Social and Environmental Change

Oxfam: Empowering Basic Human Rights

With today’s issues, it is hard to find good in the world or the news. Seeing an uplifting story or hearing good news is similar to someone claiming they saw Bigfoot. People choose to see it while others ignore the possibilities of it. It is a breath of fresh air when you can find someone trying to correct the “imbalance in the world.”

Luke Baines is an English-born actor who is known for The Girl in the Photographs, Truth or Dare, and the popular sci-fi show Shadowhunters. In 2016, when his career began to take off, Baines wanted to find a charity he could align himself with long term. His research led him to an international NGO that contributes funds directly into their programs.

Oxfam focuses on the alleviation of global poverty and enforcing basic human rights. Baines explains the many avenues of poverty that need to be corrected, “Whether it’s foreign aid, whether it is political, or trying to get different pieces of legislation passed for people who are usually underserved or protected. But it also means empowering people with skills, training, access to basic human rights and things that they need to be empowered and to live.”

Baines passion to help the world goes back to when he was ten-years-old and would write letters to Amnesty International. Now, at age 29, his heart has remained golden and he still wants to save the world. “I wanted to find an organization that I could align myself with in a long term sense, and so I researched every major international NGO because I knew I wanted to do something in that space. I came across Oxfam and I just loved the fact that the majority of their funding goes directly into their programs,” says Baines. Oxfam focuses on international injustice and works to fight the root of the problem instead of patching it up.

Recently, a trip to El Salvador and Honduras opened his eyes even more to the struggles facing Central Americans. “There are farmers that I met who are struggling to remain in their own country because they’re in a drought and they have been for years. They can’t put food on the table anymore; that’s why they are looking at moving north. Some women have been abused by partners, who because of the impunity that stands in Central America for actually charging offenders of domestic abuse, they also can’t stay. And then some people are in a gang-controlled territory who have no choice but either to leave or to join the gangs. They either don’t want that or they don’t want that for their children…” Witnessing these events made Baines more passionate about Oxfam when he didn’t think it was possible.

It is about supporting the families and communities that need it, but also empowering and encouraging someone when there seems to be no hope left. During his time in Central America, Baines was able to assist one of the many families in need. “I met this one mother of three whose husband’s a farmer, and he is having an incredible time, incredibly hard time putting food on the table. And so we came in and gave her a small loan and some training in basic food and safety regulations so that she could start her own tortilla stand near her home. She was making tortillas every day for her family anyway, so this was adding to that, making more, selling it on the side of the road so that they could get some more money.”

Poverty is often associated with being hungry or poor. In reality, poverty has grown to encompass more than Webster’s dictionary can define. Fighting poverty is providing foreign aid, passing legislation, empowering people with skills and training, and making sure basic human rights are provided for all.

So what impacted Baines decision to fight for the right of others? “Even as a kid, I would hate when people would cheat playing board games or I would hate if someone was being bullied, or if a person was left out. It’s something that I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s just something inside of me that I don’t know why people get treated differently. Just because one person was born on one side of the world and another person was born on another side that one of those people should have more than the other person. So I think that’s just something that’s always been in me and something that I will never understand until I try and help correct the imbalance.”

Over the past year, the Shadowhunters family made a huge impact on the world and has proven time and time again they will not be ignored. It is an example of how no one achieves anything alone. “I loved seeing the fact that people were using their voice to make a change. I think that just looking at the world and being upset with something or being angry about something or being disheartened is one thing. But taking a stand, you know, saying no, I don’t agree with that. That’s not something that I want. This is what I want and going after it is so important,” says Baines. There is power in numbers, and the Shadowfam is capable of the change we need to see in the world. Supporting Oxfam makes the possibilities endless.

Currently, the war in Yemen has escalated, and Oxfam is fighting to stop the sale of U.S. made bombs to Saudi Arabia. Bombs have contributed to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians since 2018, and no end is in sight. Additionally, there is a call to action for the U.S. to address the root causes of migration from Central America by treating asylum seekers with dignity and understanding before shutting them out.

Do not turn a blind eye. Choose to correct the imbalance affecting basic human rights. “Take five minutes and really do some research to look into the sort of organization they are. I doubt you’ll be able to look away,” says Baines. Look beyond the pictures and see the mother who is struggling to feed her family, the child who is starving every night because of a war-torn country, and the family trying to escape from violence and crime.

Thank you to Luke Baines for taking the time to answer my interview questions.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit the Oxfam website.

Sign this petition to request the U.S. stop selling bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Interested in meeting Luke Baines while supporting an amazing organization? Visit Propeller and help Luke support Oxfam for your chance to win.

Coffee Coffee Coffee

Garden City Coffee Grounds

In between Murrells Inlet and Surfside Beach, there is a small town named Garden City Beach. Garden City Beach is the perfect spot to catch a wave, stroll the pier, and drink a delicious iced coffee while you stick your toes in the sand. For two years, Garden City Coffee Grounds has provided beachgoers with their caffeine rush and a freshly baked pastry.

Garden City Coffee Grounds
Garden City Coffee Grounds

The cool beach breeze and the crisp salt air are the perfect atmosphere to sit back, relax, and drink your morning coffee. They offer a variety of drinks including their famous Garden City white chocolate mocha with caramel, chai tea, or a classic cappuccino. Enjoy a fresh scone with your drink or choose from their breakfast and lunch menu. You can’t go wrong with a breakfast croissant or chicken salad sandwich.

Located at 117A Atlantic Ave in Garden City it is within walking distance of the pier and the beach. Open from 7:30 am to 4 pm for the summer it is perfect for early birds and catching that afternoon pick me up. If you are in the mood to enjoy breakfast or lunch on the beach, call ahead and pick your order up on the go.

On the walls, you can see how high the water rose during Hurricane Hugo and other storms of the past. Most recently, Hurricane Florence struck in 2018, but a few feet of water will not dampen the spirit of shop owner Matthew Hutton. Moving from Pittsburgh to Garden City was a dream come true for Hutton when he was given the opportunity to open his own coffee shop.

Garden City Coffee Grounds
Garden City Coffee Grounds

Hutton and his family grew up coming to Garden City and wanted to make life a vacation all year long. “Locals and visitors always come in with a smile on their face and are ready to just enjoy their day,” says Hutton. No drink is off- limits, and they are happy to cater to your taste with fresh gourmet coffee beans. Make sure to visit Garden City Coffee Shop all year long and appreciate your local businesses.

Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Social and Environmental Change

CrossFit: Isn’t That Tough?

If you had told me six years ago that I would be throwing around 150-pound deadlifts and back squatting 130 pounds, I would have run towards the elliptical and never looked back. Not literally run though because that is still something I don’t enjoy very much. Two years ago, I saw a bunch of people running outside of my work and thought, “hey, I want to be in shape like that.” I came to learn that it wasn’t just running but involved lifting heavy weights, pushing past your limits, and feeling like a badass after every class.

CrossFit isn’t just a hard exercise class you go to before or after work; it challenges you mentally and physically. You learn to trust your coach and your fellow class members become family. Instead of suffering alone, you suffer as a family and cheer each other on as you try to reach that last burpee in your workout of the day (WOD). It kick starts your morning and burns away the frustration of a long day.

Just a few of the amazing CrossFit No Slack members

When I tell someone I do CrossFit their eyes get wide and they say, “Oh wow, that’s tough isn’t it?” Well, it is difficult, but that is what makes it so exciting. You will get through your thirty-minute row of as many reps as possible (AMRAP) or five rounds of running, wall balls, and box jump. It doesn’t matter if you finished it, but you showed up and you kicked butt.

CrossFit No Slack in Murrells Inlet, SC is where I happened to fall in love with the sport of CrossFit. As soon as you walk in, everyone is greeting you, laughing, and ready to enjoy the WOD. No shame if you can’t do the workout as prescribed. There is always a way to change the workout to suit you. It is all about being the best version of you and feeling you tried your hardest.

If you would like to feel strong and glisten like a sweaty star, CrossFit might be for you. This is coming from someone who never participated in any sports and sat on the bleachers during gym in high school. It is never too late to try new things in life.

To learn more about CrossFit No Slack, visit their website and Facebook. Come and try CrossFit for one week free and see if it is right for you.

Coffee Coffee Coffee

Dripolator Coffeehouse

If you love the mountains and live on the east coast, you have probably heard of a town in North Carolina named Asheville. Twenty-minutes away there is a quaint little mountain town called Black Mountain. It is the type of place you go to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. The small downtown is full of locally owned shops, cute dogs, and friendly faces. Among the cute stores and mountain streets, there is a place named Dripolator Coffeehouse.

The comfortable seating, hanging plants, and the smell of fresh coffee beans invites you to sit down and stay a while. Homemade pastries line the display case while you wait in line for that perfect cup of coffee. Locally made coffee cups say, “I like my coffee like my mountains, black.”

The coffee is smooth and with every tamp of espresso, you can tell they care about their drinks. All of the milk comes from pasture-fed Jersey cows that are direct descendants of the original Biltmore dairy herd. Environmentally friendly paper straws are used instead of plastic and recycling is always suggested. Since 1999, they have proudly roasted the finest green coffee beans to produce a well-rounded blend that warms your soul.

Stepping foot in Black Mountain is like a natural antidepressant with really good coffee. Support a local gem and stop by Dripolator Coffeehouse when you are in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Featured image courtesy of Dripolator Coffeehouse. Follow Dripolator on Facebook and Instagram.

Social and Environmental Change

Choosing Happiness

It has been two weeks since I wrote anything, and to be honest I have not had the inspiration to post. Life had a different plan for me, and my position at my job was eliminated. We try to have an outline for life, but it has a way of surprising us.

I expected myself to mope around and wonder why this happened to me. The truth is, things can and have been worse, and I will be okay. We all have the choice of living in the past or looking to the present. Mark Manson describes it perfectly, “Nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you…this is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things.”

So how does this apply to my blog, and why am I unloading all of this on here? I write about topics that will inspire others and encourage change in the world. Life is always changing and we could all use a little encouragement. You are the only one responsible for your happiness. When life gets you down it is okay to wallow in it, but there comes a point when you have to put your foot down and choose to pick yourself up again. Life isn’t the movies and your fairy godmother won’t come to grant you a wish.

My job being eliminated was me being pushed out of the nest and slapped in the face by life. “Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience,” says Mark Manson. Overcoming this experience of unemployment will only make me stronger and more determined to find a job that makes me happy. Everyone needs to make a living, but you don’t need to settle.

If you can’t tell, I have been reading, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and it has really struck a chord. Oddly enough, this book came into my life when I didn’t know I would need it. I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason, and this book has been a swift kick in the ass when I needed it most.

Life is always going to have problems, and some will be bigger than others. It is how we choose to deal with them that will determine our happiness. You can choose to fight the problem or just say eff this and try to grow from it. The next time life is getting you down, I challenge you to choose optimism over negativity.

Social and Environmental Change

Body Positivity: You Are More Than Your Body

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Julia Parzyck, who goes by FitFatAndAllThat on Instagram. Her personality and inspiration shine through on social media and makes you want to be friends with her. She is instantly relatable when she speaks about feeling comfortable in your own skin and appreciating your natural beauty inside and out.

Julia’s past struggles with an eating disorder inspired her to educate women on loving themselves and finding their healthy self voice. When you speak with her you don’t feel like a client, but a friend needing advice. She has truly created a community of self-love and confidence.

The topic of the media on body image was one of the first subjects that came to mind. There are always headlines that say the top 10 ways to lose weight or what foods to cut out of your diet. It shouldn’t be about losing weight or depriving yourself of that cookie. It is about eating whatever the hell you want and feeling comfortable with how you look now. Julia mentioned how the media still needs to be transparent and not just show the highlights. “Curvy women are still perfectly proportioned and they need to show the cellulite, stretch marks, and that a body jiggles when you move around.” Women are fed up and want to be heard and seen. Being seen in the media is what helps with body image. So what has society turned to? Social Media. A community has been formed on the internet where women can create their own positivity. Julia tells her clients to form a body positive bubble on their social accounts. “Unfollow the people who are not making you feel good. Follow the accounts that make you feel positive and good about yourself.” It is about girls knowing their value and worth.

Working out can also be a positive or negative action. It is important to find fitness that makes you feel empowered and strong. Exercise shouldn’t be about looking a certain way, but to remind you how strong your body is. “The idea that we should look a certain way is bullshit,” says Julia. Your body is not always going to be the same. We transform throughout our lifetime and that is okay. If we only love our body a certain way, it will be really hard to love your body for the rest of your life. The constant should be loving your body no matter what. We are always growing and changing. Julia reminds us to focus on what your body can do. Don’t be a bully to yourself.

We all have our own body struggles, and it is important to support one another. Remember your body shape does not matter because we are all beautiful. Do not place value on clothing size. Embrace your own style despite your size and find clothes you feel good in. In the words of the body positive queen Lizzo, “Baby how you feelin? Feelin good as hell!”

If you were to look at Julia’s Instagram stories you will see her dancing in her underwear to her favorite songs, lifting weights in CrossFit, and just laughing with her friends and family. What will you do today to feel body positive? Dance in your underwear to your favorite song, show off your curves in your new bathing suit, treat yourself to a pedicure, eat a cookie because you want to, surround yourself with positive people, and exercise to feel better, not look better.

Julia was able to make a career out of self-love and confidence and wants to pass that on to other strong women. She teaches women to find their healthy self voice and figure out why their eating disorder began. “Your eating disorder was there for a reason. It is there to help us cope with something and we are going to say goodbye to it,” says Julia. It is about women finding a better relationship with food and their bodies.

FitFatandAllThat is there to help with an eating disorder but to also be a support system and remind you of the badass that you are. “No amount of self-hatred is going to lead to self-love. Work from the inside out and where the insecurities come from. Clear that space and open up for the important things,” says Julia.

Follow Julia Parzyck (fitfatandallthat) on Instagram