Category Archives: News

5 Reasons to Intern on a Public Health Project

In many of the countries that international volunteer organization Projects Abroad works in, basic primary healthcare infrastructure cannot support the demands of the population. To ease the pressure on these services, it is vital to prevent disease at a community level by providing basic treatments and diagnoses. This, along with improving the overall health of local communities, is a priority of each Public Health Project run by the organization.

Here are the top five reasons to get involved at a Public Health Project.

1. Provide Primary Medical Care Where it is Needed

Accessing medical care and treatment can be difficult for underprivileged communities and at-risk groups. Public Health interns take on an important role in these communities by working with local medical professionals to provide basic care. This can include cleaning and bandaging minor wounds, testing blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and testing for illnesses like malaria. This has an immediate effect on communities — not only do doctors, nurses, and interns treat any immediate symptoms as best they can, they can help people get further medical care at a hospital or clinic if needed.

2. Contribute to Long Term Impact

While local medical staff and interns can provide immediate treatment, Public Health Projects also focus on prevention and causes of illnesses. By educating communities on how to prevent illnesses and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), interns ensure that they have the knowledge to pass on to others and future generations. This is especially important considering the increasing prevalence of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Public Health interns regularly contribute to health campaigns, such as the larviciding campaign held last year to help prevent the spread of Dengue fever in the Philippines.

3. Enhance Personal Medical Knowledge

Public Health interns learn various practical skills for their resumes during their placements and working alongside local medical professionals also gives interns the opportunity to improve their medical knowledge. Projects Abroad encourages interns to ask questions and take notes every day, particularly when observing illnesses and conditions not usually seen in North America.

4. Experience Cross-Cultural Exchange

One of the main motivations for volunteering and interning abroad is to immerse yourself in the culture where you will be working. Interning on a Public Health Project is a fantastic way to do this. Not only do interns work directly in the community every day, they also live with local host families. Having an understanding and respect for different cultures and mindsets is an extremely valuable skill to have, especially in the healthcare field.

5. Stand Out From the Crowd

Medical school admissions are tough! Participating on a Public Health Project shows that you are prepared to challenge yourself, you are passionate about healthcare, and are committed to helping those in need. Internships also give applicants relevant experience to talk about during interviews.

Projects Abroad offers Public Health Projects in five destinations in the developing world. These programs typically run from one to four weeks or more at any time of the year. Start dates are flexible and participants can choose when they depart and return. The organization also offers Public Health placements for university students over spring break and for high school students during the summer.

About Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography professor, as a program for students to travel and work while on break from full-time study. The program had its genesis in post-USSR Romania, where students were given the chance to teach conversational English. After a few years just sending volunteers to Eastern Europe for teaching, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects.

Projects Abroad is a global leader in short-term international volunteer programs with projects in 30 countries and recruitment offices in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Holland, Hong Kong, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and the United States.

For details on volunteering abroad, visit Project Abroad’s website.

Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking in Today’s World

An estimated 2.5 million people across the globe — many of them children — are victims of modern day slavery in the form of human trafficking. Some are forced into brutal manual labor, while others become captive to the sex trade. Still others are forced to act as soldiers and, in some cases, participate in war crimes. Unbound believes we have a special role to play in combating this epidemic.

Solving a problem begins with understanding its scope. With human trafficking, that is a particularly unique challenge. Some worldwide estimates make no distinction between trafficking and other forms of modern slavery, while others separate the two. The difference is that, while both acts involve coerced and prolonged exploitation, human trafficking also includes the element of displacement. Victims of trafficking are, either by force or deceit, taken from their homes and, often, across borders.

For obvious reasons, criminal exploiters work hard to keep their activities hidden, making it extremely difficult to track traffic between countries. Compounding that challenge is the varying degrees to which nations are willing to cooperate in both providing reliable trafficking data and prosecuting traffickers. But there is another factor that sometimes makes trafficking difficult to identify. Exploitation comes in many forms and is not always easy to recognize. For example, many who work in the sex trade appear to do so freely, but surveys consistently show that a majority of adult prostitutes were sexually abused as minors, which demonstrates that the psychological trauma — and the consequences — of such abuse can endure long after abusers have moved on. The fact that some victims seem to willingly participate in their own ongoing exploitation makes them no less exploited.

Exploitation also often comes in the guise of friendship. To illustrate, in Kenya there are nearly 3,000 agencies that purportedly help impoverished young people find work outside the country. Two-thirds of those are estimated by the Kenyan government to be fronts for human trafficking.

Amos Kihoro is the coordinator of the Unbound youth program in Nairobi, Kenya. An estimated 65,000 of his fellow Kenyans, most of them young people, are now being victimized by traffickers. Kihoro knows what he and others who care about these youth are up against.

“Kenya is not only [a] source but it is also used as a transit, particularly by our polarized neighboring countries,” Kihoro said. “Many have been apprehended while in houses that are poorly ventilated, as they await the “proper time” to be ferried out of the country, hence risking their lives from diseases, dehydration, and hunger.”

Kihoro understands the special threat that traffickers pose for youth who live in poverty.

“There have been many cases of young people being promised well-paying jobs in Asia,” he said. “Some have succeeded in heading out for “greener pastures” only to find themselves doing menial jobs contrary to their expectations, some receiving little payment or nothing at all.”

Once in that predicament, it becomes next to impossible to escape.

Unbound

Unbound counters these forces by empowering young people with the tools they need — education, hope, and self-esteem — to make them less vulnerable to traffickers. When they are able to rely on their own abilities and skills, and with the encouragement of their Unbound sponsors, these youth are much less prone to the kind of desperation that human traffickers feed upon.

Kihoro explained how sponsorship helps protect young people from victimization:

“Unbound sponsorship prioritizes education, hence ensuring that they do not drop out of school due to school fees. This reduces their vulnerability. In addition, youth mentorship programs, counseling, and empowerment programs help in dealing [with] and resolving other personal struggles that may lead our Unbound teenagers to drop out under the pressure of the promised big job opportunities in Nairobi, along the coast, or in other big towns or countries.”

Big problems can seem overwhelming, and human trafficking is a big problem that must be fought on many fronts. Unbound is working to do our part by bringing light — in the form of empowered and hope-filled young people — into some of the many dark corners around the world where those who would use others for profit lie in wait.

Thank a Veteran in Your Life with a Great Clips Haircut

Now that Halloween has passed, there’s almost no time to catch our collective breath as we gear up for the string of holidays that will soon be upon us. In addition to giving thanks, as well as the birthday festivities that open and close this month in my family for myself and my grandmother, November also gives us the prime opportunity to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate the veterans in our lives and communities with Veterans Day on November 11.

I have written about my family’s history of military service here before, and about the tremendous impact my aunt’s 26 years of service had on me as I grew up.

Aunt Jenn military awards

Witnessing my aunt’s accomplishments in the military over the years taught me to be strong and determined, to never back down from what I know is right, but also to remember to take care of myself.

If anyone has given me a thorough lesson on the importance of pampering in a woman’s life, it is my aunt. Every year for my birthday and Christmas, she packs up a great, big basket full of bath and body products, no doubt delightfully enabling my shameless addiction for all things smelly. It is because of these baskets that I cannot remember the last time when I didn’t have my pick of bubble bath, body wash, and bath fizzes when all I wanted in the world was to relax in a hot bath.

Another great way to pamper yourself is with a haircut. Whether you get your hair cut regularly to maintain a certain length or style, or let your hair grow for years and then go in to get several inches cut off at once, a great haircut can significantly improve how you feel about yourself, no matter who you are. So why not pass on that feeling of new-found confidence to a veteran or military serviceperson in your life?

For the third year in a row, Great Clips is thanking veterans and active military members for their service with the gift of a free haircut — and you can help!

Thank a Veteran with Great Clips

Active or retired military members get free haircuts or a free haircut card on November 11, and any customer who gets a haircut at Great Clips on November 11 receives a free haircut card to give to a veteran.

*Only veterans and active members of the military are eligible to redeem the free haircut card. Family members of said military members do not qualify.

Great Clips is the only major salon brand that offers customers a way to thank veterans in their lives. With more than 3,800 salons throughout the United States and Canada, they are the world’s largest salon brand and employ nearly 35,000 stylists. Great Clips is dedicated to improving the communities in which they operate, with a focus on philanthropic and volunteer activities.

Find your local Great Clips and make a haircut appointment for Veterans Day, November 11.

Do you have a veteran or active military member in your life whom you would give the free Great Clips haircut card to?

3 Reasons Why Giving Back to Your Community is Important

Business owners who want to ensure that their companies become increasingly productive and powerful should access strategies that help them realize this professional vision. Although there are many business-building techniques you could access to accomplish your objective, giving back to your community can be particularly effective in facilitating profound, ongoing growth. Here are three reasons why:

1. Personal Growth

Giving back to your community is a simple and effective way to help those in need. Once you experience the reality of positively contributing contributing to the life of another individual, you will likely find yourself growing in important areas, such as your capacity to empathize and use emotional intelligence to recognize the needs of others. All of these areas of personal growth will make you a more effective business person as you become more capable of interacting with people from all walks of life.

One great example of philanthropic work that likely engendered personal growth transpired when the companies Palmco and Columbia Utilities teamed up. Together, these organizations are donating a portion of their proceeds to the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO). The proceeds will help children fight cancer and reclaim their lives.

2. Giving Back Promotes Team Unity

In addition to facilitating personal growth, giving back to your community can help build your business by promoting team unity. When you decide to undertake a philanthropic project, many, if not everyone in your company, will need to work together to make the event as successful as possible. Through this process, your employees will likely get to know one another on a more personal level. Also, philanthropic projects tend to be fun and put people in a good mood as they recognize that they have the power to improve the quality of another individual’s life. The feeling of team unity and positive memories created through volunteer work oftentimes results in your employees working together in more effective, amicable ways that optimize your daily operations.

3. Philanthropic Work Helps Build Your Business

One final reason why giving back to your community is important pertains to the fact that philanthropic work helps build your business. This process can transpire in numerous ways. For example, local citizens who hear that your business has done a can drive or has given a scholarship to someone in need will likely formulate a positive opinion of your organization. This type of positive brand recognition will oftentimes translate into people becoming lifelong, loyal customers. Additionally, doing philanthropic work enables you to meet prospective business owners who will likely help push your company forward in powerful, productive ways.

Conclusion

If you’re ready to take your business to a new level of efficacy and excellence, know that giving back to your community is a great way to make it happen. Philanthropic work is important because it engenders personal growth, builds team unity, and provides you with networking opportunities. With these realities in mind, be sure to start planning a company-wide volunteer project as soon as possible!

Top photo: zenlight/Flickr

Fix the World, Girls: Nonprofits Founded by Women

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with MODE.

All around the world, there is hardship and suffering. There are moments of injustice and discrimination; countries at war are being ripped apart from the inside-out by greed and corruption; more and more families are trying to make ends meet under the poverty line. When you think about the human condition today, it is far too easy to get discouraged or for your outlook on the future to turn bleak. Sometimes we need a reminder of all the good that is being done here and around the world.

In times of change, conflict, and crisis, the women who founded the nonprofits we’ve rounded up below didn’t just wish for things to be different — they worked to create lasting change that is actively enriching and saving lives. Check out the slideshow below to learn how black and brown dolls are revolutionizing the way young girls of color see themselves, how survivors of human rights abuses are earning a living wage and uplifting their communities, what is being done to inspire more women to run for political office, and more.

Note: If you are running an ad blocker, you will need to disable it to see the slideshow.

Check out Fix the World, Girls: Nonprofits Founded by Women

by Woman Tribune at Mode

The Privilege of Back to School Season and Girls’ Education

All this week and last, kids have been steadily making their way back to school for another year of learning and growing as individuals. In our neck of the woods, the last of the summer stragglers will return to the classroom after Labor Day, thus completing this year’s transition from the lazy days of summer to early mornings, books, and homework.

When I was a kid, I anticipated going back to school. First day of school pictures captured my gap-toothed grin that couldn’t possibly get any wider as my hands clutched onto a brand new backpack and lunchbox. I liked going to school, and I liked learning new things. As I got older, my love for the school establishment diminished, but my hunger for knowledge stayed very much the same.

Whether I anticipated or dreaded heading back to school, one thing is abundantly clear as I look back on my school career now — I was lucky. I was lucky to have the opportunity to experience back to school season every year; to attend a school within walking distance of my home; to learn from wise teachers who took the responsibility of my impressionable brain seriously.

Many girls around the world are not as lucky as I have been. Today, there are an estimated 31 million primary-school-age girls who face daunting barriers that keep them from attending school and receiving an education. Though hungry to learn, these young girls face gender discrimination, the burden of being responsible for household chores, lack of access to transportation to get to the nearest school, or are forced to marry way too soon.

The state of girls’ education in the developing world is both shocking and humbling:

  • Keeping girls out of school sentences them to a life of poverty and poor health
  • Women earn 10-20% more for every year of school completed
  • Children of educated mothers are 2x as likely to go to school
  • Children born to literate moms are 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5
Laxmi Udaan Girls School
Josh Estey/CARE

CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls, is working to remove the barriers to education that are keeping millions of girls who are hungry to learn away from school. One of the ways in which they are succeeding is at the CARE-supported Udaan residential school in Hardoi, India, where girls like Laxmi Pal aren’t only creating art, but also history.

12-year-old Laxmi grew up believing that she did not belong in school. Instead, her days were filled with housework and looking after her younger siblings while her mother was away cleaning houses and her father struggled to find seasonal work on farms. In her rural farming village, girls typically marry and move out of their family’s home at 14. Laxmi became the only member of her immediate family to ever go to school when she began attending Udaan. Their program is giving adolescent girls who had either never been enrolled in school or were forced to drop out a second chance to learn through an accelerated bridge course. After, Laxmi and girls like her can be mainstreamed into a government school to continue their education.

Invest in a Girl’s Future

Education is an investment that pays off now and for generations to come. You can help CARE’s mission to eliminate barriers to education for millions of girls by purchasing a Gift of Lasting Change. Browse CARE’s catalog of back to school gifts to support their work in promoting girls’ education.

Some of the gifts you can give are:

  • $10 cash donation
  • School uniforms for 2 girls ($38)
  • 2 pairs of school shoes ($30)
  • Backpack and school starter kit ($26.10)
  • 3 feminine hygiene kits for teen girls ($30)
CARE girls education
CARE

This back to school season, help make a difference in the lives of girls around the world with CARE.

Top photo: Josh Estey/CARE

5 Fun Flower-Worthy Occasions in September

We all know the holidays in which flowers are the only acceptable form of gift. While these days are special and we can feel good about greeting our loved ones with a bouquet of beautiful flowers as a small token of our appreciation for everything they do, there are other unique occasions that hardly anyone thinks to celebrate the same way. Here are five out-of-the-box flower-worthy occasions coming up next month where a bouquet of flowers would certainly brighten up a family member or friend’s day.

National Courtesy Month

September is National Courtesy Month! It’s OK, we had no idea, either, but we can all use September as a way to help convince the pessimists of the world that common courtesy is indeed alive and well. We’re sure we can all agree that giving one of your favorite people a beautiful bouquet of flowers would certainly be seen as a courteous act.

Self Improvement Month

yellow rosesSeptember is also Self Improvement Month. If a friend or family member has been wanting to make a positive change in their lives, or mentioned trying something new that they haven’t gotten around to doing yet, give them a little token of encouragement to get started.

Grandparent’s Day

Grandparent’s Day falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day, making this year’s Grandparent’s Day September 13. If you don’t visit your grandparents often enough, pick up a bouquet of flowers and drop by for a visit on this day — they’ve earned it.

National Women’s Friendship Day

Our female friends play such important roles in our lives, hopefully throughout the course of years. Do something special for your closest friends on September 20 to celebrate National Women’s Friendship Day. Maybe host an intimate dinner at home or go out to your favorite meeting spot — whatever you do, choosing a small bouquet for each of your girlfriends to show them how much you appreciate them being a rock for you when you’ve needed them will definitely be appreciated.

World Gratitude Day

September 21 is World Gratitude Day. Originated in Hawaii and celebrated since 1966, this is a day where flowers from Sydney could have a positive impact on someone day. World Gratitude Day centers around the notion that we are happier people when we take the time reflect on the amazing things we are privileged enough to have in our lives. Share your appreciation for all that is good in your life on World Gratitude Day with a bouquet for someone who has consistently made your life better.

Forced to Become Dads Too Soon: The Child Grooms of Nepal #ChildGrooms #ad

Nepal child marriage
Photos: © 2015 Carey Wagner/CARE | Illustrations: Stephen Purnell/CARE

It’s Father’s Day weekend and while many of us will be celebrating the dads in our lives who have been there to shape us into who we are today, there is a devastating and widely hidden cultural pandemic occurring in the South Asian country of Nepal.

I love Father’s Day. I was raised by a single dad committed to his family and who always tried his best to do what was right. He introduced me to and instilled in me a lifelong love of video games, and he encouraged my curiosity when I began to teach myself how to design and code websites — a skill that I have retained and built upon throughout my adulthood and have even shaped my career around. He validated my passions, supported me as I found my voice and got involved in social justice activism, even if he didn’t fully understand or agree with my point of view himself, and he forgave me unequivocally each and every time I disappointed him.

For all intents and purposes, my dad became a father relatively young. He might not have been fully ready to put on the badge of ‘dad’ when he did, but he had the privilege of being an adult with a high school education and access to a job that paid well enough to financially support his family. But the child grooms of Nepal do not know this privilege; not even close.

Over the last several years we have been given intimate, soul-crushing depictions of child brides and the bleak lives many of them face after being forced to marry much older men. Their stories are heartbreaking, and they make us wonder how we can live in a world where this not only happens, but is a deeply ingrained part of a culture. But in some areas of the world, like in western Nepal, child brides marry child grooms.

CARE, a leading humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls, has released a shocking report this Father’s Day that shines a light on the fathers some are more comfortable to leave in the dark and others don’t know exists. “Dads Too Soon: The Child Grooms of Nepal” is a multimedia report on the misfortunate and suffering of forced child marriage and the plight of boys who are forced to marry as young as 7, doomed to stay in poverty with their families, and the families they have no choice but to begin themselves as soon as possible.

Parashuram, a child groom of Nepal, was forced to marry when he was 9 years old. He wet himself at his wedding because he had no idea how to untie the ceremonial garment that was placed on him so that he could use the bathroom. When he was 12, he was pressured to produce a child, even though he hadn’t hit puberty yet. Speaking about his experience he blamed himself, saying, “I couldn’t do what was expected of me as a married man.”

Soon after the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25, CARE was able to reach tens of thousands of people with life-saving relief due to the relationship they have sustained with the people of Nepal since 1978. One of the fears the poverty-fighting organization has is that the natural disaster will further isolate rural communities, and it could intensify the economic pressure many families feel that fuel forced child marriage.

Nepal child grooms
Photos: © 2015 Carey Wagner/CARE | Illustrations: Stephen Purnell/CARE

In Nepal’s Kapilbastu District, 12% of boys are married by age 14; 62% by age 19. Like child brides, child grooms endure psychological and physical trauma and usually drop out of school, pressured by the immediacy of having to support their wives and families. As painful as their stories are, former child grooms have become powerful voices in the movement to end child marriage in Nepal.

Emerging as key allies in the movement, former child grooms like Pannilal Yadev is sharing his story of how he was so young when he was married that he can barely recall it. Today, he works with CARE’s Tipping Point program, lending his story and life experience in hopes of changing people’s minds about child marriage, striking at the root of the pandemic to finally put an end to the custom of forcing children to trade their childhoods for marriage, a family, and poverty that they will never be able to rise up out of.

Forced child marriage is a human rights violation. Lend your support to CARE’s initiative to end child marriage by sending a letter to your Representative and Senators to make fighting child marriages a priority.

Your Taxes are Done! Treat Yo Self with Some Tax Day Freebies and Deals

taxes
teegardin/Flickr

Tax season is the worst season, and why can’t it be in the winter when we’re stuck inside anyway instead of interfering with our beautiful spring weather?

Now that your taxes have been filed you’re over the one bummer spring brings with it, and it’s time to celebrate. We’ve tracked down some ways you can treat yo self today (and the next few days for some) with Tax Day freebies and deals.

  • When you buy one Whopper at Burger King, you’ll get another one free with this coupon.
  • Participating McDonald’s locations have a buy one, get one for a penny deal on Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. No coupon needed.
  • When you buy one Individual Meal at Boston Market, you’ll get a second Individual Meal free.
  • Hard Rock Cafe will make you sing for your supper, but if you’re willing to take the stage and belt out a tune you’ll get a free Local Legendary Burger.
  • Say “Taxes Schmaxes” when you place your order at California Tortilla to get a free order of chips and queso.
  • Olive Garden is offering a coupon for $6 off a dinner for two now through April 19.
  • Outback Steakhouse will take 15% off your check when you present this coupon now through May 3.
  • Participating Hydro Massage locations and select Planet Fitness Centers are treating tax payers to a free massage now through April 17. Just call your nearest location to schedule your massage and enjoy.
  • Save $8 on Pampers or Huggies value boxes of diapers at Babies”R”Us with this coupon, valid through April 30.
  • Use coupon code X8W8L3A at Barnes and Noble for 20% off one item now through May 1.
  • Participating Office Depot locations are ready to take all the paperwork of tax season off your hands with a coupon for free paper shredding for up to 5 pounds of paper.

Know of any other Tax Day freebies or deals? Share them in the comments!

How to Make a Difference in the Lives of Military Families and the Direct Energy Military Portal #DEcares #ad


I come from a fairly small, exceptionally tight-knit family. A calling that has been passionately pursued by many of those in my family is that of military service.

My great-grandfather traveled all over the world as an ambassador of his country while providing for his family. He always brought my grandmother back a small token — a piece of jewelry, a charm — indigenous to the area he had just returned from. He passed away in the late ’90s of complications from Alzheimer’s, and while I was a young child at the time, I can still remember him telling stories of his time in the military, even when he was no longer capable of recalling my name or who I was.

My great-uncle learned invaluable skills through his time in the military, and as a result holds a prestigious job because of that knowledge. His eldest son, my second-cousin, followed in the footsteps laid out before him and also joined the military, using it as a vessel for his music and now plays in the U.S. Army band.

My aunt joined the National Guard right after graduating from high school, around the time I was born. She then transferred to the Army Reserves and retired after 26 years of service as a Sergeant First Class.

Aunt Jenn James R Minicozzi Memorial Run
My aunt finishing the 3rd Annual James R. Minicozzi Memorial Run in honor of a fallen soldier and friend.

I have always had a great deal of pride in my aunt. It isn’t just because she served in the military for 26 years, but because she proudly did so in the face of adversity as a woman soldier. She proved herself to be just as strong, hard-working, and worthy as her male counterparts, and it is through her experiences that I find strength in myself in whatever I do.

Her military career is an inspiring story of perseverance and defying odds, and I could not be more proud of her and of the life she has had.

Aunt Jenn military awards

You don’t have to come from or be part of a military family to care about those who serve our country. Here are some simple things you can do to give back and say ‘thanks’ that will have a meaningful impact on active military, veterans, and those who love them most.

Make Your Voice Heard for Military Rights

Almost exactly one year ago, it was reported that at least 40 United States Armed Forces veterans had died while waiting for care at the VA hospital located in Phoenix, Arizona. An investigation into the matter in June 2014 uncovered a harsh reality that veterans around the country were facing unrealistic wait times and unusual restrictions to their benefits. President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff reported on the situation saying that there were “significant and chronic system failures” and a “corrosive culture” inside the Veterans Health Administration.

While Congressional legislation was signed into effect in August 2014 by President Obama regarding VA funding and implementing reform within the Veterans Health Administration, there is still a lot to be done in order to truly support and lift up military servicepeople.

It is cruel to expect our military personnel to be there for us when we need them, to go to war if they are asked to do so, and to selflessly give their lives in the name of our freedom, and then deny them the benefits that they have earned once they can no longer deploy or serve as active duty.

When you hear of news regarding retiree benefits for veterans, ensuring that these men and women receive quality health care and have access to higher education in order to secure a civilian job once they are no longer active duty, educate yourself. Take a look at these initiatives and stand up in support of them. Call or write your local politicians and ask them to support initiatives on ensuring your community’s military and veterans are happy, healthy, and secure, sign a petition, and spread the word on social media.

Thank a Serviceperson

Whenever me and my aunt go out anywhere — shopping, to the movies, out to a restaurant for lunch, anywhere — if she sees a military serviceperson in uniform or wearing a veteran jacket or cap, she approaches them to thank them for their service. It is a gesture that takes less than 30 seconds of your time, but means everything to someone who has dedicated their life, or part of their life, to serving their country, and serving you.

Support Military Charities

There are many military charities out there that have a direct impact on the quality of life of our military and veterans. These are just three of the charities making a difference:

  • Hope for the Warriors: Founded in 2006 by military wives after they witnessed first-hand the effects of war on spouses and their families, Hope for the Warriors helps to enhance the quality of life for post-9/11 service members who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty. Through them, service members can receive access to career transition and education programs, health and wellness counseling, and community building initiatives for military families as they transition into civilian life.
  • Wounded Warrior Project: The Wounded Warrior Project serves veterans and military service members who have incurred physical or psychological injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001. Armed with the mission to honor and empower Wounded Warriors, the Wounded Warrior Project works to encourage warriors as they adjust to their new normal and achieve new, personal victories and triumphs, and are equipped to service military service members and veterans with every type of injury — from the physical to the invisible wounds of war.
  • Pits for Patriots: Founded in May 2011, this organization trains qualified, rescued pit bulls from various Chicago area dog rescues and shelters to work as service therapy and skilled companion dogs for United States military veterans and first responders. By providing a rescued dog (at no cost, at that) Pits for Patriots saves two lives by uniting military servicepeople in need of repairing their lives with a dog given a second chance to serve, protect, and heal.

Direct Energy Military Portal

Direct Energy Military Portal

There are many companies and brands out there who offer a little something to U.S. military and veterans, like discounts year-round and a free treat on days of significance, like the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. I can’t tell you how many times a year my dad, a woodworker by trade, asks my aunt to accompany him to Lowe’s or Home Depot to gain access to her military discount, and our periodic shopping trips at Old Navy (also known as the only place with jeans that fit my unique shape) are always just a little bit cheaper. Direct Energy recently joined the ranks of thanking military personnel around the country by helping them save on their home energy needs.

Direct Energy is one of the largest retail providers of electricity, natural gas, and home services in North America. As a company committed to giving back to those who have given so much, they have recently launched the Direct Energy Military Portal, a dedicated space where active military and veterans can find discounted energy rates for their home energy needs.

To be eligible for the discounted military rates Direct Energy offers, you must enter your valid military ID into the Military Portal. Once it verifies, you will then be directed to a dedicated military plans page where you can view the plans available in your area.

Once you’re a Direct Energy customer, you will gain access to other time- and money-saving features, including the on-the-go Online Account Manager, on-time bill payment rewards program, and the Refer-a-Friend Program.

If you’re a U.S. military serviceperson, veteran, part of a military family, or know someone who is, spread the word about the newly-launched Direct Energy Military Portal where money is just waiting to be saved.

What do you do to say thanks to military service members and veterans?