The ‘Compliment Guys’ from Purdue University

I ran across an old article about two Purdue University students who gained national attention for their polite, if somewhat peculiar, practice of complimenting complete strangers. The video footage made me smile and I thought it might do the same for you.

 “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

 Brett Westcott, a sophomore in civil engineering, said he woke up with the idea at the beginning of the school year and quickly recruited his friend. “I love giving free compliments – there’s nothing else I’d rather do,” Westcott said. “The first day I was a little bit nervous because I wasn’t sure how people were going to take it. But we’ve had a good response.”



For Fukushima Families, a Brief Respite from Nuclear Nightmare

Americans welcome in Japanese mothers and children whose lives were upended by triple disaster.

Yoshie Arai and her son Tatsuki, 10, pick blueberries near Portland, Ore.

Yoshie Arai and her son Tatsuki, 10, pick blueberries near Portland, Ore.

A girl makes mud pies in the dirt, a toddler takes wobbly steps in the grass, a boy picks blueberries and another builds a snowman. Those are simple pleasures in Oregon, but not for the children of Fukushima, Japan, where a nuclear disaster in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami forced them indoors for months and required them to wear protective gear when they did venture outside.

At least 11 kids and their parents, refugees from Fukushima and other parts of Japan, are visiting Oregon this month and living with U.S. host families as part of a grass-roots effort to give them a break from the stress and health risks they had been facing at home.

More than 46,000 people living in Fukushima Prefecture have left since the triple disaster. Worries about the impact of radiation on their children were paramount for the mothers who brought their families to Oregon. Children under the age of 18 are most sensitive to the effects of radioactive iodine, one of the main isotopes released during the disaster, according to the Centers of Disease Control. Researchers released a study showing that low levels of radioactive iodine had been found in the thyroid glands of children from Fukushima. The announcements have stirred great fears among the Fukushima mothers, some who said they don’t want to go back.

Chifumi Brown, a Japanese-American therapist who is hosting a Japanese family, is holding a weekly informal therapy session for the mothers. “They’re really in the survival mode of needing to get away,” she said. They need “a breath of fresh air, literally,” Brown’s husband, Christopher, later added.

The families connected with each other through “Boshi sokai-shien network hahako”, a network set up days after the disaster struck by Yuko Kida, a part-time English teacher living in southern Japan who wanted to help out families looking to escape Fukushima. The name of the network means “mother-child,” Kida explained, noting that pregnant women and babies are most vulnerable to radiation. To date, about 45 families from countries such as the U.S., Australia, Britain, Thailand and Malaysia have offered to host families, with another 500 to 600 offers from elsewhere in Japan. A few hundred Japanese families have been placed with host homes so far.

“I wanted to do something directly, not just donating the money to some organization. I just really wanted to do person-to-person … help,” said Kurumi Conley, a Japanese-American glass artist hosting the Fujimori family in her home with her husband and two daughters.

Abe, the mother of a 3-year-old, said the stay with their host family was critical to their mental health. “I wanted my daughter to have a summer, to be able to go outside, and so I started looking abroad,” she said. Abe added that the U.S. break had given her a new resolve to confront the challenges she and the others will face when they soon head home. “I think this made me stronger.”


Nordstrom Opens Special Store Where All Proceeds Go to Charity

Manhattan’s Treasure & Bond will be a philanthropic venture.

Nordstrom might be a guilty pleasure for you but there is nothing guilty about the pleasure of shopping at one new Nordstrom-owned store. The store, Treasure & Bond, which opened Friday, August 19th in New York City and Nordstrom have committed to donating store profits to charity. That’s right, Nordstrom will not be pocketing the profits from Treasure & Bond. The Seattle-based company is donating proceeds from the store to nonprofit organizations that benefit New York City children.

The store will support two charities each quarter. Eight organizations have already been selected.

August – October 2011

The New York Public Library Programs for Children and Young Adults

New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative

November 2011 – January 2012

Children’s Health Fund

Coalition for the Homeless: Camp Homeward Bound Sleep-Away Camp and After School Services

February 2012 – April 2012

The Edible Schoolyard NYC

Friends of the High Line’s Family and Education Programs

May 2012 – July 2012

Pediatric Cancer Care, Memorial Sloan Kettering

Association to Benefit Children (ABC)

At the end of each quarter, the net profits will be split equally between the two charities selected. In order to ensure that these organizations receive the maximum donation possible, Treasure & Bond is cutting expenses wherever possible including the use of recycled, reclaimed or repurposed materials from Nordstrom locations.

While Nordstrom owns the new boutique, shoppers familiar with the upscale retailer won’t recognize Treasure & Bond. The store is much smaller and features clothing and accessories you may not find at a Nordstrom store including custom couture hats from Satya Twena and vintage glasses from The Vintage Frame Company.

Treasure & Bond is located at 350 West Broadway in SoHo, but if you want to get a sneak peek inside Nordstrom’s new philanthropic shopping experience, check out this feature on


Do Something Awards Recap

For those of you who watched the award show you know how heart-warming and inspiring the event was. I was blown away by the hard work, passion, love and creativity of the many people involved in the organizations, campaigns and community initiatives around the country. Some of the initiatives mentioned at the ceremony I have previously blogged about, however there were many that I have yet to share. So here is a recap of some of the truly incredible community contributions and their contributors mentioned that night:

1. Move for Hunger created by Adam Lowy – By teaming up with moving companies across the country, Move for Hunger is creating one of the nation’s largest year-round service programs.  Movers offer to pick up the unwanted, non-perishable food items from those who are moving and deliver it to their local food banks.

2. TwitChangeTwitChange was launched in August of 2010 in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti to bring fans, celebrities, and a great cause together to change the world. Their 1st campaign received over 35 million hits, won the Mashable Award for Most Creative Social Good Campaign, and made a huge impact for people in need. After 3 more very successful campaigns in 2011, TwitChange also aims to be the leading provider of breaking news and content on how social media is making the world a better place.

3. Unite for ChildrenUNICEF is a driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. They have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality.  That makes them unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.

4. Malaria No More – Determined to end malaria deaths in Africa by 2015—and they’re helping the world get it done. Malaria No More leverages high-impact awareness campaigns to engage the world, global advocacy to rally leadership and strategic investments in Africa to accelerate progress, build capacity and save lives.

5. Sport Relief – Fundraisers that do something fun and active to raise cash and help make the world of difference. All the money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief (a major charity based in the UK which strives to create a just world free from poverty) to help transform the lives of poor and vulnerable people, both at home and across the world’s poorest countries.

6. Elton John Aids Foundation – Supports innovative HIV prevention programs, efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS, and direct care and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS. Collectively, its organizations have raised over $220 million since inception in support of projects in 55 countries around the world, including significant funding dedicated to programs in their respective home countries.

7. – An online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need.

8. The Sparkle Effect created by Sarah Cronk – A student-run program encourages teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in high-school cheerleading programs. An on-line Quick-Start kit, grants for uniforms, and free on-site training makes starting a squad easy and fun! The result: students with disabilities experience true acceptance and gain confidence as high-school students inspire entire communities to embrace inclusion.

9. Artists for Peace and JusticeEstablished in early 2009, APJ is a fundraising effort founded by Paul Haggis and friends that encourages peace and social justice and addresses issues of poverty and enfranchisement in communities around the world. The organization’s immediate goal is to build schools to serve the poorest areas of Haiti, providing an education, hot meals, clean drinking water and regular medical treatments to the children living in the slums.

10. The Trevor Project – Determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including a nationwide 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline and digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone.

11. YALLA created by Mark Kabban – YALLA‘s mission is to empower immigrant families and their children, guiding their community through soccer, eco-therapy and education to develop the knowledge and confidence to pursue their physical and intellectual goals. They work to cultivate a healthy disposition, honesty, and hope in refugee youth as they learn the merit of commitment and grasp the dynamics of leadership.

12. Real Food Challenge created by David Schwartz – Serves as both a campaign and a network. The campaign is to increase the procurement of real food on college and university campuses, with the national goal of 20% real food by 2020. Already these efforts have created a shift of $35,000,000.00 in food decision distribution. By leveraging purchasing power transformation of the larger food system can take place. The network offers a chance for students and their allies (those working on the campaign along with those who’ve yet to sign on) to make connections, learn from one another, and grow the movement. &

13. Pencils of PromisePencils of Promise builds schools in the developing world and trains young leaders to take action at home and abroad.

And another just because I love this stuff…

14. Spokes of ChangeMillennium Promise is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to reduce worldwide extreme poverty within our lifetime. One of Millennium Promise’s campaigns is Spokes of Change. The project helps provide bicycles, training, and equipment for Community Health Workers in rural Africa, who in turn deliver much needed services for young moms and children (just one health worker can care for up to 750 people!). Buying just one 100% cotton T-shirt—designed by Tommy Hilfiger—can cover the costs for an entire month’s worth of medical supplies for a health worker. (Source:

Feeling inspired? Yeah, me too!

Actor Ryan Gosling Stops New York Street Fight

It’s always good news when you hear of someone who puts themselves in the line of fire to break up a public brawl. What might make it even better? How about if the hero is one of your favorite actors? Yep, I think that might do it…

Ryan Gosling posed as a hero in real life, stopping a New York City street fight over the weekend. He was walking down the street in the East Village when he came upon an escalating scuffle and immediately intervened. The 31-year-old actor dropped his bags on the ground, pulling an aggravated man to the side.

The whole scene was captured on video, thanks to a bystander who began squealing after she learned of the actor’s identity. Gosling is currently in New York City filming “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a film due out in 2013 starring the Canadian actor along with Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne and Eva Mendes.


Thank You!

In between stealing the show at the Grammys with Gwyneth Paltrow, starring as a voice coach on NBC’s smash reality hit, ‘The Voice,’ and rocking out as a ‘Saturday Night Live’ musical guest, singer Cee Lo Green also made time to contribute to a great cause.

To help Duracell’s “Power of Those Who Protect Us” program to benefit the National Volunteer Fire Council, the Grammy Award-winning artist re-recorded his hit song, ‘Forget You’ as ‘Thank You’ to honor volunteer firemen. The always-catchy new tune (which you can download for free) sings the praises of firefighters everywhere and thanks them for all they do.

The former Gnarls Barkley singer has strong personal ties to this specific cause. Green’s mother was a volunteer firefighter—in fact, Green revealed to MTV that she was one of the first African-American female firefighters in Georgia. Volunteer firemen are also credited with saving his mother’s life after a devastating car accident when Green was 18.


The Numbers are in – Americans Spent 8 Billion Hours Volunteering in 2010!

More than 60 million Americans volunteered 8.1 billion hours of their services in 2010 in work valued at nearly $173 billion, according to a new report. Whether it is tutoring and mentoring students, fundraising, job training or assisting during natural disasters, volunteers have contributed to their communities, the report by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) showed.

“Every day, volunteers of all ages are giving their time and talents to solve problems and make our country stronger,” said Robert Velasco II, acting CEO of CNCS. Minneapolis – St.Paul ranked No. 1 in volunteerism among large U.S. cities, with 37.1 percent of people giving their services. Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Rochester, New York were other urban areas with strong volunteer rates. On the state level, Utah led the way followed by Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.

People born between 1965-1981, known as Generation X, volunteered more of their time to volunteering than ever before, contributing 2.3 billion hours in 2010 — 110 million hours more than the year before. Velasco said the figures show that civic involvement increases as people become more deeply rooted in their community through family, work and school ties.

Partly thanks to social networking, teen volunteer rates have been significantly higher between 2002 and 2010 than they were in 1989, according to the report called “Volunteering in America.” It attributed high teen volunteer rates to greater emphasis on service-learning in high schools, the influence of parents who volunteer and the ease of finding volunteer opportunities with the Internet. “Technology in the broad sense of social networking has been an asset to volunteerism. I think young people are much more attuned to volunteering at an earlier age than some of us were,” Velasco said in an interview. “They have much more social engagement and networks, and, as a result, they are just much more engaged.”

CNCS recently partnered with the White House to launch a website,, where potential volunteers can find opportunities in their areas by entering their interests and zip code.

Source: www.

Do Something Awards!

Most awards shows focus on the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s elite. Between A-list actors and platinum-hit record singers, much of the attention goes to the who’s who in attendance. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch an awards show that celebrated the good that every day people do?

Well, you’re in luck. and VH1 continue their partnership that honors young people’s commitment to social change with The Do Something Awards. Jane Lynch, the Emmy and Golden Globe winner who plays Glee’s tough-as-nails coach with a heart of gold returns as the show’s host for the second year in a row.

Each of the final five nominees was honored in May for his or her commitment to humanitarian efforts with a community grant of $10,000. From helping with food and hunger issues to creating a support group for Iraq and Afghanistan war-widows, these individuals, all 25 and younger, are striving to nurture and care for those in need — many of whom have stories much like their own. Do Something, Inc. will select one grand prize winner who will receive $100,000 in grant funds at today’s live broadcast.

Though the show will of course feature high-profile performances and all-star appearances, the focus will be on the five individuals whose life calling is to make the world a better place. Tune into VH1 tonight, August 18 at 9/8c to see who wins.


Everyday Warriors

In Lionsgate’s new film, WARRIOR, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton star as two brothers from a conflicted past who must confront each other in the ring, battling as skilled martial artists.

Compelling, right? Yep, we’re going to see it, too. But the minds behind the film know that warriors in the real world don’t always get to go head-to-head in a ring. Most of the time, warriors are in board meetings, working to change legislation, or running a charity for causes they believe in, or putting their lives on the line, fighting fires in their neighborhoods. Real warriors are changing their communities – and the world.

As part of the “We Are Warriors” initiative, it’s time to call attention to these unsung heroes. Nominate someone that you see working to affect change by uploading a video to the WARRIOR website and answering the question, “What do you fight for?” The video will be shown to thousands of viewers across Lionsgate’s social media channels.

The winning warrior gets a hometown screening of WARRIOR for himself or herself—and 200 guests. Now that’s a party! Nominations are open until August 29th, so get those video cameras rolling. Bet you know a warrior working to make a difference in the world. Hey, maybe it’s you…


Perfect Timing: Workers Win Lottery after Getting Laid-Off

Laid-off workers win lottery. (Montreal Gazette)

Laid-off workers win lottery. (Montreal Gazette)

It was a sweet payday for 18 Ottawa-area co-workers who shared a $7.1 million jackpot one day after 10 of them lost their jobs. The lucky men were at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming office in downtown Toronto on Friday to collect their check and share the winnings. They are expected to take home about $400,000 each after splitting the pot.

“I am going to use my share to pay off my mortgage,” said Tim Shanks, 33, who was laid-off and has four weeks of work remaining at Smart Technologies, in Ottawa, which is laying-off staffers and transferring its operations to Mexico. “The lottery winnings couldn’t have come at a better time for me and my family.”

Colin Willard, 49, said the group had been working together for 10 years and playing Lotto 6/49 for five. “We can’t believe our luck because we never thought that we would actually win,” Willard said. “I plan to pay off all my bills and take it easy a bit.”

Shaun Hogan, 33, said he will use some cash to return to school for retraining. “I want to change my life and do something else,” Hogan said. “I have been doing this job for years and now I want to do something else.” The money will come in handy given the layoff notices that went out, he said. “We are having the last laugh. I was always hoping for a big win.”


The X-Prize

Everyone loves healthy competition. For many, nothing beats the high of being declared a winner — except, maybe, the high of giving back.

For those craving competitive thrill and the chance to make the world a better place, check out the X PRIZE Foundation. The educational nonprofit’s mission is to make the impossible possible, one prize at a time.

The X PRIZE tagline is “Revolution through competition” – since humans are hardwired to compete, it’s only natural to use that drive to push capabilities beyond limits. Think about it: 100 years ago, people would never believe a transatlantic aircraft flight could happen. But in 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the impossible possible — all because of the $25,000 Orteig Prize.

The U.S. based X Prize organization’s first competition was in 1996 and called for the first private team to build a spaceship. Teams from around the world worked towards the goal … and the $10 million prize. However, the initiative inspired not just competition, but created businesses and industries that are worth more than the original incentive — thanks to the human drive. Today, groups are competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, which aims to reach the moon with a new generation of low-cost robots.

If you’re innovative and want to help create a better future, look into the X PRIZE Foundation. Somewhere in the world, someone will have the solution. Maybe you will be one of the ones that make the impossible … possible.


Once a Kidnap Victim in Somalia, Amanda Lindhout Returns to Help

Amanda Lindhout, in Somalia, talks with Sameya Mohamed, who thanked her for bringing food and said, "my grandchildren are starving." (Kate Snow)

Amanda Lindhout, in Somalia, talks with Sameya Mohamed, who thanked her for bringing food and said, "my grandchildren are starving." (Kate Snow)

In August 2008, Amanda Lindhout was working as a freelance journalist when her car was surrounded by about a dozen teenage men in Mogadishu. “They ordered us out of the vehicle, made us lay face down on the dirt, guns pointed at the back of our heads,” she says. “We were then put back into the vehicle. And then what followed was many months of moving around, actually all over south central Somalia in different houses, but always with the same group.”

She was held captive for more than 15 months. Her captors abused her daily. At one point she was able to call the media, and complained of suffering from dysentery and a broken tooth. “There’s no one to take care of me here,” she pleaded. “I don’t want to die here.”

As Lindhout sat alone in a dark room, she thought about what she would do if she ever got out. “I found that the most positive way to spend the time was really to think about programs that I could create that would one day transform Somalia into a better place — a country that would not be producing these generations of young people that grow up knowing nothing but violence,” she says.

When she was released a year and a half ago, she created a foundation named the Global Enrichment Foundation to help build schools for Somali refugee camps in Kenya. She raised over half a million dollars. She says she never thought she’d return to Somalia. That would be too much. She’d run the operation from her home in Canada. But what she never anticipated was the famine. On a trip to visit the refugee camps in Kenya, Lindhout couldn’t help but see all the malnourished children. She began to think that maybe there was something she could do for them.

And so the idea of a convoy of aid was born. And so she set off for the very country she once begged to leave. “I had to do whatever I could to get food to these people and food where it was needed the most, which is inside Somalia,” she says in a car speeding toward the Somali border. When she saw the small blue Somali flag at the border, she welled up with tears. The Somali transitional government welcomed her in — along with her convoy of two large trucks. They unloaded enough food for 14,000 people.

Sameya Mohamed sat crouched on the ground and offered her thanks. “My grandchildren are starving,” she told Lindhout. “You look at the little kids here, and that’s the whole reason,” Lindhout said tearfully. Feeding the hungry was the reason she came. But for Lindhout, the trip had another effect. It was also about reclaiming a part of herself. “I think it is an opportunity for me to look at that fear and maybe let it go…”



How a 21-Year-Old Design Student’s Sleeping-Bag Coat Could Help Break the Cycle of Homelessness

As a design student in Detroit, Veronika Scott was keenly aware of the increasing numbers of homeless people suffering deeply during the relentless winters. At the tender age of 21, she created The Detroit Empowerment Plan not to solve homelessness, but to provide much-needed warmth to the city’s 20,000 street dwellers.

From Veronika Scott’s blog:

‘This is my story about the humanitarian project called The Empowerment Plan. Meet the re-designed coat: Element S. It is self-heated, waterproof, and transforms into a sleeping bag at night. It is made by a group of homeless women who are paid minimum wage, fed and housed while creating these coats made for those living on the streets. The focus is on the humanitarian system to create jobs for those that desire them and coats for those that need them at no cost. The goal is to empower, employ, educate, and instill pride. The importance is not with the product but with the people.’

What inspired the empowerment plan was a school project. Veronika is a product design student at the College for Creative Studies. She was working in studio class and a humanitarian group came in to sponsor our studio and really became a catalyst. “They said to ‘design to fill a need’ and from there I realized that as a college student, I had ramen and a roof over my head, so my needs were being met. From there I reached out to the homeless community, which in Detroit has a pretty large number of people, an estimated 20,000 individuals living on the street. I spent three days a week, every week, for five months working in a homeless shelter downtown. The people there became an integral part of the entire design, they were there every step of the way and tested all four prototypes. When the semester ended the project did not; it couldn’t because I didn’t feel it was over. I continued the project not just because I was passionate about it but because actual people needed, wanted, and desired it. I realized I had to take it to the next level and make it a system.”


Photo of the Day: Lion Brothers, Australia

Photograph by Mick Tsikas

Photograph by Mick Tsikas

Twelve-year-old male lion brothers Tonyi, left, and Tombo lie with each other at Werribee Open Range Zoo, 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Melbourne, Australia, in September 2008. Werribee Open Range Zoo occupies 225 hectares (556 acres) of land, which allows visitors in safari buses to get closer to animals. The photographs were taken by a camera in a hide and triggered remotely.


Tour L.A.’s Real Art in the Streets

Photo by Carren Jao

Photo by Carren Jao

Long before MOCA’s Art in the Streets show opened, Los Angeles’s Downtown Arts District already had more than a few monumental works of street art on display with a little help from a group named LA Freewalls. Anyone can see this art in its natural environment for free.

A local art dealer by day – Daniel Lahoda, curator of LA Freewalls, turned his passion for art and existential “hunger for the other” into a hobby that became much bigger than he ever imagined. LA Freewalls is a community-supported arts initiative that connects international street artists with building owners ready to get experimental with their walls. According to Lahoda, LA Freewalls has been the catalyst of more than fifty murals around the Los Angeles area primarily within the 52 blocks that make up the Downtown Arts District. Since its inception December 2009, the project has enticed well-known names in the street art circuit like JR, Shepard Fairey, and Saber (all artists also featured at MOCA a few blocks away).

Despite its successful reception downtown and rising interest in street art, increased calls for police to crack down on L.A.’s graffiti have some opposed to Freewalls’s work. But Lahoda says he sees the art really making a positive impact. For example? After ROA came into town and painted on Metal Preparations Inc.’s walls, the owner was so pleased with the extra attention his building got from locals and tourists that he decided to spiff up the space around the mural with a fresh coat of paint, specifically asking contractors to carefully navigate around every feather on ROA’s avian artwork. Responses like these are what keep Lahoda committed to his project. “Street art like this transforms a community not just physically, but psychologically as well,” he says. “It changes how people interact with each other and their environment.”