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Occupy Your Heart: 5 Great Ways To Give This Holiday Season

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By Sara Mohazzebi on December 15, 2011

I love this time of the year.

I’m not just talking about the great make-out sessions to be held under the excuse of mistletoe. That’s for another column. It’s exactly this time of year that I reflect on how much positive change we can create. Because 2011 wasn’t just the year of Occupy Wall Street, it was also the year of Occupy My Heart. As a journalist who covers social activists, I have the good fortune of getting to know the individuals and initiatives that are transforming how we take care of each other as a human collective.

Thomas Edison wisely said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astonish ourselves.” Each activist I have encountered reminds me that everything, from relationships to the future, is invented by us and the choices we make. Which is why in the spirit that we are capable of inventing a kinder, smarter, and more compassionate present and future, I’m featuring five unique and effective organizations that are in true need of support to continue to survive and thrive. That means they need you, me — us — and every single dollar gifted counts.

So as we usher out 2011 and kick off 2012, I hope we will all be astonished by how much change we can bring about by choosing to give more of ourselves this holiday season.

Happy Giving…and yes, its all tax deductible!

(PGPC on the stage after a UN performance via Leah Overstreet)


What they’re rocking: PGPC is a NYC based non-profit theater company that works with disadvantaged female youth, ages 8-21, to activate them as agents of social change in the local and global community by immersing them in a unique human rights and theater performance curriculum.

How you’ll be smitten: Get ready for powerhouse performances that raise awareness of domestic and global issues affecting women and children. So far, these incredible girls have brought their breathtaking talent and unforgettable stories to their performances at the White House, the United Nations, TedxWomen, and sold out the New York City International Fringe Festival.

Why they need the love and your benjamins: Despite critical acclaim and a nonstop performance schedule, PGPC absolutely needs to raise $40,000 in funding to continue in 2012. Otherwise, this free inner city youth program will shut down.

Where you can give: Just go to http://www.indiegogo.com/Get-Girl-Power-Join-the-Movement and you’ll find a range of cool giving and gift options from $10 and on.

Official PGPC Website: http://projectgirlperformancecollective.org

(photo of Tiffany Alfaro, Executive Director, with the campers)


What they’re rocking: Dream Street is a Los Angeles based non-profit that provides a free week long camping program for children from around the world with cancer, AIDS, blood disorders and other life-threatening or chronic diseases. Camp Dream Street accommodates the diverse medical needs of these inspiring kids and enables them to enjoy a camp week of their dreams.

How you’ll be smitten: This isn’t just your average summer camp.  A world-class medical center is literally built on the campsite in Ojai to support the camper’s medical needs and camp director Tiffany Alfaro creates elaborate and flat out cool activities and experiences for the campers. We’re talking snow fights, Carnival, rock climbing, and more.

Why they need the love and your benjamins: For Camp Dream Street to happen in July 2012, they are still in need of $100,000. For some of these kids who have terminal cases, this is often the one and only week where they get to do everything they’ve always wanted.

Where you can give: Just go to http://www.dreamstreetfoundation.org/node/72 to donate any amount desired. For just $50, you can gift an entire afternoon of camp to one great kid.

Official Website: http://www.dreamstreetfoundation.org

(photo via Emily Smith, courtesy of Just Vision)


What they’re rocking: Just Vision is a Washington DC based non-profit peace organization that creates award-winning documentary films such as Budrus and Encounter Point (along with online educational tools) that tell the unknown stories of Israeli and Palestinian civilians working towards a nonviolent resolution. By supporting these grassroots leaders, JV ensures that their voices are heard where it matter most: in their communities and media.

How you’ll be smitten:  Prepare for a shift in perspective and sheer empathy upon seeing their films or co-founder Julia Baccha’s incredible TedX lecture. From Oprah to the Tribeca Film Festival, Just Vision’s worldwide screenings and materials have opened hundreds of doors for the very people they highlight to connect with audiences and garner greater legitimacy at home and abroad.

Why they need the love and your benjamins: Peace isn’t cheap (but it is less expensive than violence!) and Just Vision is in need of funding support in any amount given.

Where you can give: Just go to http://www.justvision.org/donate. For a $100, you can gift a workshop for an Israeli or Palestinian youth that uses local examples to show how nonviolence can achieve results by energizing participants with the courage and hope needed to get involved.

Official Website: http://www.justvision.org

(File photo via Jane Philomen Cleland)


What they’re rocking: Tenderloin Tessies is a San Francisco based all volunteer organization that has been serving hot catered dinners on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter to the elderly, low income, homeless, and individuals with no family or place to go. They also provide coats and clothes to the community at each event.

How you’ll be smitten: With a live band performing standards and every guest seated and served restaurant style, this is the most graceful and thoughtful meal to take part in.  This is community service at its very best.

Why they need the love and your benjamins: All meals and labor is sourced solely from donations and to make Christmas dinner a reality this year, Tenderloin Tessies still needs donations for their clothes drive with men’s, women’s, and children clothes including blankets and coats.

Where you can give: Just email Michael Gagne, the president of TT’s board, at tenderlointessies@yahoo.com to volunteer or donate items or funds.

Official Website: http://www.tenderlointessie.com

(Photo of Daniel Ponickly via John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times)


What they’re rocking: Ballroom Madness is a Los Angeles based non-profit that provides a spectacular arts-in-education program that brings ballroom dance to schools and community centers. It gives kids a safe artistic outlet to foster respect, healthy self-esteem, and teamwork one step at a time.

How you’ll be smitten: Excuse me but what’s not to adore about inner city kids who at 10 years old can do the foxtrot? No answer to that? Yup, it’s because you’re going to be as smitten as I am with their newfound skills and confidence.

Why they need the love and your benjamins: Ballroom Madness is in need of funds to continue their outreach efforts ranging from implementing workshops to paying for instructors.

Where you can give: Just email Executive Director Jane Dorian at Jane@Ballroommadness.org

Official Website: http://www.ballroommadness.org

Sara Mohazzebi is a US-based journalist and writer. Fascinated by the inspiring stories of social activists, cultural tastemakers, and innovators, she travels the world and the US to capture these very stories and the individuals behind them. Her work has published in numerous international and domestic publications including Esquire, Teen Vogue, and Emirates Woman magazine. Follow her on twitter @saramohazzebi. You can follow the rest of her Hypervocal Archive right here.

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