May 23, 2012

GIG Social Good Spotlight: Soldiers' Angels

Go Inspire Go is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change.  For more information and to read past Social Good Spotlights, click here.

Soldiers' Angels – “May No Soldier Go Unloved”

Compiled by Marcia Estarija Silva

"Not only am I a volunteer of Soldiers’ Angels, but I myself am a proud Army Wife. My husband has told me stories of soldiers who receive no letters, no care packages…so it makes them feel even more alone in an unfamiliar state or foreign country. Soldiers’ Angels provide that love, that friendship, an ear for listening. I'm so proud to call myself an Angel." - Katelyn

What is Soldiers’ Angels?
Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-led nonprofit that provides aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and their families.  Based in Pasadena, California, its Angel volunteers assist veterans, wounded and deployed personnel and their families by addressing military-related needs ranging from deployed support to wounded care, to remembrance of the fallen, to providing financial assistance for loved ones to stay with their wounded family member or provide phone cards to call relatives who can’t visit as often as they wish.  Working closely with the Department of Defense, the nation’s major veterans groups and a variety of other military support organizations, Soldiers' Angels currently supports tens of thousands of American military personnel around the world and here at home.  

What inspires Soldiers’ Angels to do this work?
 Soldiers' Angels was started by a self-described ordinary mother of two American soldiers, Patti Patton-Bader.  Her eldest son, Staff Sergeant Brandon Varn, deployed to Iraq from 2003-2004, and her youngest was deployed in 2008.  In the summer of his 2003, Brandon expressed concern that some soldiers in his deployed unit did not receive any mail or support from home.  Being a loving and caring mother, Patti decided to do something.  She contacted a handful of friends and extended family and asked if they would support a soldier or two.  Within a few months, Soldiers' Angels went from a mother sending a few extra care packages and letters, to an Internet community with thousands of Angels worldwide.  With more and more merchants donating services, money and items for packages, Soldiers' Angels reorganized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2004.  

"As a First Sergeant deployed to Taji, Iraq, Soldiers' Angels ensured not only I but those in my unit were taken care of and felt the love from home...One angel actually went to visit my grandmother that was in a nursing home outside of San Fransisco. They became friends and although I could not be there for the passing of my grandmother, this angel was her friend and took care of her until she passed away. My daughter received cards and letters while I was deployed with words of encouragement, letting her know how much her sacrifices were also appreciated.  Patti [and] everyone at Soldiers Angels have become family and I do [whatever] I can to give back,” noted Craig.

How can GIGSTERS get involved and support Soldiers’ Angels?
·         Donate money, or items for Vet Packs
·         Adopt a Soldier and commit to sending a card or letter each week, and one care package a month throughout the service member's deployment.
·         Join a Soldiers’ Angels team to meet the needs of military personnel and their families far beyond care package and letters.  Each team has a unique mission and purpose. 

Thanks to GreatNonprofits, the leading developer of tools that allow people to find, review, and share information about great - and perhaps not yet great – nonprofits.  

Find more Social Good Spotlights here.  If you know of an organization that you think should be featured, please help us forward their stories to inspire the world and contact us.

Follow us on: LinkedInTwitter & Facebook

May 15, 2012

GIG Spark: One Thing YOU Must Do Daily for YOUR Mental & Spiritual Health

I have to make a confession. I'm guilty of this too. I'm a work-a-holic and social media maniac.

How many of you are guilty of being on your phone/iPad/computer when you shouldn't? It's hard to resist overworking and social media madness because when you do something that you absolutely love -- your passion work -- it doesn't feel like work. I just want to climb Kilamanjaro and yell, "Go Inspire Go (GIG)."

One of my best friends, Yasmine Farazian made me realize that I was becoming a work-a-holic. She single-highhandedly inspired me to unplug and be more present by forcing me to get off my computer. Literally. One day, I had Yasmine and few friends over for dinner. It was about 7 p.m. and I was still plugging away on my computer. She said, "No more. You're always working." And she politely, but firmly, pushed my MacBook screen closed with her perfectly painted pretty phalanges.

Since then, I've tried -- operative word being "tried" -- to consciously be as present as possible when doing my GIG work. I don't always succeed, but I try. I live in San Francisco, one of the most postcard(esque) places in the world. Everywhere you turn, there's what I like to call a "postcard-worthy" snapshot. I try not to be on my cell phone, checking emails or Facebook. I admit, I fail miserably when there's a scene or shot I want to share with the world through my lens via Instagram. (That's excusable right? After all, like my Momma told me, "Sharing is caring!")

So in the spirit of being present while going to and fro, I want to introduce our latest GIG Spark. Melissa Cheng produced our latest Go Inspire Go's GIG Spark (Youth Lesson on Compassion Program) in San Francisco. Her goal: To inspire you to be more conscious, present and aware of the beauty that surrounds you.

So please remember: It only takes a few seconds everyday to stop, take a mental snapshot of something beautiful that surrounds you and be grateful. You will be mentally, physically and spiritually thankful you did. Don't have any images that inspire you? Check out my Instagram & Pinterest posts for some beautiful pictures that inspire me!

We hope this video inspires you to do something nice for someone in need in your community in the next 24 hours.

Gigster: Melissa Cheng
Where: San Francisco
Spark: Stop and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you
Your Turn: What thoughtful deed can you do to help others in need? Do it and share with us. We may just share your GIG SPARK video with the world!


As part of GIG's mission to inspire our viewers to discover their power, we developed GIG Spark: A Lesson on Compassion. The goal is to spark action in everyone that witnesses your good deed. We want you to identify a problem in your community and be the change by capturing your action in a short 1-1:30 minute video. Use your passion and creativity to produce a GIG Spark and inspire viewers with your story! What can YOU do? 

* Follow us on: LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook

May 10, 2012

GIG Social Good Spotlight: International Crisis Aid

Go Inspire Go is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight, to raise awareness of organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change.  Featured organizations are identified with the help of GreatNonprofits, the leading developer of tools that allow people to find, review, and share information about great - and perhaps not yet great - nonprofits.  For more information and to read past Social Good Spotlights, click here.

International Crisis Aid - Proving That Love Has No Boundaries

Before and after shot of a rescued child

"International Crisis Aid is easily the best non-profit that I have not only ever worked with, but also ever seen! Their vision and goals are in helping people, serving children, and freeing the oppressed…ICA spends its budget and resources empowering people to live life as it is truly meant to be lived - whole and serving others.” – Rod T.

What is International Crisis Aid?
International Crisis Aid’s mission is to assist in sustaining life, bring encouragement to those suffering and collaborating with other relief organizations in bringing necessary foods, materials and medicines to people in times of crisis, particularly where life and death situations exist. Additionally, ICA brings public awareness to these situations and to solicit citizen involvement whenever and wherever possible.  All assistance and resources are secured in the country of need when possible to develop relations with the local business people and foster a true spirit of cooperation.  ICA targets its efforts in no-go zones; where other organizations cannot or will not go. 

Some of its results include:
Ethiopia -Treated 192,283 patients in our medical facilities located in the one of the poorest regions in the country
Afghanistan - Provided clean water to over 30 villages by purifying 1,400 water wells
Haiti - Distributed food and water to over 150,000 people as part of the earthquake relief effort 
Cambodia - Rescued over 27 girls from the horrors of sex trafficking in 2007
North Korea - Helped build an orphanage and dental clinic in 2005

Somalia - Distributed 873,030 pounds of food to over 4,000 men, women and children dying of starvation because of the extreme drought conditions in 2011

What inspires International Crisis Aid to do this work?
In September of 2000, ICA began work in Southern Sudan during a time of desperate civil war by delivering humanitarian aid into dangerous "no-go" zones where starvation, disease, and genocide are a part of everyday life. Since then, its work has grown to include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Cambodia, North Korea, Indonesia, Haiti and soon the United States.

How GIGSTERS can get involved and support International Crisis Aid?
·         Donate - $65 will feed a family of 6 for 1 month, $14 will feed a child for 1 week, $10 will vaccinate 1 person against diseases, and $50 will provide one girl with the training to rescue her from a life in sex slavery
·         Volunteer - Join a mission trip to Ethiopia or help out at ICA headquarters in St. Louis, MO
·         Get the word out to your community about the great work ICA is doing

International Crisis Aid Video:

ICA Safe Campaign and Testimonies of Girls Rescued from Sex Trafficking:

Find more Social Good Spotlights here.  If you know of an organization that you think should be featured, please help us forward their stories to inspire the world and contact us.

Follow us on: LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook

May 2, 2012

Photo Heart Connection: Balancing a Paying Job with Your Passion Project (VIDEOS)

Have you ever met someone and thought they were wise beyond their years? That’s how I feel about Kat Sloma, an amazing photographer who uses her power to inspire people to focus, develop and connect on a deeper level.

Photo: Toan Lam
When I heard about the work that Kat was doing with her Photo Heart Connection -- Thanks Fiona Pattison for the connection -- I felt she was an evolved soul and knew we would connect in a meaningful way, so naturally, I interviewed her for Go Inspire Go's (GIG) Tea with Toan segment.

After this interview, I was excited to learn that she was planning a trip to San Francisco in the coming months! We quickly calendared our snapshot soiree!

Photo: Toan Lam
We originally planned to do a photo walk, where she would teach me how to take captivating, beautiful pictures and we were open to an organic experience, meeting for the first time.

Toan Lam
Photo: Toan Lam
Our day unfolded as perfect as the early morning sun rising above Telegraph Hill, our meeting place.

Kat Sloma, Erin Sitt, Toan Lam - Photo Credit Toan Lam
Me, Kat and Erin Sitt (a GIG volunteer) met up early in the morning at Cafe Divine before our snapshot sojourn. We traversed Telegraph Hill to show her the breath taking views of the city and my favorite meditation spot, along the east steps of Coit Tower.

Photo: Toan Lam

Photo: Erin Sitt
Perched atop Telegraph Hill, you literally feel on top of the world. We also zig-zagged through North Beach, a.k.a. San Francisco’s Little Italy, and connected, conversed and snapped photos of sights that resonated with us. I was fully present in the moment, enjoying every snapshot, light bulb (in this case flash) moment – time didn’t seem to exist. Don't you love it when that happens?

Photo: Toan Lam
Through the shutter clicks, I learned an important life lesson about the yin and yang of balancing business and passion. Many of my friends struggle with this situation: a job that pays the bills vs. a passion project that enlivens.

Photo: Erin Sitt

Photo: Erin Sitt
"It's hard to put a price tag on my passion,” Kat said, eyes wide. “I just want to give it away.” Chills shot up my spine as I could relate.

I started Go Inspire Go about three years ago, with the small seed of a dream that five people would help five others. I remember thinking, wow that would be 10 lives changed -- for the greater good.

The story that unfolded is bigger and better than I could ever pen or blog. A story that wouldn't have any roots if I didn't listen to my inner compass -- my spirit.

When I had an idea to quit my TV reporting job to use my power/talents to produce stories about inspiring civic engagement, instead of death and destruction, like any journalist would do, I quickly began to research the competition. Dozens of meetings ensued with the best and brightest folks in my network. Immediately, people asked me, "What's your return on investment?" "How are you going to support yourself?" All relevant, but not the right questions at that time.

Naturally, I wanted to put my GIG project on the backburner and search for a job with a big paycheck. But stories like, Tent City Sacramento, Angel in Queens and Phoebe Food Bank, pulled me back into what would be my divine assignment and calling, my new GIG.

My goal, to use storytelling to inspire viewers to help others. Tens of thousands of people watched. Many were inspired to help. Exciting! Nothing brings me more happiness than seeing people GO (to our site) get INSPIRED (by our videos and blogs) and GO -- help others.

Our mantra became "Discover and Use Your Power to help others." After all, I was using my power (talent) -- storytelling and connecting with people -- to highlight regular people doing good deeds that rippled out to meaningful changes.

Media attention ensued -- our stories were shared on: AOL, Yahoo! local and national shows, like ABC's Good Morning America. Three months after launching GIG, Arianna Huffington emailed to ask me to share my content on the Huffington Post. We also connected with Mallika Chopra's to share our content.

Truth is, I work with an amazing team of volunteerGIGSTERS,”who help with everything from back end programming, producing content to social media outreach. On many occasions, I stay up late and wake up early to blog and edit.

This is what makes my light shine brighter. It doesn't feel like work. I know that if I focus on authentic storytelling and serving the community, everything will come together and I will be supported.

Photo: Toan Lam
I told Kat that I have had numerous conversations with people about how to fund my project -- angel investors, advertising, content syndication. Likewise, I speak to many artists about turning their passion project into a business that pays the bills.

As a mother and breadwinner of the family, Kat works as an engineer and does her photography business on the side. She too, struggles with monetizing something so invaluable. I am still learning how to monetize and scale GIG without losing its authenticity and soul. She asked, "What answers did you come up with?" I immediately said, "Trust."

Oprah coined the phrase, “What I know for sure.” To that I answer: Believe that the universe will support you. After all, the universe has shown me time and time again that it has my back. Of course, we need to put together an action plan. Write down your vision and plot the small goals and tasks that will lead you to the bigger goal. The truth is, you can get advice from hundreds of people, take calculated risks, etc., but ask yourself, do I believe?

I hear many people say, I do believe, but their actions don’t show that they trust 100%. The universe knows – and in return won’t give you 100%.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Lucrative job offers in and out of the TV industry poured in. Against the behest of some confidants to take the opportunities, I turned them all down.

There's also been a handful of media providers that have reached out to me about creating a multiplatform GIG show. While many of them seemed right in my head and great in the bank, some didn't feel right for my heart. So at the behest of my spirit, I walked away. Exciting things are percolating… We are close. And you will be too. If you believe.

Photo: Erin Sitt
Believing that you will always be more than OK – that you will be fully supported -- will allow you to be even more present to soak in the lessons designed to enrich your life. As my dear friend and spiritual sister, Terrie Crowley tells me, this is your divine assignment.

Photo: Erin Sitt
I will always be grateful for our little morning walk, Kat's soul connection and conversation. As we continue to seek and use our power to help elevate humanity, I know for sure that being present and enjoying this journey is what connects these snapshots of experiences to develop our spirit.

Photo: Erin Sitt
What can you do? It's been an awe-inspiring journey so far, both for Kat and I. Where are you on your journey and what can you do to help others with your power? We want to know, please comment below.

Here are some things I've learned along the way:

1. Ask yourself, "Am I doing something I'm passionate about?" Whether it's your paying job or a passion project on the side. This is a good place to begin your journey to find your authentic calling.

2. Believe. Trust. If it's meant to be and you are truly operating from your authenticity and place of passion, it will manifest.

3. Share your power with others. At Go Inspire Go, we inspire people to "Discover your power to help others." True joy isn't experienced until you give it away.

* See Kat's Blog through her lens on Kat Eye Studio

Follow Toan Lam on Twitter

Follow Kat Sloma on Twitter