Community Partner Spotlights

"Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”


– Helen Keller

Some ideas may seem RADICAL, but equality shouldn’t be.

As I write this, it’s June 19, 2020 - or Juneteenth - a day of celebrations that reminds Black people in America of the day they became emancipated from chattel slavery and unwitting property to a system that would keep them oppressed for another 200+ years. But I digress - this is not a history lesson but another generation building upon and making history as the battle for racial justice fights on. Over Memorial Day weekend, another Black man became a hashtag, a face on a t-shirt, a social media video known worldwide to everybody. The word “everybody” is important because, for the first time in the era of Social Media, there were no sports, movies, or concerts, - just the same 8 mins and 46 secs over and over, on every platform. Worlds hearts, minds, passions, and buildings were set ablaze with a desire for RADICAL social, political, and economical change across the world. Richmond has been inspiring, yes inspiring, others around the world to tear down systems of oppression and injustice – see ya, Christopher Columbus! I have been inspired by activists young and old focused on creating RADICAL change, being unafraid of RADICAL dialogue with all ages and races, inspired to help my people and stop intergenerational cycles created by outside/police intervention. I have been inspired to take to the streets - to demand equal justice, to demand the right as a Black woman who loves a Black man to not be afraid of him following the law and still dying, to demand the right that as a Black veteran to not have to wonder ‘should I bring my military ID with me as back up, so they’ll think I’m “one of the good ones”?’ - to demand the right as a teacher that the Black and Brown children in my care will be treated as fairly as White children when they get to elementary school. We are challenging society, domestic & global, to truly “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Some ideas may seem RADICAL, but equality shouldn’t be.

We will not be silent.

Dear Friends & Supporters, We write to you with heavy hearts. The murders we have recently seen in the U.S. are highlighting injustices enacted upon our communities every day, but which rarely garner national or global attention. It's wrong, and our communities can no longer tolerate the seemingly invisible, inherent, and systematic racial issues that exist any more than we can tolerate or justify murder by asphyxiation; kneeling on someone’s neck as they cry out ‘I can’t breathe’. So our family, friends, and neighbors protest to assure their voices are not the next to be silenced by the police, by the media, the president, or white supremacy. We can try to spin a lesson from these senseless and heinous murders, but the fact is, the lesson is that the U.S. has been biased and complacent in the protection of its citizens. This is not new, just a visible proof that racism is still pervasive in our society, because of our complacency. It's because we have told ourselves that racism lived in the era of our grandparents and their grandparents before them. The senseless system set up in the U.S. has silenced issues of racial equity. We tell ourselves we cannot be responsible for the actions of those who lived generations before us. These lies have been woven to silence and placate younger generations into believing that progress has an absolute and definitive end. Lasting progress requires organized and consistent efforts. World U.P. remains committed to fostering real progress - a constant movement forward towards a better, more united world. As an Organization that dreams of a united global community, where everyone belongs, is celebrated, and is appreciated for our differences, we stand with those who have undertaken and continue to conduct protests and advocacy efforts. We do not condone the advantageous looting and violent acts undertaken by certain individuals, detracting from the mission and message of the peaceful protestors who have worked tirelessly to be heard. We do, however, look at the message surrounding those protests which have turned violent and understand violence was the seed that bred the need for this movement. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. . . . Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” We hear the pain and hurt that has fueled a justifiable outrage - the cry to be heard, the need for action, the demand for structural change, and the pursuit of social justice and progress. World U.P. will not be silent. We will stand by the message of the protests, to create a nation and world that ensures Black Lives Matter. Conflict must be acknowledged and channeled to create change and promote new ways of improving together, and World U.P. aims to support the value of the conflict in our current environment by: Continuing to provide spaces for the people to hold uncomfortable, but necessary conversations, fostering the full spectrum of cultural expression. Remain vigilant in providing access to fresh produce to our communities in need and those who are protesting. Challenge ourselves to continually develop and implement solutions addressing pervasive racial issues, while maintaining a kind and peaceful space for refuge. World U.P. is here for ALL who seek acceptance and support. We stand with you in this fight for our communities. Sending Peace & Love, The Board Of Directors, The World U.P. Foundation

Essential Businesses & Busting Nonprofit Myths

This is an unprecedented time. The demand on World U.P. and our organizational partners is at max capacity. In the time of a pandemic, the only thing that matters is the safety of our neighbors and ourselves. Businesses are closing, virtual living is the new normal, and we are all on house arrest. It is also a sad time for our generation, which has left a lot for me to reflect upon. One thing has become abundantly clear - Nonprofits are essential businesses/services. We are not optional - we provide resources that are necessary for the survival and continued growth of the world. I think that this new revelation surprised us - this isn’t what we were taught and it’s not the way society operates. Since engaging with the nonprofit community, there have been a number of myths that have continuously been debunked in my mind - so I thought it would be best to share them now, as we rethink our way of living, and our impact locally & globally. Myth # 1: Nonprofits don't need to make a profit. I really wanted to tackle one this one first because it is so critically misunderstood. Nonprofits are businesses too. Legally, we are a non-stock corporation that had to go through several nuanced steps to have the IRS deem us worthy and charitable enough to receive a 501(c)(3) status. It can take up to 2 years to complete the process. The only thing that truly distinguishes us from a business is the direct exchange and connection of payment to services. Nonprofits have two customers: our donors and those in the communities we serve. We must make more money than we spend to place money back into our communities rather than in the pockets of shareholders. We have employees, we have overhead, and we have strategic plans and dreams to build upon; to do so we need all of the same resources as businesses do. In fact, for us, a profit isn’t optional - it's essential for our growth, sustainability, and to ensure we provide livable wages to our Social Servant employees. Myth #2: Nonprofits don't pay taxes. Yes, we’re tax-exempt under the IRS, which may sound as if non-profits don't pay taxes. The truth is we file a yearly tax return just like anybody else! We have to disclose every dollar that comes in and every dollar that goes out. In fact, we are liable for taxes in two key areas: First, we must pay employment taxes for all employees - state, federal, medicare, and social security. Second, we must pay taxes on all income received from activities that do not align with our mission. This means, if my mission is focused on securing community Wellness and we sell a t-shirt with our logo on it, we must pay taxes on any profit made from the sale. The only thing we don't get to pay taxes on is donations we receive from the public and grants received to create programming in alignment with our mission. Further, we are held to a much higher standard than normal businesses. We are evaluated by our mission, our programs, and our finances to make sure the money we collect directly supports our mission. Additionally, all of our tax returns are public. Anyone may choose to visit and pull up our tax returns. We are under the watchful eye of the IRS and the public around every turn. As a nonprofit, using public funds, World U.P. specifically aims to be as transparent as we can to ensure our community knows their funds are being used as best as possible. Myth #3: Giving doesn't benefit me/my bottom line. This one especially stands out, because there are so many benefits to giving. Not only are you doing good, but you are eligible for a tax break by doing so. If you give on behalf of your company, your company gets a tax break. Here's something to keep in mind: non-profits, including World U.P., can provide tax receipts for the services or goods you willingly provide - a donation doesn’t have to be cash. If you're supporting a non-profit make sure they are a 501(c)(3) company or an IRS designated organization that can give you a receipt for services, goods, or cash donations. Not only does this assist you, but it keeps them accountable for the goods and money they receive. Giving can save you money and indeed makes good business sense for your bottom line by minimizing your taxable income. We live in a time where seemingly everything is public knowledge on the internet - you are your likes, your favorites, and your social support - this is especially important for businesses. As a business with an online presence, there is an entire world of consumers wishing or actively aiming to support companies with a measurable impact on their communities. Many are so eager to help they will pay premiums on products sold by those companies. Think about how much more you pay for organic products, because you know they follow sustainable farming practices and are likely void of additives that could harm you or others. People pay for better products from companies that make a difference. along that line, employees want to work for companies that make a difference and improve their communities. You will attract better talent and more passionate people to your business if you positively impact your community. Giving differentiates you from your competition. If you have the same product at the same price but you follow better business practices, that's a game-changer! Moreover, when you support your communities and nonprofits you open yourself up to A Whole New World of customers. A website and social media are forms of currency for non-profits. We have already invested in both, and it costs nothing to promote you on it. In fact, we would love it if you promoted us on your social media - which also costs you nothing. Last but probably not least, when you give to your community and supporting causes that make a positive impact, you will be seen. The public relations opportunities are endless and benefit both parties. This may sound disingenuous because we don't want to do things merely for the applause, but non-profits want and need that exposure as well. We are willing and happy to talk about our wonderful partners in the community! Myth #4: Only large donations matter. What could $5 do to improve somebody's life? Well let’s break this down: $5 is about the cost of a cup of coffee. Someone who visits a coffee shop 3-5 times a month generally spends at least $5 each time, which translates to spending an average of $20 a month on coffee, or $240 a year! What if I told you that for the cost of one cup of coffee a month World U.P. can feed over 100 families in a single year? It's true. If you give $5 a month in 12 months that's $60. Sixty dollars is the food cost for us to bring the Mobile Produce Pantry into a food desert once a month where we feed over a hundred families. It sounds insignificant, but if 12 people gave $5 a month for a year we could continuously run a program without fear of financial insolvency. If that's what $5 a month can do just think about what $10 or $15 or $20 a month can do on a recurring donation basis. It's nearly effortless to set up a recurring donation. Virtually every nonprofit has this option when you click on “make a donation.” You complete the set up once and an automatic deduction is taken out of your bank account every month. For you, that's one cup of coffee - for World U.P. it's a significant addition to our budget - for a family that’s food security. All donations matter. All donations matter. Give it a try on our World U.P. giving page ;-) Myth #5: I can't give you a check, I can't help. There are two main categories nonprofits generally struggle with developing within their first few years: financial resources and human resources. In both areas nonprofits are forced to be social entrepreneurs, needing to come up with creative solutions, be especially mindful of our expenses, and share the burden with other organizations. There are multiple avenues of support you can provide without spending a single penny: You can host a World U.P. fundraiser: just reach out and we’ll provide you with the resources you need, such as our logo & other branding materials, to start raising money! By using social media you can market to customers, friends, and family online. Your business platform and your influence as a business leader in the community raise awareness of the World U.P. cause, and aides us in funding impactful programs. You can even guide people directly to our website; you needn’t have to collect & manage the cash donations. In fact, Facebook will collect the cash for you and automatically deposit the funds into the World U.P. bank account. You can create/sponsor a limited product: just split the proceeds with World U.P. for one month, a year, or more; it’s entirely up to you! It’s a win-win, you receive sales and we obtain funds. Additionally, we will actively market your new product at no cost to you. World U.P. will diligently promote your name on our social media platforms and website directly into the hands of the people who care. You can provide pro bono services: said services can be provided selectively to World U.P., such as offering mentorship opportunities to help us build our business. This will supply you with a tax write-off, but more importantly you'll foster new business partnerships. You can provide free marketing and advertising on your platform: get creative, we want to hear your ideas. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg! These are the key myths we've found. What are some things you have experienced that contradict what you originally believed?

A Poem On Meeting Chaos with Kindness

Last night in a moment of play, I asked my 6-year old step-daughter what the meaning of life was. In my defense, she was playing the teacher and requested questions from her class. Her answer was simple and to the point - “Community.” I was in awe. How is it that a six-year-old can answer such an abstract question with such clarity? Let’s be blunt - the last month has been hard. Lives have been lost, jobs are being threatened, the economy can’t make up its mind about how it’s going to react. We are dealing with something that is unprecedented. We had no recovery plans for what would happen when something beyond human control would threaten the entire world equally, demanding all the same resources, taking lives regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender. COVID-19 equalized us in some ways and widened the division of inequalities in others. It’s complicated, convoluted, and very abstract. It’s a time that demands simplicity and clarity in life - it demands Community. When we started World U.P. 4 years ago, we knew we wanted to create a Community and we are embracing the need for Community stronger than ever. We are a collective of innovative and passionate people who dream of an Understanding and Peaceful global community, where everyone belongs, is celebrated, and is appreciated for our differences. To foster such a Community, we need to combat fear by developing diverse friendships to migrate the ethnicity-based violence and stereotypes as shown in the news. We need to build our World U.P. (sorry - I couldn’t resist) by improving access to resources that allow humans to connect, learn, and empower each other through kindness & love. We need to come together. As people, we need to remember that everyone is facing a different version of the reality we are in. We need to remember that while the virus must be contained, people still live in their daily lives and they are so vastly different, with different levels and channels of stress, varying choices, and a wide array of privileges. We cannot presume to understand how everyone is responding to this crisis without staying connected and working together. Some People, All People: A Poem Some people can’t stay home Some people have to stay home Some people have to care for their elderly family members Some people are now understanding the daily requirements of teaching children Some people have family members in hospitals Some people have to go to work Some people are victims of domestic abuse, and are in more danger in their home Some people are still employed and can work from home and can financially stimulate their community. Some people have recently been laid off and have to rely on government systems for the first time in their life Some people are questioning their political beliefs Some people are questioning their religious beliefs Some people are learning to use the internet for the first time Some people are alone Some people are with their family Some people are suffering from mental health issues Some people are using this time to reconnect with themselves and nature. All people are subject to feelings of loneliness All people have the capacity to impact their community All people have the ability to Love and receive Love All people Fear All people Laugh All people Cry All people Love We navigate the chaotic waters of our new life, we need to remember to meet people’s stress and fear with kindness and love. What’s one thing you can do or have seen done out of kindness and love lately?

The Power of Idea Seeds

It’s the last day of February - and spring is coming to Richmond early this year. Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring. But I’ll be honest, I don’t always trust groundhogs and their weather predictions. I mean what kind of animal wouldn’t want to go back to bed for 6 more weeks? The fact that he would choose to stay awake is crazy to me. But seeing the trees blooming in spite of the snow and cold has me convinced, Phillip was right. I know that I’ve said this before, but Spring really is my favorite time of year. It’s when we start seeing potential. Potential for summer warmth, the potential for new growth, the potential for all the potential of the world to bloom. I feel hope and comfort knowing that what we plant and tend to now has the potential to bloom and grow in the near future. It’s time to plant seeds, seeds filled with potential. At the end of my last post, I charged everyone to be courageous and start planting their new Idea Seeds for 2020. So, what is an Idea Seed? Using some linguistics and science, let’s break it down. A seed (Seed Idea) is a part of a flowering plant (aka You and Your brain) that is capable of reproduction. If you want to get inception-y about this, that means inside every seed is potential for new seeds, inside those potential seeds are potential for new potential seeds, and so on and so forth. Mind Blown Anyway, seeds are composed of two really important parts: An embryo that will one day become a new plant; and Cotyledons, which store the food and energy that slowly feeds the seed while they are buried underground, and allows it to grow until it reaches sunlight. Think of the embryo as the potential for a fully developed idea later on. These are things that sit in your brain in the dark. They are the twinges of inspiration that live inside our brains. They are those moments when we say - “I feel it in my gut”. They are moments when we say, “how cool would that be?” They are moments when we feel called to something, but we don’t know why or how. We. Just. Know. Often they pop into our brains and then they lay dormant for a while. They are there, and they are alive, but they are still in the dark, waiting for the food and energy they need to trigger growth. To trigger growth, they need to be slowly fed by personal experiences and information that inspire passion to create action. These personal attachments take the form of life-changing experiences, meeting inspiring people, or getting new information. All of your personal experiences feed and energize the development of the potential idea into something more developed. Here’s the catch - not every Idea Seed that exists in your brain is going to move from the potential stage to the growth stage. You won’t engage in experiences that trigger growth - and that’s okay. Because that means that by focusing your motivation, personal connection, and action to the Idea Seeds that matter - you will be able to create masterful beautiful growth. The idea for World U.P. started as an Idea Seed about two decades ago. I grew up in a small rural town where everything and everyone generally looked the same. We didn’t have the internet until I was college-bound, so there was little way to explore the world without having the money to go out into it. Fortunately, during my time there I managed to find friends who shared the same dorkiness and passion for music, theater, singing, and dancing. They shared my love of laughter and helping others. They shared experiences and stories and gave me a sense of community. Interestingly, they were also different than me in many ways, race, gender, and ethnicity. These people are still wonderful presences in my life today - and for them, I'm very thankful. Because of the people in my life, the Idea Seed was planted that religion, race, ethnicity, ability, and class didn’t dictate who was good and who was bad. These things don’t dictate human experience. And they certainly don’t dictate who and who not can be friends. In fact, our differences made us stronger and gave us the ability to weave together and create a strong fabric of differences that built our special, beautiful community. As I grew up traveled and met new different people, I found that no matter where you went - the basics of the human experience are the same. No matter the culture, we all share in the same human emotions, we all share in the same life events of loss and love. Our culture defines how we experience them, not whether we experience them. Travel, experience, exposure, and communication were the triggers I needed to feed and grow my Idea Seed to start becoming more developed. Then in 2016, when politics and the media were the midsts of using countries to perpetuate fear to motivate voters, I started wondering why we so blindly believe what is told to us about people we’ve never met before. Why are we so quick to confuse a country’s government with a country’s population (especially one where the population doesn’t choose the government)? Why do we buy into the idea that we should fear people who aren’t like us, rather than embrace those differences to create a stronger society? The only thing I could think of was that a lot of people don’t have the financial or physical means to travel and see the connection of the human experience. It was in these moments of thought that my Seed Idea became fully developed into this idea that something could/should exist in that provided different cultures and people the space to exchange ideas and learn from each other and overcome judgment. Something that was accessible to everyone and anyone who wanted it. My Idea Seed had fully bloomed into the mission of World U.P. and I was determined to see it come to life. Because of my passion for change, diversity, inclusion, and action, I'm proud to say that 4 years later, World U.P. is starting to take shape. I’m sharing all of this to illustrate that Idea Seeds are POWERFUL. Because, when you have an Idea Seed coupled with passion, personal connection, and the desire to see action - you have something that can generate magical change. Something with great potential to be nurtured into life. The potential for impact. The potential for success. More importantly, just remember that all of that potential lies within YOU. Within YOUR brain. Deep within YOUR passion. Stemming from YOUR desire for action. YOU are POWERFUL. YOU can change the world. What are some of your personal experiences that helped you develop your Idea Seeds?

2020: The Year of Courage

Dear Friends, There's a thing about writing a blog post - you need a message to send to your readers. Something clear, concise, confident. And if you're me, you want it to be a little bit funny, weird, and for it to hit home in the punniest way possible. As I mentally prepare for these posts, I ponder for days, come up with catchy phrases and ideas. Then, when I think I'm ready my deadline is about to expire I sit down to write it and my mind goes BLANK. Poof, all the brilliant and inspiring things I wrote in my head for the last two weeks have dissipated into a million little fragments. It happens every time - I should know better. So, per usual, I’m sitting here with 12 hours until we ring in the New Year, only able to write something honest, courageous, and raw in the hopes that you will be inspired as we ring in 2020! Here it goes... Honestly, 2019 was a blur. It was filled with lots of wonderful planned and unplanned happenings. World U.P. entered into 2019 with three goals, (1) finish fundraising and build a Mobile Produce Pantry (#MPP) that bridged community access to fresh produce in Richmond, (2) reduce unnecessary overhead costs and reallocate the funds to more important endeavors, and (3) create new programming for 2020. We leave 2019 having successfully accomplished ALL three goals, and a few more we didn’t plan on. It wasn’t easy, but we did it! Since you will hear about the reduction of costs and new programming at the beginning of 2020, I want to focus on the Mobile Produce Pantry. In 2017, the Mobile Produce Pantry was just a crazy seed of an idea we had come up with to help improves access to food security in Richmond. In 2018, we created an action plan and a goal to raise $15,000 to build the pantry. We were told NO, a lot. In 2019, we surpassed that fundraising goal and found monetary and physical support from Dupont’s Spruance Community Giving Board to build the pantry. After launching the pantry in September, we distributed over 5,800 lbs of produce into Highland Park, bringing to a grand total of over 6,400lbs in 2019. It took 3 years and The Mobile Produce Pantry is not a perfect model constantly undergoing iterative improvements, but it’s effective, important, and necessary in Richmond. I tell you this, because not only am I immensely proud of our team this year, but I want you to remember something important as you leave 2019 behind. That every impactful and important thing starts from an idea seed - an imperfect little collection of mental life that needs nourishment, time, and support to grow. So, as you move into 2020, here’s what I wish for you, me and Us: Courage. Courage to plant the seeds you have. It’s not easy - in fact, sometimes it’s terrifying, paralyzing and feels very lonely. You’re not alone, you can do this. In fact, if you’re afraid of something, it’s probably something you need to face. Time. Give yourself time. Don’t give up. Keep on nurturing those seeds, because nothing valuable happens overnight. Sometimes seeds take years to grow and bloom. Give others time too (this is something I personally struggle with - but have found that if you give others space and time, they will deliver with something better than you could have ever anticipated). Friction. I know, I know... this one is less fun. But, it’s necessary if you want to see real results that are long-lasting, flexible, and sustainable. Growth requires a lot of friction, it’s not easy, but through friction, seeds get stronger and have the ability to break through the soil it’s buried under to reach the sun and bloom. If a palm tree can be flexible enough to sustain a hurricane and be stronger - so can you. Space. Space is vital. If you don’t have the space to develop your ideas, then they are going to be forced and may not meet your needs or not align with your vision. Also, keep in mind that not every seed thrives, but by having the space to plant multiple seeds, we are increasing our odds of success, of impact, of growth. Support. Share your ideas with others! It’s a scary thing to do because rejection is real. It burns. Allow your passion to burn brighter than the anticipation of rejection. Acceptance is also real. Use that to find your tribe, those people who will help your ideas become reality. With that, friends, take on 2020 with courage and start planting new idea seeds into your life and the community! Also, if you have an idea for programming that you think could positively impact the Richmond community, but need some support, space, and time. Please let us know! Peace, Love & Understanding, Liz

How to Become A Culturally Sensitive Tourist When Traveling to a New Country

Image Source: Unsplash Being able to travel freely and much more conveniently than in the past is a major bonus of living in today’s world. People often travel to get out of their comfort zones, to have adventurous experiences, to meet others, and to learn about a culture other than their own. International trips are a great way to change your perspective, to challenge yourself, and to give you a sense of the differences between people and countries. Being culturally sensitive and aware is essential when travelling. This means making an effort to recognise the differences between a new culture and your own and seeking to learn about and respect these differences, rather than expecting everyone to act like you. When you’re travelling to a new country, here are some key things to consider: Learn before you leave Before you head off on your adventure, do your research! While stepping into the unknown can be exciting, it can also be a good way to get yourself in trouble. Read about local customs and etiquette, and ensure that you’re familiar with important laws. As an example, if you’re visiting Vietnam during Tết (Lunar New Year), you’ll need to be aware of local customs and taboos: wearing black is seen as bad luck, as is visiting others during the holiday if you’ve recently lost a close family member. Image Source: Unsplash Melt into the culture There’s little point in travel if you expect everybody to act just like they do in your own country. Adjust to the culture of the country you’re visiting, and keep in mind that you are the visitor. Don’t become frustrated if the customer service or etiquette isn’t what you’re used to or if transport doesn’t run on time; you’ll have a much better time if you’re able to adapt to new situations and simply enjoy the experience. Dress like the locals Some countries prefer more conservative styles of dress than others. If you’re planning on visiting churches, temples, mosques, or other places of worship, bear in mind that you probably won’t be allowed to enter in your favourite super-short shorts and singlet. Even if there’s not an outright ban on more revealing clothing, look at what the locals are wearing: male or female, you’ll stand out (and not in a good way) if you’re showing much more skin than everyone around you. At best, the locals will think you’re odd and may stare at you – at worst, you may face a fine or other punishment for disrespecting local customs. Get chatty in the native language Not everyone around the world knows English – and millions of people go their whole lifetimes just fine without ever learning English! To make life easier for yourself when you’re checking into accommodation, buying food, or just asking where the closest bathroom is, learn a few key phrases in the local language. Knowing the basics will help your trip run as smoothly as possible, and will give you better reputation with the locals, too! If you’re in a rush and don’t have as much time as you’d like to learn, try carrying a pocket-sized language handbook with you, or write down and laminate the phrases you think you’ll need the most when you’re exploring the streets. Image Source: Unsplash Be a sensitive photographer While travelling, it can be difficult not to take photos of everything you see. However, some people may prefer not to be in photos, or – as in some countries – it might even be offensive or taboo to take photos of strangers, so it’s best to ask permission before you snap. Let go of your ideals and have fun Have you ever seen a gift waiting all mysteriously wrapped up for you, and tried to guess what it was? After poking, shaking, and even squeezing it, perhaps you thought you identified exactly what it was – but when the day came to open your present, you found it to be completely different. Travel can be the same. When you’ve waited for months – even years – to explore your dream destination, it’s easy to feel just a little disappointed when the people, scenery, and activities of your dreams don’t match exactly with what you imagined. By letting go of your preconceived notions and expectations of how your city of arrival will look, how you’ll feel standing beside that landmark, and how you’ll be greeted by the locals, you’ll be able to fully enjoy your journey and soak in every amazing. Look forward to your travels with wide eyes and an open mind, knowing that you’ll never quite figure out your destination before reaching it. Even if you’ve travelled to your destination twice or even twenty times before, don’t let even happy past experiences dictate your expectations. Try new restaurants, get off the beaten track (legally of course!), and talk to the person sitting next to you on the train. Never bore of asking new people about their stories. We’re naturally wired to mentally process things – but our brains also have the amazing capacity to truly rest and listen, when you make up your mind to pause searching for answers for a moment. Listen to what the locals say when you ask them questions: how do they talk to older people, younger people? What topics do they dwell on, and what do they try to avoid? What activities bring them together? People open up when they realise that you’re not trying to change or correct or even talk over them. Even when you’re not conversing, observe and take everything in. Being culturally sensitive and open to the unexpected will allow you to experience deeper bonds with the people and places you see. Don’t make assumptions If you’re unsure about something, especially when it comes to customs, don’t make assumptions. Ask a local if you can; people will generally be happy to help you out. Try your best to read body language, and be respectful of personal space, especially if you’re in a country that values it highly – what might constitute a decent amount of personal space in India is likely to be very different to that in Finland. During any travel adventure, it’s important to keep an open mind. Before you set off, try to let go of any preconceived notions about the people in the country you’re visiting, as well as the country itself. You may just be surprised! If you’re respectful and interested in the local culture, you’re sure to have a great time, and to bring back great stories and memories from your trip. This month's guest post was submitted by Johanna, a fun-loving and adventure-seeking freelance writer from New Zealand. Her ultimate dream is to spend the rest of her life seeing the world, and writing all about her travel experiences. Hosting a travel show comes a close second! Drop her a line anytime on Tumblr.

What is a Mobile Produce Pantry?

Hello World U.P. Followers, Did you know that Richmond is one of the nation’s leading cities for the number of grocery stores per capita? Did you also know that Richmond is one of the nation’s leading cities for the most food deserts? That means that we have the most number of grocery stores per person, and yet we have the most number of people who lack access to grocery stores. I’m not quite sure how that makes sense, but studies show that is the case in Richmond. It’s clear that we have an ACCESS problem in the RVA, and World U.P. wants to do something about it. At this point, you may have seen some posts on our social media sites asking for donations to build a Mobile Produce Pantry, but you’re probably still not sure what the heck a Mobile Produce Pantry is. Well, it’s a food pantry on wheels that stores and transports fresh fruits and vegetables, parks next to existing food pantries, and distributes produce to the members of the community.  Backed by Feedmore, we believe that this solution will improve community access to produce in an efficient way. Now, I bet you’re asking - What a minute, World U.P. is an organization trying to make cultural education and awareness affordable, what does that have to fruits and vegetables? That’s a really good question - thanks for asking. Our theory is that when you create secure and reliable food sources for communities, you ultimately create Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, & Healthy Perspectives. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you were HUNGRY. Maybe you skipped lunch or you forgot to make it to the store that day or you forgot your wallet at home (I’m perpetually guilty of that) so you couldn’t make it to your favorite food spot while you were out running errands. It’s about 3pm and you are just so HANGRY (Hungry + Angry) that you could think of nothing else but getting food, and everyone else was just in your way. There is nothing on your mind but getting home and getting something in your tummy! Your only focus is that you need food, and you need it NOW. Now, picture that first bite. Oh sooo good. Who knew food could taste like heaven? Bite after bite, as you become satisfied, your hanger slowly dissipates, and life is good again. That guy who cut you off earlier? He was probably just in a rush to make it to his next meeting. Your kid accidentally got stuff on his BRAND NEW shirt? Meh, that is why Tide Sticks were invented. Everything is suddenly OK. Now imagine that you got home and the fridge was empty, you had no car, and that you couldn’t get to a grocery store - because the closest one was over a mile away. Imagine that the closest thing was a convenience store that sells chips, soda, alcohol, and quick foods, and that’s all you had available to eat, day after day after day. Your hunger would probably never go away. You probably couldn’t think about anything other than where your next meal is coming from. Even if you did eat a snack, you would probably be angry that something better wasn’t closer. Afraid that you cannot feed your family. Anger. Hunger. Insecurity. Fear. Concern. - These are all things that prevent us from thinking clearly and openly. They prevent us from being able to have perspective and peace. So, we want to build a Mobile Produce Pantry to help people have secure access to healthy foods, and to highlight the need for long-term grocery solutions in the food deserts, so that people are not hungry. This summer consider attending one of our fundraisers this summer or donating to help us build this thing. Help us get food into bellies, and grocery stores into communities that need them. If you have any questions about the Pantry, you can email me at OR I will be hosting a “Ask Me Anything” on Facebook on July 27th from 7pm to 8pm. Like our Facebook page and subscribe to our feed, and tune in to ask me anything about the Mobile Produce Pantry project. The harder the question the better - I like a challenge. Until next time friends, Liz

Your Brain on Travel

Hello World U.P. friends! For those of you who may not know me my name is Ashley Grant (or as my blog followers know me Beloved Brainy Babe). I will be doing a social media take over for World U.P. this month focusing on how my first huge travel experience has changed me thus far! Three months ago I hopped on a 16-hour flight and began my first adventure abroad. Prior to February 21st, I had never been anywhere outside of the US (except for two cruises which allowed me to spend a day at each of a few destinations in the Bahamas and Mexico). To me, the logical first step to change this was to move to Australia for the coming year…. By myself. While the idea of moving 10,000 miles away from home seemed a bit intimidating at first, it has been an incredible, growth-filled, life-changing experience already and I’m only about a fourth of the way through! The first major adjustment that I am still working to cope with has been the enormous time difference from where I call home. Minus a few hours during my morning (or at home’s night) or some very late nights for myself allowing me to speak with home quite early in their morning, the vast majority of my time is spent without my family, friends, and support system just a phone call away. I have always been the kind of girl to call my mom during every grocery shop in case I can’t find which aisle an item is in and she can easily tell me what to look for, or when I received a good grade on an assignment during my days at university I would immediately text my family to share the good news. Now I can send that text, but I won’t get a response until I’m already asleep for the day and that initial excitement has worn off. At first, this made for some long, lonely days. I felt I had nobody to share my good news with or to help me feel better when something not so ideal would happen. But then there was this internal shift, this sense of self-acceptance. I began doing things for me. That might sound a bit expected as everybody does things for themselves, but I began fully embracing the feelings of excitement and disappointment as they would come in my day. When I got my first job abroad or  I missed the bus and had to wait 30 minutes until the next one came making me late for my first meeting of the day or when I confirmed an apartment that I would make my home for the coming months, I began learning to cope with these welcome (and maybe not so welcome) daily occurrences on my own. I would have a celebratory dance party in my room or practice some deep breathing to calm myself down or take myself to a nice lunch. After a while, I didn’t need the external support or reinforcement. I began fully being in the moment for myself, not to tell someone else about it. My brain doesn’t look for someone else to tell me good job and make me feel reassured for my wins in life. It doesn’t need someone else to be its shoulder to cry on. This big, growing, emotion-filled, excited brain of mine has learned how to fully feel excited for itself and to soothe itself. What a wonderful change indeed. I truly have become my own best friend in these three months. Don’t get me wrong I have also met some incredible people and made heaps of friends (yes I’m also getting down with the Aussie lingo)! These new friends who have shown me that if I am my own silly self I will attract people towards me that are on that same fun mental wavelength. My social network has expanded in ways I could never have imagined. Prior to arriving in Australia, I had one friend who was a foreign exchange student in my high school that lived in Finland and two girls I had as pen pals in French class that lived in France. Otherwise, all of the human connections I had were housed within the great US of A. I now have friends in Germany, the UK, Italy, and all around Australia and, again, I’ve only been here three months! Image how much this social network will grow as this year progresses. This change has made me (and my now internationally connected brain) more engaging in new social settings for you’ll never know how great the person in front of you is at Starbucks unless you take the awkward leap and start a conversation with them. For those of you who may not know, the ‘U.P.’ in World U.P. stands for understanding and peace. The final big change I have noticed through this experience thus far is that I feel I have a better understanding for those around me. Not only have I developed this desire to connect with all sorts of new humans, but I also have developed this better understanding of others. Traveling has made me realize that oftentimes people are not intending to be hurtful; rather the likely case is that the action that frustrated you may be the outcome of a cultural norm in their friend group, family structure, religion, etc. This newfound understanding has contributed to more peaceful interactions as I am no longer easily offended by others actions. The acceptance of others’ habits around me has also brought to light some of the oddities in myself that have remained my norm for so long due to my being surrounded by people with similar habits. Being in a new world so different from my own has made me see the good in others and learn to accept the things I don’t understand in them which has brought me a new inner peace as well. Adventure is out there and you should find what that means for you! Every new adventure exposes your brain to something it may have never previously experienced. You don’t necessarily need to move to a new country to see changes in yourself. You could simply become a tourist in your own country or your own area. Put yourself out there, talk to those around you and see what changes you notice in your own brain! Keep dreaming World U.P. community, Beloved Brainy Babe

Thank You to our 2017 Donors!

Hi Friends, As many of you may have noticed, our Impact Report for 2017 was sent out to our e-mail list earlier this week. The fact that we even have "impacts" to report to everyone blows my mind! I won't belabor our accomplishments from last year, because I've written about them over and over and the report will be available on our website (just as soon as I figure out how to do that). I am however going to call out a number of people here and now and thank them for their amazing support! Throughout 2017 the following amazing people and businesses provided their support and enabled us to give back to the Richmond community! DONORS Mandi Asbell Nancy Blair George Bourey Kendra Butler Jill Collins Brookie Crawford Linda Cummer Joselito Diaz Leigh Dillon Eric Diton Eli Drebin Ellen Dukette Jefferson Dukette Kelly Flammia Ashley Grant Janice Hackett Caasi Harris Debbie and Jeff Hoch Jessica Mawson Lisa Newton
Audrey Peltz
Thomas Reichert
Christina Santini
Kayla Smith
Kevin Stacey II
Cody Symanietz
Sean Watson
Morgan Wright DONATIONS OF GOODS Kate Burns
Emily Dukette
Nikki Proffitt
Kourtney Smithson
Red Eye Cookie Company
Richmond SPCA
Carie Staley
Alexandra Vega DONORS OF SERVICES & TIME Kendra Butler, Community Building
Devon Charles, Website Development
Jamal Greene, Community Building
Mallory Premock, Summer Intern
Kourtney Smithson, Photography Of course, last but not least, I really need to give a shout out to last year's board who all donated money, goods, and time, but also moved us forward with their creative thought and action. Ashley, Alex, Nick, and Vic - thank you for believing in this mission, taking action, and questioning me. Without you, there would be no World U.P. and I would not have my sanity. Peace, Love, & Understanding, Liz

Spring Into Health & Wellness

Happy Spring, Friends! I know, I know - the weather in Richmond isn't what we think about when we conjure up images of April flowers, but I do see a high of 80ºF in our weekend forecast, so I have hope. Spring has always been one of my favorite seasons. It's the perfect transition season that ushers in the summer heat to replace the crispness of winter and mimics the vibrancy of fall leaves in pretty flower form. It's a gentle reminder that even the coldest and darkest times are merely trials that give way to moments of lightness and rebirth. It's a sign that winter hibernation is behind us and we need to start eating well. Additionally, it's that time of year when everyone starts becoming pressed for time to get healthy and fit for summer fun in the sun. So far my post may sound like prose, but if you've been following our social media pages this April (if you don't, see the sidebar for links), then you know where this is heading. We have been using our Facebook and Instagram platforms to tell our followers a little more about our Health & Wellness Initiative, the 7 Dimensions of Health and Wellness, and what kind of wellness services we believe make up a culture of wellness and we plan to incorporate in our future community center in Richmond, VA. Now, you should know that there are many theories as to how many dimensions of wellness there are. For example, some schools of thought believe there are only 6, some believe there are 8 (they include financial wellness). World U.P. chose to adopt the school of thought that there are 7 because that's what best fits our current mission and vision. Further, our breakdown and definitions were adapted from a variety of sources, but we relied heavily on the definitions provided by the University of California, Riverside Wellness Website. I highly recommend you check out this website for great life tips and provocative questions for personal reflection on your wellness. With all that disclaimer complete, you're probably asking "What are the 7 Dimensions of Wellness?" Great question - thanks for asking. Essentially, they are the seven parts of our life that need attention and care in order to make us wholly well persons. Social Wellness is the ability to relate to, connect to, and maintain positive relationships with other people in our world.Emotional Wellness is the ability to understand ourselves, cope with the challenges life can bring, and being attentive to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whether positive or negative.Spiritual Wellness is the ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives. It is a personal matter involving values and beliefs that provide a purpose in our lives.Intellectual Wellness is the ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can be applied to personal decisions, group interaction and community betterment.Physical Wellness is the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life where we recognize and adopt healthy habits that allow us to get through our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress.Environmental Wellness is the ability to recognize our own responsibility for the quality of the air, the water, and the land that surrounds us, including the ability to make a positive impact on the quality of our environment, be it our homes, our communities, or the world.Occupational Wellness is the ability to get personal fulfillment from our jobs or our chosen career fields while still maintaining balance in our lives and allow us demonstrates our desire to contribute to society through our career choices. As a key initiative of the World UP’s mission, we recognize that Health and Wellness is a key component that not only makes up a culture, but that satisfaction of all the dimensions of wellness can allow people to peacefully embrace differences between cultures. Part of our Health and Wellness initiative includes a plan to provide free community access to various wellness resources at our (eventual) community cultural center. To support social wellness tenants that (1) it is better to contribute to the common welfare of our community than to think only of ourselves and (2) it is better to live in harmony with others and our environment than to live in conflict with them, we want to host seminars to enhance our positive communication skills, have a staff social worker, and a engage mediator to help resolve difficult conflicts. To support emotional wellness, we want to engage on-site therapists and counselors to help the community members process of feelings, thoughts, philosophies, and behavior; live and work independently while realizing the importance of seeking and appreciating the support and assistance of others; form interdependent relationships with others based upon a foundation of mutual commitment, trust, and respect; take on challenges, take risks, and recognize conflict as being potentially healthy; and manage their lives in personally rewarding ways. We plan to provide resources that aid in everyone’s path to spiritual wellness through access to a yoga/meditation studio as well as space for those who want to engage in prayer, affirmations, or specific spiritual practices that support their connection to a higher power or belief system. At World UP, we understand and respect the different views of what defines spiritualism, and believe that it is better to ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and become intolerant, and that it is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves. Intellectual wellness is a key component of peaceful diversity, as it allows people to be tolerant and curious about new ideas, communities, and the world around them. By creating access to creative and stimulating activities like travel and cultural education, we hope to provide experiences that expand knowledge, skills, a passion for exploration, problem-solving, and creativity. Part of our initiative includes a plan to create access to education and volunteer opportunities that aid environmental wellness, through the creation of awareness of the earth's natural resources and personal accountability to environmental needs. At World UP, we believe that occupational wellness exists when you have a career that utilizes your unique gifts, skills and talents is both personally meaningful and rewarding and cultivates an attitude of tolerance and understanding within the community. We plan to provide access to vocational training and skill development to help community members find a meaning and purposeful profession and job satisfaction. Finally, to support physical wellness, we plan to implement more programs like Food UP, which creates access to fresh produce and foods, and programs that incentivize exercise and group fitness. Some of our plans are to create a community garden, host cultural cooking exchanges, and provide space for sports activities. Of course, we recognize that this dream is far from our current reality. However, we know that with some planning, hard work, and community support that a community center like this is entirely possible within Richmond. If you have any ideas or suggestions as to what we should incorporate into our plans for a community center, please comment or send me an email at Peace, Love, and Understanding, Liz

The Value of Money

Dear Friends, Lately, I've been pondering the value of money. We recognize that there are so many wonderful causes for people to donate to and only so many dollars in your bank account. As such, I wanted to share a few ways in which you can support ANY organization you are passionate about without spending a dime. 1. Share your story! Stories communicate passion and purpose. Non-profits love to know why you love what they do. Better yet- they can use your story to influence others to get involved or generate donations. 2. Volunteer! This may be the most obvious, but a lot of non-profits operate on a volunteer basis. Any amount of time you can donate is highly valued. Odds are most organizations are happy to work with you to find a way for you to utilize your skills. Are You social media-obsessed? Offer to help with posts. Are you a writer?  Help write a grant. From organizing to painting, there's always a way to help. 3. Become a Community Partner! A lot of organizations share the same goals or have similar missions. If you're involved in an organization but support others, find a creative way to work together! Often times organizations have programmatic dreams but lack resources. Think creatively - share space, networks, supplies, or marketing channels! If you're a business, offer up space in exchange for a marketing/social media push - and find yourself some new customers. 4. Fundraise! Most non-profits are heavily reliant on the donations from friends, family, and strangers.  Fundraising is no longer stuck in the past of door to door knocking or collecting pledges. A lot of organizations have options where you can create a personal fundraising page (peer-to-peer) that attaches directly to their website or are set up to collect donations on Facebook. Create a special fundraiser for your birthday, your next marathon, or just because. Set-up usually takes less than 10 minutes, and you can collect donations in minutes with little work. 5. Pass on the word! Word of mouth is stronger than money in a lot of cases. Tag them on your social media accounts. Like and share their pages. Tell your friends. So those are my 5 "Free" ways to support an organization. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments below, or send me an email at During March, we will be highlighting how you can use these ideas to support us, so be sure to follow us on Instagram (@world_up_) and like our page on Facebook (The World UP Foundation)! And of course, follow this blog to be notified of my musings on non-profit life. Peace, Love, & Understanding Liz

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