Seed sharing is the new way to help your community during the cost of living crisis.
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Sharing seeds is the age-old practice of saving seeds from your own plants and sharing them with others. It’s becoming more popular within communities – helping people to start growing their own produce for next to no money.
While this obviously isn’t a fix-all solution to the cost of living crisis, it is a brilliant community initiative. By getting together with the people around you and sharing produce seeds, you are giving people access to free, healthy produce – and what is better than that?
How do I start seed sharing?
It’s pretty simple – a lot of the time you can get seeds from the produce you buy in the shops, like bell peppers.
Once you’ve got yourself a collection of seeds and you’ve planted as many as you think you can reasonably grow, contact your friends, family and neighbours and offer them what you have left – they may even offer you some of theirs in return!
All in all, this is a great way to save a little cash, bring your community closer together, and help others, and yourself, access free, healthy fruit and veggies. Score!
One thing is universal among all former felons – and that’s that they face discrimination after serving their sentence.
Companies like Dave’s Killer Bread and Ben and Jerry’s have made headlines for their programs helping former felons find work, and a coffee company in Illinois is another on that list.
I Have a Beanis a coffee company, and in the same way they have patience and care for the coffee they make, they have for the former felons that come their way.
The founder of the company, Pete Leonard, didn’t start drinking coffee until he was 40. Soon after falling in love with it and starting to make his own coffee, his brother-in-law was arrested.
His brother-in-law had previously worked with Pete writing software but after coming out of jail, his continued employment would have affected the health insurance he used for his employees, with the company outright threatening to drop them. That’s when Pete saw the deck was stacked against former felons.
“I knew someone and cared for someone that had been to prison, and now I see how maybe society is not going to be treating him so nicely,” Pete told Patch. “He’d done his time, he’d paid for his crime, but that didn’t seem to matter.”
And with that in mind, he got to work helping formerly incarcerated people find a place that would hire them.
In 2007, Pete hired his first employee, an ex-felon, at I Have a Bean. Over the years, he’s employed around 60 post-prison men and women, and the company has gone from selling bags of roasted coffee to neighbors to now selling bulk coffee to local businesses. They’ve even landed a gig selling to a local college.
“This is the thing I was put on the planet to do,” Pete said. “This business with these people. If I’m being called to do this, there has to be a way to do this.”
One of the biggest issues in finding assistance in dealing with poverty is accessibility to resources. Most US states require that people need to have already slept on the street to qualify for housing assistance.
Washington state is working on redefining that so that more people will have access to programs that can help them afford the cost of living. One of the main ways the state is doing this is through the Homeless Student Stability Program.
The state was experiencing a growing number of homeless youth and wanted to do something, so state legislators passed the bill in 2016 that freed up money to enable schools to identify more students as homeless and get them into stable housing. This overrode the federal definition of homelessness.
“HSSP encourages school districts and nonprofit partners to develop effective strategies that directly address the academic and housing needs of students experiencing homelessness,” the bill says. “It was one of the first programs in the nation to provide comprehensive support for students experiencing homelessness through a statewide competitive grant program.”
The program continues today, and in 2021 awarded HSSP grants to 13 school districts that served 7,761 students experiencing homelessness. This program makes aid available for people even at a threat of homelessness, something which basically no other program in the US can boast.
“We do nothing to prevent the ‘hidden homeless,’” said Darla Bardine, executive director of the National Network for Youth, a nonprofit that works to end youth homelessness. “You have to sleep on the street for 14 days — you have to put yourself in danger for two weeks — before you’re eligible.”
“That’s actually mandating long-term suffering before you extend a helping hand.”
The program is still looking into expanding funding so if you’re curious, check it out!
Whether you’re gay, trans, or another identity within the LGBTQ+ rainbow, it can be nerve-wracking to come out to your loved ones. Take into account that sometimes the people closest to you might not be accepting and some people stay in the closet indefinitely.
That’s something that children’s book author and LGBTQ+ advocate Cassandra Brooks learned firsthand.
Until a few years ago, Cassandra was a vocal church leader who used her faith to help the community. Then, she found out that her niece was afraid to come out to her for fear of backlash. That was a turning point for her.
“She was over at our house one day and she finally told me but she was really scared because she thought I was going to judge her,” Cassandra tells Smiley News. Cassandra always thought herself to be open, but saw how her beliefs could have dissuaded her niece.
“It was hard to actually think that somebody that I love and care about was nervous about how I would respond to them for something like that,” she says.
That moment was four years ago and since then Cassandra has completely shifted her life, becoming an outspoken LGBTQ+ advocate, especially for OUTMemphis, an organization that helps queer people in Tennesee, and Free Mom Hugs, where she serves as the co-leader of the Tennessee chapter – which is a nonprofit to fight for human rights for all.
She’s also written two children’s books with a third on the way, all of which have a specific focus on acceptance and representation showing characters reflective of her own life. All of the books are part of a larger series called Magick in Me.
“They’re just about believing in yourself and you making your choices about who you are and feeling confident and being who you are,” Cassandra says. “That’s where the magic kind of comes from and that’s just a message that I’ve got to share again and again.”
Community and connectedness
A big part of all this work has been community and connectedness, something that was there even when she was a part of the church. This is how she eventually ended up at organizations like OUTMemphis.
In general, Cassandra just wants to help people feel more comfortable in their own skin.
“There’s nothing other than just helping people get out there and inspired to do something that helps change their world as well as the one that they live in,” she says.
Nature is good for the soul. According to the American Psychological Association, exposure to nature has been linked to better mental health including reduced stress, improved attention, better mood, and even things like improved empathy and cooperation.
“There is mounting evidence, from dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human wellbeing,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature.
“You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”
The problem is that nature isn’t always accessible to everyone. People with disabilities, primarily related to mobility, may not have access to nature pathways for reasons like unlevel ground, roots sticking out, or unfinished pathways. The beach is a perfect example, where someone who uses a wheelchair has little to no access to sandy areas.
But one company is trying to make nature accessible to everyone with all-terrain wheelchairs that can withstand the elements and navigate through nature.
The organization is called All Terrain Georgia which is an initiative started by the Aimee Copeland Foundation, a non-profit focused on helping people with disabilities reconnect with themselves and the world around them in Georgia.
“Our goal is to enable people with mobility impairments to enjoy the nurturing and healing qualities that the vast natural resources of our state has to offer,” they say. “We have a vision of an inclusive Georgia where everyone has the opportunity to live and play in their own community.”
Last year, the rugged chairs, fitted with tracks instead of wheels, were made available at 11 state parks and historic sites throughout Georgia, made possible in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
“Our mission is to provide outdoor opportunities for every Georgia citizen and visitor,” said Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites Director Jeff Cown. “I am proud to partner with the Aimee Copeland Foundation to offer access to visitors with mobility or physical disabilities.”
The whole initiative was started by Aimee Copeland, the founder of the aforementioned organization, who after a zip-lining accident, was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis – a flesh-eating, bacterial infection. As a result, she had to have her hands, right foot, and entire left leg amputated.
Before the accident, she was active and quickly became frustrated with now needing a wheelchair.
“A huge part of who I was no longer seemed accessible to me,” she said. “And I wasn’t alone. People who use wheelchairs are often separated from the outdoors due to mobility and accessibility issues.”
But she took her shifting perspective and tried to make meaningful change out of it and out came the Aimee Copeland Foundation and eventually All-Terrain Georgia.
“All Terrain Georgia is the pride and joy of Aimee Copeland Foundation,” Aimee said. “It’s been a long time coming and we’re honored to offer this life-changing program to the community.”
If you want to check out the chairs or donate to the initiative make sure to check out both websites and book a trip to some of the state parks with them available including Cloudland Canyon State Park, Red Top Mountain State Park, and many others.
With the sad news of the unexpected death of comedian and presenter Paul O’Grady MBE comes the opportunity to look back.
Paul was a huge advocate for so many charitable causes, and as we mourn his passing and think of his family during this difficult time, it is important to look at his history of philanthropy and remember what a brilliant, generous, and caring person he was.
Since 2008, Paul was an ambassador for Save the Children, a charity dedicated to helping protect children around the world. He advocated strongly for the protection of children overseas, as well as in the UK, and even visited Freestate, South Africa with Save the Children, to see the work they are doing caring for children living with HIV.
In 2012, Paul began one of his most famous ambassadorships with Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, following his TV series For the Love of Dogs. He was a huge advocate for rescuing animals, and worked with the charity closely on the series, visiting three of their different rescue centres across the country and meeting dogs in need of a forever home.
“Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres,” said Battersea chief executive Peter Laurie. “Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.”
Ever the dog lover, in 2013, Paul joined Amanda Holden in the Pedigree Feeding Brighter Futures campaign, which aimed to give a million meals to rescue dogs nationwide
After his work on Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans, Paul became a patron of Orangutan Appeal UK, advocating for more protections for these precious animals in their habitat.
“Paul O’Grady’s love for animals and the incredible way he told their stories inspired countless families to re-home rescue pets and give them a second chance of happiness,” said Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA.
“His tireless campaigning saw Paul recognised with an RSPCA Animal Hero Award for his outstanding contribution to animal welfare, while he once adopted a little lamb Winston from us who had been rescued from a wheelie bin.
“The thoughts of all at the RSPCA are with his loved ones and our friends at Battersea at this difficult and sad time.”
If you want to honour Paul’s life, please consider donating to, or volunteering with, one of the charities listed here.
Two wildlife centres in Peru are helping to rehabilitate monkeys back into the wild.
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Peru’s Madre de Dios region is one of the most biologically diverse in the world, but it has its fair share of problems. One of the biggest issues it faces is illegal gold mining – a venture which often makes trouble for the natural life in the area.
Miners will disappear into the forest and stay there for weeks, often surviving by poaching monkeys. If they happen upon babies, they often keep them as pets or sell them into the illegal animal trade.
It is – but luckily, Amazon Shelter and Taricaya Eco Reserve are doing what they can to help out. The Amazon Shelter has a programme specifically for rehabilitating howler monkeys, while Taricaya Eco Reserve focuses its efforts on spider monkeys – which went extinct in the area up until Taricaya reintroduced them in 2010.
Animals are rescued by SERFOR (Servicio Nacional Forestal y de Fauna Silvestre – or the National Forest and Wildlife Service) and brought to Amazon Shelter and Taricaya where they are looked after.
After being cared for by these hard-working activists, the monkeys are released back into the wild – so they can rejoin their families and groups in the forest!