GRATITUDE FOR GOOD
A Blog by Gratitude Alliance
By Amy Paulson
I hate the word “hero”.
A hero is perfect. A hero must do the right things at all times. A hero is infallible.
Modern humanitarians I’ve admired like Somaly Mam or Greg Mortensen were elevated to superhuman hero status one day, then branded as “fallen heroes” the next, after proving capable of human fallibility (even gross misjudgment); while the work they did to empower vulnerable girls - which is what was truly heroic - was tragically forgotten.
So, I pause before using the word “heroes” when describing Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and my brief yet inspiring interaction with them in Berkeley last night. But I’m jumping ahead. Let me back up.
It was around 2010. I bought Half the Sky at an airport bookshop. “Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” the blue cover said. Back in those days, I was still working in finance. My head was full of forecast figures and corporate ambition. I opted for some lighter David Sedaris humor. The book sat on my shelf and collected dust.
Fast forward to early 2012. I had just quit my corporate job the year before, on the back of reconnecting with my biological Korean family, discovering I had been kidnapped at birth to an orphanage, and that my Korean mom was orphaned by the North Korean army who killed her parents when she was six. I mentioned my story to a friend, how I was planting the seeds of the Global Gratitude Alliance with my co-founders, and how our mission was to empower women and children. “You have to read Half the Sky,” she insisted.
By Amy Paulson
My parents and I have a special deal: no more birthday presents or Christmas kitsch. No more stuff we don't need that will clutter up our houses, get sold on eBay, or donated to Goodwill. Since 2012, we started a new tradition - give love to each other and to the world by making a donation in honor of our love for each other that will also empower dignity and opportunity for vulnerable women and children around the world.
Do we still celebrate with cards, messages of love and gratitude, and a special meal together (when possible)? Absolutely. Does my mom still buy me a Santa Claus decoration every year, as is our tradition? Yes.
But now every birthday or Christmas holiday is made even more special. It's the meaning, intention, and love that goes with giving that is most important. The best way that we can express that is to give something meaningful back to the world. And, if we want or need something for ourselves, we just buy it as and when we need it... which is great! No awkward pretending to like something you will just sell or re-gift to someone else. An extra bonus: a smaller carbon footprint.
So, this holiday season, I challenge each of you to give just one gift of love. It can be in honor of your love for a dear friend, favorite aunt, or just you. Whoever it's for, take a moment to feel joy and gratitude while giving it. That's what the holidays are all about.
Here are just a few ideas: http://www.gratitudealliance.org/gifts-of-love.html
By Carol Anderheggen
Every June if the weather and sunshine have cooperated with the 65 year old heirloom peonies my grandmother planted my life is graced with these magnificent flowers. There are so many circling my grandmother's cottage, a cottage I now call home, that I am able to share bouquets around the neighborhood.
I was an orphan found in a Florida orphanage in 1948 by a Navy couple; they adopted me in 1949. Their blend of caring, discipline and military rigidity made for a very difficult ten years until I escaped from the frying pan into the fire of an early marriage.
The saving grace was the new grandmother who moved up from Florida into a cottage on the property, planted her peonies and loved me. These peonies remind me every year of the gratitude I feel toward her, toward the sanctuary of her cottage and even the grace of a young couple taking a chance on an orphan. I am always reminded of this poem by Raymond Carver titled Late Fragment :
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
Beloved on the earth.
Thanks to a connection with the School of Architecture in Barcelona (ESARQ) we advertised for a volunteer architect to help supervise and advise on this project. And we got lucky with two Italian architects, Francesca and Veronica, who are on site daily and send us weekly reports on the progress of the construction work. We are happy and grateful for their collaboration, advice and help, and to see the building grow and change week by week.
Check out their latest report on the house progress!
by Ayen dela Torre
Confucius said that if you choose a job you love, you never have to work a day in your life. But as we know, discovering your life’s purpose entails a lot of work. You can do what you love now only to find out that you want to do something different tomorrow. Even with a college degree and “real world” experiences under your belt, you can still have no clue what it is exactly that you want to do.
Fresh out of college, I was offered a promising job in one of the top multinational companies in my country. I accepted the offer and for almost two years, I was happy with the pay, the people and the plan they had for me. But something was missing; I wasn’t sure about my purpose.
I applied for an international scholarship on a whim and I was chosen. I was then confronted with the choice: staying with my comfortable career vs. trying out a unique experience that could potentially be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I chose the latter. I quit my job and booked a ticket to study at International People’s College in Denmark, supposed to be the happiest country on earth.
My choice led me to experience things I never thought I would. I made friends with 60 amazing human beings from 31 countries from the ages of 18 to 69. We were living, partying and learning under one roof. We didn’t have exams or grades but we discovered important things about ourselves, the world and life in general.
Being at IPC gave me the time and space to rediscover things that I am good at and things that I’m passionate about. I was singing on stage, taking photos of strangers and building my own NGO ideas using scratches of brown paper. It can be argued that some of these lessons were not useful to my resume but I was relearning what makes me happy. And that counts a lot in my book.
By Rachel Crowther
My friend has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. A ‘mass in my ass’ as she calls it or ‘Mima’ for short. She’s been through a raft of tests, scans, enemas, tattoos, and has just started treatment.
This is one of my best friends, who can talk for New Jersey, got the same things wrong as me in German class and made me feel better about my incompetence, taught me how to eat pizza properly, what Stromboli and Pierogi are (Czech ravioli, and yes, I did need to look the name up, again) and made me laugh so much on the tram, our continence was threatened, more than once.
Now she’s back home in the US and we chat with our group of friends via the power of an online messenger service. That’s how I know the latest about ‘Mima’ and get updates about her diagnosis and treatment. And my strong, funny, resourceful friend has taught me about the power of gratitude, even at the worst of times via her posts and liberal use of Emoticons.
Of course, I’m only human. I want to rage, shout at the universe for letting this happen and shake my fist skywards (limply, I’m not much of a fighter). But I’m also grateful. For our friendship, for the amazing medical staff who are treating this (and laughing at my friend’s jokes), that we live in the 21st century which means treatment is available, and for her humour, which is part of who she is, when things are going well, and during more challenging times. Who knew so many poo and butt jokes were available?
My current mantras? ‘They found Mima; now he can eff off’, and ‘I’m thankful, for friends, laughter and modern technology’.
This is my friend's story, not mine. I asked for the OK to post this and really appreciate her positive response...
As an eBay Inc. employee, co-founder and treasurer, Andy, recommended Global Gratitude Alliance for a Bay Area GIVE Team grant from the eBay Foundation. This essay helped us win the grant for our vocational training project with HIV+ orphans in Ethiopia.
By Andrew Hughes
In 2011, I was traveling in San Jose for meetings at eBay, getting ready for my sabbatical in Africa. However instead of driving to the airport to fly home, I drove myself to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Half a year and several infections later, I rescheduled my sabbatical, uneasy about traveling with a constant pain in my abdomen.
The first weeks of sabbatical were tough. I couldn’t enjoy myself, convinced that I had a life threatening gastroenterological disease, despite the doctors confirming that I was fine. And, then I arrived in Ethiopia. I was there to research projects to support through The Gracias Foundation, the nonprofit that I was about to launch (now called Global Gratitude Alliance). The kids we spent time with there are all HIV positive. Most are also orphans who have watched their mothers and fathers wither away in front of them. For the younger ones, you wouldn’t know about their stories just by looking at them. Like all kids, their laughter is music – they just want someone to share it with. For the older ones, the sadness in their eyes is deep. And, the uncertainty they have about the future is real.
“The only whole heart is a broken one because it lets the light in.”
~ David J. Wolpe
Is it possible for your heart to break and open at the same time?
3 Musketeers Children’s Fund was founded by Brian and Maria O’Shea to honor the memory of their beloved children Søren (11 years old), Saoirse (9 years old) and Connor (3 years old) who died tragically in a car crash one year ago.
The fund’s aim is to support projects improving health, education, and safety for children in countries where no other alternatives are available to them.
Saoirse would have celebrated another birthday last week. To honor her, the 3 Mustketeers are funding new beds, lunch boxes, and exercise books for the Maisha orphans in Kenya.
We are so grateful to 3 Musketeers and so deeply moved by their story… as are the children at Maisha who met co-founder Brian O’Shea when he visited the Maisha home earlier this year.
“I was so sad when he told us about his family,” said one of the Maisha boys, “He is a very good man.”
We can’t think of a more beautiful way to commemorate the O’Shea children than by giving love and light to less fortunate children around the world. Thank you to 3 Musketeers for your grace, generosity, and inspiration.
HIV+ youth in Ethiopia during their vocational training courses
including hairdressing, clothes making, and food preparation.
Faces masked to protect identities.
We love eBay. Not just because many of our co-founders first met each other as eBay employees. Not just because eBay provides a way to reuse and recycle while empowering social opportunity for small entrepreneurs to compete in the global marketplace. And, not just because its motto "People are generally good" is also a shared belief at the core of our work in the world.
We also love eBay because of its philanthropic values.
We are so proud to be selected by the eBay Bay Area GIVE Team as a recipient of an eBay Foundation grant for our project in Ethiopia which provides vocational training to young adults who are HIV positive. The youth have been taking classes this summer from hairdressing to computer maintenance, food preparation, and more, learning valuable skills about hard work, commitment, time management, and what it means to be a good employee.
More importantly, however, the program, gives them a chance to build self-esteem, gain the tools needed to make positive life choices, and eventually pave the road to self-dependence.
A big Ethiopian Ameseginalehu (Thank You in Amharic, the local language)!
Check out the press release below (or click here to download).
We're thrilled to share the exciting news with our community - we've got a new name: Global Gratitude Alliance!
While our mission, approach, and projects remain the same, the new name is a clearer reflection of who we are and what we stand for: our commitment to global humanity, our practice of giving with gratitude, and our vibrant community of everyday activists like you who share our vision for a peaceful and thriving world.
And, this is just the beginning.
Throughout this year and next, we'll be launching some innovative programs and partnerships serving women and children - both globally and locally in the Bay Area. So stay tuned for more news to come!
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are truly inspired by your enthusiasm, love, and support throughout this incredible journey.
With gratitude and joy,
Global Gratitude Alliance
formerly, The Gracias Foundation
PS: The name change doesn't impact any donations - we've still earmarked your gifts for the projects you're supporting! We're also transitioning social media to the new name - bear with us if you still see The Gracias Foundation in the meantime...
(Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
We are the proud recipients of a generous grant from Stanford University's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society!
After a rigorous vetting process led by students as part of a course called "Theories of Civil Society, Philanthropy, and the Nonprofit Sector," The Gracias Foundation was selected based on its trauma healing program for survivors of sexual and gender based violence. Stanford students also chose to grant additional funding for building capacity and growing the impact of The Gracias Foundation.
Gracias President, Amy Paulson, accepted the grant in June at an event on the Stanford campus, together with students, class and department faculty, and six other Bay Area nonprofits who also received grants this year.
Thank you to Stanford University for believing in the efficacy of our work! We are deeply honored and humbled to receive this grant award. Read on for the Press Release
We are so excited to announce a new partnership with RetailMeNot to support the sustainable housing project for the Maisha children's home.
"We at RetailMeNot are incredibly proud to support The Gracias Foundation and the Maisha Home for Children in Nairobi," said Giulio Montemagno, SVP of International at RetailMeNot, Inc, and a regular volunteer at Maisha. "We have witnessed first-hand the caring and safe environment the Foundation has provided for the children and the incredibly positive impact this had on their lives, empowering them to overcome past traumas, restoring hope and enabling them to pursue their dreams."
The housing project is already underway. We expect the project to complete by early 2015. Checkout our Facebook page for regular photo updates.
A warm-hearted Asante Sana from The Gracias Foundation and all the kids and staff at Maisha! We are forever grateful for your support! Read on for the official press release below...
The Gracias Foundation recently partnered with the International School of Berne, Switzerland to offer selected students the experience of a lifetime: a week-long learning and volunteering program at the Maisha children's home in Kenya. Michael Forzato, a 17-year old junior wrote this blog on what he learned from his experience in Kenya. Check out his other moving essay on why he wanted to volunteer.
By Michael Forzato (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
What will I take from my experience at Maisha? Well I don’t think that question can easily be answered with words because words can never fully embody how someone feels or describe the connection that one has with the people of Maisha. This connection is felt right when you walk through the doors of the home, seeing the smiling faces of twenty-two children and the wonderful aunts and uncle as they welcome you as if they had known you for years. This connection only grows as time passes because the close corridors of the Maisha home leave little room for privacy and separation. You sleep together, you eat together, you laugh together, and you play together. This interconnectedness, and the people’s natural amicable character is what make Maisha such an ardent place.
The Gracias Foundation recently partnered with the International School of Berne, Switzerland to offer selected students the experience of a lifetime: a week-long learning and volunteering program at the Maisha children's home in Kenya. Michael Forzato, a 17-year old junior wrote this beautiful essay on why he wanted to volunteer in Kenya. We were moved by his words and selected Michael as one of two student participants.Stay tuned for our next blog: Michael's reflections upon returning home from Maisha...
By Michael Forzato (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
During my winter break in 2010 I was lucky enough to visit Mombasa, Kenya. I was excited to explore a different continent that I had never set foot on. We got on the plane in Zürich, Switzerland and set off on our seven-day trip to Africa.
I was never nervous, to be honest, but also very eager, a similar feeling I get when I join a new basketball or soccer team or about to move to a different country and experience different cultures.
We got off the plane in Africa and I was shocked. There was not much thought put into what I should expect when I got off the plane, but it definitely wasn’t what I saw. Perhaps I was relying on the African stereotypes of the country, where it is made up of vast savanna with wildlife roaming the great plains. In some cases this is true, however what I witness driving in a taxi to our hotel was very much different to my expectations. It was actually quite sad the living conditions that these people were forced to live in. Shacks after shacks lined the unpaved dirt street that bare feet walked upon.
(Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
We are deeply honored to announce a partnership with MoneyGram Foundation to empower the Maisha children in Kenya with secondary tuition, academic tutoring, a computer lab, and support for a new boarding house for the existing kids and the next generation of Maisha scholars.
"MoneyGram believes education transforms lives, and the foundation is privileged to work with worthy organizations that are providing life-changing education programs to those who need them the most," said Pamela H. Patsley, chairman and chief executive officer, MoneyGram.
School tuition and tutoring support will span the next 5 years, while the computer lab and boarding house projects will commence this year.
A huge thank you to MoneyGram Foundation for their commitment to empowering quality education for children around the world. Asante sana! Please read on for the press release below...