Children Read to Cats in Adorable ‘Book Buddies’ Program

An animal shelter in Pennsylvania came up with a creative way to benefit both children and animals.

The Animal Rescue League located in Berks County has a Book Buddies program where school-aged children read to cats. Kristi Rodriguez, volunteer coordinator at Animal Rescue League, originally came up with the idea. She credits her son with providing the inspiration that she needed to implement the program.

“I have a 10-year-old son at home who has struggled with reading for quite some time now,” Rodriquez told The Huffington Post. “It affects his self-esteem as well because he’s not comfortable reading in front of his classmates. Working at the shelter, you come to realize that the animals who interact with the children in the program don’t care what their reading level and what their skills are, they’re just happy to have that companionship with the children.”

Soon after Book Buddies launched, Animal Rescue League posted photos of the program online. One of the photos went viral after an online user shared the photo on Reddit. The photo shows a school-aged boy reading a book with a cat under his arm. The cat appears to be smiling and reading right along with him.

The photo became so popular that droves of people began visiting the Animal Rescue League website, causing it to crash. But workers and volunteers were more than okay with that. The shelter posted the following status to social media:

“We are thrilled that a post from a friend of our Book Buddies program is going crazy on Reddit! We know lots of people are trying to access our website and the high traffic is slowing things down, but we hope you’ll be patient!”

Rodriguez says that the program has increased her son’s comprehension, fluidity, and even his self-esteem. She also reports that her son enjoys reading now. He is also more compassionate than ever before.

This Nonprofit Provides Homeless Women With Menstrual Products

In honor of International Women’s Day, we want to showcase a very special nonprofit. It’s called Period: The Menstrual Movement.

Now before we delve into any further details, take a second to put yourself in the shoes of a homeless woman. How would you cope with being on your period? What items might you use if you couldn’t afford menstrual products? A sock? Toilet paper? Cotton balls?

That’s the situation that more than 50,000 homeless women in the United States find themselves in. Some of these women are so desperate for feminine care products that they end up using discarded paper bags.

It’s sad. It’s unsanitary. And no woman should ever have to go through that.

That’s why there’s Period: The Menstrual Movement. Period provides free menstrual products to low-income women. The organization is working to dismantle the taboo subject of menstruation by openly discussing the topic at high schools, colleges, and community centers.

Part of the problem is that not a lot of people realize how expensive menstruation products are. A 36-pack of tampons costs $6.97 at Walmart. A 27-pack of pads costs the same. On top of that, these products are taxed. Mamamia estimates that the average woman would save $120 a year if these products weren’t taxed. But that’s a subject for another time.

In the meantime, let’s talk more about what makes Period an outstanding organization. How about the fact that a 16-year-old girl founded it. Her name is Nadya Okamoto, and she’s a stunning example of what can happen when misfortune leads to innovation.

You see, Okamoto and her family were homeless at one point. That’s ultimately what led her to start a charity for menstruation products.

“It was a huge privilege check for me realizing that I never had to worry about dealing with my period. I never considered that it was such a major issue for women so much of the time,” Okamoto stated.

It’s admirable how she used her personal struggle to help other women overcome similar adversity. It begs the question: what personal struggles have you gone through that you can help others overcome?

3 Generous Billionaires You’ve Never Heard Of

Everyone knows who Bill Gates is. He and his wife Melinda started one of the world’s largest nonprofit organizations: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Additionally, most people are familiar with Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO who vowed to put 99 percent of his shares towards good causes. He and his wife Priscilla started the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability corporation that is focused on expanding education, curing diseases, and promoting equality.

But there are other billionaires that are just as generous (if not more) than those listed above. Here are some of those unsung billionaire heroes who are using their fortunes to make the world a better place:

  1. George Roberts

George Roberts is an American financier who co-founded the private equity firm KKR. Roberts has put his $4.8 billion worth towards helping society’s most marginalized members attain hope and independence. As the founder of the San Francisco-based nonprofit REDF, Roberts provides resources that help homeless people and other disadvantaged groups find jobs.

  1. Manoj Bhargava

Manoj Bhargava is the founder and CEO of 5-Hour Energy. In truly honorable fashion, he promised to give 90% of his $4 billion dollar worth to charity. In 2015, he founded Billions in Change, a limited liability corporation that strives to lift people out of poverty by making clean water, renewable energy, and healthcare more accessible.

  1. Sara Blakely

Sara Blakley is the founder and CEO of women’s intimate apparel company Spanx. Over the years, she has supported numerous causes and organizations that focus on female education and entrepreneurship programs. Her net worth is estimated to be at $1.2 billion.

These stunning examples of generosity prove that the wealthy aren’t always the selfish, greedy people that they are often portrayed to be in the media. Kindness comes in all forms, both rich and poor.

How You Can Help Put an End to Female Genital Mutilation

The World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation (FGM) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” It’s a significant problem that affects an estimated 200 million girls worldwide.

Complications from the procedure are serious. So serious, in fact, that they can even result in death. But even if the victim doesn’t die, she is still at risk for developing infections and urinary issues. That’s not to mention the lifelong trauma she’s likely to suffer from due to the excruciating amount of pain (these procedures are seldom performed under anesthesia).

Keep in mind that these procedures offer zero health-related benefits. They are only performed due to cultural beliefs surrounding female sexuality.

One of the pervading beliefs is that removing a woman’s clitoris will lower her libido, thus discouraging her from engaging in sexual acts. Another popular belief is that FGM increases a woman’s marriageability. Some cultures even believe that FGM should be practiced for religious reasons, despite the fact that it is not mentioned in any religious texts.

Girls aged 0-15 are considered most at-risk, even though older girls can be forced into undergoing the procedure as well. A lot of victims are as young as 8-days-old.

Fortunately, there are numerous organizations that are working hard to combat this problem. Top organization include: FORWARD, 28 Too Many, and Equality Now. Activists are working ‘round-the-clock to dismantle the practice by educating women and men about the risks of female circumcision. Even medical doctors are finally taking a stance by letting the public know that FGM does not offer any health-related benefits.

Slowly but surely, these anti-FGM campaigns are working. Mary Wandia, Manager of Equality Now’s End Female Genital Mutilation Programme, says that, “Evidence in several countries shows that many men and women believe the practice should end, suggesting a promising window of opportunity for change.”

But this type of change would never be possible without the generous donations of concerned citizens, so please donate today.

‘Pianos for People’ Unites Unused Pianos With People in Need

Pianos for People, based out of St. Louis, is a nonprofit organization that “connects people who need pianos with pianos who need people.” The organization restores used and broken pianos and gives them to people in need. But that’s not all.

The organization also offers free music lessons. It’s a unique and clever concept, and one that’s garnering national attention.

The Today Show recently featured Pianos for People on their morning segment. But it’s not just the mere concept that has people talking; it’s the founders themselves.

Tom and Jeanne Knowles Townsend founded Pianos for People shortly after the tragic loss of their 21-year-old son, Alex. Alex was a talented and dedicated pianist who attended Georgia’s prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2010, he died in a car accident before he ever got the chance to graduate.

But Alex’s parents were to determined to honor his legacy. So in 2012, they created Pianos for People.

The organization took off almost immediately. In fact, as of now, the organization cannot accept any more piano donations until February.

“We are actually full with pianos right now,” said Sheena Duncan, Executive Director of Pianos for People. “We can’t take pianos at the moment because we have so many to get through and inspect—and we can only afford to do so many at a time.”

But it’s always possible that the organization will expand. Given the recent media coverage, it’s highly probable that the organization will receive an influx of monetary donations. But despite potential growth, one thing that will never change is the free-of-charge policy.

“It’s really, really important to us that this component of free never go away,” said Tom Townsend.

And so People for Pianos will continue to inspire others with their creative and unique vision. If Alex Townsend were alive today, he would surely be beaming with pride.