Jan 29

What’s in a Twirl?

What’s in a twirl? That which by any other twirl would be so sweet…. Okay so I am taking poetic license with a classic work by William Shakespeare. Yet we should as a society be asking the question “why ask a professional female athlete to twirl and show off her outfit?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzOeJs0Sh-c )

We should also question whether we should just blow it off by calling it “entertainment news” or harmless?  Just for the record, I am a 40 to almost 50 something female who grew up in the US.  I grew up loving sports, playing sports, and not fully understanding why girls had limited options for types of sports to participant in as well as progression into higher levels of sporting competitions. I was by no means an outstanding female athlete; but to participate in sports is not about how good you are, it’s about what you learn about yourself, competition, strategies, and even what you can learn about others.

Title IX policy and advocacy came about when I was in elementary school. At the age of 6, I loved football.  After all, Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 13

Would YOU be able to survive on $15,000/year?

The U.S. federal minimum wage was first established during the Depression, and since 1933 has risen from 25 cents to $7.25 per hour.  As it stands now, three years will have passed since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, which is currently just over $15,000 a year for a full time worker.  Can you imagine living on that amount?  TheMinimum_Wage_3 worst part is that the “poverty line” is so low as to be practically meaningless. I’d be interested to hear from any single parents out there who manage to make ends meet at even double the “poverty line”.  The Fair Minimum Wage Act, supported by President Obama, would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to possibly $9.00 an hour or even $10.10 an hour.  That is around $19,000/yr.  This is still not enough money to survive, but it is a start.  Beginning on December 31, 2013, New York increased their minimum wage to $8.00 per hour from $7.25 per hour and will subsequently change it to $9.00 per hour by the end of 2015.  As a proud native New Yorker, I am saddened by this pathetic wage increase because the cost of living in New York is high and so does anyone really believe that anyone can exist on this beggarly wage?

Last year the majority of the House (Including the entire Republican delegation) voted against a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by this year. even though this is a policy that is supported by 80% of Americans.  Way to support your constituents.  Clap.  Clap.

Lamentably, so many of us have been taught, and politicians make us believe, that to have a job is to prosper, which Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 12

Mandatory Autism Awareness and Response Training for Law Enforcement

I am one of millions of people whose life has been touched by somebody with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  I work with individuals who have autism, both children and adults, mostly in their homes and out in the community.  On a regular basis when I am with my clients, we are stared at, and occasionally have been confronted in regards to certain behaviors, such as making loud noises, jumping up and down, pacing back and forth in line and accidentally nudging into others, etc.   Most of the time, however, I receive a warm smile or knowing glances from others in the autism_awareness_puzzlepiece heartcommunity–which is truly a testament to how far the autism awareness movement has come to date.  The outside world can quickly become over-stimulating for a person with ASD, which at times leads to a public meltdown.  Occasionally, these meltdowns involve physical aggression of some sort (from slapping or pinching to hitting, etc.).  When this happens, I become immediately anxious- not anxious out of concern for myself, as I have been trained for safety in incidents like these.  I become concerned as to how this looks to the people around.  I worry that people will begin to crowd around us (fairly common), which inevitably enhances the severity of the meltdown.  I worry, like so many others who care for individuals with autism, that a concerned citizen will think there is a danger being posed, call law enforcement, and that police will arrive and perhaps not recognize the signs of autism and respond in such a way that, unknowingly and unintentionally, escalates the situation further.  I understand that law enforcement follows a specific protocol for responses, but I worry that if these responses are used on a person with ASD, they could fight back, flee, or be seriously injured in the case of a restraint situation.

Of course, all individuals with autism have unique “triggers”, just as every person does.  Consequently,  is important to remember that generalizations of the signs of autism will always have exceptions.  All individuals are at different places on the spectrum and exhibit unique behaviors.  In general, however, people who are on the autism spectrum may not make eye contact with others or respond to verbal communication (many individuals on the spectrum are nonverbal), including demands from law enforcement or other authorities.  They may also have sensitivities to light, touch, sounds, and so on.  People with autism may flee if confronted, for a variety of reasons.  These and other Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 10

How Women Help Move an Economy?

Coco Chanel once said in The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman –“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”

Many women today have taken that advice quite seriously. In today’s times the world is witness to an extremely upgraded version of the feminine brigade that is ready to take it to the next level.  Women have stepped into different professions and have made a mark for themselves. So much has their contribution affected the professions that they land in, that they are even being considered one of the driving forces for the corresponding economic revenue.

Catalyst, a leading research and advisory organization working to advance women in business, found in an analysis of Fortune 500 companies that those with a greater representation of women in management positions delivered a better total return to the shareholders than those with a lower representation. Research also shows that, not only in the professional or industrial background, but also on the household level, women have proved to be the money channelizing force that brings in profits on a family as well as a societal scale. However, what really makes a woman more productive for any kind of economy than men? What are the qualities that make women a better (hiring, management, leadership, etc.) alternative in a money oriented environment than their male peers?

First, the basic quality that sets a woman apart from her male counterpart is the way she approaches a situation before her. Men, on the one hand, often arrive to conclusions by making comparisons with the most obvious and latest similar experience they have had. Women judge situations on the basis of experiences over long women econ pic 1time spans as well as using these experiences on a 3 dimensional level where they can form a web-like data and inter-relate it to arrive to a conclusion.  Women accomplish all of this in the same time frame as men.  Basically, women come to a more realistic and reliable decision based on instincts and prior knowledge.

Brigham Young once said, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”  Knowledge and education play an important role in this and it has held true. Research estimates that in the BRICS and N11 countries’ investments in female education could yield a ‘growth premium’ that could bring about a GDP growth trend of approximately 0.2% per year. Statistics also suggest that most women in managing positions have show a high regard for their mentors whom they idolize and in many Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 08

Housing First Model for Homelessness?

Is it time to start thinking differently about homelessness?  There’s a broad spectrum of approaches and opinions surrounding homelessness in the US and its assumed you are somewhere on that continuum.  The Veteran’s Administration and Barack Obama have declared to end veteran homelessness by 2015, although results and progress remain to be seen.  What if I told you, there is a state in the Union that is on target to eliminate homelessness by 2015?  Is this a worthy goal and what are we really talking about here?

Since 2005, Utah has quietly begun to diminish homelessness and is on track to eliminate it by 2015.  In the 8 years since it’s inception, Utah has dropped homelessness by 78%.  What’s most interesting about it is that there blog.pic.3.24bwas no universe-shattering solution which defies the laws of economics, it was simple arithmetic.  Legislators discovered that the annual cost of ER and jail visits cost almost $17,000/year per person while providing the same with an apartment and a social worker cost merely $11,000.  Consequently, Utah began giving the homeless apartments and a case manager with no strings attached and the results are self-evident.

Typically, homelessness in America has been addressed through street outreach, food pantries, shelters, and religious activities. While this band-aid approach can alleviate some of the symptoms of homelessness, it rarely cuts to the root of the problems or provides a lasting solution.  The Housing-First, also known as Rapid Re-Housing can provide dualistic benefits that improve the wellbeing of the homeless as well as the wellbeing of the neighborhood.  By providing stable housing to the homeless, this program not only assists them by protects and improves the red-light Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 17

Armed with technology, would you help homeless youth?

Our video explores graphic facts of homelessness and the options for concerned citizens to explore.  NPR reports that the number of homeless in the US declined in 2013, however these statistics are often difficult to track from the transient and elusive nature of the populations under study.  Their report indicates that in 2013, around 610,000 people were homeless on the night under study.  Homeless numbers are many times inaccurate as youth and others who are homeless often avoid shelters, couch-surf, commit crimes, or visit ER’s and other “non-shelter” institutions to obtain housing.  It is generally understood that at least half of the homeless population in the US are under the age of 21, which would indicate on this night that at least 305,000 young people were without stable housing in the US: equivalent to roughly half of the state of Vermont.

So, do any solutions exist for the homeless youth populations?  With the prevalence of smartphone use in America today, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs has launched a contest for app developers to assist in aiding homeless veterans.  Project REACH (Real-Time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless) requested app developers to put all the vital information for homeless individuals in one easily accessible and rapidly Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 03

So is Voluntourism the Road Better Traveled?

Voluntourism, as discussed in a previous blog, To Go Or Not To Go, provides a unique impact and scope compared to traditional donations.  The second part of the series seeks to uncover the road of donations as compared to voluntourism in terms of reaching the destination, community impact, and the values of overhead.  The analysis of voluntourism was shown to not only expand the value of the dollar by nearly 500% but also allow 93% of value to have direct impact and use to the destinations of interest. Alternately, the financial performance of donations, particularly the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund, presents significantly more hurdles to uncover the behavior and value of donations.  I will attempt to unravel the highly politicized, somewhat confusing, and sometimes misleading information regarding the Red Cross’ spending in Haiti to present a balanced view as much of that contentious speculation is outside the scope of this comparison.

Charity Navigator, as well as the Better Business Bureau, both report the Red Cross’ Administrative and Fundraising Spending to total 8%, while 92% is spent on direct programming.  While these were relatively easy figures to find they do not provide a complete picture of the donations’ financial activity.  Researching reports Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 21

Bridging Social Capital for your Community

The United Nations is currently developing comprehensive assessments of the impact of social capital in communities and purports that volunteerism is the heart of social capital.  As such, it is significant for volunteers Blog Pic 1.11and those creating volunteer opportunities to be mindful of the approaches and opportunities being created.  To create bridging social capital requires a diversity sometimes not seen in volunteer opportunities as the very nature of an opportunity draws like minded people from similar backgrounds and resources.  For instance, neighborhood or playground clean-ups draws individuals from the neighborhood together and, of course, generates social capital, however does not necessarily expand the cultural, professional, or geographic boundaries of the participants.

 

While social capital remains a somewhat diffuse concept for social entrepreneurs and innovators, alike.  Change agents seeking community impact can improve outcomes through consideration of social capital in whatever interventions they attempt. Bridging social capital refers to groups of individuals of different skills, resources, and other attributes that come together and the interaction is mutually beneficial.  Simply put, bridging social capital connects diverse groups and consequently enriches both.

 

Another accessible opportunity that provides bridging social capital in an easily replicable model is the Great American Clean-Up.  Annually, 4 million volunteers across the United States sign-up to participate in this day of service.  A result is a broad geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic array of community members who interact over the course of a day.  The opportunity is present for these diverse individuals and organizations to develop the connections necessary for a social capital network.  These networks consequently strengthen a broad range of community ties and ideally lead to greater community action and mutual support.  To become involved in this event as an individual or organization visit their affiliate locator to sign-up and acquire further details.

In another instance, the impact and importance of bridging social capital can also be seen in the reintegration of schools where children of deficient abilities are no longer segregated from other school children. This model of bridging interactions of diverse social skills is shown to improve development of all the children.  Likewise, it increases the social skills of socially impaired students as well as the empathy of the other school children.  The mental health systems of the State’s have also enacted similar practices which produces improved outcomes as the diversity of social interaction spurs and supports mental health.

         To implement bridging social capital can be as simple as advertising in various locales to draw a wide socioeconomic variety or as complex as organizing a multicultural fair celebrating the diverse foods, music, and wares of your surrounding region.  As a volunteer organizer in what ways can you implement social capital in your opportunities?  If seeking to volunteer, All For Good and  Serve.gov provide immense opportunities for local involvement as well as appending opportunities you create.  To seek diverse opportunities get involved with organizations and events that may not typically interest you and you may find broadened horizons as well as what your skills, attributes, and perspective can add to any array of communities.

Oct 21

Getting the Truth in Syria

Syria has, understandably, been a top point in the news lately as conflict continues to rage.  Indeed, I’ve written quite a few posts on Syria in the past, and could continue to write about the country for some time while only barely scratching the surface of the issues.  A quick Google search for news in Syria turns up with hundreds of articles just written in the past week or so on a variety of topics: continued calls for ceasefire, airstrikes in Damascus, possible polio outbreaks, and the death of a top military officer, to name just a few.  But in all the noise about Syria, how accurate is the information we have about what’s happening on the ground?

Journalists have a variety of techniques for reporting in conflict zones.  Secure browsers like Tor allow journalists and dissidents to send information despite hostile governments, the UN and other organizations work to protect journalists, and protection for journalists and other media personnel does exist under international law.  Reporting in a conflict zone is, however, an extremely dangerous task, particularly in Syria.  You may recall from a little over a year ago when journalist Marie Colvin, a veteran at reporting from conflicted areas, and photographer Remi Ochlik were killed during a shelling in Syria, which resulted in an international uproar.  Earlier this year, on the anniversary of their deaths, the campaign A Day Without News? was launched to raise awareness of the dangers that journalists face in areas like Syria, and announced that this past year has been the deadliest year for journalists in war-torn areas, with 90 reporters having been killed.   Overall, according to the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, at least 116 journalists have been killed since the conflict began in 2011.

Conditions for reporters in Syria haven’t improved in the intervening months, unfortunately.  Not only do journalists in Syria face the danger  of being hit by gunfire or shelling, they also have to worry about being kidnapped.  Reporters Without Borders has announced that at least 16 foreign and 60 local journalists are currently missing, with many more cases potentially unreported.  Indeed, many rebel groups are actively being encouraged to snatch foreign journalists, who are often accused of being spies.  As a result, many reporters have stopped entering rebel-held territories, and some newspapers, like the Sunday Times, have requested that people stop sending in photographs from Syria in order to discourage risk-taking.

This is, of course, beneficial for war correspondents, as, naturally, they are considerably safer if they do not venture into dangerous areas.  But what does this mean for news from Syria?  Voluntary news blackouts have become quite common, and reporters who do go into dangerous areas typically only stay long enough to get just as much information as they need.  Therefore the information coming out of Syria is a bit spotty at best, and quite biased towards the relatively calm capital of Damascus.

This has created an opening for untrained civilians and activists to act as journalists, sending in photos, videos, and information to the major news outlets.  It is difficult to verify these stories, however.  Common sense would suggest that people are not fabricating the tragedies they send in, but in fact multiple videos and photographs purporting to be of troubles in Syria have been debunked as images from other years and even countries that are instead being used as propaganda.  We may never know the truth of the situation in Syria, if foreign journalists are forced to remain on the sidelines and untrained civilians send in unverifiable information.  Not having a clear view of the situation will certainly shape views of the conflict, both for the general public and for international leaders.

What is your opinion of the situation for journalists and civilian reporters and how the lack of accurate information shapes public perception and policies?  Let me know in the comments!

Oct 01

UAA: Is it Enough?

This week I stumbled upon some thrilling news: The Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA). This fancy little piece of legislation goes into effect July of 2014 and may be a push in the right direction for addressing the loopholes in existence within the international adoption process.

So what is the UAA? This document, signed by President Obama in January of 2013, requires that all individuals who wish to participate in intercountry adoption must use an accredited agency or individual throughout their UAA#1adoption process. While unaccredited individuals may continue to assist people in their intercountry, adoptions, they must be supervised by an accredited agency while overseeing a case. This legislation will also require that all families or individuals must receive a certain amount of educational hours before travelling to bring their child back to the US and that all parties involved must be specifically concerned with the best interest of the child. This is a huge step forward for the adoption process! Essentially these agencies are ensuring individuals interested in adoption that they are complying with the Hague Convention standards and are, therefore, accredited, and able to assist a family with their international adoption process.

In the past, parents were able to work with a licensed attorney in securing a child to adopt from overseas. This meant that documentation indicating how the child was “orphaned” was not required and no follow-up reports on the well-being of the child after the adoption were necessary.  With the establishment of UAA, agencies hope to be able to eliminate the selling or trafficking of children into orphanages as a means to make money. This piece of legislation will also require post-adoption reports to occur when the child returns home with their adopted family. Depending on the requirements of the country the child is adopted from, will determine how many reports, and over how long a time period, these reports must be documented. For example, some Eastern European countries require that an annual post adoption report is completed until the child is 21 years of age. Other countries, like Read the rest of this entry »

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