Friday, January 31, 2014

One More Thing

I’ve talked about a lot of things on this blog. About women’s mental health, about men’s prostate cancer, about being raped when I lived in Japan and my thyroid problems. It hasn’t always been bad. I’ve also talked about how wonderful it was to raise money to fight back against cancer and the angels that helped me do it. Now it’s time to talk about something I’ve never covered before—cervical cancer.

It’s Cervical Health Awareness Month. I have to be honest. I’ve never had it, but I’ve known many people who have had tumors and have had their ovaries or cervix removed because of them. In fact, I was so aware of this being a problem for women that I read a book about Fran Drescher’s experience having gynecological cancer.

Her book and website is called Cancer Schmancer and is about how it took eight different doctors over two years of symptoms to finally diagnose her uterine cancer. Most of us don’t have the time, money or tenacity to go through that yet if we’re diagnosed early enough, gynecological cancers are some of the most treatable of all kinds of cancer.

Her website lists some risk factors and warning symptoms of gynecologic cancer which she got from the American Cancer Society and The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation.
Risk Factors:

·  I am not getting screened regularly with a Pap test
·  I am at high-risk for human papilloma viruses (HPV)
·  I smoke 
·  I am very overweight
·  I eat a diet high in fat
·  I am a woman older than age 60
·  I started menstruating at an early age—before age 12
·  I take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs
Warning Symptoms:

·  Indigestion, heartburn, nausea, or gas
·  Abdominal swelling or discomfort
·  Pelvic pain or cramping
·  Bloating or a sense of fullness, even after small meals
·  Backache
·  Painful, frequent, or burning urination with no infection
·  Diarrhea or constipation
·  Loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss or gain
·  Vaginal bleeding or irregular periods
·  Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge after menopause
·  Pain during intercourse

During November, we talked about prostate cancer as men grew their moustaches. Now it’s time to think about our cervixes, ladies. Are we taking care of them? Some things we have control over, like whether we smoke or eat fatty foods, but other things it may be too late to prevent.
When researching this blog, I found out at the American Cancer Society website that women who have had 3 or more full-term pregnancies have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. Also women who were younger than 17 when they had their first full-term pregnancy are almost 2 times more likely to get cervical cancer than women who waited to get pregnant until they were 25 years or older.

If you are one of those women, or have risk factors or symptoms above, see your doctor and get a pap smear. You may also need to get a biopsy if you have the symptoms. Just don’t wait!
God Bless and have a good weekend.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What is AmeriCorps? Trevor's Experience

This year marks the 20th year of the federal AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps is the network of local, state, and national service programs that connects over 80,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health, and homeland security. AmeriCorps’ members serve with more than 2,000 non-profits, public agencies, and community organizations. Today, I am interviewing AmeriCorps member Trevor Sikes about his experience in AmeriCorps.

1.      You’ve been an AmeriCorps member for how long now? Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you learned about AmeriCorps, and why you applied to the program.  

My name is Trevor Sikes and I’m originally from Saratoga, Wyoming.  I went to college in Olympia, Washington at the Evergreen State College and majored in foreign affairs and cultural studies.  I have been an AmeriCorps NPRC member for about a year and a half. I am currently half way through my second term in Pensacola, Florida.  (The NPRC is the national AmeriCorps grant-funded disaster preparedness and response program that partners with the American Red Cross).  Truthfully, before I applied to AmeriCorps, I didn’t know anything about the program.  At the time I applied, I was fresh out of college trying to get my foot in the door to my dream job, but sadly I lacked the experience. I applied to the AmeriCorps program for a few different reasons but mainly I signed up to gain experience to help me reach my future goals and to make a difference. 

2.     AmeriCorps is a national program. Tell us about the application process and the financial benefits you get from the program. 

            When I signed up for the AmeriCorps NPRC program, it worked just like how you would apply for any other job. I had to submit a resume online on the AmeriCorps webpage and do a phone interview. Once I got the offer, I had to accept the offer and was really happy and thrilled. The NPRC Program offers a $5500 reward that can be used towards a higher education or to help pay off your student loans after you complete your term. When you serve in AmeriCorps, you can defer your student loans if you have any and the AmeriCorps program will pay the interest rate during your term, which is a huge help.  The program provides a living stipend, which teaches you to make a budget and live off of it. 

3.     Where have you served and what have you been doing since you’ve been in AmeriCorps?

Since I started with AmeriCorps NPRC, I have served in Baltimore and New York when Hurricane Sandy hit. On that disaster, I drove the American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) to drop off supplies to shelters all over Maryland. Then my team moved up to New York and I delivered hot meals and supplies to people all over Station Island. 

The next place I served was in Quincy, Illinois where I worked and helped on the Red Cross Public Relations team, explaining to media what Red Cross was doing and where people could volunteer or get assistance. I also wrote stories about volunteers and affected people and how people could help. Finally I took pictures for the National Red Cross Blog and local Red Cross Facebook page.

             The rest of the time I have helped the local chapter where I work with small local disasters such as fires, floods, deep freezes, etc.  I also help disseminate information on how people of all ages can prepare for disasters.

4.     What have been some of the challenges of volunteering through AmeriCorps?  

The main challenge with volunteering with the AmeriCorps program in my opinion is mainly making the commitment. NPRC members commit to a total of 1,700+ service hours and 11 months of full-time service to the Red Cross.  That kind of commitment can be challenging and living off the stipend can be difficult at times.   
5.      What have been some things you’ve experienced that you will take with you wherever you go after you leave AmeriCorps? 

The things I have learned from the AmeriCorps NPRC program that I will take with me wherever I go are mainly to be flexible. I have learned that things don’t always go your way, and you need to be flexible and adjust to change.  I also have learned to encourage others to make a difference in their community and give back to others.

6.     What do you personally get out of doing community service?

            When I do community service for AmeriCorps, I personally get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m making a difference in my community or in someone’s life. That satisfaction is just a great feeling that I can’t describe.

7.     What are your plans following your time in AmeriCorps?

            After my AmeriCorps term, it is my hope to work for an international humanitarian relief organization or find a job with the government and work with international relations programs.

8.    Is there anything you would like to add?

            This is a great program that has taught me a lot and has allowed me to give back to different communities. The program has also allowed me to make a difference in people’s lives for the better when they’re facing difficult times. Over the past year and a half, I have grown for the better, I hope.  I recommend it to anyone that wants to make a difference in their communities or in other communities or would just like to help people.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Who Knows What Will Happen Next?

I’ve mentioned briefly that I’m trying something new in the way of volunteering. Many of you know that I’ve been a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, have captained a Relay for Life team, and now am on the steering committee for my local Relay for Life. In fact, today I will be out recruiting teams and sponsors for that very Relay.

But now, I have a new charity that I am learning about in a different way. I’ve also been pursuing a master’s degree in instructional technology and in my last semester (which I’m in now, oh yeah!) I must do a field experience such as an internship or real world project.

I looked for an internship which is what I really wanted to do, but instead I found not one, but two projects to do. One is for the First Circuit Court of Florida. My university is helping them put a face-to-face course they teach online and I’m on the team to make that happen.

The other is for the American Red Cross. The Red Cross is an organization that I’ve admired for a long time. When others are leaving a disaster area, they are going in to help.

You may know that the American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton, but did you know that the International Committee of the Red Cross was where she got the idea? It was founded as the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded by Swiss citizen Henry Dunant who saw the awful scene of dead soldiers at the battle of Solferino, in Italy, and was moved to help them.

His is an interesting life. From wealth to poverty while being famous and finally winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Well, back to the American Red Cross. I am making a new volunteer orientation presentation with a series of videos from volunteer leaders within my local Red Cross.

I have been working with their Volunteer Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer and we’ve decided to do 10 videos for the presentation. In fact, I did two of them yesterday and will be doing another one today. 

The volunteer leaders are talking about what they do, whom they help, and how new volunteers can  become involved. I’m learning quite a bit about what the Red Cross does, you might say.

The majority of what they do is help people deal with disasters. What’s the most common disaster they help with? Not flood, not tornadoes or hurricanes, but fires. Your house goes up, and whoosh, you don’t even have a change of clothes, at least not until the Red Cross gets to you.

Yesterday, one of the people I videotaped tried to recruit me to start volunteering with her after the project is over. Who knows?

God bless and have a good weekend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Request for Prayer

This weekend is a weekend of prayer. Tomorrow is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. According to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) an estimated 27 million people are trafficked globally on an annual basis.

NCR reports some amazing data. Did you know human trafficking is growing in the crime industry, second in scope only to the drug trade and equal to arms? Revenue from human trafficking is estimated at more than $32 billion annually. 

Can you imagine 27 million people being abducted and forced to do what their captors wish? Can you imagine it happening to someone you love?

It might be hard to think about, but it does happen every day. People are taken; people are enslaved; people aren’t free.

For Northwest Florida locals, tomorrow is the Not My Child Human Trafficking Awareness event at the Pelican Beach Resort Conference Center in Destin. It’s an event to prevent sexual exploitation on the Emerald Coast. Here are more events across the nation.

Last January, the Safe Harbor Act went into effect in Florida.  According to the Florida Department of Children and Families,It helps ensure the safety of child victims who have been trafficked for sex and allows children who are rescued from prostitution to get help from child welfare professionals instead of being placed in juvenile delinquency.

This allows the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, law enforcement and our local partners across the state to treat and help the victims of this abuse. They will receive intensive treatment in residential settings that are already being prepared for their safety and success.”

Can you imagine being forced to prostitute yourself and then being prosecuted for it? It happens that way in many places.
It’s overwhelming to think about. So what can we do? Keep our eyes open and remember to pray this weekend. Set aside a half hour or more to pray for the victims, the perpetrators, the law enforcement professionals, and all those who suspect something is wrong but don’t know what it is or what to do.

Be aware. If you suspect any kind of trafficking may be occurring, call the National Hotline number for the Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-3737-888.
God bless!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Change the World List for 2014

In 2013 for the first post of the new year, I made a list. Not of resolutions, but of actions, actions you could take to “change the world.” They were personal things like opening a savings account with Able Banking, because they give $25 to charity when you do as well as a percentage of the interest you earn. It’s something like what I post on the main page of my website in the Today’s Ways to Help section and my list of Cost-Free Ways to Help Others.

For 2014, I want to continue the tradition, but with a twist. I’m still going to list things you can do to help charities, but this time I want to focus on ways to raise larger amounts of money. People have asked me for ideas on how to do this and I want to give you some tips for 2014. These ideas aren’t as easy as opening a savings account, but they are more rewarding. For these ideas, you need the help of others. As someone who has led a team of people devoted to a cause, I must say it is an amazing feeling when it all comes together and you raise hundreds or even thousands of dollars to help a needy cause. So, take a look and get inspired to raise money for your cause in 2014.

1.       Charity Trivia Night. Have friends who spend their nights playing trivia games on Facebook or at your local restaurant/bar? Invite them and anyone else who wants to show their intelligence to a Charity Trivia Night. The easy way to do it is find a place that already has trivia contests and ask them if you can use theirs. Then charge each person or team to participate and watch the money flow in. You do need to have a prize for the winner which you can have donated by a local business. If you can’t find a place that will do this for you, then book a church or community center and be sure to provide some munchies!

2.      Parachute or Bungee Jump. Have jumpers get sponsors who will pay to see their sponsees do the jump. This is a high octane way to make some cash.

3.      Recycle electronic items, like mobile phones. Collect phones or ink cartridges by putting boxes in your businesses, church, or other organization buildings. Then turn them in to Phones4Charity or Recycling for Charities or another recycler. Some will give you funds you can give to a charity, while others give money to charities for you.

4.     Piggyback on a party. Have friends who sell makeup, jewelry, home decorating items, candles or something else? Ask them to donate 10% or more of their proceeds from a home party to your charity and then invite people over for a party. People will buy from your friend and then you’ll get money for your charity.

5.      Jewelrymaking. This is a personal favorite. My Relay for Life team did this two years in a row. Get a group of people together, a bunch of beads and head pins, and you’re off. Teach newbies how to make earrings, which are quite easy to make. Let the intermediate jewelrymakers do necklaces and bracelets. Then put your masterpieces in individual bags with suggested prices on them. Take the jewelry around with you everywhere and when you’re waiting in the doctor’s office, see if the secretaries and nurses would like to support your charity by buying some bling!

6.     Bad tie day. Have you heard of ugly Christmas sweater competitions? Same idea, just using ties. Have everyone who wants to compete pay to wear his or her ugly tie. Then have everyone vote on the worst one and give a prize to the winner while you count the bucks you’ve collected.

7.      Run, bike, walk, or do another sport for charity. I like tennis and running so I’ve done charity 5Ks and tennis tournaments, but find your own sport and you’ll be able to help a charity while you do it. Besides paying the entry fee, you can also find sponsors to pay for each mile you run or game of tennis you play. I think the best way to do this is find a local sporting event to start you off, but I know some people who’ve gone to big name events as well. While you’re preparing for your charity sporting event, you can also log your exercise at Plus 3 Network and get money for the charity of your choice. That’s doubling your donation!

8.     Jokeathon. This one will keep you laughing and it can be done as an event like the Charity Trivia Night above or to keep it simple, just have people contribute jokes and charge them a couple dollars a joke to be in the contest for the best joke, worst joke, or whatever other categories you want to have. You need to have a judging board or you can email jokes to everyone who contributes and have them vote.

9.      Video or other Game Night for Charity. Get your Wiis, Xboxes or other games (like Scrabble or Monopoly) together and then see who wins in the final playoff pitting those that have won in the early rounds against each other. You need to collect donated prizes for whatever games or categories you decide to have. Charge people to participate and see who plays to win.

10.  Photo competition. There are lots of budding photographers out there and here’s a way to give them a chance to shine. For an entrance fee, let each submit their best photo and then choose the top three for a donated prize. If you get really great photos, you could do something with the winners, like make a poster of them to sell as well. But be careful not to print too many because you could lose money if you can’t sell them. Try to get the printing donated instead.

That’s it! My 10 tips for 2014. I hope you will take these and run with them. God Bless and Happy New Year!