Water Changes Everything

It’s my third annual Social Media for Social Good (SMSG) fundraising drive. Today is Make a Difference Day, and this is how I’m choosing to do it. Some of you might have heard of charity:water when Rachel Beckwith’s tragic story made the news. She was an amazing little nine year old, and you can read more of what happened here. I dare you not to cry.

I spent a lot of time researching reputable international charities, and I love that charity:water is so transparent. I think it’ll be fun to check what our little ALBTALBS drive does too.

Did you know that:

  • 100% of all public donations directly fund water projects, and they prove every dollar using photos and GPS coordinates on a map
  • 800 million people around the world don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water
  • That is one out of every nine people
  • More people die from lack of clean water and sanitation each year than are killed by all forms of violence, including war
  • 90% of the deaths that result from diarrheal disease occur in children under five
  • About every nineteen seconds a mother loses her child to a water related illness
  • In sub-Saharan Africa 16 million hours each day are spent by women collecting water. This takes time away from work, school, and family.
  • 10% of disease could be reduced with improved access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene education, and water resource management.
  • $1 invested in water becomes $4-12 dollars for the local economy
  • Communities choose a small group of people to oversee each completed charity: water project. Equal numbers of men and women are encouraged to be included. These Water Committees are often the first chance women have to take on elected leadership roles.
  • The WHO reports that over 3.6% of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply, sanitation, and hygiene.
  • Feeding our world takes up to 90% of our freshwater withdrawals but many people in developing nations still don’t have access to enough water for irrigation.
  • Just $20 $65 can provide one person with a clean water project in his/her village

We can make a huge difference.

I know it’s difficult to give, but I’m asking everyone to do what they can. And if you can’t – help spread the word. This is a comment drive, so even just leaving a comment and having one friend do the same helps. Believe me – I know it’s hard out there. I know what it’s like to make well under the poverty rate. I still do. Which is why I’m doing something where everyone can get involved.

These people have already given:

Pledges:

  • I’m going to give $300 if we reach 1,000 comments.
  • Cecilia Grant will give $1 per comment up to 100 comments
  • The Romance Man will give $50 when we reach 250 comments will match my $300 if we get to 1,000 comments!!!
  • C2 will give $150 when we reach 500 comments
  • Farrah Rochon will give $10 for every 100 comments

You can see who all the wonderful, generous people who donated are on the campaign page. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Won’t you join us?

And in the spirit of friendly competition … I’m asking – challenging – 50 bloggers to donate. Even if it’s $1. I think we can do it. (In fact – I’d love to see more bloggers donate than authors. How’s that for competition? But a concrete goal of 50.)
And if privacy is a concern, you can donate anonymously. *coughs* Someone *coughs* already donated $50 to check that out. :)

Let’s do this!

*ETA: I have a specific campaign created for the romance community: http://mycharitywater.org/albtalbs if you’d like to donate. Also, if you’re donating, I would love to add you to the list, to let other people know (peer pressure! :D ) and to give you a shout out. Please feel free to email me with any questions, or to talk about whether or not you want your name/amount to be listed. Thank you!!!

Also, for clarification, my SMSG drives go on for a month. I figure that’s enough time for word to be spread and people to budget what they can to donate. For all of us in the states, it’s a tax deductible charitable donation! (For our international friends, I would look into that too.)

You can check out the numerous giveaways here. To enter, just use your comment url and you’re done!

Planning for Social Media for Social Good

Hi friends! Some of you might remember my annual Social Media for Social Good drive. (SMSG) – I started it in 2010 because I saw talk of “Make a Difference Day” where (RED) and maskable had a big project. I then saw blogs that said something like “I’ll donate $1/comment on this post up to X amount.” And I thought about it, then said to myself, “I can do that.” So I posted to TGTBTU (where I was a reviewer/blogger at the time.) It was incredible. In less than twelve hours, the romance community raised more than $1,337.

I couldn’t let this opportunity pass, so in 2011, I researched charities for a long time. I wanted to find something I cared about, and that would be reputable, and international. There was sadly a humanitarian crisis going on in the Horn of Africa – so I decided to choose Save the Children. (Regardless of your politics, or how you feel about your country’s involvement in the area… I can’t se how you’d hold it against children.) I decided to go for a full month, and we raised $8,484.50.

For the past year I’ve been considering at the back of my mind which charity to chose. (It is incredibly difficult to find a reputable organization that is international, and won’t cause offense to anyone.) I decided to go with charity:water.

Everyone needs water to survive. Everyone. And it’s something every person can relate to, and sympathize with. We take water for granted. Some of us refuse to drink anything but filtered water. I can’t even imagine what life would be without easy access to clean water.

So starting on Saturday, October 27, Make a Difference Day, I’m starting a charity drive. Social Media for Social Good is a way to get everyone involved. It’s a fundraiser, and an attempt to raise awareness.

How can you participate? Give money. Spread the word. I know it’s hard out there right now. Some of us can give a lot, some of us can give a little. Believe me, as someone who is making painfully less than the poverty rate, I know it’s difficult. But this is my pet project. I’m asking you to give what you can. Even a dollar makes a difference. Imagine, if a group of people can spare a dollar, that’s huge. 10 people, 15, 25, 100. Whatever.

Some of you might wish to have a correlative rate. E.g. $5 for every 50 comments. Whatever you think is best, or you can afford. A flat rate is fine too. I’ve had people say they’d pay $100 for 100 comments – at different levels. Because remember, the idea is to get as many people involved as possible. (E.g. One person will donate X amounts when we get 100 comments. Another person will donate Y amount when we hit 200 comments, and so on.) I’ve also talked about why I decided to go with a comment drive, and not something else.

I’d love to have something in place before the “official” post goes live.

So – tell me – are you in?

Special Guest: Fedora

Friends, we’ve got a totally awesome post from Fedora today! She’s a lovely reader I’ve met online at various places. I definitely don’t get to talk to her as much as I’d like to, but I’m glad to have finally pinned her down for a guest post. :D She was really nervous about it, so I hope you show her some love.
Also? She’s amazing – we’ve got another post coming (hopefully later today) about my annual charity drive, and we didn’t even discuss and – and look at what she wrote! *big hugs to Fedora*

Hi, I’m Fedora, and I’ve probably met some of you already! That’s one of the lovely things about the Internet and how the online world has been a great thing for us readers! I’m a wife, mom, and life-long reader, and thanks to the dawning of the Internet/electronic age, I’ve been blessed with an ever-growing TBR and so many friends that I’ve yet to meet in person. :)

Although it’s a little early for Thanksgiving, I think it’s never too early to be grateful and I also think it’s never the wrong time for kindness. One of the things that I do love about the Internet is that in some ways, it’s truly made the world a smaller one, in a good way. Not only can we make friends with all kinds of people in all kinds of places, we can use our connections for good.

I know I’m a bit of an ostrich—I don’t like to watch the news and rarely read the papers. I don’t care to hear about the bad stuff—I guess if that makes me a fool, then so be it. It isn’t that I don’t think bad things are happening—alas, they are a part of reality, but I don’t feel I need to put them front and center in my life or the life of my family.

What I WOULD love to hear about is the good things—what is one kind thing, one generous thing someone has done for you or you have done for someone else recently? One great thing about the world we live in today is that we can truly reach out and touch someone else (remember that commercial? No? Feelin’ old here ;) ) without leaving our homes. A heartfelt thank you that needed to be said. Words of encouragement just as someone’s feeling really down and out. Even a giftcard or gift shared with another person. Or just a hilarious post on FB that’s cheered you.

Some of the causes, groups, or people that most touch my heart are ones that support children, families, the military, and of course, reading. There are local ones that our family supports throughout the year, but a few that are farther reaching include:

Paperbackswap is a way to trade books you’re done with for books you want; they regularly also have ways to share books with schools in need, military personnel, and so on. I joined PBS years ago because DH thought it’d be a great way to get rid of some of the books in the house, and well, I wouldn’t say that we now have fewer books—we just have more books that we actually want to read ;)

Another for us readers is Operation Paperback, which works directly to connect military personnel with books to keep them company.

This one focuses on serving military families, who make huge sacrifices on our behalf every day: Operation Home Front

And I recall Reading Is Fundamental advertising even from when I was little.

And while it’s key to hook kids on reading, there are adults who need that same gift. ProLiteracy addresses adult illiteracy and helps get these people the lifechanging help reading provides.

I personally also like the work that Partners International does, especially with women and children. Plus they have a cool Harvest of Hope catalog which is very fun for our kids to go through, especially as we’re heading into the giving season.

So, what is near and dear to your heart? Please share either a group or an instance with us, and let us know how we can help, too! (I have books and swag I’d love to share with at least one of you—that’ll help me, too! My husband is often ready to toss my packrat self into the street ;) )

I embedded the links to the organizations into the organization names – so just wanted to point that out to you in case you wanted to look for them. Thanks! (Also, as such I take full responsibility for weird sentences etc.)

(International!) Pay It Forward Day!

Hi friends!

I only just learned it’s International Pay It Forward Day. :) So… nothing hugely organized – but, I wanted to ask – is there anything I’m able to do for you?

I asked on twitter too.

If so – just let me know. I’ll do my best.

Did you know about it? Will you try to do anything? (I’m being lazy and staying in…)

Somewhat along those lines… National Make a Difference Day is coming up in the fall – and I always have a Social Media for Social Good fundraiser. I’m still trying to pick a charity. One that does something that matters, is a 501c3 (at least in the states), is well run, and ideally, international. If you’ve got suggestions I’d love to hear them.

Also – I know charities can send a lot of mail. Like a lot of solicitations. I’ve gotten so much mail from Save the Children, from last year and previous years. And other organizations. (I’m sorry about that.) I wanted to know then – if I started a collection on paypal or something – would you be more or less interested in donating? (That way you wouldn’t get the email/paper mail solicitations.) Paypal would take a slight fee, so it wouldn’t be a 100% donation – and all the other issues, but it would save you the junk mail.

Thoughts?

Lori’s Walk to Defeat ALS

Walk to Defeat ALS… because you can

Thank you so much, Lime, for letting me share information about ALS, the Walk to Defeat ALS and to spread awareness of the urgency to find treatments and a cure. I really appreciate all the good that you do for social causes and how generous you and your readers are with your time and money. I’m here to ask you to open your hearts once more for a disease that has struck my family.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a neuromuscular disease. There is no cure at this time, or even any treatment. Basically, ALS robs a person of everything except their cognitive abilities. The muscles begin to weaken, as nerves don’t fire correctly. You slowly begin to lose your ability to walk, talk, swallow, breathe. Yet you remain completely aware of everything going on around you and can still feel pain. It is among the cruelest of diseases. Every 90 minutes a person in this country is diagnosed with ALS and every 90 minutes another person will lose their battle against this disease. ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries. This crippling disease can strike anyone. Presently there is no known cause of the disease, though support is bringing researchers closer to an answer. In the meantime, it costs an average of $200,000 a year to provide the care ALS patients need.

Part of the problem is that there is no test for ALS. It’s a diagnosis that’s only made after ruling everything else out. So it frequently takes up to 2 years to diagnose the correct disease. That’s 2 years of disease progression before you’ve even gotten a diagnosis. You may have seen this video feature of New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason during the SuperBowl this year:

Here’s my own ALS story:
My sister-in-law Sue was diagnosed in October 2010 with ALS. The diagnosis took 18 months, which is sadly not unusual. In the 1 ½ years since her diagnosis (3 years into the disease), she is now completely dependent. She is in a wheelchair, and requires assistance around the clock. The saving grace for my brother and sister-in-law has been our local chapter of the ALS Association. The ALS Association serves several purposes. First, they are there to educate ALS patients, families, and the public about this disease. But more importantly, they are there to help families in their local communities with the necessary adjustments – providing affordable equipment such as wheelchairs for patients, contractors to retrofit houses, and social services to give patients and their families the support they need. Our local chapter helped my brother find a handicap-equipped van at an affordable price. They recommended a contractor to them who works with the ALS Association to give a special break in price to ALS patients for retrofitting their home.

The average life expectancy of an ALS patient ranges from 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis.  We are now at the 1 ½ -year mark from diagnosis. My brother and sister-in-law and my 2 nieces are coping with the help of family and friends, but I know that there is quickly going to come a day when we no longer have Sue with us. Though she is enrolled in some clinical trials, and we remain hopeful for a treatment to slow progression or a cure. However, it’s not likely that Sue will benefit directly from the ongoing research. Where she does benefit immediately is with the support offered to them by the ALS Association and the community of families that reside within it. The ALS community is a tightly-kit one, and it breaks my heart every time my brother tells me that one of their friends has lost their battle.

My greatest hope is that Sue will win her battle, and be here to watch both of her daughters graduate from college, dance at their weddings, and live to see her grandchildren. I pray we find an answer for the millions of people with ALS, but most especially… and selfishly (I admit)… I pray for a cure for Sue, my brother, and my nieces. They are fighting so valiantly, and staying hopeful and optimistic.

Because every donation goes almost exclusively to the local chapters, every gift you make will go directly toward helping my brother and his family.

Here is, in part, how donations help:

  • $25 pays for a walking cane that will transform the hope for safety into peace of mind.
  • $60 helps webcast an “Ask the Experts” research summit online for those who are unable to attend in person.
  • $100 enables repairs and maintenance of an augmentative communication device (AAC) from the ALS loan closet.
  • $250 funds one of sixteen monthly support groups that serve people with ALS and their families in my community.
  • $600 supports one day of a multi-disciplinary satellite clinic which serves people with ALS who aren’t able to travel long distances.

I know that money is tight for so many of us. I’d really appreciate anything that you could donate to help fight against ALS. Even $5 or $10 helps! With so many government budget cuts, subsidized medical research is often the first thing to go. With your help though, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of people affected by this disease. Last year, your generous donations helped to raise close to $6500 for my team of walkers. My own personal goal is to raise $1500.

To donate to my Walk to Defeat ALS: http://webgw.alsa.org/goto/loris

Find out more about ALS and the amazing work being done by the ALS Association here: http://www.alsa.org/
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Donations also are used to fund important research – the ALS Association has the most active research program in the world, and over the past year many new discoveries have been made. One of the current studies is focusing on the increased incidence of ALS in our armed forces. Here are some other important breakthroughs – among which is discovering a gene that is common in familial ALS (when it runs in families).

(9/21/2011) New Genetic Mutation Identified: Most Common Cause of FTD and ALS, Accounting for as Much as One Third of All Familial ALS

(8/23/2011) Northwestern researchers report breakthrough in ALS research

Brace Yourselves… (Bleeding Heart Ahead)

I know it hasn’t been something I’ve focused on for a while, but a passion of mine that equals, if not exceeds my love of books is social justice. There’s just been so much going on in the world that I’ve been a bit overwhelmed. (And then with me personally. Life and I have been disagreeing on many levels.)

But there’s something I saw today and it just… well broke my heart. If you watch the video – which is lengthy, grab tissues. I cried. This is the article: Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran, 68. (I’m going to try and embed the video, but for some reason WordPress has always hated me…)

Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran

There’s just… I don’t even have a response for that, other than sorrow, and an utter sense of wrongness. That it was police – responding to a medical alert call doing this makes it… I don’t think I’ve been as horrified since I learned the police duty (or lack thereof) to the public when it comes to you the individual as a member of the public, in Torts.

I can’t believe this happened last year that Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr was shot dead. By policeInside his own home. And nothing has happened.

Where’s the national outcry and outrage about this? (That’s a whole new can of worms though… but you have to admit – there’s the whole sensationalist/popular opinion thing. Not to say I don’t think it’s important to care about and fight for justice with Trayvon Martin’s family – but … consistency. Slow and steady.)

Like with FoxConn taking the heat – so many people are throwing around words like “I’m never buying Apple again! I’m going Dell (or insert other electronics) all the way!” It’s just so… *facepalm* to me. I’ll help you out. Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others. (Also according to reports FoxConn has changed the factory conditions, and is also limiting everything to a (less than 60 – I can’t recall the exact hours now) work week, with no decrease in pay. Expect to see Apple products reflect that in their prices soon, because I just can’t see the company heads eating that cost. Unless they take it out on their other working grunts.)

So we’ve hit a few issues. I’m obviously not going to, and cannot detail everything.

But – let’s go one more with a death that should never have happened.

On March 21, a woman was beaten to death in her home. There, the police actually did their job [they a) didn't kill her themselves, and b) launched an investigation] – so um, +1 I guess? (Sorry – you can tell I’m pretty salty about the other cases.) Shaima Alawadi was an American citizen, and an Iraqi-American. If you read about the circumstances, I can’t see how it’s not a hate crime. I’m glad the FBI is stepping in, and I hope they catch the killer(s). I know we’re all still tense about 9/11, especially with the recent incidents with flight attendant(s) and pilot(s) losing their minds… but still.

There might have been media stories about this, but I haven’t seen or heard them. Of course, I’m someone who oftentimes distrusts media spin too…

This isn’t a very happy post, I know. But I think it’s important to think about, and know about. We’re obviously not the happy melting pot we’re supposed to be in America. And for all that people say they’re colorblind, many obviously aren’t. And beyond that, to say one is colorblind proudly… I don’t think that’s actually right or helpful. Obviously race/ethnicity/color is a factor, and pretending that it isn’t is basically sticking your head in the sand.

Nota Bene – I am not not not saying that one incident is more important than the other, or trying to point fingers with the “why care about this and not that?” Or even about everything – because honestly – it’s inhuman to expect being able to keep up. No single person is able to know about every incident, everywhere, and to do something about it. But it’s important to care in general, and do what we can. It’s about raising the level of awareness, and concern.

And uh – if you managed to make it this far… believe it or not, I was mentioned elsewhere! Yes! Lil ‘ol me! And she even made me sound good! What’m I talking about? Elise Rome included me in her Bloggers/Readers section for her insane March Madness giveaway/project/thing. I don’t even have words-  I couldn’t handle it. Anyway, if you want, go visit me there and I’ll… um respond? (Yeah sorry  - can’t offer prizes etc, but if I ever win the lottery I totally would!)

p.s. – I know I didn’t post winners Saturday. Sorry – they’ll be up this week though!

A Thankful Thanksgiving (Touching Guest Post from Liz)

I have this special fondness for Thanksgiving being on the 24th of November. There’s no particular rhyme or reason, but it just seems right to me. Like Thanksgiving is meant to be on the 24th. Sure, sometimes it’s on different days – that’s how the calendar works. I’m sure each and every one of us also has something to be thankful for. Sure, some of us have it better than others. (And most of us reading this blog have it better than many parts of the world… but that’s a dangerous game to play.)

I think today’s post, though, is absolutely perfect, and fitting. Sarah M. Anderson prompted me to do the mini SMSG drive for the Pine Ridge Reservation. (I can’t seem to escape it – actually watched Imprint last night (the indie film not the… other horror?), not knowing about the location/specifics.) But really, I can’t say anything better than Liz. For such a small effort, I think we did fabulously, everyone. Anyway, Liz commented on my original post, and I asked if she’d be willing to blog about the experience, giving to the Reservation, and here it is.

I don’t know what it’s like to go to bed hungry. I never lived with anyone growing up except my two parents. My mom stayed home with us kids while my dad worked. My brother and I had closets full of clothes, shoes, and toys. We were warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Now, I can say that my children don’t know what it’s like to be hungry or cold or wonder where their parents are. I know that we’re blessed and I’m grateful every day for the life we enjoy. And I’m never more aware of just how blessed we really are until I see programs like 20/20s report on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation’s children. My nine year old daughter Rachel and I sat together and watched the show. Throughout, she kept saying “it’s so sad”.

The first thing she said to me when it was over was, “Mom, I want to send them my hats.” We looked up the websites mentioned on the 20/20 website, settling on one that would accept hats and gloves and also books for children of all ages. That weekend, we went shopping and purchased hats, gloves, and books (baby, toddler, and elementary age) to add to the freshly washed, gently used items we had at home.

I told her that there were several hundred kids on the reservation that had little or no winter clothes. She looked down at the hats and then up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “We only have six.”

I gave her a hug and said, “Six isn’t a big number, but those six kids will be thankful to get those hats this winter. So it might not seem like a big deal, but it will be a big deal to a handful of kids.”

I know that there are many people who did more than we did – who gave money or boxes of clothes and supplies; but I couldn’t look at my daughter and say – well we can only do “x” and it won’t matter in the whole scheme of things. Because in truth, every little bit counts, but only if the “bits” make it where they’re needed. We did what we could and tried to fill a need as we were able.

Grown men can learn from very little children—for the hearts of little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show them many things that older people miss.” Black Elk

Today, I’m thankful and humbled to be part of the romance community, where I get to meet and mingle with wonderful people like you. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you have a wonderful day. <3