Happy Earth Day!


Image Credit: Giving Tuesday.

On this Earth Day, let us remember that by being good neighbors to the Earth, we are good neighbors to all who inhabit the planet.

Rural Chinese Children, Schools Prosper With Help From Bay Area Volunteers


President Steve Ting and one of the students Shin Shin Educational Foundation is helping. Photo courtesy of the foundation.

“A group effort will bring prosperity,” goes the old Chinese saying. In the case of the Shin Shin Educational Foundation, a group effort by volunteers in the San Francisco Bay Area is bringing educational prosperity to rural Chinese school children in the form of sturdy buildings, books, access to computers, and better-trained teachers.

It started in 1997 with a trip back to China for some elders who had settled in the U.S. Noting that schools in their home villages were in poor condition, they returned to their new country, determined to raise money to build new schools for the children of those villages.

Over the past 16 years that small group of elders has grown to hundreds of volunteers, and the Bay Area-based Shin Shin Educational Foundation (“Shin Shin” means “prosperity” in Mandarin) now helps more than 120,000 elementary school children and educators in 333 schools throughout rural provinces. [Read more…]

Peace Cranes for Japan Update


One of our more popular posts last year told the story of people folding thousands of paper origami cranes to raise money in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011.

More than 700,000 cranes were received from all over the U.S. and other parts of the world in just six weeks. In honor of those efforts, a foundation donated $400,000 toward rebuilding efforts.

We’re happy to report that money is going to good use today through the organization Students Rebuild. Read all about what they are doing in Japan on the organization’s website.

Random Acts of Kindness Week 2012



This week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, when we’re all reminded to do something kind for one another. In a way it’s oxymoronic, to perform a “random” act during a non-random time period. Yet, it’s a powerful idea: millions of people around the world performing acts of kindness during a set period, serving to multiply the effect.  Just as we have a day to honor all parents, or veterans, why not a time to remind ourselves of the importance of extending kindness?

Each day this week we’ll have ideas for acts of kindness for you to consider trying.  You can find more ideas at the Random Acts of Kindness website, or helpothers.org site. And we’d love to hear your own ideas, or hear about what happens when you perform an act of kindness! Tell us in Comments.

Below are today’s (easy) ideas:

  • Smile at a minimum of five people
  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Pick up trash on your street
  • Let the person behind you in line go ahead of you
  • Call a friend you haven’t seen in awhile just to say “hi”

For more ideas, see the Be Kind: Kindness Ideas Page.

Also see  Day 1 entry for Random Acts of Kindness Week 2013

                 Be Kind! Random Acts of Kindness Week Kicks Off (2014)

Earth Day Commentary: Be a Good Neighbor to the Planet by Slowing Down


On this 41st Earth Day I have two words for how to be a good neighbor to the planet: SLOW DOWN.

Here are some ways slowing down will make each of us a better neighbor to the Earth. I start with the more obvious ways, and end with a way that may be a surprise. [Read more…]

Update: Paper Cranes are Pouring In


Students Rebuild organizers are reporting that the paper cranes for Japan are now arriving by the boxfuls to their offices in Seattle. As of this writing, they have collected more than 8,000 cranes, raising more than $16,000 for Japan relief!

There’s still time to contribute to the goal of collecting 100,000 cranes for a large art installation and donations totaling $200,000. The only catch: organizers only want cranes from young people up to age 25.


Peace Cranes for Japan


The other day in my local paper there was a lovely small story about a Stanford student named Robin Thomas who set up a table for his fellow students to help him fold 1,000 origami peace cranes for Japan. In Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted a wish by a crane for things like a long life, or recovery from illness or injury. Thomas encourages students to write prayers or well wishes on each piece of paper before folding.

"Peace Cranes"Being an origami fan myself, I was so struck by the idea of folding the cranes as a way of praying for, or sending good wishes to the Japanese people, I got out my stash of origami paper and struggled through instructions to make my own cranes. I also thought wouldn’t it be great to ask people online to fold their own cranes and then post pictures of them. We could do a virtual collection of 1,000 cranes for Japan.

As I started doing research on peace cranes, lo and behold someone was already on the case of the virtual crane collection. Dosomething.org started “Paper Cranes for Japan” on Facebook on March 11. Since the Causes creation started just a week ago, nearly 6,800 people have “liked” the page, and more than 1,200 photos have been posted.

I had also wondered how someone could connect fundraising to the origami cranes, and it turns out someone figured that out, too. Two groups, Architecture for Humanity and Students Rebuild, noticed the Facebook page and decided to issue a challenge to young people to fold cranes and send them in, with the Bezos Family Foundation pledging $2 for Japan relief for every crane mailed. The goal is to collect 100,000 cranes that will be incorporated into a major art installation.

Folding the cranes is not the easiest of origami creations, but I found if I stuck with it eventually I could do it. There are numerous places online to learn how to fold the cranes. Paper Cranes for Japan has links to instructions. The two places I found that helped me were a UK website called Origami.org.uk, and a YouTube video, “How to Make a Paper Crane (Tsuru)”. The origami site has a 3-D image of the folding process, and you can easily stop the image, or go back over steps (and over and over, like I did). I also had to watch the YouTube video multiple times. But as you can see from the photo, my persistence and patience paid off.

What a great project this would be for (older) kids. It’s a wonderful group project, and one that could be done anywhere with almost any paper. Students Rebuild will even send you a pre-paid shipping label for large boxes if you send an e-mail.

UPDATE: Students Rebuild tells me that they only want paper cranes from people age 25 and YOUNGER. I asked if they would take cranes from the “young at heart”, sadly no. For us older folks, post photos of your cranes at the Paper Cranes for Japan Facebook page.

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Helping the Japanese People in the Wake of Deadly Earthquake, Tsunami


I feel as if I’ve been holding my breath for the last few days since the largest earthquake in Japan’s history hit that country a few days ago. Mostly because the disaster continues to unfold, from quake, to tsunami, to possible nuclear plant meltdowns, with an end somewhere off in the distance.

As we continue to watch and wait to see what happens with our Japanese brothers and sisters, we can help with even the smallest of donations. Here are some sources I trust:

In today’s world of texting, it’s popular – and easy – to suggest texting to an organization like the Red Cross. But I was surprised to learn that the money doesn’t necessarily get to the organization right away. According to a great blog post on the PC World site, it can sometimes take as long as 30 to 60 days for the funds to reach their destinations. If you want to make sure your donation gets to the organization right away, online donating may be your best bet.

The PC World post has some good advice about how not to get scammed when donating to help after a major disaster. It also suggests checking out charitywatch.org; that site has an excellent overview of charities that they trust for helping after disasters.

Here is a video from the Red Cross taken in Japan.

30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season – Part 3


We started with how to be a good neighbor in your own neighborhood during the holidays, then talked about how to extend cheer to the community. Today is all about how to be a good neighbor to the world this holiday season.

  1. Use LED lights for light displays. According to physorg.com, LEDs last five times longer than regular lights and use 75 percent less energy (the link has several more great environmental holiday ideas).

    The Severns-Pease Christmas Display (www.severex.com) in Sunnyvale, CA., uses LED lights.

  2. Get creative about wrapping gifts. One friend of mine who wanted to reduce the amount of waste her family created during the holidays bought pretty fabric and sewed simple drawstring bags in various sizes to use for “wrapping” gifts. The bags are beautiful and will last for many years to come.
  3. Show your support for a soldier or veteran. A group called Soldiers’ Angels needs help delivering 190,000 care packages to deployed soldiers this holiday season and needs donations. The USO has it’s own care package program. Another great clearinghouse of information for how to help both soldiers and veterans here and abroad is salutetoservice.org. You may even find volunteer jobs right in your own community listed at the site.
  4. Give an alternative gift. For the person who has everything, you can donate to worthy causes in that person’s honor. You can visit the website of Alternative Gifts International to find an array of gifts that will help projects all over the world. Buy a cow or build a well for a village, or help education programs to build literacy. Or donate to nearly any cause you or the recipient believe in, and let that person know with a beautiful card.
  5. Sponsor a child abroad. For a monthly donation, you can help improve the life of a child in another part of the world. My family has participated with Children International for many years, and there are other wonderful groups that have similar programs such as World Vision and Compassion.
  6. Send a thank you to a former teacher, or greetings to friends far away you haven’t been in touch with for awhile. Let them know how much you appreciate them.
  7. Think Fair Trade when holiday shopping. Fair Trade is an entire movement that is trying to help communities lift themselves out of property by offering fair prices for products produced using fair labor practices in environmentally sustainable ways. Fair Trade coffee is probably best known, but you can also purchase chocolate, teas, spices, dried fruits, nuts, olive oil and wine. Fair Trade USA has an excellent website to learn more.
  8. Combine shopping errands to reduce fuel use. Plan out your shopping trips and try to come up with routes that use the least amount of gas (will probably help you save time, too!).
  9. Pray for peace. Take a few minutes out of each day this season to pray for peace not only in the world, but in your own community and even your own family. Just the act of praying will bring you a few moments of peace in your own life.
  10. Resolve to be a better neighbor to the world in the coming New Year. Make a new commitment to some act you haven’t tried before, like bringing reusable shopping bags to the store. Or think about conducting an energy audit for your home this year.

What have you tried? Let us know about it! And if you try anything on this list, please let us know how it goes.