October 27, 2009

Ready to Make Social Change a Reality? Start Volunteering!

We talk about working to make social change a reality, but where does one start? First, there is the light-bulb moment. The time when one realizes today is the day, now is the time to make a difference.

The next step is often harder – getting started. Where does one begin? How do you decide which organization to work with?

I’ve developed a short list of organizations that should kick start your research into volunteer work. And if you have any other ideas, or suggestions, please add them in the comments!

HandsOn Network

If you live in New York City, you know them as New York Cares. But did you know that there are actually 250+ affiliates of the HandsOn Network across the U.S. and 11 international locations? Their structure is based on an online model. You must first attend an orientation session in person. Then, you are eligible to volunteer during the day, evenings, or on weekends for organizations serving children, animals, the environment or adult job readiness, just to name a few.

United Way

The United Way’s programs focusing on three issue areas: education, income and health. A worldwide organization, there are nearly 1,300 local United Way locations in America alone. To volunteer, one is directed to their local United Way organization through the official global website. Once on the local site, there are options for individuals and corporations looking to donate their time.

VolunteerMatch

This is another online source for volunteering. The difference here is that all contact with VolunteerMatch is virtual and the site functions much like a large job-search engine, which allows you to search for volunteer opportunities in various cities and communities across the country. Once a “match” is made, VolunteerMatch leaves the scheduling and details to the non-profit organization and the volunteer.

Volunteers of America

This is a national, faith-based organization with 38 offices serving 44 states. To volunteer locally, contact the appropriate office nearest your home or work. Volunteers of America offers help for the homeless, mental health, senior citizens and veterans.

Do you have other organizations you volunteer through? Do you have other ideas on how to start volunteering? Add them to the comments!

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

October 15, 2009

How Big is Your (Carbon) Footprint?

*This post was written in collaboration with over 7,500 other blogs from 140 countries for Blog Action Day 2009.


The Pew Center for Global Climate Change is an invaluable resource for information on how society has effected the environment and how changes in the environment are affecting society. Their purpose is to

… bring [sic] together business leaders, policy makers, scientists, and other experts to bring a new approach to a complex and often controversial issue. Our approach is based on sound science, straight talk, and a belief that we can work together to protect the climate while sustaining economic growth.

The website is organized to educate and empower both professionals and private citizens. My favorite feature is Tips on Curbing Your Personal Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.


Here are some ways you can shrink your carbon footprint, and do your part to protect the environment, without increasing your expenses


At Home:
• Lower your thermostat 2° in winter and raise it 2° in summer
• Turn off and unplug electronics like your TV, DVD and computer when not in use
• Regularly defrost your freezer
• Go paperless for your bank and credit card statements


Out & About:
• Bring along a reusable shopping bag
• Plan multiple stops during one trip instead of multiple shorter trips to save gas
• Reuse lunch containers, coffee mugs and water bottles instead of buying disposable.


For More Ideas Check out these Resources:
* No-Cost Low-Cost Tips for Saving Money & Energy from the Alliance to Save Energy
* Energy Savers Booklet from U.S. Department of Energy: Tips on Saving Energy and Money at Home (pdf)
* The Power of Green from Con Edison: Tips to Help You Go Green & Save Some Green
* Tips on Curbing Your Personal Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from The Pew Center for Global Climate Change


What do you do to reduce your own carbon footprint? Share it in the comments!


This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

October 8, 2009

Potential Bright Spots for the Long-term Unemployed

The Center for America Progress released their findings for September 2009 on Tuesday. Part of a list of signs that America’s economy is still struggling was this highlight…

“The average length of unemployment in September 2009 was 26.2 weeks, the median length of unemployment was 17.3 weeks, and 35.6 % of the unemployed were out of a job for 27 weeks or more. All of these indicators are at their highest level since 1948.”

Media outlets are reporting with more and more frequency the difficulties the long-term laid off are having in securing employment. The Wall Street Journal’s online career section regularly featured an article back in June titled, “Only the Employed Need Apply”. It seems, not only are there fewer jobs available, but the unemployed are being passed over for theoretically more desirable candidates - those who are employed.

The question becomes … with so many obstacles before them … Is there any good news for the long-term unemployed? Yes, there is.


#1 Unemployment Benefits Extension Vote Pending

In late September, the House of Representatives passed a bill to extend unemployment benefits for 13 additional weeks. The bill is currently waiting for a vote in the Senate. The difficulty is that the House’s bill limits the extension to only the jobless in states with 8.5% or higher unemployment. Various Senators are reluctant to sign a bill that will not support jobless Americans in all 50 states. However, the bottom-line is that if the original version is signed, 75% of those Americans who would lose their benefits at the end of September will get a much needed reprieve.

#2 COBRA Benefits May be Extended

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that they are considering seeking an extension of the law which subsidizes COBRA health insurance premiums for involuntarily laid-off employees. Currently, the subsidy covers 65% of monthly health care premiums for up to 9 months following the employee’s involuntary separation with their employer. The possibility of this extension, coupled with the likelihood of some extension of unemployment benefits could be a welcome sign of support to those struggling without jobs.

# 3 Student Loans – Initiate your own Deferment or Forbearance Extension

Deferment and forbearance rules are maintained by each loan provider. And federally funded loans have different rules than private student loans. However, that does not mean you cannot negotiate with your loan provider to extend the terms of your deferment or forbearance if you have a financial hardship. The important point is to not default on your loans. Start early and work with your provider to discuss payment plan options. Be ready to wade through a lot of red tape – online and over the phone. Be prepared to provide documentation. But above all, be persistent.

#4 Add Your Own

There are more useful tips that I did not cover in this post, but you can add them to the comments! Share your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas in the comments and other job seekers will be grateful.

Links (learn more):

* Economic Snapshot for October 2009, Center for American Progress, 10/06/09
* Only the Employed Need Apply, WallStreetJournal.com, 06/30/09
* Jobless benefits extension hits snag in Senate, Associated Press, 10/01/09
* Several options can help if you're struggling to pay student loans, USAToday.com, 09/21/09
* Obama administration mulls extending COBRA subsidy, BusinessInsurance.com, 10/05/09



This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

The Day We Committed to Social Change

On this day two years ago, Make Social Change A Reality was born. Yay, Happy Birthday to us!

Last year, we celebrated our first birthday by declaring October 8th as a day of recognition for all who make a difference. This year we'd like to invite you to share your story in creating a better world.

What have you done to make a difference in 2009?

What are your goals for change in 2010?

Why do you do what you do?

How are you going to enlist the support of others to make social change a reality in your lifetime?


We look forward to hearing from all change agents regardless of issue area. Please share your stories in the comments!


This post was written by Chanelle Carver, creator of this blog and founder of the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project.