Blizzard embraces the World of Warcraft communitys gnome-filled charity race

The first pink-haired gnome that Dravvie ever created.
Image: Dravvie/twitter

Each year, untold numbers of pink-haired gnomes gather for one day in World of Warcraft to make a heroic trek through snowy hills, murloc-filled forests, and perilous jungles all in the name of charity. This year, Blizzard is making it an official in-game event.

The Running of the Gnomes a community-run race that raises awareness and money for breast cancer treatment has been going since 2010. For the eighth run happening this October, Blizzard is turning the event into a micro-holiday called the Great Gnomergan Race (named after the old gnome capital) and it’s decking out the course with checkered flags, cheering gnomes, and a quest reward for runners who make it all the way to the end.

The Running of the Gnomes raises money for the Cleveland Clinic’s Tuohy Vaccine to prevent breast cancer. World of Warcraft players create gnome characters with pink hair and run from the gnome starting area Gnomergan all the way to Booty Bay. Some players pledge a few cents per participating gnome, some donate a fixed amount, and others just run for fun.

The creator of the run, Dravvie, said it’s really exciting to see Blizzard embrace the charity race and increase awareness around it.

“We’ve had people come and tell us they’re there for their family members, that they’re there because they survived cancer.”

“I feel really honored that they saw how much the event meant to so many members of the community, really,” she said. “It’s very moving.”

Dravvie has been coordinating the event every year with the help of some close friends and fellow guild members, including Skakavaz, another brain behind the charity operation. As the years have gone on, more and more people have participated.

“The first year, we had 144 gnomes,” Dravvie said. “We started it as something fun for our guild and friends to raise a bit of money for a charity. Last year we had 2,860 gnomes that we could count. I have no doubt that there were more, there were just so many of them.”

Along with the Running of the Gnomes, Dravvie also began a Running of the Trolls to benefit the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention service for LGBTQ+ youth.

As for the inspiration behind the Running of the Gnomes, Dravvie said she’s always cared about breast cancer charities.

“There were a lot of people in our now-defunct guild who had been effected by cancer, especially breast cancer,” she said. “It seemed like a charity that people would really care about. The year before we had turned our tabards pink for the month of October and people were really emotional about it.”

The annual race really means a lot to some people, especially those who have been affected by breast cancer or are close to someone who has.

“We’ve had people come and tell us they’re there for their family members, that they’re there because they survived cancer,” Dravvie said. “Some [gnomes] are named after people. Some people I know personally go in honor of people.”

Those people who participate are what make the event what it is.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without everyone who makes it possible and community interest, honestly,” Dravvie said.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/03/wow-gnome-running-charity/

‘Other Boys NYC’ tells the untold stories of queer and trans men of color

Image: Slay TV/YouTube

A new documentary series called Other Boys NYC is highlighting the stories of an often overlooked population queer and trans men of color.

The extensive 50-part series, created by filmmaker Abdool Corlette and co-producer Adam Vazquez, spotlights 50 different queer men of color from various experiences living in New York City. Each video ranges from five to seven minutes, showing individual stories about identity, sexuality and what it means to be a queer or trans man of color today.

Other Boys NYC comes at a time in which race, sexuality and gender identity are hot button topics discussed in politics, the media and homes around the world,” Corlette said in a statement.

“The series aims to inspire empathy and discussion through taking an intimate look at those topics as well as others like dating, family, masculinity, socio-economics, religion and career.”

The first 25 episodes of Other Boys NYC, which will be distributed by global media network Slay TV, will premiere on Feb. 25. The remaining 25 episodes will then roll out on a weekly basis over the coming months.

“I wanted to shake things up and create a project that puts our stories front and center,” Corlette said. “Other Boys NYC is a celebration of diversity. There is so much beauty and talent in our community and I just want to celebrate it.”

“There is power in seeing yourself represented.”

The series is the latest project distributed by Slay TV, which launched in July 2016. The digital network’s mission is to elevate the narratives of queer people of color, and it’s available on iOS, Android and YouTube, as well as TV-connected devices like Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV. You can watch it for free on YouTube and on the Slay TV site.

Though media representation of the queer community has been increasing for years, there’s still a long way to go. In 2016, only 4.8 percent of characters on TV were LGBTQ, and an overwhelming majority about 71 percent of these LGBTQ characters were white.

Most queer characters depicted were gay men, at 46 percent. Only 7 percent were bisexual men, and 3 percent were transgender men.

Corlette said the lack of stories about queer and transgender men in the media inspired him to take action.

“There is power in seeing yourself represented,” Corlette said. “It is an affirmation that you are here, you’ve always been here and your experiences matter. For most of my life, I’ve never been able to turn on the TV and say, ‘That’s my story.'”

Image: Slay TV

Corlette hopes viewers of the series will be inspired to have honest conversations about race, sexuality and gender identity. But more importantly he hopes people within the community will see the series as allowing them to feel heard and validated in a respectful way.

“I’m sure something like Other Boys NYC would have changed me, had I seen it as a teenager,” Corlette said. “Looking back, I can’t tell you how badly I needed someone who shared my story to say, ‘You’ll get through this.'”

You can learn more about the series here.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/02/10/other-boys-nyc-docuseries-slay-tv/

Striking portraits of the LGBTQ community aim to raise breast cancer awareness

40 women answered the call-out to take part in the series.
Image: lisa white/supplied

A new photographic series called “Beautiful LGBTI Women” isn’t just striking to look at: It also raises awareness for an important cause.

The black and white portrait series of female-identifying members of the LGBTQ community was created by Australian photographer, Lisa White, in association with BreastScreen Victoria to encourage more women in the community to get breast cancer checks.

White, who works under the name “The Social Photographer,” reached out to the LGBTQ community directly for help finding her subjects.

“We called for 20 women to participate and had 40 women respond,” she explained to Mashable over email, adding that the women were aged 26 to 76, however most participants were over 50 years old.

Image: Lisa White

Image: Lisa White

“We decided to photograph them all,” White said. “The women who volunteered told us they loved the idea of celebrating the diversity of LGBTI women and they wanted to support BreastScreen Victoria.”

BreastScreen’s CEO Vicki Pridmore said in a statement that the photographs will assure LGBTQ women the organisation’s staff “will provide inclusive services that understand their needs.”

Image: Lisa White

Image: Lisa White

The photographs have already received a rapturous reaction online. “The participants have been posting their images on social media and have been inundated with positive responses,” said White.

Image: LIsa White

Image: Lisa White

Art that fulfils an important need, while still being beautiful enough to hang on your wall? It’s a big yes from us.

[h/t Buzzfeed]

BONUS: Being LGBTQ and Muslim

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/01/11/lgbti-portraits-breast-cancer-screening/

16 innovations making a difference for poor communities around the world

Image: SafariSeat; LifeStraw; The Peepoo Toilet; Mariko Products

Getting to the root of poverty means solving various issues along the way, and inventors are up for the challenge.

Poverty isn’t just inadequate access to income it manifests in a lack of access to health services, education and vital goods. It can also lead to societal instability, allowing sexism, ableism, classism and racism to flourish. And every day, innovators create new gadgets and other solutions with the world’s poor in mind.

Here are 16 ingenious innovations helping to alleviate poverty-related inequalities for developing regions across the globe.

1. The Shoe That Grows

Children are notorious for quickly outgrowing clothing and shoes, much to the frustration of parents who are constantly replacing hardly-worn items with larger sizes. Growth spurts are especially a challenge in developing nations, where money for worn or outgrown items is scarce.

The Shoe That Grows is a simple, adjustable shoe that children can wear for years, capable of expanding five sizes through a series of notches and snaps. The shoe generally fits a child’s foot from age 5 to 9, helping to curb foot injuries and cases of soil-transmitted diseases and parasites. A concept first conceived almost a decade ago, The Shoe That Grows is making an impact in developing regions around the world where the nonprofit delivers donated shoes to children and families.

2. Life Saving Dot

Image: Life Saving Dot

In rural India, thousands of women are estimated have iodine deficiency, which has been linked to breast cancer, fibrocystic breast disease and pregnancy complications. But the Life Saving Dot, an iodine-rich variation on a traditional bindi, is helping provide women with the vital mineral.

The dot, which is worn between a woman’s eyebrows just like a bindi, delivers a wearer with the recommended daily amount of iodine. The Life Saving Dot only costs 10 rupees or 16 cents for a packet of 30, fitting the budgets of women in rural India.

3. Safari Seat

Image: SafariSeat

Wheelchairs are essential devices for many people, but in rural, developing areas with rough terrain and few roads, traditional wheelchairs aren’t always practical or even usable.

SafariSeat is a low-cost, all-terrain wheelchair designed to be manufactured and maintained in poor countries, creating a self-sustaining product. The innovation is made of bicycle parts, and the device is propelled forward by hand levers and durable wheels. The seat is projected to start production in Kenya in the coming months.

4. Mazzi

Image: Intellectual Ventures

In developing nations, milk is an important source of income and nutrition for poor families. But transporting milk safely and easily with traditional open milk pails comes with spillage, spoilage and an increased risk of contamination.

Mazzi, a durable, 10-liter plastic container designed with a wide mouth for collection, solves these issues by providing a safe and affordable way to collect and transport milk. The container is also easy to clean, with a specially designed funnel attachment that helps eliminate spilling.

5. NIFTY Cup

When an infant in a developing country is unable to nurse, they’re at risk of severe malnutrition or even death. NIFTY cup is solving this issue in rural areas of Africa.

Developed over five years, the NIFTY cup was designed with a spout that makes collected milk easy to drink by infants with cleft palates or other related issues that prevent proper latching. The cup, which is reusable and costs only $1 to create, has already been credited with preventing starvation of infants in poor African communities.

6. Eco-Cooler

Image: GRAMEEN INTEL SOCIAL BUSINESS LTD/Youtube

In developing areas without electricity, soaring temperatures can leave huts unbearably hot. Eco-Cooler, a low-cost cooling system created from recycled plastic bottles, helps solve the issue by drawing cool air into homes.

The cooler is made of halved plastic bottles on a board, which is then installed like a window. When in place, each bottle’s neck compresses the hot breeze, cooling it down and dropping temperatures inside a hut as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rural communities in Bangladesh have implemented the environmentally friendly solution.

7. Luck Iron Fish

Image: Lucky Iron Fish

Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world, affecting an estimated 3.5 billion people. It can be especially devastating in developing nations, where nutritional needs are often unmet. Iron deficiency alone can lead to anemia, low energy and difficulty concentrating.

Lucky Iron Fish is an iron, fish-shaped object that families can place in a pot of boiling water prior to cooking to enrich vegetables with additional iron. The company works on a one-to-one donation scale, allowing individuals in developed nations to buy their own fish while simultaneously donating one to a family in need.

8. Embrace Warmer

More than 1 million babies die on the day of their birth every year. A staggering 90 percent of these deaths occur in developing nations, where hypothermia is a common cause of death in premature and low-weight infants.

Embrace Warmer is essentially an infant sleeping bag, helping to regulate a baby’s body temperature during their vulnerable first days. The award-winning innovation is reusable, low-cost and requires no electricity, making it ideal for poor communities around the globe. Over 200,000 infants have used the life-saving blanket so far.

9. LifeStraw

Image: LifeStraw

About 783 million people or 11 percent of the world’s population lack access to improved sources of drinking water. Drinking contaminated water can lead to devastating disease and illness. It’s estimated that every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.

LifeStraw makes drinking contaminated water safer, which can be a game-changer in poor regions where water access is minimal. The straw-like device uses a simple filtration system made of specially designed cloth to render water safe to drink.

The company not only provides straws to communities in need for individual use, but also donates larger filtration systems to poor communities around the globe for community use.

10. The XO Laptop

Image: XO Laptop

Education and learning are universal desires for today’s youth. But poor communities don’t always have the means to give children the comprehensive education they deserve.

The XO Laptop is helping to fill that gap. The small, low cost computer is highly durable and features a powerful screen that can be read in harsh sunlight. It has built-in wireless internet so kids can connect to information around the world.

The tech solution is specifically designed for children in developing nations, hoping to give youth access to self-empowered education. XO Laptops have been donated to more than 2.4 million children in several countries, such as Peru, Kenya, Nepal and Afghanistan.

11. Flo

Image: Mariko Products

Lack of access to menstrual products has devastating impacts on women and girls in developing nations. The inability to cope with menstruation often keeps girls out of school, with girls in Kenya missing an average of five days of school per month due to periods. Improper menstruation sanitation also has devastating health impacts, with 70 percent of all reproductive diseases in India caused by poor menstrual hygiene.

Flo, a simple, reusable menstrual hygiene kit, provides a solution for women and girls in developing nations to care for their bodies. The low-cost kit includes reusable pads, a wearable pouch to carry them and a washer-dryer container for improved cleanliness.

12. Wonderbag

Image: Cathy menees/youtube

Cooking food safely with limited resources is something many poor families in rural areas struggle with every day. Using stoves or open fires for long periods of time without proper ventilation can cause sickness or even death. Every year, household smoke inhalation from meal preparation contributes to more than 4 million deaths globally.

Wonderbag is a reusable, zero-energy slow cooker that drastically cuts down on the time needed for food to cook on a stove or fire. Once ingredients are brought to a boil using traditional methods, a pot can be placed in a Wonderbag, where it continues to cook for up to 12 hours.

The company is distributing the innovation to regions in Africa, helping families cut down on cooking times in favor of a more sustainable method.

13. Hippo Roller

For poor women and children in rural areas, collecting water can be a physically demanding and dangerous task. But the Hippo Roller, a water collection drum designed to roll along rough terrain, is allowing those who collect water to do so safely and effectively.

The Hippo Roller lets women collect enough water to sustain a family for a full day during daylight hours, when there is less risk of harassment and sexual violence on the walk to a water source. The drum also reduces the risk of injury, allowing women to roll the hefty drum instead of carrying a heavy, smaller pail on their head. More than 500,000 rollers have been distributed across 20 countries over the past several years.

14. Hemafuse

Image: Youtube/Hemafuse

In emergency situations and during childbirth, blood transfusions are often necessary to save a person’s life. But in poor nations, access to a safe, reliable blood supply is relatively rare, leading to preventable deaths each year.

The Hemafuse, from Sisu Global Health, takes the donation and storage barriers out of blood transfusions, recycling a person’s own blood back into their body. The low-cost device acts like a large syringe, collecting blood and filtering it internally to remove clots and other particulates. The blood can then be deposited into a blood bag, where it can be pumped back into a patient’s body.

15. The Peepoo Toilet

Image: The Peepoo Toilet

About 1 in 3 people or nearly 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to a toilet. Managing human waste is a massive issue in developing nations, with improper sanitation partially responsible for the spread of deadly disease. Each year, poor sanitation contributes to an estimated 700,000 child deaths from diarrhea.

Putting aside its giggle-inducing name, The PeePoo Toilet is a vital way for people in developing nations to use the restroom safely, especially when they have a contagious disease. The slim, biodegradable bag is used by an individual in the absence of a toilet. The bag sanitizes human excrement, turning the contents of the bag into fertilizer in about a month.

The PeePoo Toilet, however, is a single-use solution, meaning it may not be practical for every time someone needs to use the restroom. Nevertheless, it’s providing an innovative, safe way to prevent the spread of disease in the absence of improved sanitation.

16. Jet injections

Image: Pixnio

Vaccines and immunizations are crucial in curbing the impacts of diseases and illnesses around the world. But safely administering a vaccine in a developing nation can be difficult with the complexities of sterilization, especially when it comes to often misused needles.

Jet injectors help solve this problem, delivering vaccines to patients using pressure to penetrate the skin, rather than needles. The single-use medical device administers a vaccine through a fine stream of fluid that passes through skin into tissue. The solution is cost-effective and highly efficient, using up to 80 percent less vaccine than a traditional needle injection.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/10/17/poverty-innovations/

16 holiday gifts that give back to great causes

Image: Mashable Composite; LifeStraw, Cuddle + Kind, Sseko Designs, WeWood

Don’t let the stress of the holiday shopping season get you down this year there’s plenty of good to go around.

Various companies are giving their products a true philanthropic edge, appealing to consumers who want to give gifts and give back at the same time.

These quality gifts take on the world’s biggest inequalities and most noticeable causes and all without causewashing. If that doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, nothing will.

These 16 gifts will help you make a difference this holiday season. To find more options for those on your holiday list, check out our gift guides from past years for more stellar gifts that give back.

1. Cuddle + Kind dolls

Image: Cuddle + Kind

What if a cuddle could change the world? The makers of Cuddle + Kind’s hand-knit dolls say it can.

Cuddle + Kind’s dolls are ethically produced by Peruvian women artisans, and they help curb childhood hunger around the word. The sale of one doll equals 10 meals provided to children in need through the World Food Program USA. Dolls are available in bright colors and dressed in fun outfits, making them the perfect gifts for children.

Price: $45 – $65

2. Conscious Step socks

Image: Conscious Step

Conscious Step creates eye-catching patterned socks for more than simple style. Each pair is designed in honor of a particular cause, benefiting a trusted nonprofit working to tackle an issue of global concern.

A pair of socks that benefit Water.org, for example, provides 18 months of clean water access for someone in need. Another pair, benefiting UNAIDS, provides a week of HIV treatment for an expectant mother in a developing nation.

Price: $14.95 per pair; $44.95 for a three-pair collection

3. Alex and Ani “Charity by Design” bracelets

Image: Alex And Ani

Through its “Charity by Design” line, jewelry manufacturer Alex and Ani designs simple bracelets dedicated to a wide variety of good causes.

From UNICEF to the Alzheimer’s Association to the ASPCA, each bracelet represents a worthy global issue. And with 20 percent of the proceeds going directly to the nonprofit represented, this gift gives back in notable ways.

Price: $21 – $38

4. Love Your Melon hats

Image: Love your melons

For many parts of the world, the holiday season means winter weather. Warm winter hats are one gift everyone will have a use for especially with a good cause attached.

Love Your Melon beanies are made of cotton yarn in several different colors, featuring a patch that declares “Love Your Melon.” Half of the net proceeds from each sale go to pediatric cancer organizations.

Price: $30

5. Tory Burch Foundation Seed Box

Image: Tory Burch Foundation

Designer Tory Burch is known for her high-end accessories, but she also knows how to give back by supporting women entrepreneurs. The Tory Burch Foundation Seed Box features seven products from seven women-owned companies, giving female entrepreneurs the chance to showcase their talents.

The products included in this year’s holiday box range from a simple necklace to classic nail polish and a detox bath. All proceeds from sales of the box benefit the Tory Burch Foundation, which supports female entrepreneurs with financial support and mentorship.

Price: $98

6. Ornaments made by female survivors

Image: Thistle Farms

These ornaments are more than just festive decorations they celebrate the resilience of women from around the world. The set of four handmade ornaments, assembled in a collection called “Love From Around The World II,” were each made by female survivors in Nashville, Cambodia, Peru and the Middle East.

The collection benefits Thistle Farms, an organization supporting survivors of addiction, prostitution and human trafficking. The organization says the collection of ornaments is meant to show that love is the most powerful force for change in the world.

Price: $26

7. The Starling Project candles

Image: The stARLING PROJECT

The Starling Project’s ethically-sourced, hand-poured candles come in intriguing scent combinations, like Juniper Saffron and Vanilla Hemlock. The candles themselves tie in to the project’s mission of supporting work that grants solar energy access to communities in need around the world.

The award-winning candle company donates all profits outside of production and operating costs to UNICEF to fund its solar energy work in developing nations. In the last year alone, the company has raised more than $100,000 to help provide solar energy access to communities in Chad.

Price: $55

8. Vibes high-fidelity earplugs

Image: vibes

For the conscious concertgoer on your list, these earplugs are an essential item they never knew they needed. Vibes earplugs are designed for listening to live music, allowing wearers to protect their hearing without sacrificing sound quality or clarity.

The earplugs work by filtering acoustics to lower the decibel levels of any given environment all without muffling or distorting the sound like traditional foam earplugs.

Vibes earplugs have a partnership with the Hear the World Foundation. Proceeds from each pair purchased will help fund hearing aids, surgeries and programs for the hard of hearing around the world.

Price: $23.99

9. charity: water leather wristband

Image: charity: water

Remember those plastic charity wristbands that were popular to stack on your wrist a few years ago? Nonprofit organization charity: water gave those same bracelets an upgrade with this leather wristband.

The black wristband is a sleek way to show support for clean water access around the world, with all of the profits going directly to charity: water.

Price: $15

10. LifeStraw Go water bottles

Image: LifeStraw

Drinking clean water has never been easier. LifeStraw Go 2-stage filtration water bottles are equipped with a real-time filtration system, which cleans bacteria and contaminants out of water as you sip. The explorer on your list can even drink river water using the bottle all without worry.

Through the company’s Follow the Liters program, every LifeStraw product sold provides a child in a developing country with access to clean, safe drinking water for an entire school year.

Price: $49.95

11. Charcoal soap

Image: The Adventure Project

Even giving coal to someone on the “naughty” list can make a difference. Given the popularity of charcoal in beauty products this year, the Adventure Project and APOTHEKE teamed up to create a charcoal soap that gives back.

With each purchase of the “coal” soap, one woman in Kenya is provided with a charcoal-efficient stove. With 4 million people dying from smoke inhalation worldwide every year, these stoves can help curb the need to cook over open fires.

Price: $20

12. The Giving Keys matte black key necklace

Image: The Giving Keys

The Giving Keys is a Los Angeles-based company that employs those transitioning out of homelessness to make their products. Each key-themed product, including this matte black necklace, is stamped with an inspirational word “create,” “strength,” “inspire,” and more.

The wearer of a product from The Giving Keys is encouraged to embrace that word, and then “pay it forward” by giving their product to a person who needs the message more. Since their incorporation in 2012, The Giving Keys has provided job opportunities to more than 60 individuals transitioning out of homelessness with the support of their nonprofit partners.

Price: $42

13. Sseko leather iPad case

Image: Sseko

This Sseko leather case, which fits an iPad Air and a Kindle, is handcrafted in Ethiopia by women in the region. The women who assemble the cases are paid fair wages, have their education subsidized and have the opportunity to assume leadership roles within the company. The material for the case is also ethically sourced from Ethiopian farmers, making a conscious product pipeline.

As a company, Sseko‘s goal is to help curb poverty in Ethiopia by employing women in meaningful, sustainable work. Additional profits from the products are also used to empower and provide education to women in Uganda through dedicated programs.

Price: $49.99

14. WeWOOD watches

Image: WeWOOD

These stylish wooden watches hope to remind you not only of the time, but of the value of nature. The watch is completely free of toxic and artificial materials, making it more sustainable than other watch brands. But for those concerned about destroying trees in the process, WeWOOD has a solution.

The company partners with Trees for the Future, Treedom and American Forests to plant a tree for every wooden watch purchased, rebuilding the environment. Since 2011, WeWOOD has helped plant more than 420,000 trees.

Price: $125-$170

15. Lisa Hoffman rose quartz bracelet

Image: Lisa Hoffman

This classic bracelet is made of rose quartz beads and has a sterling silver leaf charm. Inside the charm, wearers can place a fragrance that acts like long-lasting perfume.

The bracelet not only looks good, but it does good. Through January 2017, all of the proceeds collected from sales of the bracelet will go directly to the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

Price: $95

16. STATE Mini Kane backpacks

Image: STATE

STATE’s Mini Kane backpacks are fashion-forward bags that deliver both style and impact. The bags feature a main storage compartment, zippered front pocket and velcro side pockets. Plus, they come in stunning color combinations, like pink and mint or green and navy. There’s even an old-school Nickelodeon-themed bag.

For each Mini Kane backpack sold, STATE will donate a pack filled with essential “tools for success” to a U.S. child in need, through the company’s #GiveBackPack campaign.

Price: $45

BONUS: Heres how a VR kitchen could transform holiday shopping

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/11/25/gifts-that-give-back-2016/

The cancer empathy cards that say more than ‘get well soon’

When a loved one has cancer, letting them know that you’re there for them is more important than ever before.

But, when a “get well soon” or a “fuck cancer” card doesn’t feel appropriate, what is the alternative?

Card company thortful has created a range of empathy cards for people with breast cancer that deliver another message.

Image: thortful

The greetings include statements like “You are the bravest person I know” and “I don’t always know what to do or say but I will always be here for you no matter what.”

Emily McDowell one of the card designers who contributed to the thortful breast cancer card range was inspired by her own experience surviving cancer.

Image: THORTFUL

“It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didnt know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realising it. Sympathy cards can make people feel like you think theyre already dead,” McDowell said in a statement emailed to Mashable.

“A ‘fuck cancer’ card is a nice sentiment, but when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better,” McDowell continued.

Image: THORTFUL

McDowell says her goal is to change the conversation around how people talk about illness and people living with cancer.

“If something I created can change conversations and help people communicate, then thats the most rewarding thing I can think of,” McDowell said.

Image: THORTFUL

One-hundred percent of the profits from the cards sold will go to cancer charity Breast Cancer Haven. The cards can be purchased online for 2.99 ($3.89).

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/09/28/cancer-empathy-cards/

Do black lives matter to corporate America?

Image: vicky Leta/mashable

When Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed by police in July, I was devastated, confused, frustrated and didn’t know what to do. I did know I wasn’t going to march. I marched after Eric Garner’s life was taken by police with an illegal chokehold in 2014. I protested. I chanted. I stopped traffic. I was convinced “a change is gonna come.” And then, once again, no one was held accountable. I felt helpless.

In July, I spoke to coworkers and texted with friends. I embraced my family. We were all searching for answers. Who has a voice that would be heard? Who could catalyze the change needed, as the government stumbles to act? Who could galvanize the people, while the people struggle to be recognized?

The answer: corporations. Yes, the very corporations that lobby the government for profit-driven interests. The same corporations that “We the People” readily support with our dollars.

In today’s 24/7 marketplace, the influence these giant corporations wield helps shape the economy, the laws and to a certain extent our behavior more than ever. It’s time the people behind these brands stop lurking around the issue and become ancillaries in the stand against racial injustice.

“Corporations are led by people, and these people have powerful voices.”

It’s true the responsibility of corporations is, for the most part, to shareholders first and consumers second. They already have their corporate social responsibility causes picked out for the year. Plus, the days when we knew local storeowners by name and could hold them accountable are long gone. Right?

Wrong. Corporations are not faceless. They are led by people, and these people have powerful voices. They just have to make exercising it a priority.

“Business is the most powerful force in society, and we have the opportunity to use this power to support a fair and inclusive democracy,” wrote Ben & Jerrys CEO Jostein Solheim in an April blog for The Huffington Post.

The ice cream makers even went a step further, posting on the company site, “Systemic racism is not a problem that African Americans can solve alone … this is a problem that will take everyone to solve, not just those who are under threat from it.”

Ben & Jerry’s stance is strong, admirable and appropriate but most of all, it is clear. It matter-of-factly states what the problem is and who needs to be involved to solve it. The question now becomes: How will these values seep into the consciousness of other corporations and propel action?

Supporting #BlackLivesMatter

Some companies have attempted to take a stand for racial justice, but so far the impact has been minimal.

On July 8, days after the shootings of Sterling and Castile, music streaming service Pandora posted a tweet in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the backlash was immediate. It was accused by many of its followers of supporting a “terrorist group.” In response, outraged subscribers canceled their subscriptions, and posted screenshots of their cancellations on social media.

That same day, Facebook put up a #BlackLivesMatter sign in front of its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, listing the names of victims while CEO Mark Zuckerberg asked for peace on his personal page. Google employees held vigils, and the official Google account sent out a supportive tweet.

Image: vicky leta/mashable

A few advertising agencies released statements through their websites and social accounts, only to have their sincerity questioned because their hiring practices did not seem inclusive.

Each of these corporations expressed solidarity with the movement, something that will continue to be appreciated. But the time for releasing public statements has passed. Corporations must move forward with actionable solutions.

Where is the coalition of companies taking a hard line stance? How many companies are removing corporate funds from states and cities if they dont move toward police reform? Which corporations are confronting their omnipresent lack of diversity? This certainly wouldnt be the first time corporations have delved into matters of human rights.

The precedent has been set

Businesses have publicly supported social and environmental causes before, with LGBTQ rights being a prime illustration.

In March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff all joined more than 80 other business leaders in signing an open letter asking North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory to repeal a law that bans transgender people from using bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities. These same companies, along with other Fortune 500 companies, were the ones that outwardly supported the Marriage Equality Act of 2014. They petitioned, marched, lobbied and donated to overturn Proposition 8 in California and it worked.

This week, the NCAA withdrew all championship events from North Carolina for the 2016-17 academic year because of their anti-LGBT laws. Earlier this summer, the NBA decided to pull All-Star Weekend its biggest event for 2017 out of the same state for the same reasons.

Image: VICKY LETA/MASHABLE

The NBA also formed a partnership with GLSEN, a leading LGBTQ activist and education organization, to initiate other pioneering endeavors for LGBTQ causes. WNBA players were issued T-shirts by the league after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA representatives marched on behalf of both leagues in the New York City Pride March.

While LGBTQ equality rightfully garners a lot of attention, it’s not the only issue corporations tackle. For instance, a few trailblazing companies have also taken gender inequality and equal pay into their own hands. Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg is widely known for her advocacy for women in the workforce. When Ellen Pao was the CEO of Reddit, she eliminated negotiations during the hiring and recruiting process as an approach to fix the pay gap. Salesforces Marc Benioff and Intel CEO Brian Kzanich have pledged millions to the cause as well.

“It’s time to step up and do more.”

“Its time to step up and do more … Intel wants to lead by example,” Kzanich said in 2015 regarding the company’s diversity initiatives.

CEOs and the corporations they represent are starting to see supporting social issues as a company value a sense of duty that should permeate their entire business.

Many participate in Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives supporting causes like STEM education, climate change, childrens health, organic farming and breast cancer research.

It’s the right thing to do.

But corporations need to address the other glaring human rights issue. The one where a black man gets shot and the video of his murder surfaces on the internet. The one where justice takes a backseat and then the cycle repeats itself all over again.

Keep the movement moving

Corporations should take direct action in order to effect change, or support others leading change efforts.

For example, nonprofits and even insurance companies have been working directly with law enforcement. They provide hands-on training to show officers how to minimize use-of-force incidents and formulate action plans. Insurance companies, like Travelers Insurance, likely do this because police departments rarely have to pay when sued, as the liability usually falls on insurance companies. Those insurance companies, then, look for preventative measures that can help mitigate their costs. Despite being economically motivated, its effective in terms of reform.

“Supporting Black Lives Matter shouldnt require contemplation; it should be a moral obligation.”

Google, meanwhile, has chosen the path of supporting others who are making an impact by aligning with nonprofits that are moving the cause forward through tech. In November 2015, Google invested more than $2 million in grant money to three San Francisco Bay-area nonprofits working for racial and social justice. Since Googles mission is to make information useful and accessible, it makes perfect sense that part of that money went toward the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which developed an app that tracks reports of incidents involving law enforcement.

Another opportunity for corporations to make a change comes by looking internally. Its hard for a company to take a position on racial injustice if it isn’t trying to fix its own issues in recruiting, hiring and retaining black people.

Look no further than the paragon of corporate buzzwords: “diversity.” It’s commonly accepted that diversity creates better ideas, plugs the talent gap and is good for companies bottom lines. However, this ideology often does not translate into more opportunities for black people to enter the corporate workforce.

In 2015, the number of black people employed compared to white employees was abysmal, especially in tech. Since last year, the numbers have slightly increased, but the gap is still egregious.

“Tech CEOs can make aggressive statements that they support Black Lives Matter,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told the Guardian in July. “But the reality is that until we improve the number of people of color inside tech companies, we really have not done our job.”

Actions speak louder

Image: vicky leta/mashable

The responsibility to fix societys ills shouldnt fall on corporations alone. But through their voice, power and influence, they can force action.

Just last month General Mills put stipulations on advertising agencies that participate in the creative review for its business. The company is requiring agencies to have staffs with at least 50 percent women and 20 percent people of color within the creative department.

“If you are going to put people you serve first, the most important thing is to live up to it and make it a key criteria,” Ann Simonds, General Mills CMO, told AdAge.

In other words, supporting Black Lives Matter shouldnt require contemplation; it should be a moral obligation, one that demands at least the same fervor, passion and action that corporations put toward other human rights issues.

Now is the time for corporate America to do its part. It’s a matter of life or death.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/09/17/black-lives-matter-corporations/

How breastfeeding can help tackle these 6 global inequalities

Women in the Central African Republic breastfeed their babies.
Image: Veronique DURRUTY/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

What if mothers could tackle some of the world’s most pervasive problems simply by feeding their babies? Breastfeeding advocates argue they can.

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, with the first week dubbed World Breastfeeding Week an annual observance to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and infants across the globe. And many of those benefits, advocates say, can help address some of the world’s biggest inequalities.

The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 to diminish the most widespread global issues by 2030, focus heavily on women and children. According to the leading health organizations behind World Breastfeeding Week, breastfeeding can help alleviate some of those burdens.

“A women should not be made to feel guilty if in knowing this information she decides not to breastfeed.”

Globally, less than 40 percent of the world’s children are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life, a practice that is recommended by the World Health Organization. France Begin, a senior nutrition adviser with UNICEF, says low rates of breastfeeding most likely stem from a lack of knowledge regarding its benefits for both mother and child.

While health advocates like Begin want all mothers to be empowered with information on breastfeeding, she also says it’s essential to respect the decision of each mother on how to nourish her baby.

“Despite this information, a woman may decide not to breastfeed and that decision is to be respected,” Begin tells Mashable. “But this information should be conveyed, and a woman should not be made to feel guilty if, in knowing this information, she decides not to breastfeed.”

To explain how breastfeeding can help address global inequality, we took a look at six big issues that the practice can help tackle.

1. Overall health and well-being

The World Health Organization calls breast milk “the ideal food for newborns and infants,” saying it gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development. But breast milk also contains antibodies that help protect babies from common childhood illnesses.

“Just simply breastfeeding can play a role in preventing a lot of the infant illnesses and deaths in many developing countries,” Begin says.

Breastfeeding alone has been shown to curb the rates of diarrhea and pneumonia in infants, two of the primary causes of infant mortality around the globe. Studies also estimate that if all women breastfed within the first hour of life, more than 800,000 infant lives per year could be saved globally.

Breastfeeding not only benefits the overall health of infants, but it also benefits mothers. It has been shown to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression. Begin also points out that breastfeeding has been proven to help space out births at a sustainable interval for a mother’s health, which is crucial in developing and remote regions that often lack access to methods of family planning.

2. Poverty

Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits of breastfeeding is its low economic toll on household budgets. Raising a child in any global context can be costly and formula costs have an obvious impact on a family’s finances. But breastfeeding is a low-to-no cost way to feed infants, especially in the first six months of life.

The World Health Organization says breastfeeding can even be used for children “two years or beyond” in addition to age-appropriate foods, further curbing household food costs.

Begin also points out that breastfeeding can help curb long-term health costs for families by making both infants and mothers less susceptible to illnesses, cancers and other health impacts. But, she adds, even though the financial cost is alleviated for a family, breastfeeding still costs time for women. This, she says, is why it’s essential that women are supported when breastfeeding by their spouse, employer and community.

3. Hunger

Infant and childhood hunger is a global issue, especially in developing and remote regions that lack adequate food security. According to the World Food Programme, poor nutrition causes 45 percent of deaths in children under five an estimated 3.1 million children each year.

Begin says breastfeeding can help curb the impact of food insecurity for infants under six months, as it can be the sole nutritional and food source for babies. Additionally, the ability of mothers to supplement age-appropriate foods with breastfeeding into a child’s first few years of life enables more food and nutritional security for their young children.

She points out, however, that it is still crucial for mothers to get adequate nutrition in order to pass breastfeeding’s nutritional benefits on to their babies. So, while breastfeeding may help curb some of the issue of food security, it certainly isn’t a catch-all for its potential impacts.

4. Lack of clean water

While a breastfeeding mother needs to stay hydrated to care for her own health, her infant doesn’t have the same reliance on pure drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, breast milk is 80 percent water, which means even in the hottest of climates an infant does not need additional water to stay healthy and hydrated.

Begin says breastfeeding also helps support an infant’s developing immune system, which can help protect them from some bacteria that can contaminate the water they drink as they age. But breastfeeding doesn’t eliminate water inequality for a mother and her family.

“In a way, you take care of issues of water contamination because you don’t have to give water to the infant,” Begin says. “But mothers still need access to water and sanitation to sustain breastfeeding.”

5. Gender inequality

Around the globe, women often lack access to proper information about breastfeeding, preventing them from making informed decisions on whether or not feeding is for them. They’re also routinely shamed for breastfeeding in public, especially in Western nations.

Overall, gender inequality is ingrained in how we view breastfeeding. But the practice, Begin says, can also help tackle gender inequality by empowering women.

The act of breastfeeding, she says, helps empower women by enabling them to provide all the nutrition their babies needs with their own bodies.

But, she adds, women also must be empowered to choose how they feed their children and that includes whether or not to breastfeed at all. And to support a woman’s right to her body, a cornerstone of gender equality, we should support that decision, too.

6. Pollution

The process of breastfeeding depends almost entirely on a woman’s body, with few if any additional resources needed to sustain the practice. That’s good news for the environment, which undoubtedly feels the impacts of the formula industry.

“Breastfeeding has a very low carbon print,” Begin says. “All the water used to produce formula, the energy, the bottles, the tin cans you don’t need that. There’s something to be said about the cost of the [formula] industry on the environment.”

Advocates call breastfeeding “the most ecologically sound food available to humans,” as it is produced and consumed without any adverse impacts on the environment. That’s especially important in a global community already in crisis from the impacts of climate change.

The waste that comes from formula consumption is often non-recyclable, meaning it ends up in landfills or incinerated, both of which spell trouble for our environment.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/04/breastfeeding-inequality/