Tag Archives: Toan Lam

Arizona Teen Believes Positive Peer Pressure Could End Bullying

Drum roll please… What started out as a crazy idea has manifested. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We’re so excited to unveil our first hero to you!

The Be O.N.E. Project

Who: Matthew Kaplan, 16-years-old

What: Peer-to-Peer Anti-Bullying Program Targeting Middle Schools

Where: Phoenix

Why: It’s cool to be kind!

The Catalyst: Bullying is a topic of concern in schools across America. With convenient access to digital devices and social media, hurtful messages are multiplied and spread like chicken pox. Adding to the angst, kids can post harmful messages with anonymity, ease and without a real-time reaction from the victim.

Two years ago, when Matthew Kaplan’s kid brother Josh was bullied in middle school, he decided he had to do something. “One day, he came home from school and his self-confidence was shaken,” Matthew said. “He started to withdraw and wasn’t himself anymore.”

Josh said he received dozens of hurtful text messages, like “you suck”. What made things worse — he discovered that his friends, disguised behind blocked phone numbers, were sending the messages. It may sound benign, but at that age, friends are your world, so when you get several messages, you start to think there really is something wrong with you. “It felt horrible,” Josh said. “I probably cried every day in the 4th and 5th grade.”

Big brother Matthew took advocacy to a heroic level by creating the anti-bullying peer experiential program, The Be O.N.E. (Open to New Experiences) Project.

The Act: Through this journey, Matthew discovered his passion: Building community and fostering a positive school culture.

But how? He researched anti-bullying programs targeting middle schoolers, but could only find high school programs and believes that “the damage” is done by that age. “It’s been ingrained, become habit. You have to get them in middle school — that’s when they’re figuring out their sense of self,” Matthew said.

Without an example, Matthew decided to create a middle school anti-bullying program using peer pressure in a positive way. “What if it were cool to be kind?” he preaches enthusiastically. “What if peer pressure could be used as inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness? When they have this tool, they could either be supportive or disruptive. I want them to recognize that they have the power.”

The Be O.N.E. Project is a “positive peer pressure” program. It starts with fun exercises, like holding hands in a big circle and passing a hula hoop around without letting go of hands. There’s joy and lots of laughing. Kids get to know each other and make connections.

The day progresses with focused, serious exercises when kids are asked to sit in a circle and have 90 seconds each to finish the following sentence: “When others see me, they think _____. But if they really knew who I am _____.”

“The Be O.N.E.” challenge is the last activity. When Matthew, who delivers self-defining statements with the passion of an older brother and conviction of a minister, describes a situation, kids are instructed to stand in a line and “Be One” to cross an imaginary line, if the description resonates with them.

At the end of the program, there is a noticeable change of enlightenment and compassion in the kids. Many have tears.

Grab a tissue and watch how every single kid has “crossed a line.” Be inspired to take action — you will discover that you have the power to BE ONE person that is the change-maker in your community:

The Ripples: Matthew has inspired more than 150 Arizona teachers and high school students to be team leaders during the day-long middle school program.

We spoke to students who participated and asked them how it changed their lives. Their answers were mature, candid and give me hope.

“If I was going to send a text that would hurt their feelings, I would think about it
and delete it and say something nice.”
-Sam, 14, 8th grader

“A group of 6th graders that didn’t go through the program, they’re like the popular
kids, now they’re bullying a bunch of the 5th graders. But all the kids that did (go through the program) are trying to stop it. Really helps to go through the program. It changes your ways.”
-Kayla, 11, 6th grader

“I look for people who are eating alone (at lunch) and I talk to them. I made many new
friends this way.”
-Anonymous

Matthew’s goal is to get “The Be O.N.E” program in every Arizona middle school. We believe he will reach this goal. Join in on the fun and be the one who inspires kindness in your community. After all, it is cool to be kind.

What can YOU do?!

Take Action:

1. Support The Be O.N.E. Project

2. Be the O.N.E. to change your school culture. Invite Matthew Kaplan to come present at your school: thebeoneproject@gmail.com

3. Learn more about what YOU can do!

For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.

Join us & Go Inspire Go…

Girls Inc.: Changing the World Through Girl Power!

Go Inspire Go is proud to present this month’s Social Good Spotlight to raise awareness of organizations doing good in their communities in order to inspire others to take action and ultimately make real social change. For more information and to read past Social Good Spotlights, click here.

Compiled by Toan Lam and Koshi Sandrasagra

What is Girls Incorporated (Girls Inc.)?

Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire all girls to be strong (through healthy living), smart (through education) and bold (through independence). Founded in 1958, Girls Inc. offers academic enrichment activities, skill-building programs and counseling services to girls and their families.

girls+powGirls Inc. of Alameda County provides year-round academic achievement and skills-building programs, as well as counseling services to more than 7,500 girls and families.

Girls Inc. believes that generations are transformed when girls are equipped with knowledge, information and confidence. Girls ages 5-18 are engaged in a continuum of award-winning programs, developing the essential skills and tools they need for college, career and life success.

How does it work?

The process: Girls Inc. begins with teaching the foundations of literacy and they support girls developmentally with each milestone along the way. This includes focus on academic achievement, positive risk taking, health and fitness, advocacy, leadership and more. The organization is unique in that they focus on serving the whole girl and her family as well, by providing on-site mental health counseling among all of the other programs offered. Their nationally-developed programs are the result of studies conducted by the Girls Incorporated National Resource Center – the largest and most comprehensive research center on girls in the country.

Spotlight on Major Accomplishments (to name just a few!):

  • 100 percent of Girls Inc. seniors graduate from high school (compared to less than 60 percent of their peers) and in the last five years, 98.2 percent of seniors have enrolled in college (most of whom are the first in their families to do so).
  • More than 1,500 girls across the country have participated in technology and literacy curricula initially developed by Girls Inc. of Alameda County.
  • Named by the Clinton Global Initiative as one of the 13 programs that “will improve the lives of girls and women around the world.”
  • Received the United Nation’s East Bay’s 6th Annual Global Citizen Award

Personal Victories:

  • In Spring 2012, Arooj Haq, who was an active participant in Girls Inc. programs from early elementary school though high school graduation, was inducted into Alameda County’s Women’s Hall of Fame for her work in public health and advocating for human rights. In Girls Inc. Arooj, at 17, promoted nutrition, smart choices and healthy relationships to her high school peers, and helped run her school’s annual blood drive. The daughter of two Pakistani immigrants, Arooj has long aspired to be a nurse. A recent trip to the Middle East caused her to expand her aspirations, however. Her goal now is to one day open a charity helping women in her parents’ native country. As a young Muslim woman, Arooj has had some negative experiences due to others’ ignorance and stereotyping. The experiences only bolster her determination to be a positive role model and to redefine cultural assumptions. She now attends U.C. Santa Barbara!
  • Two Eureka! Teen Achievement Program high school participants were invited to the 2012 White House Science Fair based on their solar bus design and met President Barack Obama.

The New Girls Inc. Simpson Center for Girls

Girls Inc. of Alameda County has unveiled new headquarters to become the region’s first and only resource center for girls. The new center is located at 510 16th St in Downtown Oakland, and will effectively allow Girls Inc. to respond to the increasing demand for their critical programs.

The genius of the design for the center is not just that it revitalizes a historic building, but that it began with Girls Inc. participants!

Girls from the Eureka! Teen Achievement Program met with Berkeley-based Anne Phillips Architecture and spearheaded the project – getting regular project updates, providing design input and ideas to create a green, sustainable facility and making key decisions on efficient fixtures and design.

The end result is a flexible design concept that will support expanded programs and services, including:
  • Learning and education – Expanded space for high school girls to build skills in leadership, advocacy and peer education.
  • Physical and mental health – a vibrant health and wellness center and teaching kitchen, with a focus on cooking, nutrition, a yoga center and the Pathways Center for counseling.
  • Academic Achievement and Enrichment – Early learning, tutoring, college prep and career guidance, a library, study areas and Internet café.

Take Action:

In the media era where young women are bombarded with conflicting messages and values (think The Notorious B.I.G. singing about “Nasty Girl” and reality TV stars and pop idols making sex tapes to get famous) – there is a very real need to give young women a sense of pride, self-worth and purpose. Girls Inc. is providing a very real service in communities that need it; giving young girls the building blocks to create their futures, rather than having a future thrust upon them through poverty and a lack of education or opportunity.

Get involved by joining the Girls Inc. strong, smart & bold campaign and help them change the world: one girl, one family, one community at a time.

Become a volunteer, join our Girls Inc. Friends & Family and donate, become a Women of Impact member or partner with Girls Inc.!

There are so many opportunities to help us change the world, one girl at a time. Get involved!

The Spiritual Journey of Crowd-funding

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 4.59.02 PMEveryday I wake up and count my blessings. I’m grateful to have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and most importantly, I am breathing. This month there was additional energy swirling around me and Go Inspire Go (GIG).

As many of you know, Go Inspire Go embarked on our 50/50 crowd funding journey 36 days ago. We’re on a quest to uncover 50 everyday heroes in 50 states. We are about 85% of the way to our $25,000 goal with just 4 days to go!

Over a year ago, my board members Marcia and Connie planted the seed about crowd-funding and waited for me to say ‘GO’. We chose Indiegogo for our 50/50 campaign.

With more than 40+ volunteers on this campaign, I confidently assumed, “we got this.” Connie, our campaign cheerleader organized and managed us with spreadsheets galore. We were ready!

IMG_8242Pre-planning meetings included: generating buzz with social media, examining case studies, e-mail outreach to schools, artists nonprofit organizations, design elements which included a handful of technical/design friends who helped with the title animation and logo for our video. And of course, many iterations of our campaign video. This took more than 100 hours to produce.

No one could predict what happened after we launched… One of our volunteer’s grandmother passed away. She rushed to Los Angeles to plan the funeral. Another volunteer spontaneously collapsed in the bathroom, slamming her face into a metal shelf as she became unconscious and another volunteer had two surgeries followed by her apartment flooding.

What was going on?!

You know that saying, all things come in 3’s. Not true. I got a call from my cousin in Michigan, who told me her mom passed way from lung cancer. Coincidentally, I got another a call from a close childhood friend, who told me her mom (whom I consider family) was battling the late stage of lung cancer too. Whaaat? I. Need. Time. To. Process…
I had a campaign to run, videos to shoot and blogs push out. Throw into the mix six classes to teach and grading.

You know the saying, “challenges are here to teach you something?” Even though I always try to look for the silver lining, I’ve spent all month wondering what this was supposed to teach me. Just a glimmer, please?

IMG_3474Today, I got it.

For me, the GIG campaign goal was to raise awareness, consciousness and inspire action. It ended up being much more – this has been a spiritual journey. If you look at my gratitude journal, you’ll see that a constant theme or mantra is “I feel supported.”

This platform allowed my team and me to create and organize a movement and to encourage everyone I care for to use their power, in any way, to help make their community a better place. As long as I have the support of my team and viewers like you I can continue supporting the community heroes we feature. I’ve been working tirelessly with a team of 60-80 volunteers for the past 4 years on pieces of the puzzle: production of videos and blogs, design elements, and searching for ways to make this a sustainable long lasting, impactful vessel that serves people like you.

But this is why we do what we do:

 People like Michael Fullam, a 50/50 donor who recently reached out to tell me that GIG has helped him feel hopeful in a time of hopelessness – this on the heels of his mother’s recent death.


 People like Ron Holt, a GIG hero, who is on a crusade to inspire equality around the world through his unique research about the biology of sexuality and his message of authenticity. People have reached out to Ron telling him they’re glad to have come across the video and hear his message because it saved their lives. Another viewer came out to Ron and for the first time came to terms and accepted with an authentic self.

A viewer wrote to Ron:

My name is (removed) I am a young gay male (17), I have not been at any of your conferences, but I did see your video on youtube, and would like to personally thank you! I wish someone like you came and told me that being gay is okay alot sooner then I found out. I told my mother I was gay at 15 and I have been living alone since then working full time all because I was gay something so small can really change the way people view you! So thank you very much for helping and educating other on this problem of gay hate I really do appreciate it!

And people like YOU, who email, comment and share our content.

This is just the tip of the impact we’ve created. I could have never imaged when I started this little idea in 2009. Our videos and blogs show the world that YOU can make a difference both big and small. We just want you to GO … get inspired … and GO do it!


 There’s nothing more gratifying than being able to give someone the gift of awareness of their own power and ability to give back. Simply put JOY. 


Every minute we have in the day is a opportunity for us to share our gift of joy.

It seemed that every time a barrier was presented to us, there was an invisible ladder, a rope, a helping hand. Just like miracles, we don’t always see them, but I know we feel them – if we are present (and focus on our breath).

Miracles during this 50/50 journey:

1. We are more than 85% away from our goal. We have 4 days left. Please donate and share like crazy!

2. More people have joined our campaign, we started with about 10 and now we have 40+ volunteers

3. Wize Commerce will donate $5,000 to our campaign and are developing a Corporate Challenge from local companies to donate and inspire volunteerism amongst their team

4. Pollination Project will give our first hero featured a $1,000 seed grant

5. Despite all that has happened to our team, we are still breathing

For those of you who have donated, reached out to your network to share our message and all the social media followers that have liked us, we wish there was a ‘LOVE’ button for you all.

And to my amazing team, THANK YOU for all the hard work and love and for pushing me to be a better person and leader!

P.S. Want to learn more about our journey leading up to this 50/50 campaign? Check out our special 50/50 blog posts!

Go Inspire Go: Why YOUth Matter

Zararwadi SmileIf I could choose one quote that defines the ethos of our youth today, it would be, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” Simple but sweet words carefully crafted by my favorite poet, Dr. Maya Angelou.

This is a bold statement, I know, but hear me out.

Before I was invited to develop curriculum at the Academy of Art’s (AAU) Multimedia Department and the University of San Francisco, I too believed that many young folks were apathetic, entitled and not in touch with reality.

Boy, was I wrong. Or as my students would say, “You got moded.”

Reality Check #1: A few years ago, I was given the rare opportunity to build and teach a high school summer bridge program at AAU. I thought that my students would be excited to execute the final I had prepared. “You are going to create a short video on ‘hot spots’ in San Francisco. It could be a cool place to hang out, shop or eat.” I instructed in a sure tone of voice. I thought hands down, students would be stoked.

Instead, hands eagerly went up. The questions they asked changed the trajectory of my stereotypes toward the youth.

One student raised her hand and said, “My mom was so excited that you were teaching us because she follows Go Inspire Go (my nonprofit) on social media.” Another student said, “Yeah my friends follow you on Twitter in Sweden.” A third student said her friends who live in the Midwest follow our stories. Their collective wish: “Can we do our video on a story for GIG and if it’s good enough, would you post it?” My heart skipped a beat. Chills ran from head to my feet.

I was taken aback.

Julian Cohen, a high school junior from Jersey City, N.J., saw an article in his local newspaper about a reverend who wanted to build a high school in Grande Saline, Haiti, following the devastating earthquake in 2010. Cohen was sad that there was no high school in Grande Saline and was inspired to make a video to engage action. This led to two youth movements that eventually sent 32 kids to school for one year in Haiti.

This led me to create a GIG program called GIG Spark, Lesson on Compassion. Students think about a problem and how they could be part of the solution. They create a short 90 second video and send it to us to multiply their message.

Reality Check #2: I’m exited to announce that Go Inspire Go partnered up with The Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA, YouTube, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation and National Youth Radio to create GIG Sparks with youth at the Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA. They wanted to make videos that inspire compassion, change and a shift in perspective.

If you watch the local media here in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’d think that this area is only known for its crime, violence and destitution. I found that there was so much hope for the youth living in this area of the City.

Photo Courtesy: Oscar Nilsson/ Interview with Betty Sells-Asberry, YMCA Teen Services Director

When I spent an afternoon training six of these young YMCA change makers, I was filled with pride. Kier Wilson, Tajae Hill, and Jonkia Davis were amazingly inspiring. They were so proud to call the Bayview Hunter’s Point their home, but were deeply saddened their neighborhood is viewed as “the ghetto.” They wanted to do something to change the negative perception of their community.

Thank you to YouTube and the Mayor’s office for inviting us to share our “GIG Spark” as an innovative, organized and fun way to inspire the YMCA kids to accomplish this mission.

* This video was created by four of my students at AAU — youth — who asked to come along on the shoot. Thanks Oscar Nilsson, Marcus Pettersson, Eva Broman, and Hugo Albrektsson for your great work!

Reality Check #3: At the University of San Francisco, my alma mater, I was asked to design and teach a Blogging for Social Change course. On the first day, I asked students, “What is your passion?”

With optimism and determination, one student said, “I want people to get out of their bubble and do something to help the people in their community.”

‘Nuff said! Amen to that.

As a kid, I felt insignificant. I thought I didn’t matter. I didn’t feel like I had a voice. What would a Chinese immigrant boy, growing up in a rough South Sacramento neighborhood, say of any importance? Why would anyone care?

I wonder how many youth feel like that today. What if adults took a moment to listen to the youngsters in their lives and hear them out. With a little guidance, support and inspiration, we too could be a part of inspiring a new generation of people who teach what they learn and give what they get!

* * *

Take Action:
* Check out “I LOVE Bayview” on Improve SF!
* Share their stories on social media and by word of mouth.
* Volunteer at your local YMCA

Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

Photo credit: Flickr

5 Amazing Stories from Go Inspire Go’s 50/50 Campaign

Many have written about the ability of social media to disperse information and create networks, but is it affecting any real social change? There are plenty of examples of social networking platforms playing essential roles in social movements, often in an organic, if scattered and chaotic, fashion. But the folks at Go Inspire Go (GIG) are taking a different approach. Their aim is to create organized, social media-driven campaigns to trigger overarching change on social issues.

Easier said than done. What makes people actually change their ways and beliefs? What final straw acts as the catalyst for reform? You might say “give people the facts,” or “use statistics to make an argument,” or “wait for a catastrophic event to get people moving.” For GIG, the power lies in sharing inspiring, relatable stories to show people that small steps can lead to real transformation.

That’s why GIG’s leader Toan Lam came up with the idea to document 50 inspiring stories, one from each of the 50 United States, to paint a portrait of local, everyday heroes in communities around the country. They are calling the initiative “50/50″ and dispersing the stories via their YouTube channel – a great thing to check out if you’re ever in need of an inspiring pick-me-up. From an 8-year-old’s freedom-inspired lemonade stand to a woman who makes custom Superhero capes for sick children, these stories are guaranteed to strike a empathetic chord. In conjunction with the 50 stories, GIG also oversees a “Tea with Toan” video chat series, leadership training for millennials, and monthly blogs on various nonprofits working for social change.

We are inspired by the many ways people are rallying to use social media to make a difference in the world, and these video stories poignantly capture these efforts.

Here are five of our favorite stories from the 50/50 campaign:

1. After witnessing homelessness for the first time, 5-year-old Phoebe from San Francisco spearheaded a campaign to raise money to feed the hungry in her city. She has raised over $18,000 already for the SF Food Bank!

2. Psychiatrist Dr. Ron Holt decided to cut back on his private practice in order to travel around the country speaking about and educating people on LGBT issues and the science of sexuality. He discusses the devastating impacts of bullying and discrimination, with the goal of inspiring communities to adopt more inclusive values.

3. In response to recent riots in London, one couple decided to take alternative action. It started when they offered one particularly exhausted-looking sergeant a cup of tea, and spiraled into them walking the streets with cups and pitchers of hot tea to pass out to guards and bystanders.

4. Many people love dogs, but Emelinda Narvaez made it her life’s work to save as many dogs as she could through her nonprofit, Earth Angels. As of now, her organization has rescued over 10,000 canines. Even cancer couldn’t stop her, and she went on to use her own social security money to continue her dog-saving efforts.

5. In one inspiring story of corporate responsibility, the Spungen family from Illinois sold their multi-million dollar company and distributed $6.6 million to 230 employees as year-end bonuses. If only more businesses would follow their example!

Support Go-Inspire-Go’s IndieGoGo campaign HERE >>>

For more amazing stories from GIG’s 50/50 campaign and to help them raise $50,000 in the next month, visit their website, YouTube channel, and help them spread the word!

Why It’s Important to Enjoy the Art Around Us

If I were to ask you, “What subject matter in school is deemed most important?” What would your answer be? Math, science or art?

Sunny Blossom (Toan Lam)

Art? Doing this for a living was never even an option in my household — it was a taboo subject. “Be a doctor, lawyer or engineer,” my parents would ingrain in my brain. In my parents’ eyes, the definition of success were those professions, in that order: doctor, lawyer, then engineer. I chose the fourth – failure (in the eyes of my immigrant parents, journalism seemed like failure).

Power Light (Toan Lam)

Reading and writing, my passions, were not as revered as mathematics and science. I would read everything out loud. In the shower, I would read shampoo bottles – “Rinse, lather, repeat.” I remember what brought me joy was acting out the characters while reading my favorite childhood books. It’s no coincidence that I became a journalist, founder of Go Inspire Go (we use the art of storytelling to inspire action) and college instructor.

Rainbow Drops Coit Tower & Telegraph Hill (Toan Lam)

That’s why this GIG Spark, produced by high school student Aaron Long resonated with me on many levels, personally, professionally and even spiritually.

Through Aaron’s GIG Spark, he wants to inspire us to look around and enjoy the art around us in San Francisco. Don’t live there? No problem; Aaron wants you to look around and enjoy a tree, some street art or something that catches your eye.

Water Cloud Reflections/Aquatic Park (Toan Lam)

How did he do this? In a creative way, of course! Find out how he inspired folks in his community to be present and enjoy the art around them through this GIG Spark (Lesson on Compassion) submission. His goal is to inspire you to notice (and enjoy) the art that surrounds you.

Gigster: Aaron Long
Where: San Francisco
Spark: Notice the Art Around You

Like many GIG Spark videos, this seems fun on the surface and it is. But on a deeper level, being creative isn’t nurtured in our society. I recently discovered this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. Specifically, he speaks about the importance of creating an educational system that nurtures creativity. This TED video is full of inspirational gems.

I often wonder what I would be doing had I not pursued my passion work. One thing’s for sure – if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be as fulfilled and full of joy. Special thanks to Aaron for being aware and inspiring presence in this adventure we call life.

City Dew Drops (Toan Lam)

Take action:
1. Stop wherever you are. Look around and take a deep breath. Enjoy one thing around you.
2. Get creative. Like to bake or paint? Do it, then give it away to someone in need. Small things like this make anyone’s day.
3. Nurture the artistic talents in a child’s life.

We hope this video inspires you to be present and enjoy the art around you — and use your power to help others. I’ve been practicing enjoying the art around me by taking pictures on my Go Inspire Go Instagram account. I always snap cool scenes and things that inspire me because I want to share it with our viewers (tagged with an inspirational message).

Be You Naturally (Toan Lam)

Note: Thanks to Mom: who turned over a new leaf and supports endeavors — because she feels my passion for GIG. Also, I know (and feel) that my father, who on his death bed told me, “You’re wasting your life, you need to quit that reporting stuff and become a doctor,” has had a change of heart and is somewhere above, looking down and smiling at me. Smiling because I followed my heart and chose to redefine his definition of “failure.” Thanks to my parents for taking the risk — to uproot their successful lives — so my siblings and I could redefine the American Dream. No. 4 ain’t so bad!

Bay City Chain Scape (Toan Lam)

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.”

Copollalights (Toan Lam)

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!

What can YOU do?

Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

One Thing That Changed EVERY DAY of My Life in 2012

Photo: Toan Lam, Journal by: Caroline Harper

I’ve never really made New Year’s resolutions. But last year, I resolved to do one thing that changed me (from the inside out) every day of 2012.

I finally got around to keeping a journal — why did I wait so long?!

It’s not just one of these woo woo journals for the sake of saying you keep a journal. Instead of a sole gratitude journal, I started an evidence/gratitude journal — inspired by two people, one of whom I know, another who I will know or at least meet one day: Devyn Rush and Oprah Winfrey.

I’ve always been a fan of Oprah and have always kept her crusade to inspire folks to keep a gratitude journal in the back of my mind. It sat on the back burner until December 19th of 2011 — that’s when I finally lit the flame.

An inferno of miracles ensued.

I always thought, why keep a journal? I am present now, enjoying the now already. Well, what I realized is that this is where the magic happens — when you actually put them down on paper, effervescence happens… your thoughts manifest into something tangible, something real.

 

My friend Devyn Rush, a former American Idol contestant who is also a national spokesperson for U.G.L.Y., a bully prevention organization, told me about this journal, “Building the Best You.” If you get the privilege to know Devyn, you will walk away feeling reenergized by her infectious positive energy. At her behest, I decided to finally put pen to paper and took the penning plunge promise. My goal was to write in it everyday — I knew this would be a big feat for me because I get bored easily — but I’m proud to say I did it. Woo hoo. And whoa! Wee. Wow.

This viscerally changed me from the inside out.

What’s the difference between a gratitude journal and an evidence journal? The evidence part is when you log what you did for the day — then the gratitude part is when you write down things that unfolded that you’re grateful for.

Everyday I wrote down what I did that day, then at least five things that I was grateful for. The Building the Best You journal is a two year journal, each page is split in half. The left fold is year one, the right fold, year two.

I remember Oprah saying, “Some days I’d be grateful for seeing a squirrel in the park.” And boy wasn’t that the truth. She’s right, it doesn’t matter how simple something seemed or the lack of things you felt grateful for, it’s the fact that you’ve put this gratitude exercise into practice. And like a muscle that is put into action, I’ve become more aware and conscious of the beauty surrounding my life everyday. My favorite author, Eckhart Tolle, calls this “awareness.”

No matter how bad my day was, I found myself grateful for the lessons that came in different ways, shapes and forms. I started searching for things that I was grateful for during my days: a phone call from a loved one, discovering yet another street-corner style hero to feature in my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go, or a walk with a friend along the pier. It became habit.

I randomly flipped through my journal a couple of nights ago and was happy to see that I was grateful for “being present” and “my breath” and feeling connected to something bigger than myself were constant themes. What a big accomplishment.

Among the highlights of things I’ve logged:

1. Being more present than ever before: to nature, people and my spirit — not the “ego” or “thinking thing” rather, what Tolle calls “the watcher” — my inner compass.
2. Connections to people. I felt like the Universe sent me personal and professional connections that continue to help me grow as a person as well as progress within my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go.
3. Realization that when you become present and surrender to the ebb and flow of life, you are open to receiving more. Gratitude begets more goodness (and things to be grateful for).

What I’ve realized is that the miracles have always been there; I just became aware that they were happening — which in turn created and ignited more miracles. That’s the law of attraction at work. Ever notice how when you start the day by saying, “This is going to be a bad or stressful day” — the universe delivers a “Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?” What about those days when you say, “It’s going to be a great day!”

As a kid, I always woke up thinking, “What will I learn today? Who will I meet? What will happen?” Now I go to sleep logging the days happenings, building awareness and counting my blessings. In a sense, keeping this journal brought back the child within and has taught me to unlearn certain things we’ve learned as adults and to go back to that innocent, creative, awe-filled child’s lens we all had when we were discovering the world as children.

I’m glad I finally took action to count the miracles and enjoy them fully — I’ve evolved physically, mentally and spiritually thanks to the simple five-minute exercise of keeping an evidence/gratitude journal.

Are you aware of the miracles showing up in your life everyday? Write them down and witness them multiply.

My favorite author Eckhart Tolle says that the universe conspires to help us all. “But if the shutters are closed the sunlight can not come in.”

Cheers to a new year of counting your blessings and logging the light that comes through your window.

Happy New Year — Happy New You.

Sincerely,

Toan

P.S. What can YOU do?
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12 Days of Inspiration in Your Community

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!)

Rethink Yoga. Power to Create a New You

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.

Make it your GIG to Be in. All the Time.

1. Move Your Body, Mind and Spirit: Free Yoga on Rethink Yoga’s YouTube Channel
2. Download the FREE 31 Days/31 Poses ebook on RethinkYoga
3. Share this video with others who need to Rethink Yoga

What can YOU do?

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Sparking Compassion and Inspiring Service in Our Youth

It’s a special effervescent experience being around kids. You know, that warm feeling that makes you smile wider and feel more carefree.

Imagine that multiplied 500 times — that’s what I’m feeling now. I was recently invited to present Go Inspire Go‘s GIG SPARK (Lesson on Compassion) to 500 kids (kindergarten to fifth grade) at Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, Calif. What an honor!

Photos: Toan Lam

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?!

Take Action:

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: info@goinspirego.com

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

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