Silva’s family have been visiting since 2011.  967 villagers were seen by Dr. Perez-Silva and his team of 12 Nepali doctors who volunteered their services for the two-day camp.  For many of the patients, this was their first ever visit to a doctor.  Patients of all ages were seen, from babies to a 91-year old, and the range of diagnoses was vast.  In several cases, life-saving interventions were made.


Project for a Village is working to improve the lives of villagers throughout Nepal.  Soon however, we envision expanding our project to villages in need in other countries.

If you are down for Project for a Village's cause use the buttons below to show your support! Or tweet at them at @ProjForAVillage

Published in Current
Monday, 07 April 2014 19:24

Letter From The Made Woman Mag Staff

30 Days of Made Recap

Letter from our Co-Founder and Business Operations Manager, Lindsey Day -- April 7, 2014

As Made Women, giving back is an important part of our lives. But figuring out where exactly to place our energy can be tricky. We hope you've been following along since our 30 Days of Made: Giving Back initiative launched last Tuesday, where we've decided to take it one day at a time.

From health education to empowerment and supporting our youth; the Made Woman team is giving the inside scoop on the organizations they care about most. Get caught up below and learn how you can get involved in a new organization this spring!

Today's organization is called Doing WIT (Whatever It Takes). Read about their mission to support ambitious and entrepreneurial students in taking their passions and skills to the next level -- while benefiting their community, school or the world at large.

Like what you’re reading? Join Made Woman Mag’s mailing list for updates, special promotions and more. Click here!


Published in Current
Wednesday, 02 April 2014 07:19

30 Days of Made I Day 2: Global Soap Project

30 Days of Made // April 2, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

I’m sure most of you have stayed overnight in a hotel somewhere. Whether the Ritz Carlton or the Holiday Inn, we’re all familiar with hotels having housekeeping services and we often take those amenities for granted - like the soap we use in the shower.

To accommodate their guests, hotels will provide personal hygiene products such as mouthwash or shampoo for use during their stay. Shampoo and mouthwash get replenished when they’re empty, but other amenities like soap are a one-time use. After a bar of soap gets used, housekeepers will discard the used soap into the trash and replace it with a fresh, newly-wrapped bar. That’s a lot of wasted soap for a single-use shower, approximately 2.6 million bars daily in the United States. There has to be a better way to repurpose that soap so it isn’t just tossed away, creating more waste. Enter the Global Soap Project.



The Global Soap Project is a non-profit out of Atlanta, GA that partners with leading hotel brands to receive partially used and discarded soap to recycle it. The new bars they create are distributed to those in need around the world. That’s great, but what can a bar of soap do? Actually, it can do a lot -- even save lives. Surprisingly, the leading cause of death for children in underdeveloped countries are hygiene-related illnesses. A staggering 1.6 million children die each year from poor hygiene, accounting for nearly one-third of all child deaths. Although vaccines, clean water initiatives and medications can help fight the diseases, the best way to effectively prevent illness is by hand washing with soap. So by repurposing soap, The Global Soap Project is eliminating waste and saving lives. Not only are their efforts servicing those abroad (reaching 32 countries on four continents), but they also work in collaboration with health organizations like the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and Partners in Health to aid those domestically. The Global Soap Projects aims to ensure that all who lack access to soap receive it as well as receive an education on why soap is important.


The Global Soap Project :30 PSA from Gregory Miller Pictures on Vimeo.


The Global Soap Project Process

Once hotels release the discarded soap to The Global Soap Project, a thorough recycling process has to occur before the soap is ready for use:

1. Sorting: Once the soap is collected and received into the warehouse, it is sorted into boxes for the designated hotel. Each hotel brand is distinct with their own soap ingredients, so The Global Soap Project does not mix soap.

2. Sanitizing: Soap only holds bacteria when it’s wet, which is how the dried soap is able to be reused. To eliminate any bacterial remnants, the top layer of the soap is scraped off before the soap gets heated and filtered through an extremely fine mesh screen to remove any excess dirt or particles. After cleaning the soap, it is then melted and molded into finished bars. The soap is then cut into individual bars and ready for verification.

3. Verification: After the sanitation process, a third-party laboratory test is used to screen for pathogen samples from each batch of soap before it gets packaged and ready to ship.

4. Packaging/Shipment: A packaged box holds 120 four oz. bars and weighs 30 pounds. One pallet is 50 boxes totaling 6,000 bars. Those boxes are then shipped via non-governmental organizations (NGO's) to assist their intended populations.

I’ve been a supporter and volunteer for The Global Soap Project for two years. I love that they aren’t just giving away soap to help people (even though that’s awesome!), but that they are also encouraging better hygiene practices through education on how and why soap is crucial. I also love that they’re encouraging people to take responsibility for their own health and hygiene by not just relying on free soap, but also implementing what they now know into their lives as a lifestyle change. If giving someone soap to wash their hands or body is all we need to do save a life, I’m on board for making sure they have those resources.


Love the Global Soap Project? Give Back!

If you love the mission of the Global Soap Project show your support! Just click the buttons below or Tweet at them @globalsoap!



Published in Current

30 Days of Made // March 31, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

“Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen” is the motto for WriteGirl, a nonprofit that helps underprivileged girls find their voice, and hone their creativity through writing. Since they began in 2001, WriteGirl has made waves from LA to the White House, where Michelle Obama honored them with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award - the highest national honor for such programs. The organization’s unique mentorship program is highly individualized, providing girls with one-on-one meetings and monthly writing workshops that explore poetry, creative non-fiction, songwriting, screenwriting, and more. During their twelve year history, 100 percent of the girls in their Core Mentoring program have gotten into college, many of them with full or partial scholarships. This is WriteGirl’s proudest accomplishment, despite the numerous plaques and medals that adorn their walls. As Keren Taylor, WriteGirl’s executive director, explains that there is nothing better than being able to “give a girl tools to be able to be positive and thrive and rise above whatever challenges she’s facing.”

Keren Taylor grew up in Vancouver, Canada, where she kept a list of the hundreds of books she read per year during her teenage years . After being recruited by her 9th grade teacher to help assess her high school’s summer reading list, they discovered how few women writers there were and even less books with female characters. In a recent Los Angeles Times interview, Keren explained, “That was the important moment for me in realizing the importance of women’s voices being heard by young people.”



It wasn’t until she was laid off from a corporate job that she found the time and inspiration to finally work on getting that voice heard.  She always knew that she “wanted to do something that would be inspiring and something that would have meaning for others." So she began dipping into her savings to create her vision.

With Keren’s ambitious mindset, and previous experience with nonprofits (she helped start a literacy program for young girls while living in New York), she had no problem getting WriteGirl on its feet in LA. WriteGirl’s hands on approach to the often overlooked issue of literacy among teenagers is just another reason why this nonprofit is so successful, “[We] have a fun way to lure teens into writing is what makes us unique.”


Los Angeles has long struggled with high school dropout rates, usually hovering around 35 percent. WriteGirl has made it their mission to help young girls “get creative, get through high school, and get to college.” In 2004, WriteGirl launched the In-Schools Program, which currently serves four Los Angeles schools in Lawndale, Azusa, South Los Angeles, and Santa Clarita. Many of these students are foster youths, on probation, pregnant, or already mothers. Young girls in their situations rarely get the education and encouragement they need to stick it out through high school, let alone get into college, but with WriteGirl’s help they are able to develop self-confidence, critical thinking skills, and creativity that will provide them with endless opportunities. Many of these girls experience an ah-hah moment through WriteGirl’s program. In her CNN interview, Karen described these moments as, "eye-opening experiences that really give them a lot more hope about their future."




Along with being awarded the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award from the First Lady, WriteGirl has received 58 book awards for their anthologies, including "You Are Here: The WriteGirl Journey" and "Bold Ink." Just this past month, Keren Taylor was named a CNN Hero for her incredible story. This year, 350 girls from 60 different areas in Los Angeles will be participating in WriteGirl’s mentoring program – the most they have ever had. Keren and the rest of the WriteGirl team are confident that all 350 girls will make it to college and they’ve got the track record to prove that they can do it.


Love WriteGirl? Give back!

If you love WriteGirl's mission show your support! Just click the buttons below or Tweet at them @WriteGirlLA!


Published in Current
Monday, 31 December 2012 05:31

Day 13: Ode to Big Bones

Best of 2012 // December 31, 2012



Ode To Big Bones

I love Me enough for the both of us trust, it's just my Big thing.

In spite of your judgmental nature

and piercing words that define your stature

A Big coping-mechanism of sorts is to blame…

Something to best explain why your face contorts when I stand before you.

B I G

Maybe it's my size that intimidates you

My extreme curves and chocolate thighs

make you look twice and think your thoughts through.

Have you hypothesizing what it’d feel like

to be inside of my Big,

hypnotizing

mind & things ...

seems like you’ve got some Big explaining to do.

I know I’m far different from the image

depicted on the silver screen

A sliver of society’s magazine pin-up wet dream

Seems its proved to be problematic

You write my name with only what your eyes have seen

Automatic-ally

B I G

And even though its not my job to fill all your potholes & shit

I guess you assumed all my excess thick would do the trick…

But Big intellect is not wearable, honey.

Try that on for size.

The irony of a Big girl possessing more swag than you do is unbearable..

I know, it can’t be true.

And when my Big mouth met your open ears,

I know the depth of my Big vocabulary was too much for you to handle.

You play pretend like my Big presence doesn’t make you uncomfortable.

Like this room isn’t big enough for me, you & your chauvinistic ego

Little do you know, relationships they come, they go

But I still remain here…

Proudly

B I G

I despise the way you look at me as if your stare isn’t see-thru,

I know your story so well, I could recite it back to you.

If I had a nickel for every time I ran over a superficial so’n’so like you,

I’d have collected enough dimes to fill up the space occupied by this one-of-a-kind

behind, combined with enough residual to change your cadaverous mind into

appreciating Big beauty… Soak it up.




This post was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Love Yourself." Each day we released updates of videos, poetry, images, and original content, all based on the theme of loving yourself. Click the link to read more!

Published in Current
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 17:58

Day 29: The Joys of Giving Back

February 29, 2012

Living as an actor in LA you are faced with a lot of rejection and disappointment. “No” is a word you hear a lot more than “yes” and sometimes you feel like you should just give up. And if you have to work a job you hate in order to pay the bills it can really take its toll on you. I can say personally that for a while things really started to get to me. Roles I felt sure I had gotten fell through and I was so tired of going to my night job that I had to force myself to walk out the door every day with tears in my eyes. After a bit I decided that I needed to snap out of it. I opened my eyes to the world around me and started seeing the harsh realities other people were dealing with. As I drove to work every day, I would pass at least three people who were homeless. I started thinking about how their lives must be and that I was being pretty lame complaining about mine when I at least had somewhere to live, clean clothes, food…

I began thinking about how I could make others a little bit happier rather than wallowing in my own disappointments. That's when I began to bake cookies and deliver them to people who were living on the street. All I wanted to do was brighten their day but what I found is they usually were the ones brightening mine. Sometimes I would start out in the morning tired and stressed out. I’d be thinking about a role that I didn't book or the money I wish I had or the bigger apartment I wanted to move into or a list of other things I let get to me. After a couple smiling faces, however, it was hard to figure out why I made these things so important and why I was letting them make me so unhappy. The people I met didn't have food to wake up to and they didn't have a bed to fall asleep in at night but I brought them a bit of joy with a couple of cookies. It made me whining about not having enough money seem extremely petty.

By doing this small thing I was able to bring a little happiness into lives of others and I was able to completely change my outlook on life. It made me become a happier person and start truly appreciating what I have as opposed to focusing on the things that I want to have. It made me become a better woman.

Since my cookie days....which I still do, I have started volunteering officially with my church. Recently I helped take a group of underprivileged kids to the beach so they could have a fun day in the sun. Some of these kids never get the chance to even see the beach. I want to spend more of my time helping other people, I want to make their lives a little brighter and the great perk is; I get my life made a little brighter at the same time.

If you need more proof on the power of giving back, I came across a couple ladies online who have touching stories about how volunteering has changed their lives as well. Like Michelle who started volunteering after getting out of an abusive relationship and now credits it with increasing her confidence. Or Lisa who spent time volunteering with children in Honduras and now doesn't take for granted all of the luxuries she has in her life like transportation and clothing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson says it best, "It is one of the beautiful compensations in life, that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself." Giving back to the community with volunteering and outreach usually starts as the desire to help other people. You really want to make a difference in someone’s life or change the world into a better place. I believe that by volunteering you will do these things and more but the biggest change you will see is within yourself and not the people you are trying to help. Maybe it's time for you to start volunteering... It could change your life.


This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Love Yourself". Each day we released updates of videos, poetry, images, and original content, all based on the theme of loving yourself. Click the link to read more!

Published in Current
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