Toan Lam, the creator of www.GoInspireGo.com is living proof that inspiration and hope trumps the unfortunate situations many of us face today. After nearly 10 years of television industry experience, both in-front and behind-the camera reporting in San Francisco as well as ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates around the country and California Heartland, a statewide, syndicated PBS magazine show, he was laid off from his major market news gig. Toan decided to stop his job search and combine his journalism chops and gift of connecting with people, to help his community. That experience led him to create a website featuring inspirational videos via a YouTube channel. At the end of the videos, there are resource links where viewers can go to help the featured people. His goal: To help everyone discover their power and inspire them to use their power (their resources and talents) to help others. When Toan is not on TV, he is blogging about his website content for the Huffington Post's Living and Impact Sections. Additionally, he is sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience as an adjunct professor, teaching on-camera talent and production classes at the University of San Francisco (his alma mater) and the Academy of Art. Toan is also a member of the Asian American Journalists' Association.
View all posts by Toan Lam →
Today is Day 4 of the GIG 12 Days of Inspiration Campaign. Starting Dec. 13, we started counting down to Christmas by sharing one inspiring story each day, followed by an action item you can take to make the world a better place. You can read more about the series here.
*Day 4* Inspire to smile:
Claire Lemmel goes the extra mile to fulfill her mission of making people, including strangers smile.
Video: “Going the Extra Smile”
Call to action: Inspire to create a ripple of kindness by spreading smiles and holiday cheer! Smile at a stranger.
Today is Day 3 of the GIG 12 Days of Inspiration Campaign. Starting Dec. 13, we started counting down to Christmas by sharing one inspiring story each day, followed by an action item you can take to make the world a better place. You can read more about the series here.
*Day 3* Inspire to create:
Toan sits down to create Thank You cards with founder of InkPaperPlate.com, Sirima Sataman.
Video: The Best Way to Express Gratitude
Call to action: Inspire to DIY – Get crafty and create something hand made and give it to someone: a family member, friend or stranger!
Today is Day 2 of the GIG 12 Days of Inspiration Campaign. Starting Dec. 13, we started counting down to Christmas by sharing one inspiring story each day, followed by an action item you can take to make the world a better place. You can read more about the series here.
*Day 2* Inspire to create a GIG Spark:
In this video, Toan and some Gigsters visit the BAYCAT community as the youth speak up about issues they’d like to address and the changes they’d like to see.
Call to action: Inspire to create a GIG Spark. Use your power and multimedia to be the change.
Happy Holidays from Go Inspire Go! ‘Tis the season to celebrate, give and inspire those around you as we come to an end of another great year. 2012 has been an eventful year for GIG as we continue to grow, creating three times the amount of original content as last year. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without our 30+ volunteers around the globe, the everyday do-gooders we feature, and folks like YOU! To thank you, we wanted to kick off the holidays with 12 Days of Inspiration!
But before we get to the deets, check out our GIG Virtual Holiday Greeting Card to show our gratitude:
Starting today, 11/13, we will be counting down to Christmas by sharing one our original GIG stories each day, followed by an inspiring action item we want you to do right away.
We’re asking you to share what you were inspired to do via social media.
KIND Snacks has partnered with Go Inspire Go to launch our 12 Days of Inspiration. We kicked off our 12 days of inspiration with a GIG Spark video from across the street from the Ferry Building in San Francisco, giving postcards to strangers and asking them to write a message to soliders who can’t spend the holidays with their family, and in true GIG fashion, we created this video for you.
Intent, GaiamTV and Volunteer Match are also joining virtual forces with us to share via their social media platforms each of the 12 days. We need your help to spead cheer and inspiration in your community.
Thanks for the love — won’t you join us?
Check GoInspireGo.com starting Thursday, Dec. 13! We’re counting down to Christmas by sharing our inspiring videos for 12 consecutive days on GIG’s website and blog.
HOW TO TAKE ACTION:
Our goal is to see how many countries we can get to share our campaign.
1. We need you and your friends/community to download this special 12 days GIG logo and post it as your/their profile pic for 12 days.
2. Share our FB posts/tweets everyday for 12 days.
We want to see how many countries we can reach with our message.
*Day 1* Inspire to write a letter to a soldier:
GIG teams up with Kind Healthy Snacks to wish our soldiers a happy holiday and express appreciation for all that they’ve done for our country.
Call to action: Inspire to create and write a hand-written letter to a solider in the military
* Make sure to check back tomorrow for Day 2!
(Special thanks to Sirima Sataman, of Ink.Paper.Plate for helping us personalize our KIND GIG cards with her letter press. Loved pressing each card by hand!)
Do you ever wonder what happens to your partially used soap bars after leaving your hotel?
I’ve always thought it was such a waste that I only use half the bar or mini-bottle of shampoo, conditioner and body wash. I take them home, then they sit in a zip-lock bag and get old. I always feel guilty for throwing them out.
So when I heard about 17-year-old Raghav Rajvanshy’s nonprofit organization, Rcoz, I had to share. His mission: to collect and re-purpose partially bars of soap from hotels and send them to underprivileged communities who do not have access to basic hygiene and sanitation.
Photos: Shekhar Rajvanshy
When Raghav was 14-years-old, he traveled to India and stayed at a hotel across from the slums. It didn’t make sense that the people living in extreme poverty, didn’t have access to basic hygiene and sanitation while many hotel guests were throwing away bottles of partially used soap.
His heart sank when he saw the poor people using ash and sand to wash their hands.
His research revealed the dirty truth. Thousands of hotels throw away millions of pounds of soap daily. Most of the bottles of partially used soap end up in land fills, further contaminating the ground water.
* Special thanks to GIG Volunteer Akina Chargalauf who was so inspired by Rcoz’s mission, she shot and edited this on her iPhone.
Gigster: Raghav Rajvanshy
Where: Fremont, Calif.
Spark: Don’t be wasteful. Be thoughtful and environmentally aware. Join forces with Rcoz to give the gift of hygiene.
His goal is to inspire you to join forces with Rcoz and do
a small act — what you can do — to help him provide basic hygiene and
sanitation to those in need; to promote social and environmentally
responsible practices in the hospitality industry while involving youth
and community to help him educate people through his educational
campaign to prevent the spread of infection and diseases.
Action always starts with awareness. Like many of us, Raghav witnessed waste, people in need and during a trip to Yosemite National Park, he realized the nature’s natural gifts. It made sense for him to do his part to clean up communities in need and the environment. What can YOU do? It all starts with one small act. Go Raghav Go!
How the GIG Spark experience inspired Raghav:
“The GIG Spark experience really had a deep impact on me. I wasn’t aware that there are so many other people trying and succeeding in making a difference in the world through simple ideas. One of the things about the GIG videos that surprised me is the variety of issues they cover, trying to solve everything from global warming to world hunger. All of these people truly inspire me every day and motivate me to work harder and harder towards my own goal of promoting global hygiene and improving the environment. I see GIG Spark as a great virtual community of youngsters who can learn and take inspiration from each other to help shape the future of our world in a very positive way.”
Holiday Help Needed!
1. This holiday, Rcoz will collect and distribute care packages to the homeless in San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley. They’re collecting unused travel-sized toiletries, tooth and toothpaste from your dentist. NOTE: Deadline for this holiday distribution is 12/12/12. Other donations are accepted all-year long.
2. Donate/contribute what you can: Rcoz needs funding and volunteers to:
-Establish relationships with the hospitality industry
-Collect, rebatch and deliver soap
For more information on how you can take action e-mail: email@example.com
3. Spread the word: Share this video! We hope this video inspires you to be thoughtful this holiday season and use your power to help others.
About GIG Spark:
GIG Spark was developed to create compassion through the exercise of brainstorming, problem solving and experiencing the joy of using your power to help others.
About Go Inspire Go (GIG):
GIG is about inspiring small actions that ripple out to meaningful changes. As we’ve experienced, the ripples continue to billow out, one story, one person, one act at a time.
FEELING INSPIRED? Make your own GIG SPARK and share with us. We may share it with the world.
As part of GIG’s mission to inspire our viewers to discover their power, we developed GIG Spark: A Lesson on Compassion. The goal is to spark action in everyone that witnesses your good deed. We want you to identify a problem in your community and be the change by capturing your action in a short 1-1:30 minute video. Use your passion and creativity to produce a GIG Spark and inspire viewers with your story!
Kim Shand, a nationally-renowned yoga expert, knows that life is not always fair. Born with severe scoliosis and vertebrae not fully formed, her prognosis was bleak. Doctors thought she would be paralyzed. She was expected to have stunted growth and a long list of medical complications. They wanted to pump her little body with medicine, screw a metal halo into her skull and brace down her back.
At age five, Kim’s parents introduced her to yoga and strength training. Her life changed physically, mentally and spiritually. She says her body self-corrected and miraculously, cartilage grew around her under-formed vertebrae.
Then in her early adulthood, Kim life fell off-balance after her father and uncle passed away and after losing her job. You’ll be amazed by how she bounced back and rediscovered yoga and is inspiring tens of thousands of people to take control of their health.
It’s hard to believe from these pictures and video that Kim endured such a painful start in life.
In a special edition of Go Inspire Go’s “Tea with Toan”, we met Kim on the mat in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to share Kim’s inspiring and empowering story and life lessons that will inspire you to rethink yoga and rethink your life.
Instead of living a life full self-pity, Kim grounded herself on the mat and embraced the challenges – which in turn stretched her possibilities beyond the limits of what seems humanly possible.
Through yoga, Kim’s life mission is to inspire as many people as possible to be present enough to listen to their bodies. “I am teaching people how to take responsibility of their health and lives. They have choices,” Kim explained. “The health care system in America is broken. We need to empower the country to regain their health.”
Kim believes yoga should be accessible to everyone, that’s why she gives away “as many free yoga videos” as possible on her Rethink Yoga website.
At Go Inspire Go, we love ripples… many of her students are giving back to her by helping her produce many of the free videos you see on her website.
I’ve experienced Yoga with Kim in person and often start my day getting into the rhythm and rhyme of Kim’s yoga videos.
Her uniquely calm melodic voice and energy are as soothing as they are strengthening. You can’t meet Kim or experience her yoga videos without feeling recharged, refocused and ready to receive and seize life’s lessons. We’d love to hear your thoughts about how yoga has changed your life in the comments section below.
When you hear about Nico Castro, a courageous 6-year-old boy from Northern California, who despite his battle with brain cancer, brought Halloween to his friends in the hospital, you can’t help but want to use your power to help this real-life super hero.
“Even though he’s worse off than some of these other kids on the hospital, he’s worried about them. They can’t go trick or treating and they can’t get candy,” said Marlene Castro, Nico’s mother.
After Nico was diagnosed with brain cancer last fall, he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to celebrate Halloween, his favorite holiday. Thanks to a break in treatment, this caped crusader was given the all clear. “He likes being Batman because it covers his bald head. He’s self conscious,” Castro says holding back tears.
But the news was bittersweet. Nico was sad his friends in the hospital wouldn’t be able to experience Halloween. “What about the other kids?” Nico’s Father, Raul Castro said, “Can we go to Target and get costumes for the kids?” But with the mounting hospital bills, it was impossible for the family to buy costumes and goodie bags for 50 of his friends at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center.
They came up with an idea: start a costume drive to bring Halloween to the hospital. This Halloween hero’s goal was to collect 50 costumes and goodie bags. Since Go Inspire Go (GIG) is about featuring everyday heroes, leveraging social media to build community and spark civic engagement, we had to tell Nico’s story and multiply his good deed.
Nico’s tight knit community would pitched in and were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from viewers around the country. Watch the video that sparked a nation wide movement:
GIG shared his story, Nico quadrupled his goal and collected more than 200 costumes. Additionally, supporters sent him more than $1,500.
The local and nationwide media has ensued.A producer at NBC Nightly Newswith Brian Williams called me the day after we uploaded the video. I invited them to join us as we produced a follow up of Nico’s dropping off costumes to his bed-ridden friends in the hospital. Check out our follow up video:
“I’m so honored to be his mom. God really did bless me by making me this little boy’s mother. He adds so much love and so much light to our eyes and it’s great to see that he’s able to touch and impact others lives as well. It’s inspiring for all of us,” said Castro.
I will always remember the image of Nico walking down the halls of the hospital as he delivered costumes and goodie bags to his sick friends. He put on his sanitary mask – a fire fighter’s costume clenched in one hand, the other clasping his older brother’s hand — my heart sank. But that feeling didn’t last long. As soon as the parents and children saw Nico, their eyes filled with joy and smiles widened. Their spirits were lifted.
Jackie Jumper’s daughter received a witch costume and coloring book from Nico. “It’s all very overwhelming for me. It’s overwhelming to be here with Anne, but it’s more overwhelming that a child who is so sick can think of other children at this time and what they need. It’s not just a costume or a coloring book. It’s about children being happy around these wonderful holidays that they enjoy so much. I remember Halloween growing up and it was one of my favorites. It’s just special to these kids. It’s very heartwarming and special for him to do that,” Jumper said.
The kindness continues to ripple outward. Sydney Burnett, a 14-year-old who was given a costume from Nico couldn’t stop smiling. “It makes me think I don’t have it so bad. He’s worse off than me and he is helping others. It makes me want to do something to help someone else,” Burnett promised.
What can YOU do – to give back to someone in need?
*Special thanks to everyone who responded to our calls for donations:
The theme: Community Heroes. I’ve been invited to speak in front of prestigious crowds of adults, but never this many children. I’m proficient in public speaking, but worried if the presentation Kala Shah, a mother of a Sun Valley student, and I put together would hold the attention of 500 little people for 30 minutes. Would they pay attention? Would they get our message? Would they take action?
Words can’t describe the tingles, endorphins and excitement – the chills – that I felt during that presentation — inspiring the children to “Use their POWER to help others.”
It is one of my most memorable experiences as a journalist, public speaker and inspirator
We created a video to share the experience in hopes of inspiring you to share this blog with at least one young person in your life and perhaps spark your own GIG Spark:
During the presentation, I showed them two video examples. The first video we showcased was a GIG original feature (of regular everyday heroes). This video exemplifies GIG’s goal: to inspire viewers to discover, see and share inspiring stories, then to use their power to help others. Naturally, we shared Part 3 of then kindergartener, Phoebe Russell’s story of how she inspired her community to enable the San Francisco Food Bank to dole out more than 150,000 meals. It all started with five-year-old Phoebe’s letter writing campaign to collect aluminum cans to help feed the hungry in her community:
The second video featured a GIG Spark example. Mini Rasekhy, 14, wanted to inspire smiles, so she and her mother took to the streets and used her voice to spread cheer:
I’m impressed with Julie Harris, Sun Valley’s principal, parents like Kala Shah and the faculty and staff at this special school that goes beyond teaching the basics of arithmetic, science, literature, etc. They inspire good citizens with the three Rs: Respect, Responsibility and Ready to Learn.
Sun Valley Principal Julie Harris getting students ready for the assembly with 3 Rs
I still wonder how this presentation will resonate within them in the future. As my university lit professor, Carolyn Weber would say, “I am shooting arrows out into the world, I wonder where they will land.”
This experience taught me a lot about children. I learned never to underestimate the potential and capacity of a young mind to grasp concepts of compassion and action. I learned that if you have a positive message that inspires goodness, you can captivate the audience of any age.
I am honored and amazed that we captured their attention for 30 minutes!
I can’t wait to see how this presentation will resonate with them through their GIG SPARKS and actions of compassion that they’re learning through this experience.
Many parents tell me they want their child to get civically engaged, but don’t know how. Likewise, many of my students tell me they want to do better for their community, but don’t know how. Well, GIG SPARK is your answer. Join us in making a video on this LESSON ON COMPASSION.
I believe kids are naturally in tune with kindness, giving and service. Wouldn’t it be great if we adults paused right this minute and channel our inner child and do one kind thing for another person?
Kala Shah, Toan Lam, Erin Sitt, Akina Chargaulaf
As Maya Angelou said, “If you know better, you do better.” Now you know, please help our youth do better.
What can YOU do?!
1. Many adults tell me they want to inspire the spirit of service in their children, but don’t know how. Here is the answer. Show our presentation to at least one young person in your life and send us your GIG SPARK: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. This presentation inspired Kala Shah to create a new “Community Heroes Club” to brainstorm service projects. She will share the GIG SPARKS that are ignited from the club via GIG. Make it your gig to start a Community Heroes club and let us know about it.
3. Be kind to one another. Let us know what kind things you’re experiencing via our social networks: Twitter & Facebook
Nico Shopping for Sick Friends. Photos: Marlene Castro
Six-year-old Nico Castro from San Bruno, Calif., isn’t letting his battle with brain cancer affect his spirit of giving this Halloween. After his doctor gave him the green light to go trick-or-treating thanks to a break in his chemotherapy, he was jumping for jack-o’ lanterns, what a treat! But here’s where it gets tricky.
“Even though he’s worse off than some of these other kids in the hospital, he’s worried about them and oh they can’t go trick-or-treating and oh they can’t get candy,” said Nico’s mother, Marlene Castro, in a proud, but somber voice.
This worried little Halloween hero with a big heart asked his parents if they could buy costumes and treats for the kids in the cancer ward.
“I was sad they wouldn’t have candy,” Nico explained. Marlene and her
husband Raul Castro were moved by his thoughtfulness, however, it would be impossible to buy costumes and goodies for the more than 50 sick kids in the hospital. The family took a big financial hit after Nico’s diagnosis.
Nico knows what it feels like to have to sit on the sidelines during the holidays. Last November, instead of celebrating, he was in the hospital too ill to take part in the festivities. He was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, cancer of the cerebellum. But during this scary time, all he could think about was if he would be healthy enough to celebrate his favorite holiday — Halloween.
So in true superhero fashion, they took action and started a costume drive. “We were so surprised from the support outside of our community. The community really came together and packages of costumes are coming from Pennsylvania, Illinois and Texas,” Raul said. “The costumes, the little trinkets that the kids in the beds are getting…just an instant and it changes their demeanor and whole attitude about being sick.”
Beware: grab a Kleenex before watching this Halloween hero’s story:
It’s amazing to see how the community comes together when they’re given a healthy dose of inspiration. After meeting Nico, I quickly realized his superhero power is inspiring people to expand their minds, be more compassionate and to open their hearts.
After an initial call with Nico’s mother to set up this shoot, I couldn’t help but pitch in. I made some calls to local businesses and told them about Nico’s story. Sparky’s Balloons in San Francisco donated the festive bouquet of balloons and a goodie bag filled with spooky toys and trinkets. My good friend Jessica Chang reached out to Daydreams and Nightmares, a local costume shop in Modesto, Calif., that donated 20 costumes. Green Apple Books in San Francisco donated a $25 gift card
after hearing that Nico likes to read. Our Facebook friend, Amanda Rivas from San Jose, Calif., saw our FB shout out, donated 15 costumes and came along to our shoot to surprise Nico. Thanks Rivas family!
Since my nonprofit Go Inspire Go brings you stories of everyday heroes, leverages social media to build community and ultimately inspire action, we had a few tricks up our sleeves — so I reached out to super mom Amy Pankratz, founder of Wonder Capes in Sioux Falls, S.D. and BAM, she quickly crafted a custom Batman cape for Nico and two other capes for his brother, 11, and sister, 8. I told her that Nico likes Batman because the mask covers his bald head. She told me that made her sad, so she made an extra trip to the fabric store and crafted a mask too.
The donations and kind acts continue to pour in. My friends asked if we could go to the hospital on Halloween to hand out goodies to the kids. The community has pitch in to offset some of the medical costs. More than $1,200 has trickled in.
It is hard to sit back and not take action after meeting this inspiring family who embody the real meaning of family, generosity and being present. “If you would have asked me a year ago that my son would be battling brain cancer and I would be going to the hospital daily, I would have never believed it,” Marlene explained. “Ironically, every year we would give donations to St. Jude’s Hospital for sick children.”
It’s easy to see where Nico got his kindness, compassion and giving spirit. When you hear of Nico’s story, you can’t help but reflect on your own life. As a kid, I thought Halloween was about ghosts, goblins, candy and costumes. But as I get older, I realize that at its core, this hallowed holiday is more about giving, not just with candy, but sharing and revering in these little moments with each other.
We grew up on welfare, so buying a cheap $5 costume was expensive to us. I have vivid memories of autumn. I can smell the morning
dew on the vibrant leaves that crinkled under my little feet — orange, yellow, brown. My brothers and I were excited for my auntie Hong to get off work and take us costume shopping at the local Thrifty’s and Newberry. I remember playing with the flash lights, Halloween Pez dispensers and toys in the store aisles that I would have to put back because we didn’t have the money to buy them. Still, we were happy because each of us left with a costume.
I never told Auntie Hong how this little gesture and the inexpensive costumes meant the world to us. That’s all we cared about. Experiences and connections and simple acts of generosity are what this holiday is truly about. Ironically, Auntie Hong passed away of breast cancer at age 47. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Auntie Hong’s kind seasonal act had a profound impact on how I see the world today. Her kindness was passed along for many holidays to come. My parents didn’t understand or celebrate Halloween or many other holidays, so I made a concerted effort to make holidays a big deal for my younger cousins and now for my nephew and niece. It’s inspired me to be kinder to others, give what I can, and to be present and live every day with the attitude of gratitude all year round. It’s interesting how the little moments in life come full circle.
Now that I have a voice and a platform, I’m using it to multiply the deeds of superheroes like Nico.
Nico has undergone extensive surgery to remove his brain tumor, which was about four-and-a-half inches big. Doctors were able to remove most of the tumor from his cerebellum, but couldn’t take out the rest of it because it was attached to his brain stem. Meanwhile, doctors believe the prognosis is good, but worry about how the treatment will affect Nico’s standard of living in the long run.
This one’s for you Auntie Hong. Nico, my Halloween hero, thank you for your thoughtfulness and allowing me to say thank you to my Auntie by telling your story!
There is no better way to relax, recharge and reconnect to your spirit than unplugging your gadgets and getting some R&R in nature. From Tweeting to Instagramming, there are so many cool things that are keeping us from connecting the old school way — especially amongst our youth who grew up with electronics in their phalanges.
I love social media, but I try to keep it balanced with exercise and of course going on walks along the water and being enveloped in the trees. It was my personal goal to spend more time with mother nature this year. I always feel these indescribable feelings of stillness and peace afterward.
So, naturally, I was delighted to see Rachel Choi’s GIG Spark (Lesson on Compassion) submission. Her goal is to inspire people to disconnect from technology and connect with each other (after you read this blog and see this video, of course). Being in nature is like a long meditation and the best part is that it’s free.
Gigster: Rachel Choi, 17 Where: Hercules, Calif. Spark: Get out and enjoy nature
GIG Spark was developed to create compassion through the exercise of brainstorming, problem solving and experiencing the joy of using your power to help others. Rachel shares her thoughts about what this particular experience meant to her:
“Something GIG Spark taught me? Don’t stop yourself from doing something just because you think it’s not going to change anything. Whether what you do is monumental or small, whether it affects a million people or just one person, what’s important is that you did something. It’s human nature to resist change, but at least you presented a chance to plant a seed of change in someone’s mind.”
We hope this video inspires you to round up some friends and family and enjoy nature.
1. Go camping
2. Go on a walk by yourself or with loved ones
3. Do what is in your power to help Empowering World Change, a nonprofit that spreads the message of sustainability and empowering kids for global change.
Go Inspire Go (GIG) is about inspiring small actions that ripple out to meaningful changes. As we’ve experienced, the ripples continue to billow out, one story, one person, one act at a time.
FEELING INSPIRED? Make your own GIG SPARK and share with us. We may share it with the world.
As part of GIG’s mission to inspire our viewers to discover their power, we developed GIG Spark: A Lesson on Compassion. The goal is to spark action in everyone that witnesses your good deed. We want you to identify a problem in your community and be the change by capturing your action in a short 1-1:30 minute video. Use your passion and creativity to produce a GIG Spark and inspire viewers with your story! What can YOU do?