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?

Donation Organizations

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.


Helping People Design Video Games

Video games have become a huge business, bringing in billions of dollars each year. But it’s also an industry that’s really hard to break into. Even though there have been a number of very successful independent titles made on shoestring budgets that garnered massive audience appeal, there are still many, many more that never break out, even if they’re really well made.

This is where a Minnesota based nonprofit called Glitch comes in. Glitch is basically an arts charity, only instead of helping fund artists who paint or sculpt, they’re helping people get into the gaming industry.

Finding and making the kinds of connections that can land prospective game designers jobs in the industry can be difficult, but Glitch pairs young designers up with established professionals to mentor them. It helps young designers develop games that they can showcase and, ideally, use to get into the industry. So far they’ve helped designers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas in the six years that the organization has been around.

While helping people design games may not seem as important as, say, saving an endangered species or protecting civil rights, one could argue that it’s at least as important as funding a symphony. Perhaps even more so. 60% of Americans play video games and most of them are between the ages of 18 and 35.

But the most popular games tend to be the most available, and those tend to be the same tried and true game over and over. More and more people are branching out and looking for new and different gaming experiences, but those can be hard to find, especially when the big companies aren’t interested in anything that can’t rake in millions. But organizations like Glitch help bring in new, unique designers interested in making games that explore something other than the standard white male power fantasy, and getting more diverse games out there is certainly a good cause.


The Nonprofit That Uses Scavenger Hunts to Test Life Skills

Room to Read is a nonprofit that has been largely focused on global literacy since it’s inception. But since the year 2000, they have also developed a strong focus on girls’ education in countries like India, Cambodia, and Zambia.

They operate programs in nine countries around the world, and they’ve come to realize that life skills such as negotiation, self-confidence, and persistence are important for girls who might have to struggle to keep their education going. To that end, they’ve developed a study to test their students for those skills.

The study is actually built around a three-day scavenger hunt. The idea is that, by having each girl get at least 10 of 30 listed items, they can gauge where she falls on a number of these skills. Getting a toe-ring, for example, illustrates negotiation and trustworthiness, because for women in some parts of India, toe-rings are the equivalent of a wedding band.

It’s a novel way of doing things. But by choosing items that wouldn’t be too easy or hard to find, they think they’ve struck on a system that will inform them about what level these girls are at in these critical life skills.

Self-reporting by answering questions doesn’t always give an accurate accounting of something as ephemeral as self-confidence, especially in girls aged 11-13 who don’t necessarily have the life experience to gauge that. But by assigning tasks that use the skills in question, they can more accurately measure those skills by looking at the end result.

The study involved 2,500 girls at 60 schools. The study will be repeated again in 2018 in order to build off the baseline data collected in 2016. Hopefully, it works as expected and becomes a tool that Room to Read can use to help instill these skills in their students. Maybe it will even allow the girls to continue their education after they age out of the nonprofit’s programs.


Showing Up for Racial Justice

“We envision a society where we struggle together with love, for justice, human dignity and a sustainable world.” That’s the vision as quoted from civil rights organization Showing Up for Racial Justice. As the last decade in the United States has shown, this country still has a long way to go before achieving social equality. That’s why we need organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice.

Founded in 2009, Showing Up for Racial Justice has grown to become a national network of activism groups across the country. The goal of this specific organization is to help get white people involved the fight for racial equality.

The organization operates on the belief that those who are privileged can use their position of power to be an advocate for the disadvantaged. By creating this large scale network of multi-racial people with a passion for equality, citizens can band together to improve the country “through community organizing, mobilizing, and education.” The advantage of having a network like this is being able to unify and orchestrate protests when injustices do happen. As the old saying goes, “There is strength in numbers.”

The organization wants to make it very clear that white people don’t have to be the enemy; they can be allies. The organization seeks to lead by example by being inclusive, not divisive. Put in their own words, they want to “call people in, not call people out.”

It’s inspiring that the leadership of Showing Up for Racial Justice has taken several steps to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions. They work closely with other organizations to make sure that their activities and endorsements are in line with the values and beliefs of their mission. Their transparency is a leading example of what honesty and integrity looks like in the nonprofit sector.

News Organizations

Goodwill Omaha Proves Communication is Key

Recently, it came out that Goodwill Omaha is paying a number of its board members over $100,000 a year and that CEO Frank McGree is making $250,000 a year. It’s a $30-million-dollar organization that has over 600 employees, so those salaries aren’t too crazy, considering. But there is also evidence that they pay many of their employees, namely those with disabilities, less than minimum wage.

The World-Herald report that brought all of this to light makes Goodwill Omaha sound like an organization that borrows too much inspiration from the for-profit world. And the responses from both the CEO and the board have made it look like nobody in the organization knows what anyone else is doing. In short, they weren’t able to answer tough questions from the press.

The big mistake that Goodwill Omaha made is that they didn’t answer questions asked from the World-Herald. As Nonprofit Quarterly points out, investigative reports that get stonewalled tend to turn mean. The whole thing is an abject lesson in the importance of communication.

People who read the report are justifiably upset with what seems like some pretty shady practices by Goodwill Omaha. Whether these allegations prove to be true or not, it’s going to hurt the organization. But it’s their own fault because even if they’re not doing anything wrong, they still failed to communicate with the press. The lesson to be learned is that you have to be able to communicate with reporters and others outside of your organization if you want to put forth a good public image.

The other lesson is that you need to have clear communication within your organization as well. It really does seem like, regardless of the truth of the allegations, Goodwill Omaha didn’t have good enough internal communication to either prevent unethical actions or to simply respond to allegations of them. Neither of these scenarios is good, especially in nonprofits, where public trust is an absolute necessity.


The Nonprofit That Raises Service Monkeys

Helping Hands is a very special nonprofit; it’s the only organization of its kind to provide service monkeys to the disabled. Founded in 1979, the organization trains capuchin monkeys to assist with everything from opening doors to fetching items.

The monkeys themselves are pretty small. According to, the average capuchin monkey is anywhere from 12 to 22 inches tall and weighs between 2-3 pounds. They’re cute, they’re small, they’re helpful, and they’re also highly intelligent.

Helping Hands chose to train monkeys because of their dexterous hands and remarkable fine motor skills. Monkeys are able to perform a lot of tasks that traditional service dogs can’t; they can turn pages, insert straws into cups, open containers, turn on buttons and switches, and even reposition limbs on a wheel chair.

Also of note is that the monkeys can live anywhere from 30-40 years. They’re also hypoallergenic, since they have human-like hair instead of fur.

The reason monkeys make such great service animals is because they have a natural hierarchy within their species, meaning that they have a strong desire to take care of their leader. But the relationship is a two-way street; monkeys also love to be cuddled and nurtured. Therefore, those who want a monkey assistant must be willing to provide them with the type of environment they need.

For those who want to apply for a monkey, be aware that the process can take anywhere from 3-6 months. Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements, which include being at least one year post-injury or post-diagnosis.

Eligible applicants also cannot have any young children living at home. Helping Hands states that children under the age of 12 can be “unpredictable and make it difficult to maintain the structure that monkeys need.”

Before being given a monkey, a representative from Helping Hands will visit the applicant’s home to go over roles and responsibilities. The organization takes great care to ensure both the monkey and the applicant are good matches for one another.

Helping Hands is based out of Boston, MA and can be reached at (617) 787-4419.