December 23, 2011

Surprising Secret Santa Movement

If you’re feeling down this holiday season, here’s a surefire pick-me-up to lift your spirits. Just Google Secret Santa Kmart and see the brimming news of a philanthropic phenomenon that has spread across America.

I love surreptitious surprises and movements of kindness, so I couldn’t help but get the chills after reading personal accounts of peoples’ stories of and reactions to anonymous Kris Kringles who are secretly paying off customers’ layaway accounts.

"I was surprised. It seemed so amazing to me," said Annette Pride, who works the layaway counter at a Kmart in Colorado and has witnessed acts of covert generosity since late last week.

"One woman stopped at the pawnshop and pawned something" to pay off her balance, Pride said, "but when she got here she found out that someone had already done that."

While all of the anonymous donors are different, there’s a common thread (besides good ole holiday cheer) - they’re paying off Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes set aside by impoverished parents. These anonymous donors are leaving a one cent balance so the account doesn’t get closed out before the customer can pick up the goodies. Many have also been urging other strangers to follow their example.

From Washington to Florida, Kmart stores in more than 15 states have been hit by Santa’s helpers.

Take action:
Some recipients say they’re going to find a way to pay the act of kindness forward, while other Kris Kringles are encouraging people to be inspired to do the same. If you’re moved by what these anonymous donors have been doing, follow their lead! If you don’t have the means to do this, think of ways you can give this holiday sans the cashola.
  • Send a nice, hand written note to someone to express your gratitude. While I love using the power of the internet and social media to inspire social change - that’s why Go Inspire Go exists - go offline and write a thoughtful card. The details go a long way. Trust me on this.
  • Volunteer at a local charity this holiday and give the gift of service. During this time of year, food banks and soup kitchens need man and woman power!
  • Give your talents. Are you good at baking, singing or making people laugh? Give your time to someone in need. I know plenty of people who need help with chores, babysitting and errands this time of year.

    Still don’t know what to do? Look at this example of how my students are sending 29 kids to school in Haiti, just by using their talents – they made videos (we’re still trying to send 52 more students; it only costs $85 per year for books, uniforms and tuition!):

  • December 13, 2011

    Wonder Dog Rescue – Raising Awareness and Saving Lives

    Go Inspire Go (GIG) is proud to this month’s Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of individuals and organizationsdoing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. GIG believes everyone can find inspiration in helping others, whether it’s through doing small acts of kindness or working at an organization dedicated to making a difference.  If you know of an individual or organization that you think should be featured, please contact Marcia and help us forward their stories to inspire the world.

    GIG Social Good Spotlight:
    WONDER DOG RESCUE – Raising Awareness and Saving Lives
    by Marcia Estarija Silva

    “Rescue can be very demanding and often sad...It's the camaraderie, support and love 
    that keep all of us going.” - Linda Beenau, Founder of Wonder Dog Rescue

    What is Wonder Dog Rescue?
    Wonder Dog Rescue is a dedicated network of foster homes and volunteers, rescuing dogs from all over Northern and Central California. Dogs come to the organization through owner surrender and shelters. 

    What is Wonder Dog Rescue’s mission?  What big changes is it trying to make?
    Wonder Dog Rescue was originally founded to rescue, rehabilitate and place Boston Terriers and others at risk of being euthanized due to the pet overpopulation problem. Over the years, it has expanded to include all sizes, shapes and ages of dogs and its mission has grown to include public education and awareness.

    How is Wonder Dog Rescue using its power to help others?
    Nationwide, approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters every year and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized.  Many of these animals have been relinquished by owners or picked up by animal control.  Wonder Dog Rescue has saved blind and deaf dogs, puppies as young as two weeks and seniors as old as 15.  The organization offers hospice to special needs and elderly dogs, caring for them until the end of their lives.

    What inspires Wonder Dog Rescue to do this work?
    Linda Beenau started Wonder Dog Rescue in 1992 to help animals in need.  With time and experience, she realized that animals were being killed in shelters because of human ignorance and greed, through puppy mills and breeding to produce dogs and cats for profit.  Now education and awareness are important to Wonder Dog Rescue’s work.  “I personally feel that it is difficult to change an adult’s mind, but children and youth are easier to teach,” Linda said. “Wonder Dog Rescue has a goal of creating a free training program for young people, who will train and mentor other youth.”

    The greatest reward is seeing the dogs flourish under the care of the volunteers/visitors. “There are *never* too many walks in a day, or too many volunteers to sit by a dog. The animals have benefited tremendously from this one-on-one attention,” Linda added. “Visitors often comment on how happy and loving the dogs are...and this is because of the people who come in to be with them.”

    What is Wonder Dog Rescue focusing on now? 
    - Working with youth volunteers: Many children and young adults volunteer with Wonder Dog Rescue. Some youth come here as part of their school's community outreach program and others come because of a love of animals. “One girl, Sienna (8 yrs old), comes in every Saturday to help at our adoption events. She wouldn't miss a day!”
    - Partnership with The ARC of San Francisco: For nearly two years, Wonder Dog Rescue has worked with The ARC of San Francisco, a nonprofit organization that supports and advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities. Volunteers from The Art come in regularly to walk and socialize the dogs, and to help with tasks around the office.  “Anne Slater is one of these volunteers. She has an amazing gift to work with the very timid dogs. Anne taught my own pup to walk, and the little one wouldn't walk for anyone else... how we laughed at that!”
    - “Guarding Dogs” Documentary: About a year ago, Wonder Dog Rescue was approached by J.R. Fleming of Unstuck Productions about a documentary on rescue dogs which led to the production of Guarding Dogs. WDR is a fiscal sponsor for the project and is one of the organizations featured in the film.
    - Rescue Runs: In January 2011, with the support of the Shaw Family Fund, Wonder Dog Rescue purchased a van that has been used to transport dogs from high-kill shelters to rescue groups, travelling between Los Angeles and the Canadian border.  

    How can GIGSTERS get involved and support Wonder Dog Rescue?
    1. Foster a dog – Wonder Dog Rescue will provide you with the supplies you need (food, toys, leashes, etc) to have a good experience and help with any questions or issues that arise.
     2. Volunteer - Volunteers are especially needed for event planning, networking (Facebook, etc), photographing dogs and getting them up on Wonder Dog Rescue’s website, and craigslist. Volunteers also work at adoption events & walk and/or socialize the dogs. Complete the volunteer application form to inform Wonder Dog Rescue of your interests.
     3. Donate - If you are unable to foster or volunteer, consider making a donation, which will help to defer the costs of running rescue, transporting dogs and providing medical treatment to animals in need.

    December 9, 2011

    Sparking Kindness with Socks. GIG Spark: Technology + Storytelling = Action

    Who doesn't love socks? They're warm, fuzzy and for the most part, inexpensive -- unless your phalanges are of the fabulous kind. As a journalist, I've covered many stories about homeless people -- and guess what? Socks nearly top their wish lists.

    With that said, GoInspireGo is excited to share our first GIG Spark submission. Way to go and thanks Sierra Sanchez for warming our soles and our souls!

    Gigster: Sierra Sanchez

    Spark: Buying socks for the homeless in San Francisco, California

    Your Turn:
    It’s simple - buy socks and give them. No strings attached. One of our favorite organizations, Just Give has a list of 35 things you can you to help the homeless. It’s easy, inexpensive, and a good GIG.

    We hope this video sparks (and knocks) your socks off:


    WHAT’S A GIG Spark & CREATE your own!

    As a part of GoInspireGo’s mission to inspire our viewers to discover their power, we've joined forces with Youth Service America (YSA), Lil' MDGs and Miley Cyrus' "Get Ur Good On" to bring you GIG Spark: A Lesson on Compassion.

    A "GIG Spark" is a short 1-1:30 minute video that inspires viewers to take action and help others after they've watched the video. The video will feature you showing and telling viewers what you want them to do on video. It's simple, quick and can generate inspiration for others! The goal: a fun, easy way to inspire action.

    We're inviting YOU and your community (school, organization, friends, etc.) to use your passion and creativity to produce a "GIG Spark" and inspire viewers with your story. This is for anyone who can shoot and edit short videos. Get Started on a GIG Spark now.

    Inspiration can be fun and infectious! We believe in the power of small acts and using technology to crowdsource ideas, capture it on video, spread the word online, and inspire immediate action. We know that people (especially youth) care and want to do something good for others, but just don't know how. So why not teach compassion to kids and adults in your life? This is a quick way for you to use your power to spark civic engagement and inspire a small ripple of kindness that will create a domino effect…

    We can't wait to see inspiring acts popping up all over the state, country, and world! What can YOU do?

    *Follow us on: LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook

    December 5, 2011

    Gift of Compassion & Education: Help Us Send 62 Kids to School in Haiti (VIDEO)

    To everyone who cares about our youth and education,

    I was heartbroken when I found out that 62 students couldn’t attend the new Institution Mahanaim High School that Rev. Lemaire Alerte and his Jersey City, N.J., community worked to build in his hometown of Grande Saline, Haiti. It’s the only high school in this area. (Since the high school was completed last year, the need for education was so high that the school is now serving grades K-12.)

    I was even more saddened when I found out that it costs only $85 a year to send a child to school. This important opportunity includes a uniform, shoes and books.

    I was compelled and empowered to relay this news to my classes at the Academy of Art in San Francisco where I teach a myriad of multimedia classes.

    Immediately, hands shot up in the air -- many students were adamant about helping. Some students said they were going to follow my lead this Christmas and instead of asking for gifts, they too would ask loved ones to fund a child’s tuition.

    One class creatively brainstormed and with very little help from me, they created this video to inspire people to open their hearts:

    This ripple of kindness started during the summer of 2010 by another student –- Julian Cohen, a junior at a high school in New Jersey when he participated in a five-week summer program at the Academy of Art University. At the end, Julian told me he was inspired by my nonprofit, GoInspireGo, and wanted to do a story that he had researched about Alerte, whose mission was to build a high school in his hometown of Grande Saline.

    There are only two junior high schools in this town. "Every time I go back to visit, the people tell me, 'Reverend, we need a school,'" Rev. Alerte explained. There are no high schools, so after junior high, the students don't have a choice but to travel five hours away to attend school. Students whose parents can't send them to school are resigned to a junior high education.

    With fundraisers and community help, Rev. Alerte started to build the school, but had to stop after running out of funds. He needed $18,000 to complete the school.

    Mahanaim during construction

    Mahanaim after construction

    Julian was moved by Alerte’s efforts and created this GIG story about it:

    A few months later, across the country, band students in Kenny William’s class at Willow Glen High School in San Jose, Calif., saw the story. The students wanted to help, but they didn't know how. Their teacher told them that GoInspireGo's mantra is "What can YOU do?" so he asked them that simple question. The students decided to orchestrate a winter benefit concert to help Rev. Alerte. Some volunteers helped me produce this follow up video:

    The students raised $1,643.85. When I called Rev. Alerte to tell him the news, he was overjoyed. “Thank you, God Bless you!” he said. I was pleased to learn that his church helped raise the money to complete the school.

    Recently, Rev. Alerte told me the bittersweet news - 177 kids enrolled in the Mahanaim High School, but only 96 were able to attend. 81 are still waiting to get in.

    I told Rev. Alerte that the money raised from the Willow Glen High School band class will send 19 kids to school, leaving 62 students needing funding. I made it my personal goal this holiday to send as many of the 62 kids to school as possible.

    I’ve never seen my students this excited and take ownership over any philanthropy project. Likewise, many Willow Glen parents told me they too have never seen their children so enthusiastic about anything (especially because this wasn't "me-centric.") Meanwhile, my students are using social media to inspire social change and are tweeting, Facebooking and blogging the video to everyone who will listen.

    We need your help!

    Rev. Alerte hopes to raise enough money to buy desks, furniture and food for the Mahanaim Students

    Please go to Haiti Enrichment Foundation's website for more information and send a check made out to:

    Haitian Evangelical Church
    2030 Kennedy Blvd.
    Jersey City, N.J. 07305

    Please specify on the check memo "Mahanaim Student Tuition - gig"

    It’s nice to see that my students using their power (and the multimedia skills I’ve taught them) to give back to other kids who have less resources and privileges. It’s joyful to witness the shift (from me to “we”) that I see in them. They’re learning compassion and experiencing the gift of giving.

    Thank you for giving the gift of education!

    Happy Holidays!

    In service,
    Chief Inspirator,
    Go Inspire Go

    *Follow us on: LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook

    November 28, 2011

    Socrates Spoke: Riding Out Fear (VIDEO)

    For one full minute I want you to sit down (preferably in silence) and think about what you have accomplished in your career thus far.

    Now ask yourself, “Is my life any more meaningful?” If the answer is yes, you’re luckier than many people I know.

    Recently, I’ve been talking with a lot of people who are experiencing the same situation: good job + good pay + good title = still not happy.

    Many have admitted that they’re lucky to have good paying jobs with fancy titles but at the end of the day, they’re feeling uninspired, unhappy. The mental pendulum of guilt swings back and forth. I should be grateful… but I’m not… to and fro… the emotions go.

    This is what happened to Casey Miller who, by all accounts, seemed to have it all: a good education, a good career and a good life. After graduating from Harvard with two degrees, Casey built a successful company that turns garbage into energy. He made money, was able to travel the world, acquired stuff, but still he felt empty.

    “By most accounts, I was what I thought success should look like. Yet I was not any happier. And my life was certainly not any more meaningful. Like many people of my generation, I was stuck between the allure of capitalism and the painful realization that more does not mean better. I felt empty, even though my life was surrounded by wonderful places, experiences, and things.” Casey admits.

    So he quit and moved to San Francisco (partly for love), but then he was dumped. He then couldn’t find a job and fell into depression.

    Several conversations ensued. Casey told everyone that he was going to do something he was very afraid of: ride a bike (he hadn’t ridden a bike since elementary school) across the country – from Oregon to Massachusetts and along the way ask people some simple questions that delved deeper into the journey of finding meaning: What inspires you? Are you doing it now? Why not? His journey was aptly named “Socrates Spoke”:

    Taking this risk helped him get the wheels of inspiration turning and, for once, Casey says he “found his meaning of life” and is now empowered to use his experience to help others discover what matters most to them. He's even created a website ( to inspire people to live the truest, biggest, most meaningful lives possible.

    Socrates once said: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Casey read this, listened and is riding high on these words of wisdom.

    Take Action:
    If you’re feeling unfulfilled, make a list of what you can do to find meaning.
    1. Many people say, “I can’t quit my job.” However, you can spend a little bit of time outside of your work to engage in a hobby or passion project that enlivens you.

    2. What would excite you out of bed in the morning? Take baby steps doing what brings you joy. Check out Casey's website for inspiration:

    3. Stop talking about it. Do it now. This was the best advice several mentors gave me when I wanted to leave my TV career and pursue my nonprofit

    November 14, 2011

    Using Technology and Storytelling to Inspire the Youth

    As a college professor, I have to admit I was very surprised to see the burgeoning support and growing good deeds that have rippled out from my students at the Academy of Art (AAU) and University of San Francisco – essentially, I’ve come to the conclusion that young people around the world want to help -- they just don’t know how.

    But given some tutelage, support and a sprinkle of inspiration, amazing good things have grown…I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes. Just click around my passion project, Go Inspire Go, where we make videos of regular people doing small things that ripple out to meaningful changes (beware: there’s a call to action at the end of every video that has inspired thousands of viewers around the world to care, share and help.)

    I realized a desperate need for a program that combines technology, social good and storytelling. That’s how “GIG Spark” a lesson on compassion was born.

    A “GIG Spark” is a short 1-1:30 minute video that inspires viewers to take action and help others after they’ve watched the video. The video will feature you showing and telling viewers what you want them to do and show it on video. It’s simple, quick and can generate inspiration for others! The goal: a fun, easy way to inspire action.

    Go Inspire Go has joined forces with YSA, Lil’ MDGs and Miley Cyrus' “Get Ur Good On” to bring you “GIG Spark.”

    We’re inviting YOU and your community (school, organization, friends etc.) to use your passion and creativity to produce a “GIG Spark” and inspire viewers with your video. Here’s an example of one of the first “GIG Sparks”

    For more information "GIG Spark", go to

    What can YOU do? (To Inspire Action)

    November 1, 2011

    Books for the Barrios - Teaching Children to Think Globally

    Go Inspire Go (GIG) is proud to share this month's Social Good Spotlight to raise awareness of individuals and organizations doing good in their communities to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. GIG believes everyone can find inspiration in helping others, whether it's through doing small acts of kindness or working at an organization dedicated to making a difference. If you know of an individual or organization that you think should be featured, please email Marcia and help us forward their stories to inspire the world.

    GIG Social Good Spotlight:
    BOOKS FOR THE BARRIOS – Teaching Children to Think Globally to Fight Poverty and Promote Peace
    by Marcia Estarija Silva

    "When American children come to our facility, they learn how children in the Philippines are just like us -– they are no different." – Nancy Harrington,co-founder of Books for the Barrios

    What is Books for the Barrios?
    Books for the Barrios is truly "a project of the heart." The 100 percent volunteer-run organization collects school textbooks, educational learning aids and devices from schools, publishers and schoolchildren in the U.S. and delivers them to remote barrio public schools throughout the Republic of the Philippines.

    What is Books for the Barrios' mission? What big changes is it trying to make?
    To provide all children, especially disadvantaged children in conflict areas, access to quality education. In addition to having enough books and school supplies, it's important that qualified teachers are educating the children. There is a shortage of primary school teachers worldwide, weakening global efforts to provide access to education to all children. Many developing countries lose their educated population, who leave their home countries for opportunities abroad. Strengthening the education system is essential to securing economic development and a better quality of life.

    The U.S. Special Forces stationed in Jolo built two classrooms for pre-school Badjao children.

    Four months later, Books for the Barrios donated books, toys, and art supplies for these 60 children.

    How is Books for the Barrios using its power to help others?
    By sharing resources and putting educational materials directly into the hands of the students and teachers who need it most. More than 40 percent of households in the Philippines live on less than $2 a day. More than 13 million Filipino kids live below the poverty line, representing over 44 percent of the population aged 15 and below. The neediest schools, most of which are located in remote areas of the country, are prioritized for shipments from Books for the Barrios, regardless of politics, religion or ethnicity. Back in the U.S., Books for the Barrios organizes opportunities for children to participate in the collection and packing of donations. The organization also enlists volunteer American education development specialists to provide professional teacher training programs to thousands of rural educators.

    What inspires Books for the Barrios to do this?
    Dan and Nancy Harrington, founders of Books for the Barrios, met in the Philippines in the late 1960s and fell in love with each other and the country. They cared deeply about Filipino children and their families, inspiring them to take action and start an organization in 1981 to provide educational materials to severely under-resourced schools. Nancy lamented, "I'm a teacher and when we lived in the Philippines, I saw the devastation in the schools. I felt the apathy with the government and people in general. I felt the hopelessness and I said, 'My god, what I throw away in my first grade classroom -– broken crayons and pencils -- would be gold to these children.' " This realization over three decades ago continues to fuel the organization today.

    What is Books for the Barrios focusing on now?
    Current projects include:
    •    International Model-of-Excellence Schools Program – Books for the Barrios ships books and supplies to transform severely underdeveloped barrio schools into learning institutions that set a national standard.
    •    Green Action Program – Books for the Barrios diverts at least 700,000 pounds from landfills in the U.S. by shipping valuable books and other learning tools that might otherwise become waste. The program educates children worldwide about the environment.
    •    Global Pupils’ Email Program – In order for American children to understand that their classmates overseas are "just like them," the program teaches them computer literacy and encourages them to use the Internet to communicate with a global network of nearly 40,000 children worldwide.

    How can GIGSTERS get involved and support Books for the Barrios?
    •    Donate money to Books for the Barrios. Securing resources to sustain its work is the organization's biggest and constant challenge.
    •    Provide items on their wish list. Organize a collection drive or party in your community or at your job and encourage your neighbors and friends to donate.
    •    Volunteer your services. If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, volunteer at their facility. If you're not in the area, the organization is always looking for help in getting donations, social networking and marketing, and other tasks. To find out various ways to volunteer, click here.

    Nancy shared a story about a Filipino-American woman from Redwood City, Calif. who reached out to Books for the Barrios, wanting to give back. Books for the Barrios found a school in great need of resources in the woman's barrio in the Philippines. Now Nanunga Elementary in Hinigaran, Negros has a world-class library and a dedication ceremony was held last month.

    Video Credit: Net25 Philippines

    October 20, 2011

    Bullied Teen Posts "It Gets Better" Video and Posts Final FB Update to Lady Gaga Before Commiting Suicide

    Does it really get better?

    Last month, Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old teen from Buffalo, N.Y. committed suicide after relentless bullying. Before he ended his life, he created an "It gets better" video where he mentioned his role model. "Lady Gaga, she makes me so happy and she lets me know that I was born this way. So that's my advice to you from her - you were born this way. And all you have to do is just hold your head up and you'll go far," Rodemeyer said. He reached out for help on the Internet, only to endure more incessant bullying.

    In the spirit of teenagers like Rodemeyer, Oct. 20 is Spirit Day, an annual celebration on which people, schools, companies, etc., wear purple in an effort to raise anti-gay awareness. It's a day to take a stand against anti-gay bullying and to celebrate the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth.

    Teenagers need to know that they are OK, that they are unique and special just the way they are. The more this message proliferates our media, our social media sites and conversations, the less our youth will feel hopeless and helpless.

    We hope you'll take a moment of silence to remember the lives of all teenagers who committed suicide after suffering relentless bullying. We invite you to join us today in solidarity and show your spirit by wearing purple. Then, we want you to continue to think about what you can do to reach out to a teen in need.

    Whether you're gay, straight, black, white or whatever spectrum you identify with, we all know how it feels to be taunted and treated differently because of our differences. Change starts with you. All it takes is one small act or conversation.

    Take Action:

    1. This week and beyond, we hope you are imbued and empowered by the stories of others speaking up and speaking out -- we challenge you to think of just one thing you can do to raise awareness about LGBT issues (Wear purple, or check out GLAAD's site to purple(fy) your FB or Twitter page.

    2. Blog about an LGBT issue

    3. Have a conversation about it, talk to the youth in your life and let them know that it isn't OK to make fun of anyone for any reason

    4. Facebook and Tweet about your favorite inspiring LGBT solidarity story. This blog post is one of my favorite stories of solidarity.

    (Courtesy: CBC)

    With each and every small action, I believe it does get better.

    Rodemeyer's final Facebook post was taken from Lady Gaga's song The Queen on his Facebook page. He wrote, "Don't forget me when I come crying to heaven's door."

    October 10, 2011

    WorldWomenWork - Empowering Women and Girls Worldwide

    Go Inspire Go (GIG) is proud to share this month’s Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of individuals and organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. GIG believes everyone can find inspiration in helping others, whether it’s through doing small acts of kindness or working at an organization dedicated to making a difference. If you know of an individual or organization that you think should be featured, please contact GIG and help us forward their stories to inspire the world.

    GIG Social Good Spotlight:
    WORLDWOMENWORK – Conservation, Education, and Empowerment In partnership with women and girls around the world

    by Marcia Estarija Silva

    Masai jewelry makers

    What is WorldWomenWork?
    Founded by Singer Rankin, WorldWomenWork (WWW) partners with women artisans and activists in some of the most remote parts of the world. WWW purchases beautiful, unique products from small, women-owned enterprises - such as Zambian tablecloths and bedspreads, Pashmina shawls, handmade silver bracelets from Nepal, and beaded leather bags and belts from Kenya - then sells them to women all over the United States.

    What is WWW’s mission? What big changes is it trying to make?
    Nearly 100% of the proceeds from sales support projects by women in Kenya, Nepal, Indonesia, and 11 other countries that are educating girls, building economic independence for women, and protecting the environment. It’s a unique and effective social enterprise model.

    Save the Elephants Scholarship Program participants (3 generations)

    How is WWW using its power to help others?
    By providing a steady stream of income that is reinvested in order to grow the enterprise. WWW buys extremely precious, one-of-a-kind items that are made by hand out of materials that are traditional and completely sustainable. Women become more economically independent and diverse perspectives are shared. Women are also encouraged to learn about and be active participants on the issues impacting their communities and environment.

    Zambia Sewing School

    What inspires WWW to do this?
    Singer Rankin, founder of WWW, explained – “I feel passionately about the natural world and the need to protect it, the people and animals that inhabit these wild places. One of the most important ways is to educate and empower women. I truly believe that they are one of the few hopes of preserving endangered species. The world is out of control. We have lost the ability to connect with nature. It takes such a little bit to change lives and give people hope.”

    What is WWW focusing on now?
    Current WWW projects include:
    •    Waka Simba (Women of Strength) and Simba Raishe (God’s Power) Womens' Groups, Zambia – These two women’s groups provide economic empowerment and skills training. WWW provides funding to send five women to sewing school for six months and to purchase sewing machines for their use. These groups are based in two villages where large mining interests threaten the natural environment. Group members have the opportunity to see the big picture and participate in decisions about the way their lands are being used.
    •    Scholarships for Girls, The Greater Himalayan Foundation, Nepal – The Nepalese government schools provide free basic education up to class 10 (roughly 10th grade in the US), but families must pay to have their children get an education past that point. With scarce resources, Nepalese families often choose to have boys continue schooling, while girls are left behind. Scholarships from WWW give girls a chance to continue their educational pursuits.
    •    Save the Elephants in Samburu, Kenya (an anti-poaching and scholarship program) and Elephant Nature Park, Thailand (a sanctuary for abused elephants) – WWW supports efforts to protect elephants and educate the public about the importance of saving them. At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, there are an estimated 450,000 - 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 - 40,000 wild Asian elephants. Many of the elephants living in the sanctuary have suffered terrible trauma from accidents and mistreatment during their lives. 

    How can GIGSTERS get involved and support WorldWomenWork?
    •   Donate money to WWW
    •   Shop for products on WWW’s online store
    •   Sign up for WWW's newsletter and help spread the word about WWW's work to your networks

    Video credit: Swell Pictures Inc.

    October 6, 2011

    Steve Jobs Inspired More Than Technology

    Many of us remember Steve Jobs as a technological visionary -- a modern day Edison. But aside from his inventions and accolades, he seemed to be a man with very inspiring and insightful views. In this Stanford commencement speech, Jobs poignantly shares three stories or life-defining moments in his 56-year journey and the knowledge he garnered from his experiences.

    For me, it's a coincidence that Jobs speaks about connecting the dots -– I've often used a similar analogy. I believe that all of our experiences are like scattered dots: as we're sprinkling each dot, with each experience, we can't see or understand how they connect at the time. But as your life unfolds, and you collect more dots, you're able to connect them and eventually discover your path. Each dot, whether you perceive them as failures, bad luck or poor timing, all lead us to the next place we're supposed to be.

    From the beginning of my life, some think I had a sordid start. I'm an immigrant who grew up in the ghetto and on welfare. I've lost four family members in eight short months. I've been laid off. I've quit a job that paid well and with a nice title. I've been done wrong by some family members and some friends. But now I can see that all my experiences, my struggles instilled the "hungry" immigrant work mentality in me. The losses inspired compassion and pushed me to leave the bright lights of the TV industry -– all of my dots have led me to where I am today.

    By the age of 28, I reached all my wildest dreams and then some; as a TV reporter in a major market, I've been a reporter for a statewide show on PBS and of course, teaching at the university level. After nearly a decade in TV news, I left the biz and I've also passed up many lucrative job offers with great perks to pursue my passion project GoInspireGo (GIG) –- because this is what brings enlivens me and brings me joy.

    Jobs fervently said, "You must do what you love" and "trust." Trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be now -– and that it will lead you to where you're supposed to be.

    So in the wise words of Steve Jobs, keep spreading your dots, one day you'll be able to connect them, you'll love and lose; and you'll gain. Love what you do and live life to the fullest before it's too late because death is "a destination we all share." And don't forget to "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish."

    Words to live by.

    @ the Apple Store in San Francisco's Union Square

    Thank you for making your mark Mr. Jobs and leaving behind a legacy that will continue to affect us all. May you rest in peace.

    Take Action:
    1. Do you love what you do personally and professionally? If not, take baby steps now. (If you've been putting off jogging, make a date once a week with a friend to start. If you can't quit your job to do your passion project, earmark a few hours a week to get the ball rolling.)
    2. Tell someone you love that you love them now, before it's too late.
    3. Going through a tough time or situation –- be present and still. Think about what lesson this experience is teaching you and learn from it.

    How were you inspired by Steve Jobs? WE want to know. Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!

    September 30, 2011

    Ashamed to Empowered

    My childhood could be summed up with one word: shame.

    I was ashamed because we were so po’. Yes I meant to leave the ‘or’ out of the word poor because we were so poor that we couldn’t afford the rest of the word. I can look back and laugh with nostalgia about this but it was quite sad. Sad because I was always embarrassed about our ‘situation.’ My parents left a bustling business in Vietnam. They gave everything up to immigrate to America for opportunity. When we landed in Sacramento (I was just two years old at the time) they had about $4 to their name and all 10 of us crammed into one trailer in a trailer park community. We then moved from ghetto to ghetto. I was always embarrassed to have friends over. The springs sprang out of holes in our mix-match couches. My mom used my tattered, no longer wearable hand-me-down clothes to stuff the crunchy burlap rice bag turned home-made pillows. I also remember being 5-years-old and waiting in line to receive free food – I didn’t know it was a food pantry at the time. One year, for Christmas, I made a makeshift Christmas tree with my grandma’s left over yarn and Christmas cards that I tacked on in zig-zag formation on the wall.

    It wasn’t just material things, or lack thereof, that I was ashamed of, I was ashamed of a lot of other things; we were on welfare, we used food stamps and my immigrant Asian parents didn’t understand my American lifestyle. Prom, homecoming and sleepovers were never celebrated by my parents.

    Looking back, I see all my experiences -- my past as scattered dots. As an adult, more than three decades later, I can slowly connect all the dots, even the outliers. I now know that all those experiences, growing up where hookers, drive-bys and liquor stores were my every day reality, set the stage for who I am today. My gratitude for all things – material and intangible – my love for connecting with people and their stories through journalism, philanthropy, teaching career and GoInspireGo, my immigrant worker bee mentality -- all blossomed out of shame. The makeshift Christmas tree made out of cards and yarn made me appreciate the true meaning of holidays with loved ones. The food pantry experience made me appreciate food in a whole new way as I’m now a foodie that loves to break bread with friends old and new. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to think about what the rice bag pillows have taught me… I guess, the love for 800+ thread count sheets?! Lol.

    These defining moments and your defining moments create our lifes’ canvas. You are give tools and some have more paint than others, but you create the strokes and the masterpiece that makes your painting – your life, so special. So I invite every situation, every feeling, every person in my life as a teacher, as a lesson.

    Photo Courtesy: Vasna Wilson

    Please do the same… and as Maya Angelou says, “When you learn. Teach.” I now live my life with confidence, unabashed, and unashamed.

    September 21, 2011

    Happy Social Good Day (and week)! How you can take action...

    I wholeheartedly believe that everyone has the power to make positive change in someone’s life or in their community – that’s why I left my TV career and dedicated my life to my passion project, GoInspireGo (GIG). Today and this week, I’d like to you to join my team and Mashable in celebrating Social Good Day!

    Here’s how you can use social media to a make difference NOW:

    1. Mashable is an amazing, intrepid and innovative platform that encourages individuals around the world to use social media to benefit their communities through meet-ups, fundraisers, multimedia, and public education campaigns.

    2. It’s quick and easy, just click here → Mashable Meetup on Social Good Day to meet others interested in "using social media to inspire social change" and to find out how you can participate.

    3. In celebration of Social Good Day, please check out three of our inspiring GIG videos that exemplify how easy it is to make a difference. At the end of the videos, there is information on how you can create change. And of course sharing is caring, especially today – please join our community on Twitter and Facebook and spread the goodness!

    Happy #SocialGoodDay!

    August 29, 2011

    London Riots Won Over by a Nation of Tea Lovers

    What happens after your life has been threatened and in danger and you’ve successfully run to safety? According to Jonathan Walker and his wife, Philippa Morgan Walker, "Put the kettle on!" That's exactly what this Camden, London, England couple did – they served the police tea after being stuck in the middle of the recent riots.

    Watch how they inspired hope in the UK and beyond with their new found mantra, "Make tea, not war!"

    I’m back in the United States after spending over a week in England, where order seems to have been restored on the London streets.

    Most people here in America seemed to be unaffected by the mayhem and aftermath of the damage - broken glass, burned down cars and buildings and the harrowing stories of those caught in the thick of the senseless rioting in the United Kingdom.

    My hope was to incorporate a Go Inspire Go (GIG) story during my travels in the UK. I went to England to witness a magical wedding of my friends Cathy and Julian. Their wedding was enchanting, with special elements and inspiring new friendships. The backdrop: Durham Cathedral, also familiar to many in “Harry Potter,” as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

    Like the magic of Hollywood, this new GIG story also unraveled in a fairy tale fashion, starting with meeting new friends at a Lumley Castle reception.

    Fiona Pattison, with happy4pr, was inspired by GIG and is now helping us launch in the UK. We immediately connected. With warmth, she asked, “Are you going to do a story on the riots?" Right when we met, we were on the same wavelength -- it was amazing. She introduced me to Oli Cohen, who founded Resonate Productions.

    We immediately joined forces to produce a GIG video. Fiona had the perfect GIG story in mind and quickly connected me to her friend, Jonathan Walker and his lovely wife Philippa Morgan Walker who are now well known for their kind act amidst the chaos that erupted from the rioting.

    Like many Americans, the Walkers felt distant from the rioting – despite their close proximity to the brimming violence and looting that happened just neighborhoods away. “We didn’t think it would happen here,” admitted Jonathan.

    They did not expect that soon their lives would be in danger, taking a couple of turns along the way. After desperately trying to get back home to safety amidst the riots, they wanted to do something nice for the officer who eventually offered to escort them home.

    They asked a simple question, “Would you fancy a cup of tea?”
    It's amazing how this simple act of kindness inspired the country, the community and the Prime Minister. The London riots are literally won over by a nation of tea lovers!

    No matter where you’re living, you’re a part of humanity – so in effect this does affect you. “It’s empowering to know that you actually have a lot of impact on your surrounding. Just please please, please, please, always do something. Just the tiny bit of light ceases darkness to exist,” emphasized Philipa.

    “Life is full of moments, good and bad. And in those moments they can change the world's consciousness, make people aware of the world they are living in. A community has a voice and can make a difference, even if it is to help clean up what others have tried to destroy. The riots have simply made people stronger and helped to restore faith in human kindness,” Fiona believed.

    This is what I found remarkable: That out of chaos came togetherness. The riots simply showed people's sense of community and many small acts of kindness -- from kind acts with cupcakes, volunteer community cleanup crews and others chipping in to help the victims -- added up to create a lot of change that helped to restore faith in human kindness in a time of great fear and loss.

    While many people blame the rioters – I ask you to hold your judgment – my question is where do we go wrong as human beings? Where were the family members and role models in their lives? What if someone said or did something small, something kind that could’ve thwarted their actions?

    What can YOU do?

    August 21, 2011

    Little Blessings - Unwanted Children of Vietnam

    Deep down in my heart I believe that everyone on this planet is precious -- special in their own way -- no matter who you are, where you're from or how much you have in your bank account (or if you even have a bank account for that matter). It also breaks my heart to see children who are unwanted, uncared for for any reason. That's why I wanted to share this poignant blog post written by my good friend (I call her sister), Jessica Chang. "Changalang" as I call her, with a sense of endearment, took a leave of absence from her job, not to tour Asia and go on vacation or holiday, she spent time in Thailand and Vietnam teaching needy children and volunteering at an orphanage packed with disabled and sick kids. This marks the first trip of Jessica's new journey in a project and blog she created Volunteer Ventures -- that inspires everyone to Venture into the world of volunteering, while traveling. Go Jessica Go!


    It's been a whirlwind week here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam -– living in a house full of strangers-turned-friends and travel buddies, working with children with conditions I've never encountered before and trying to stay alive while crossing the street in this hectic city!

    I've been working at the orphanage I was assigned to by Volunteers for Peace Vietnam for six days now and I'm still getting the hang of how to care for the kids. I work with children who range from about one to eight years old. As many of you can understand, taking care of children is no easy task. I've been a babysitter, a camp counselor and most recently an English teacher in Thailand. But when the kids can't talk, don't understand the language you're speaking and can barely move on their own, the challenges multiply. Most of the nurses and caregivers at the orphanage don't speak any English either, so it's been tough to figure out what they need us to help with.

    Every morning, five volunteers leave our house to catch the bus to the orphanage. The whole place serves about 400 children whose ages range from infant to teens. The group we take care of is made up of more than 30 kids, about one to eight years old. It's hard to tell just how old each kid is though. One little girl has such thin legs and arms and looks about two-years-old, but she's actually six! Their disabilities range from blindness to cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, hyrdrocephalis (extra fluid buildup in the brain) and birth defects caused by Agent Orange (herbicide used during the Vietnam War). This little boy named Hao has hydrocephalus, but when you meet him, you barely notice, since his smile takes up his whole face!

    When we arrive to the second floor section where our group of kids is located, we greet them in their stroller/highchairs or in their cribs. I like to say hello with a little song, like "Good Morning to You" (to the tune of "Happy Birthday"), "Twinkle Twinkle," "Row Row Row Your Boat" or "Itsy Bitsy Spider." I also play with their hands and feet to get them moving. This little girl, named Lien, likes it when I stroke her fingers, which she can't really move. The splints help keep her fingers outstretched.

    This little boy (I haven't figured out his name yet) loves it when I slide my hand across his. I also play a simplified version of "Patty-cake" with him.

    If they're in their chairs, we push them around the second floor hallways to give them a change of scenery -– somewhat. From what I've seen, they have no ramps or elevators to take the children downstairs to play in the playground or courtyard. We can also play with them on removable mats we lay out on the floor.

    At 10 a.m. we feed them their lunch, since they go to bed and wake up so early. For the babies who can't chew, it's a green vegetable mush. For the intermediate eaters, it's a rice porridge with chopped vegetables and bits of meat. And for the advanced eaters, it's soup with short noodles, vegetables and pieces of meat. Not an extensive menu, but I'm sure it contains the nutrients the kids need. Each of the kids' bowls is labeled with his/her name -– that's the best way for us to learn their names, since it's hard to communicate with the caregivers.

    I think I'm the slowest feeder of the bunch. So many of the caregivers shovel huge spoonfuls of food into the kids' mouths -– one after another –- to the point where the mush is oozing out of their mouths like lava out of a volcano! It's painful to watch, especially when the kids are practically choking! That's why I don’t mind allowing the kids time to chew and swallow. Even then they often cough so the food ends up on my face and clothes, or they can't keep the food in their mouth so they drool it all out onto their bibs.

    After feeding, we wipe up their faces (and anywhere else they got food stuck on them) and put them back in their cribs for changing. We have a diaper change assembly line going on. The volunteers take off the kids' shorts and cloth diapers and dump them in a bucket. Then a caregiver follows to put a clean cloth diaper on them. Then we put a clean pair of shorts on them. Last week, I found a big piece of poop as big as the head of the little boy who made it. Once I got the diaper off, the boy stuck his foot in the poo, then peed on himself and on the floor!

    After the kids settle down for their nap, we leave for a two-and-a-half-hour break. Almost all businesses in Ho Chi Minh City shut down between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. for a siesta (Vietnamese-style). So we hop back on the bus to our house, eat lunch and take a break. Many of the other volunteers take a nap, but I haven't yet since I'm afraid I'll wake up too groggy.

    We leave the house for the orphanage again at 2 p.m. and when we arrive it's pretty much the same drill as in the morning. We play with the kids in their cribs or take a few out to play on the mats. By this point, I've sung each of my children's songs a dozen times, so I've also added Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" to my repertoire. I figure it's a happy and upbeat song and they don't understand the words anyway. We feed the kids dinner about 3:15 p.m. (same menu) -– most of them stay in their cribs for the meal, but I try to take the kid I'm feeding out to their high chair so he or she can eat upright. Then it's clean up and diaper changing all over again before they go to bed. We head home at around 4:30 p.m.

    There've been a few moments this past week when I've gotten a little choked up while playing with or holding one of these kids. To think how sweet and beautiful they are –- but unwanted and abandoned by their parents –- just breaks my heart. I remember reporting on a story about a daycare center in San Diego that helps nurture disabled children. I interviewed parents and teachers who talked about how these children are such blessings, no matter their disabilities and the extra care they need. I'm beginning to understand what they mean now. In the six days I've known them, these children have touched my heart like no other children I've met before. Most can't say please or thank you, but I'm happy to give them the love and affection they deserve and so desperately need –- poop, pee, drool and all.


    What can YOU do to make a difference?

    Jessica's goal is to bring toys, supplies and even raise enough support to add an elevator or ramp to the center to get some appropriate medical care and surgeries for the kids.

    If this story has touched you, open your heart and show some support! For more information about how you can help and to learn more about Volunteer Ventures visit her blog or Facebook page!

    * Thanks Jessica for sharing your story and the amazing story of these "little blessings."

    August 14, 2011

    Three Steps to Generosity and How It Benefits YOU!

    When was the last time you gave unconditionally – with no strings attached? What about receiving with gratitude for the abundance in your life? And what does dancing have to do with being generous?

    According to my friend and one of the most inspiringly generous people I know -- Nipun Mehta, founder of, a fully volunteer-run organization -- these are the three stages of generosity.

    Please watch Nipun share his sentiments about generosity in this TEDx video and be moved to action.  Think about what you can do to give, receive and dance:

    You have the power to be generous. How you do it depends on you! What are you doing to make someone else’s life better right now?

    Still don’t know?

    Here are some ideas on where to start:
    Karma Kitchen
    Karma Clinic
    Smile Cards

    Thank you Charity Focus Family for your generosity!

    In gratitude,


    August 4, 2011

    Going the Extra Smile: Project Connects World Through Grins *VIDEO*

    “I don’t know what I can do to help others,” is a response I often hear when people have been inspired by GoInspireGo stories, but do not understand their individual power.

    Sometimes I simply quote from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “You’ve always had the power … (to go back to Kansas),” said Glinda the good witch.

    This simple reinforcing quote applies to all of us. We’ve always had the power to live better, be better and then do better for others.

    For everyone who has ever asked me (or yourself) or doubted the ability to make a positive impact – no matter what socioeconomic background, gender, creed - just watch this video…and meet Claire Lemmel, someone who instantly puts a smile on your face and who has discovered the true meaning of Joy. Smile…

    You’re probably grinning from ear to ear after watching this video. That’s good because if you are, it’s already benefitting your health. Many studies, including one from the University of California, Berkeley shows that simply smiling boosts the immune system, increases positive affect, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, enhances other people’s perception of you – plus it’s easy, fun and contagious.

    According to Positive Psychology News Daily: “The eyes and lips are a powerful weapon that everyone is equipped with at birth. When used for good, this weapon can exert a significant amount of health and happiness on the smiler and recipient. So become the center of a positive change ripple. Squeeze your zigomatic major, squint your orbicularis oculi, and if you really want to get things flowing … expose your teeth.” So share this video with your frowny friends, smile with “what yo’ momma gave you.”

    Photo Courtesy: William Wong

    I believe I’ve found one answer to the common question, “I don’t know how I can help others. What can I do?” Witness Claire’s joy and listen to Glinda. And simply start smiling. Discover your own yellow brick road and think about what you can do to make someone smile today. Onward!

    For more information about Claire's Connect project:

    *Special Thanks: Megan Wegmann for your amazing energy & help with the Videography

    August 1, 2011

    A Quick, Simple Exercise to Awakening YOUR Passion (Power)

    Many of us ask the question, "What should I do with my life?"

    It seems like a question that is asked just as much as the age old philosophical question/quandary, "What is the meaning of life?" Well, allow me to attempt to find an answer to both of these questions based on my amalgamation of experience as a TV news reporter/college professor/curriculum writer/blogger/lover of life.

    I've been running into many people lately from varied walks of life and different ages who are trying to figure out what their passion is. Rich or poor -- gay or straight -- black or white, so many are struggling with what that "thing" is that enlivens them and brings them joy. I've certainly struggled to find that "thing" through my own struggles in life; losing my job, losing four family members in eight short months and sometimes losing hope.

    When my students and mentees inquire about my career path and ask what they should do with theirs, I tell them to do this exercise:

    "When you go to bed tonight, close your eyes and let go of your worries. You probably had dinner, so you're not hungry. The lights are off so no one is watching in judgment. Think about what would excite you out of bed tomorrow morning. That's probably what you should be focused on doing in your life."

    Then take it a step further –- now that you've ignited that spark of passion, think about how you can turn that into a brighter flame and then into a fully-fledged fire that is lit underneath you … and then ask yourself, "What can I do with it to make a living and help others?"

    One of my students, Devin Williams, is one of the most brilliant video editors I've come across. I've had the pleasure of witnessing him come into and embrace his power of editing videos. Devin's former dream was to be a pro basketball player. He had his mind set. That's all he wanted to do -- until he took my beginner video class. He said, "Toan, I found my passion, that fire, that butterfly effect in my belly in your class. I became obsessed with telling stories with video and sound bites. I love editing and want to get better and better." Devin then took my vlogging class and has been offered a couple of paid freelance gigs.

    I too remember feeling that fire –- my passion, however, was for using my voice to help inspire people to help others. You can ask my college professors, specifically Michael Robertson, the former chair of Communications at the University of San Francisco and he'll tell you even he had some doubts about "young Toan's" overambitious zest for using storytelling to inspire people. Robertson was a chiseled former journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle and he knew how the harsh news beast could brutalize young idealists like me. But I was adamant about using my power -- of storytelling and connecting with people to help people discover and use their powers to help others. My path led me to reporting gigs in Wisconsin, Texas and then San Francisco -- until it guided me to forge my own path through my social media site

    For those of you who are struggling to find meaning in your job or your personal life, I dare you to do the aforementioned exercise. Pay attention to that little fire inside your belly that you’re putting on the backburner. What is that "thing" that makes you special? What do you love to do? Why aren't you doing it?

    I'd love to hear about how you're using your power to help others.


    July 28, 2011

    9-year-old's Water Wish Granted After Her Death

    You can't read this without feeling that effervescent, inspiring, chilling feeling -- the community, humanity pulled through to make this gir's wish come true, thousands of times over.

    We all have birthday wishes. Most of the time, we wish for something for ourselves, often the newest, coolest, most gratifying, most personal present we can imagine. Instead of presents, then 8-year-old Rachel Beckwith from Bellevue, Wash., made a simple wish for people she never knew - clean drinking water for residents of third world countries.

    Rachel campaigned to raise $300 by her 9th birthday to help, a non-profit that brings fresh water to developing countries.

    Her wish:
    “On June 12th 2011, I'm turning 9. I found out that millions of people don't live to see their 5th birthday. And why? Because they didn't have access to clean, safe water so I'm celebrating my birthday like never before. I'm asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to fund freshwater projects in developing nations.”

    On her birthday, June 12th, she raised $220, just $80 shy of her goal.

    Sadly, shortly after her 9th birthday, tragedy struck.

    (Photo Courtesy: Charity Water)

    Last week, she was involved in a multiple car crash. On Sunday, Rachel was taken off life support, but her philanthropic spirit lives to inspire people – many of them complete strangers – to chip in and help her achieve her goal.

    Members of Rachel’s church and the community banded together to make sure her wish came true, and Rachel’s donation page was reopened last Friday.

    The media shared her story. Her story went viral – her dream continues to grow exponentially.

    Monday evening it grew past $140,000 and by Wednesday afternoon, the total soared past the $430,000 mark.

    Rachel’s mother, Samantha Paul, posted a message Monday on the website: “I am in awe of the overwhelming love to take my daughter’s dream and make it a reality. In the face of unexplainable pain you have provided undeniable hope. Thank you for your generosity! I know Rachel is smiling!”

    I got goose bumps after hearing about Rachel’s story and the chain of humanity and goodwill from strangers. This is a beautiful example of, and testimony to, the fact that we are all one. It makes me think that if we each had the mentality that we’re all a part of the same experience of this journey called life, we could perhaps treat one another differently, more kindly, and live with more eager generosity.

    Rachel started with her wish to get fresh water out to strangers in need. Then the community and strangers helped her exceed her dream. What are you doing to leave your mark in this world in the present moment? What can you do today to fulfill someone's wishes? What's stopping you from doing it now?

    July 20, 2011

    The Power of YOUR Words

    We’ve all gotten to where we are today because someone helped us along the way. My earliest recollection of someone who has made an impact on my life is Mrs. Perskinski, my kindergarten teacher.

    I had a lot of friends in school and I was pretty social – as social as any 5-year-old social butterfly could be. But one day, I came to school filled with sadness. I was down right melancholy. Mrs. Perskinski knew something was wrong because I seemed depressed, despondent and different from my usual cheery demeanor. She asked me, “What’s wrong Toan? Is everything ok?” I told her, “I’m really sad.” She asked, “Why?” I told her that I saw on the news that another kid was shot and killed in my neighborhood and that made me really sad.

    What she told me next changed the trajectory of my life forever.

    She told me, “In life, we have choices, Toan. You can make bad choices and you can make good choices. If you make bad choices, then bad things happen to you. If you make good choices, good things happen.”

    Looking back, I think she was trying to explain cause and affect, and the idea of karma -- that the good choices beget goodness and bad decisions lead to bad consequences.

    This was the earliest philosophical conversation that I can remember – it was also the first person, outside of my family that made an impact on my life. Words possess such power, for good and bad. So I learned to be careful how I use them.
    Funny how I chose to become a TV reporter who would cover death and destruction on a daily basis for almost a decade. I’m glad to report that although I’m grateful for that experience, I’ve left the news biz and carved out my own path to inspire people -through storytelling and videos - to use their power (resources, talents and network) to help others.

    Thanks Mrs. Persinski and to everyone who is using your words carefully to inspire the future.

    I’m currently looking for Mrs. Persinski to thank her for the impact and life lesson she’s had on me. I’m sure there’s someone in your life you’d like to thank for shaping your journey for the good…

    I’d love to hear what they did and who they are (I'm sure they the person who inspired you would like to hear from you too): Twitter and Facebook

    July 11, 2011

    DooF - Inspiring Healthy, Fun Food for Kids!

    Go Inspire Go (GIG) is proud to introduce its first Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of individuals and organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. GIG believes everyone can find inspiration in helping others, whether it’s through doing small acts of kindness or working at an organization dedicated to making a difference. If you know of an individual or organization that you think should be featured, please contact GIG and help us forward their stories to inspire the world.

    GIG Social Good Spotlight:


    What is DooF?

    Formed by Mike Axinn, DooF (food spelled backwards) has found new and creative ways to teach children how to eat well using the power of multi-media entertainment, education and live events.

    What is DooF’s mission? What big changes is Doof trying to make?
    DooF’s mission is to explore food from every possible perspective - backwards, forwards, sideways, upside-down and inside-out - in order to teach kids about how food gets from its source to their table.

    Jennifer Schumacher, a DooF and GIG volunteer told us about this amazing organization.

    So a couple of my volunteers (Robert Fletcher and Erin Sitt) and I came to the DooF-A-Palooza event at Jack London Square in Oakland, California and helped her produce this piece.

    Thanks for the scoop and great editing job, Jen!

    How is DooF using its power to help others?
    DooF does many things, from producing short videos explaining how food comes from local farms and ends up in restaurants and markets to providing teachers with lessons plans to teach in their classrooms. DooF also puts on “DooF-A-Pallooza,” an event that brings together local markets, food producers, farmers, and families. On May 22, 2011, hundreds of families attended DooF’s 3rd festival at Jack London Square in Oakland. DooF describes it as a “food-backwards, table-to-source, food educational experience” that includes entertainment and hands-on activities with growers, chefs, purveyors, businesses, and cookbook authors.

    What inspires DooF to do this work?

    For years, children have been taught nutrition by being told what food they should and shouldn’t eat. The failure of these messages to inspire children to eat better and be physically active inspires DooF to think differently and show children how to have fun with food. By truly engaging children, DooF hopes they will truly learn healthy habits and live well.

    What is DooF working on now?

    DooF continues to look for new ways to spread its message of smart eating and play. An immediate project is to start working with younger filmmakers to produce films focused on having fun with food.

    How can GIGSTERS get involved and support DooF?

    1. Visit/Volunteer with DooF
    2. Be mindful when you eat. Love every bite and chew.
    3. Think about one simple thing you can start with to improve your diet. Can you drink two more cups of water daily? Eat fruit and almonds for a snack in between meals?
    4. Inspire a youngster in your life to eat healthier.

    If you have a nonprofit that you believe deserves a pat on the back, we'd love to hear from you. Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook!