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.

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.

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

Social and Environmental Change

Mental Health Awareness

Thank you to artist Nikki Miles for letting me use her art. You can find her on Instagram

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to discuss depression. If you are like me, you get tired of people thinking you’re just sad, going through a phase, or that it will go away. It is important to fight the stigma of depression and talk about it.

Depression is a word that is thrown around when you feel sad or when things are going wrong in your life. Real depression is when everything in your life appears to be going right and you can’t feel the real joy of it. You know you are supposed to be happy, but the numbness still creeps in.

It is a daily struggle to live life with depression, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live your life. Depression makes you appreciate the little moments. Sometimes it is celebrating that you left the house. Treating yourself to that $5 coffee because it brings joy. Surrounding yourself with those that love you and support you no matter what. Maybe, it is just having a bad day and watching your favorite movie (I recommend Harry Potter).

However you deal with your depression, remember that it might not be easy, but it gets EASIER. You do not have to struggle alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Reaching out for help does not make you weak. Talking about depression makes you strong and fearless. To quote Jen Sincero, “take care of yourself as if you’re the most awesome person you’ve ever met.”

Do not give in to the stigma of depression and feel shame for who you are. Fighting against the darkness makes you stronger every day. It is your bravery and strength that will break down barriers.

If you need help and are not sure where to go, please go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-TALK (8255)

Social and Environmental Change

Make A Wish Foundation: The Power of a Wish

A child is supposed to play outside, go on family vacations, and be curious about the world. They are learning about themselves, discovering their likes and dislikes. They are worrying about school and getting that A on the next test. However, for some children, what is supposed to be an ordinary life is cut short because of a critical illness.

In 2018, the Make A Wish Foundation of South Carolina granted 207 wishes to children with critical illnesses, between the ages of 2 1/2 to 18. At Make A Wish, a wish is like medicine. It helps give a child a sense of normalcy and individuality.

A big misconception is that wishes are only granted to children with terminal illnesses. The illness could be malignant, progressive or degenerative. No matter the illness, what’s important is to highlight why they are special, and not why they are sick. Wish Manager, Katlyn Larrieu mentions, “The excitement of the wish helps a child get through their treatment. A wish gives them the power of choice again and to celebrate who they are.”

The anticipation of the wish gives a child the courage to go through one more radiation treatment, or one more needle prick. They have something to look forward to, and a chance to live a life of normalcy. Wishes are not just nice, but they are necessary. Physicians often contact Make A Wish to tell them how a wish changes a child after their experience. It encourages determination and more hope. “We are giving memories to families that need good memories, that is priceless and powerful,” says Larrieu.

The South Carolina chapter of Make A Wish is made up of only 15 employees, and depends on over 250 volunteers across the state. Any person can volunteer, or hold a fundraiser to support the foundation. They can donate a vehicle, or even airlines miles, to cover travel for these well-deserved wishes. “It is because of our volunteers across the state that we can grant the wishes,” says Larrieu.

Volunteers are involved with two wishes a year and ten hours of service. They get the paperwork done and figure out the wish, while keeping monthly contact with the family. The volunteers throw a big wish celebration with the child and their family. According to Larrieu, volunteers have the fun part of the job. Make A Wish volunteers are allowed to do more, giving more of a personal connection during the process. It is a unique experience where you can see everything follow through, and see the gift of the child’s excitement.

Make A Wish Foundation leaves a lasting and long-term impact on a child’s life. It isn’t just a nice gesture or a kind thing to do. “A wish can change the course of someone’s life. It is the gift that keeps on giving,” says Larrieu.

Thank you Wish Manager, Katlyn Larrieu for the interview and pictures.

If you are interested in volunteering in South Carolina go to:

Social and Environmental Change

Myrtle Beach Safari

Tigers, an elephant, wolves, chimpanzees, and lions. All of these animals have one thing in common, they live in Myrtle Beach. They aren’t part of a zoo or a circus but a wildlife conservation program that Doc Antle began in 1983.

The animals that live on the preserve serve as animal ambassadors to over three million visitors each year. They serve as examples of the current environmental issues that these animals face. Instead of an animal on a postcard, Myrtle Beach Safari allows you to interact with the real thing.

So how exactly do you get to visit with these animals? It isn’t just an invite only experience. Anyone can go and they treat everyone on the tour as if they are VIP. No personal cameras are allowed but for an extra fee you can receive hundreds of candid pictures. For three hours you are transported to your own little paradise filled with animals you can only see in Africa or Thailand.

T.I.G.E.R.S (The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) provides funding to on the ground international wildlife conservation programs that work to prevent the poaching and destruction of these precious animals. An example of that is providing funding to prevent the poaching of chimpanzees. In some countries, chimpanzee meat has become known as a delicacy and it is now a requirement to have mankind defend them.

Myrtle Beach Safari is a lifestyle and not just a hobby for the handlers who live there. These animals are their family and you can feel the connection as soon as you meet the first tiger cub.

Two of the White Footed Gibbons at Myrtle Beach Safari
A 6 month Tiger cub. They gain 1 pound a day!
Bubbles the African Elephant. I was feeding her a carrot and her trunk surprised me.