Tips For Volunteering Overseas

Volunteering is a beautiful way to make a difference while supporting the nonprofit organizations that you love. It makes you feel like you have a purpose in the world while making the lives of others better.

The idea of volunteering overseas can be both intimidating and appealing for many potential volunteers out there. Yet, there is specific advice that they should try to follow. This advice will help keep them from making mistakes and unintentionally causing more harm than good.

Know the Organization

Unfortunately, there are a few pitfalls volunteers need to be aware of when considering volunteering overseas. When looking for an organization, keep exploitation concerns in mind. Some less scrupulous organizations may be willing to overcharge volunteers for the opportunity to help others.

While other organizations out there care less about causing a lasting positive change and more about making a profit. These organizations are at high risk for causing more damage in the long run and should be avoided at all costs. 

When it comes to organizations hoping to connect volunteers with vulnerable children, it is imperative to look closely at what is happening. Look at child protection policies, and make sure they are in line with common sense and ethics.

Keep Reading

Once you’ve found an organization that meets your needs – and the standards mentioned above – it is time to look more closely at the project itself. Generally, when an organization sends out volunteers, they do so with a purpose.

There is a vast difference between heading overseas to help build houses versus providing additional aid and education. Now is an excellent time to read up on the program itself and better understand what skills will be needed.

Research

Now that the organization and location have been decided upon, it is time for the next round of research. It’s time to research the area itself! Look up essential tourist guides to start – safety, advice, language tips, etc. 

This is a good starting place. Also, look up where you’ll be staying, what the cultural norms are, and if possible – reach out to volunteers who have gone before you. This will help create a better understanding of the location and what will be asked of you.

Benefits of Service Dogs

Service dogs play a critical – yet oft-overlooked – role in the daily lives of many people. Service dogs can change the quality of life for many of those with disabilities and those with chronic conditions.

It’s essential to know how service dogs can help improve life, if for no other reason than to appreciate and respect these animals and their important work truly. Listed below are some of the benefits of service dogs – though it is by no means a complete list.

Aiding Mobility

Service dogs are trained to provide physical aid to their owners. For example, they can reach wheelchair users’ items and provide basic tasks for those that can’t, fetch objects, press buttons, etc. 

Medical Alerts

Some service dogs have been trained to be on alert for people experiencing a medical crisis. Specific episodes can be alerted in advance, allowing the person to either get to a safe place or request help. Otherwise, service dogs can provide a safe space, get help, or stand watch as needed.

Fall Prevention

Service dogs provide a critical service for those that deal with fatigue, physical challenges, pain conditions, or just have trouble walking. These dogs are specially trained to help a person who is struggling with their balance. They can brace a person about to fall or help soften their landings. Furthermore, they can provide help by fetching items (reducing the risk of getting up needlessly). 

Independence

Thanks to service dogs, many people have gained a level of independence that they would otherwise not have been able to reach. They no longer have to rely on those around them and can always trust their service animal to provide whatever aid is needed.

Companionship

Having a service dog comes with the added benefit of always having a companion around. Yes, that companion is working, but they are incredibly loyal and willing to help out however possible.

As such, service dogs can help reduce certain adverse emotional states, such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness. All while boosting positive ones, including self-confidence and happiness.

It’s important here to note the significant differences between a service dog and a therapy animal. While both have their benefits, ultimately, they do provide vastly different tasks. Be sure to properly research both before deciding which one is right for you.

Ways to Support Breast Cancer Awareness in October

Alan Rasof Breast Cancer AwarenessWays to Support Breast Cancer Awareness in October

Every year, the US and other nations commemorate those suffering from, recovering from, and living cured of breast cancer throughout the month of October. Individual people and companies will wear pink to show their support for those with the disease and to raise money for research and treatments for patients. From Yoplait to the National Football League, products and people sport pink for breast cancer awareness and fundraising. If you want to personally support the people suffering from the disease or the families of the patients, here are some ways you can get involved.

Donate directly to a local hospital: A number of exposes have criticized such organizations as Susan G. Komen for spending less than 10% of the money they raise on the patients, victims, and their families. The rest of the money gets tied up in overhead, pink products, and ad campaigns. If you want to ensure that your money goes directly to the people in need, their medications, and their families, talk with your local hospital or oncological clinic and send money to them rather than to a third-party fundraising organization. You can also browse sites like GoFundMe and donate to individuals who are raising money for treatments, travel, and reconstructive surgery.

Talk about detection: Where it’s appropriate and where you’re among trusted friends, have a conversation about self-checks and proper preventative maintenance. In the vast majority of cases, breast cancer is highly treatable when it’s caught early, but catching it early is the trick. People with breasts should be on the lookout the twelve signs of breast cancer, as outlined in this handy infographic from Know Your Lemons.12+signs+of+breast+cancer+using+lemons

Help your family live healthfully: For breast tissue in particular, there are some common practices and behaviors of Americans that directly cause breast cells to function improperly and wreak havoc on the human breast. For example, certain soaps and shampoos that include parabens, which are known to disrupt breast cell reproduction. Similarly, evolutionarily, humans didn’t produce their own hormones for a long time, so breasts are to this day very receptive to any chemical that even mimics estrogen. Unluckily for us, though, plastic is similar enough that breasts absorb plastic molecules, which are well known to cause cancer once allowed into the body. Avoid microwaving in plastic or interacting with much heated plastic, including Keurig cups.

Sports Illustrated Honors Teen Who Led Cerebral Palsy Walks

In my last blog post, I wrote about the inspiring and heart-warming story of Hunter Gandee, a teen hero who has brought tons of attention and awareness to Cerebral Palsy, a disease that affects his younger brother, Braden Grandee.

On Monday, Sports Illustrated announced its annual list of accolades. Earning the first High School Athlete of the Year award was the 15-year-old high school sophomore, Hunter Gandee.

“What an honor! I’m truly blessed!” Hunter tweeted Monday afternoon.

Hunter was 14 and Braden was 7 when the brothers first walked 40 miles together to raise money for a handicap-accessible playground at Braden’s elementary school, as well as increased understanding of cerebral palsy — a brain injury that affects movement, posture and muscle coordination.

Throughout the entire June 2014 walk, Hunter carried his brother on his back. One year later, the duo was back at it — this time walking 57 miles. The second “Cerebral Palsy Swagger” event was a step up challenge-wise, but the goal was the same.

“One thing I wanted to show through this walk is the power of the youth in our society,” Hunter says. “We saw a problem, we had an idea to create a solution, and the only difference from us and a lot of other kids is that we went out and tried it.”

Since completing the walks, the brothers have received attention from national media organizations, hoping to share their story. Hunter has received countless awards for his strength and determination, including most recently the Sports Illustrated accolade.

Hunter’s story will be featured in the Sports Illustrated magazine issue that hits the stands Dec. 21. He has also been invited to an awards dinner in New York to honor the athletes featured in the magazine, including cover athlete and tennis legend Serena Williams.

Here is a 10 minute video I found that shows the beautiful relationship between these two brothers. Enjoy:

 

High School Students Use Their Engineering Club To Help A Fellow Classmate With Cerebral Palsy

A group of high school students in Green Township, Ohio, created a project for themselves that would help a fellow classmate, Jerry Potavin. Jerry is a student living with cerebral palsy.

Alan Rasof

Members of the Oak Hills engineering club designed and built a table to help classmate Jerry Potavin.

What started out as just another project for the engineering team at Oak Hills High School turned out to be much more then that for classmate, Jerry Potavin. Jerry is sitting easier now thanks to the selflessness of his peers at Oak Hills.

“I have always loved helping people, it’s just what I like to do,” says Oak Hills, senior, Dylan Noble. Dylan along with 5 other engineering students were contacted by their high schools engineering teacher to build something that would make Jerry a little more comfortable. “Once we finally delivered it to him, it was exactly what they wanted” says Dylan.

Alan RasofJerry has to spend a lot of time in his wheelchair every day and because of this he needs to spend a certain amount of time a day stretched out on a flat mat. Dylan and the engineering club built a table that would make it easier for Jerry to move around.

Laura Velasquez, one of Jerry’s teachers at Oak Hills said that when they brought the table down to show Jerry, their faces were lit up with joy and excitement. Their faces were just glowing, you could feel the overwhelming positive energy that they had, said Velasquez.

Velasquez said that the table has already made a difference for Jerry. “It makes him feel a lot more included, so that’s really wonderful,” she said.

Dylan Noble, along with the rest of his engineering team, have set such a great example for their peers. They have found a way to combine the skill sets that they have learned in engineering class with giving back to their community to most importantly, help a friend.

To read more about Jerry and his classmates, or to watch a video on this story, click here.