Top Three Sites to Help You Find a Trustworthy Charity

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!!! 

As many of you may know these past few weeks many people have been suffering and have faced unimaginable hardship due to a number of destructive natural disasters. Just this week alone, Hurricane Maria has devasted Puerto Rico and other areas in the Caribbean and Mexico has suffered a second large Earthquake in less than a month.

During such difficult times I know that many people genuinely want to donate to help out the victims. However, many people, that I have personally come across, are hesitant to donate because they don’t know how to find out if a particular charity is truly trustworthy in the sense that they will actually donate most of the money to the cause that they’re claiming to support. 

Of course, I do believe that this is a valid concern because the overwhelming majority of us work very hard to earn our income and we want to make sure that the money that we do donate reaches its rightful recipients. 

In order to make this process a bit easier I would highly recommend using the following sites:

1. Charity Navigator 

Charity Navigator is definitely my favorite site to use to evaluate a charity. It’s super easy to use. You just type the name of the charity and click search. What I also love about Charity Navigator is that it actually gives the charity a grade. Four stars is the highest grade and it indicates a fully trustworthy charity. Aside from just giving it a star grade Charity Navigator lists and evaluates many different important components of a charity. 

2. BBB Wise Giving Alliance 

Give.org also known as BBB Wise Giving Alliance is associated with the Better Business Bureau which helps us consumers choose businesses we can trust. (As a side note if you ever want to make an online purchase from a retailer whom you don’t know much about its a great idea to check the BBB out). The BBB Wise Giving Alliance does not grade a charity but it has a set of around 20 standards that fall within the categories of: governance, measuring effectiveness, finances, and fundraising and info. It judges each charity based on these standards and let’s you know if the stand has been met or not. If the charity has not yet been evaluated by the Better BBB Wise Giving Alliance then it’s states “not yet evaluated”. 

3. Guide Star

Guide Star is the third option that I have come across. Guide Star tries to be very neutral so they don’t grade or judge a charity based on any particular standards. Basically what they do is publish the IRS Form 990. They reveal the charities spending program/mission, income, and the salaries of their top ranking employees. Guide Star has the records for around two million nonprofits that are registered with the IRS. They do have a paid option however, I don’t think that option is necessary.
I hope that you will find these tips to be helpful the next time you search for a charity.
With Love,

Yasmin 

Recent Tragedies and How You Can Help

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

These past few days and weeks we have witnessed a number of tragic natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Hurricanr Irma in the United States. Mexico has witnessed two tragic natural disasters, an 8.2 Earthquake and Hurricane Katia. On top of this there is the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, which is the largest humanitarian crisis since WWII. 

Then there is also the genoicide of the Rohingya. This is also an ongoing problem that has escalated recently and I feel that it has not gotten enough media coverage. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority living in the Buddhist nation of Myanmar also known as Burma in Southeast Asia. Click here for a brief description of  the crisis and here for a bit more detailed and thorough explanation. 

All of these innocent people that are affected by these tragic natural disasters and man-made crisis are in desperate need of humanitarian aid and support. Here are some reliable and trustworthy charities that you can support so that they can help those that are in need. This is not a full list of all charities it is just some of the ones that I researched and found to be the most trustworthy: 

Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria: 

Hurricane Harvey: 

All Hands

Global Giving

Samaritan’s Purse
Salvation Army
Team Rubicon

Greater Houston Community Fund

Americares

SBP

Airbnb

Hurricane Irma:

 Airbnb

Americares

American University in Antigua

Caribbean Eagles

Global Giving

Salvation Army

Save the Children

Samaritan’s Purse
Unicef USA

Mercy Corps

Catholic Relief Services

Oxfam

Convoy of Hope
Hurricane Maria:

GoFundMe
Fundly
Dominica Hurricane Relief Fund
UNICEF
ConPRmetidos
Global Giving
Save the Children
Unidos Por Puerto Rico
Team Rubicon
Catholic Charities USA
All Hands
Syrian Refugees and Myanmar/Burma Refugees:

Syrian Refugees:

American Refugee Committee
CARE
Catholic Relief Services
Global Help Network International
Global Giving
Helping Hand for Relief and Development
International Rescue Committee
Islamic Relief USA
Mercy-USA for Aid and Development
Unicef USA

Myanmar/Burma Refugees:

Partners Relief and Development

Save the Children Federation
Islamic Relief USA
USA for UNHCR
Mexico Earthquakes and Hurricane Katia Aid:

Operation Blessing
Save the Children
Unicef USA

Mexican Red Cross
Direct Relief
Fondo Unido Mexico
Donating money is vital to making sure that those in need receive proper and prompt aid. Please consider donating any amount, even if it seems small or trivial. Always remember that a bunch of small donations can lead to something great!
However, donating money is certainly not the only way you can help! There are many volunteering opportunities! 

Hurricane Harvey:

Team Rubicon USA
Adventures
Samaritan’s Purse
NVOAD

Hurricane Irma:

Volunteer Florida
NVOAD

Syrian Refugees:

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
UNHCR

Mexico: I couldn’t find any specific volunteer opportunities for the recent earthquake but here is a general way to volunteer in Mexico

International Volunteer HQ

Myanmar/Burma:

DARE

I know that volunteering is not for everyone but with the exception of Mexico and Myanmar many of the opportunities listed above are volunteer opportunities that can be done if you are in the local area or some, especially those for Syria, can be done in your own local community because they involve things like fundraising and advocacy. 

You can also help by signing your name on a petition:

Hurricane Harvey:

Change.org

Hurricane Irma:

Change.org

Support for Refugees:

UNHCR

Syrian Refugees:

MoveOn.org

Myanmar/Burma Refugees:

Change.org

Mexico Earthquake:

Care 2 Petitions

All of these victims come from different backgrounds and walks of life. However, they are all human beings who have become victims of difficult situations and I truly believe that it is our moral responsibility to help them in any way that we can.


With Love,

Yasmin
This post has been updated to include links to charities that help the victims of Hurricane Maria and the second major Earthquake to hit Mexico. 

Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before College

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

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Now that I’ve graduated from college there are definitely a few things that I wish I knew before I entered college and along the way there were definitely a few things that I have learned about the college experience and I would like to share these with you.

Apply Everywhere

If you are a high school student and you know for sure that you want to go straight to a four-year university then I would really suggest that you try to apply to as many universities as you can. Many of the public universities offer high school students a free application.

It is really important to have an open mind and don’t set your heart on just one particular college because this can potentially set you up for disappointment.

On the other hand, don’t be afraid to apply to a college that you think you would never get into because nowadays college admissions are becoming much more holistic meaning that they look at you as a whole person and not just based on your grades.

Community College

I personally started off at a community college and then I transferred to a four-year university. Here in the United States community colleges are local two-year higher education institutions where students can study and take classes that are of equivalent value to the classes that are offered in the first two years of a larger university.

Community colleges are a great budget friendly option because they are significantly cheaper than four-year universities. Community college is also great option for those that could not or chose not to take the SAT/ACT or those that just performed poorly on those tests.

Community college students are held by the same standards of excellence as university students.

Consider your Financial Aid Options

I was very fortunate to graduate university without any student loans and it was all thanks to the generous financial aid package that I received. It is completely up to you whether you choose to attend a public or private university however, in my experience public universities have much more generous financial aid packages.

In most cases you have to apply for financial aid from the government before you even start attending the university so make sure to look at the deadlines and apply as soon as possible.

If you’re in the U.S. each state has its own deadline for applying for state financial aid so make sure that you look that up as well. Here is a great resource for you to check out your own state’s deadlines State benefits are often even more generous so make sure you apply for both federal (FAFSA) and state financial aid.

If you have to take out a student loan I would definitely recommend Federal Loans because they are provided by the government and they charge lower interest rates than private loans and the monthly amount that you pay back after you graduate is based on how much money you actually make.

If you are interested in private companies one possible option is Earnest which offers great rates on personal loans, and helps you save money by using their platform for student loan refinancing. Earnest’s mission is to offer lower interest rates than traditional banks on personal loans and save you time and money when paying your student loans.

Meet with an academic counselor:

As a college student, you will likely put a good amount of effort into each class that you take and the last thing you want to happen is to find out that a class that you took and studied for will not count towards your degree! To avoid this problem and many other similar problems, you should really meet with an academic counselor.

Academic counselors are a free resource that are there to help you choose the correct classes and they can help answer a wide range of questions that you might have. In many cases they can create an academic plan specifically designed for you.

Take Advantage of Free Resources

Aside from academic counselors’ colleges and universities offer a wide range of other completely free resources for their students. Some of these free resources may include tutoring centers, math center, writing center, multicultural center, psychological counseling, financial aid office, student support services and a career center.

The important thing to remember is that there are a lot of people willing to help you during your time at university but they are not going to come ask you if you need help you need to go to them and they will help you with the rest.

Check out the Library

One free resource that all universities have is the library. The library is a great place to sit back and study and/or complete your assignments. The quiet atmosphere of the library truly makes it an ideal place for students. Most libraries have computers where you can get work done and for a nominal fee you can print papers. Many libraries have a course reserve where professors often place a copy of their course’s required textbook.

Attend Class:

I know that this is definitely a no-brainer but during my time in college I was surprised at how many people would simply skip class. First of all, I feel like not attending class, without a good reason is like throwing away the money that you spent on tuition. Also, just attending class and being present can really make the difference in helping you earn the grade that you deserve.

Additional tip: Attend office hours. The idea of meeting one to one with a professor may seem daunting but remember that professors are human beings and most of them actually want to help you succeed. One of my professors always encouraged us to meet her in office hours and she said that perhaps she can explain a topic differently than she would in class and this can help you better understand the topic.

Work Hard but don’t sweat about your grade:

Personally, whenever I took a more challenging course I would always worry that I would fail the course. However, the reality is that with hard work any college course can be passed. The only thing that you should do is to work hard and do your part as the student. Professors are often more lenient  than they may appear. At the end of the course they may give everyone a slight bump. Many courses are graded on the curve and usually this helps the hard-working students.

Be Social:

College is not just for academics but it is also a time to make friends and expand your network. My personal advice is to really take advantage of the first few weeks. During this time, everyone tends to be more social and it’s a great time to meet new people.

Many universities have hundreds of student clubs and organizations. Try to join at least one club and this can be a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and potentially make life-long friends.

Take a nap:

Ideally, everyone including college students, should get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. However, I know that as a college student this can be difficult number to achieve. As students, we have too many things on our plate and in order to fulfill all of our responsibilities sleep is often sacrificed. However, if you’re feeling tired during the day it is highly recommended that you take a 30-minute nap. A nap can rejuvenate your body and recharge your brain.

These were just a few tips and things that I personally wish that I knew during my time in college and I hope that it will be helpful to you!

Also, feel free to share some of your own tips for college success in the comments below or feel free to Tweet me @YasminRaoufi

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

Surrounded by Negative People? Here are Some Tips

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

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While I was studying Psychology in college one of the topics that really resonated with me was the idea of emotional contagion. As its name implies, emotional contagion is based on the idea that emotions are contagious.

Studies have shown that when we are surrounded by positive people we begin to think more positively and when we are surrounded by negativity we tend to become more negative.

Before going any further, I just want to clarify that the type of negativity that I am referring to is the type of negativity in which the person is feeling negative about the world or about something that is going on in their own life and they might complain a lot to you but they are in no way demeaning you or meaning to cause you any physical and emotional harm.

Basically, emotional contagion is a fancy phrase for explaining that the type of people we surround ourselves with help determine our emotions and outlook on life.

One piece of advice that I constantly hear is that we should try to surround ourselves with positive people and distance ourselves from negative people.

First of all, I definitely think that this advice is easier said than done. Nevertheless, I think that it is certainly possible to gradually distance ourselves from negative friends, acquaintances, bosses, etc.

However, I believe that sometimes it is very difficult, if not impossible, to distance ourselves from those that are more negative. This is especially true if this person is a very dear friend, a significant other, a parent or even a child. In such instances, our conscience will not (and should not!) allow us to distance ourselves from that person.

One of the things that I have been really thinking about lately is: how can we preserve our own happiness and positive outlook without distancing ourselves from the person who is the source of this negativity?

A little Empathy Goes a Long Way

I think that sometimes we have to mentally put ourselves in their position in order to better understand where their mindset is coming from. Often, we may realize that this person has endured certain struggles and challenges that we have never been through. Or perhaps we have been through similar experiences it’s just that this person has had more difficulty coping with the challenge.

Have a Chat

This tip may not work for everyone. However, when possible, I would recommend sitting down with this individual and very calmly letting them know how their negativity is also bringing you down. Most people may not even know that their constant negativity is bothering you! Often, the last thing the loved one wants to do is to bother you or bring you down so this could perhaps be an eye opener for them.

It might be a good idea to discuss many different options during this chat. This also includes the option of that person seeking professional help if necessary.

Self-Care is a Necessity and Not a Luxury

Regardless of our situation, in this fast paced and hard-working world of ours I think that self-care is a must for everyone. We have to dedicate some time to free our minds from everything that worries us or stresses us out.

There are many different approaches to self-care since different methods work for different people. Ideally, self-care is a period of time in which we let go of the worries of the world and focus on relaxing and reflecting on our inner selves or whatever is truly important to us.

Spirituality: Spirituality can be a great means of caring for oneself. Many people swear by the calming effects of meditation. I personally love contemplation. Either early in the morning or right before bed I like to sit by the window and just think about the greatness of the universe or I often spend this time thinking about everything that I am grateful for.

I personally believe in God so when I am going through a particularly difficult time I comfort myself by praying and whenever I am happy I thank Him for my blessings.

Pursue a passion project or a hobby: One of the goals of self-care is to enable you to forget about all of your worries for a while. Pursuing a hobby or anything else that you are passionate about is a great way to relieve stress. Ideally when we are doing something that we really enjoy we are in a state of flow, where we are so absorbed in what we are doing that our mind is only focused on that task and time flies right by.

Exercise: Trust me, I know that exercising is the last thing I think of as being relaxing. However, exercise is a proven mood booster thanks to the fact that increases our brains serotonin level which helps us feel happier.

Spend time in nature: I will be the first to admit that I spend way too much time sitting behind a screen. For our own health and well-being it is vital that we give our eyes and our brain a break by spending time outside. Try to go out for a walk or simply step outside and rest your eyes by looking at a tree, a bird, or the grass. Many people swear by the therapeutic effects of camping. Or you can go on a scenic hike with your friends or solo.

Spend some “me time”: This can include treating yourself to a spa or doing something else to pamper yourself once in a while. Your “me time” could be as simple as watching a movie or your favorite show on Netflix. I realize that watching TV may not be the ideal solution however, it can definitely be enjoyable and relaxing if done in moderation.

Feel free to choose any of these tips that you feel will work best for you or feel free to come up with your own self-care activity.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

 

Six Back to School Tips

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

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In the spirit of back to school season I wanted to share some of my personal tips on how to make the transition back to school as smooth and hassle-free as possible. I created these tips with the college student in mind however, I hope that these tips will be hopeful for students at all levels.

Map it Out

If its your first time attending the college, or if you attend a large university, it might be a good idea to find the location of your classes before classes start. Most universities are always open in the sense that you are free to walk around and find your classes the day before or even a few days before they start.  The first week can be very hectic so its nice to have one less thing to worry about. I personally consider myself directionally challenged so this is a tip that I definitely always used when beginning a new set of classes!

Read the Syllabus

So this is a tip that every professor is going to encourage you to follow. The syllabus is a document, created by the professor, that basically explains the format and layout of the course and most importantly, it almost always includes a section about how the course grade will be calculated.  The syllabus also contains a section on how you can best reach the professor if you ever need to contact him or her. A lot of the questions that you may have about the course structure will be covered in the syllabus so I would definitely recommend saving a copy of the syllabus on your phone or laptop.

Buy Textbooks/Materials

Another great reason to read the course syllabus is that it often includes details about the required textbook and any other required materials. If you are going to order your textbook and/or other required course materials online its a good idea to order them as soon as possible because sometimes shipping can take a while.

I personally loved using DealOz for purchasing my textbooks because all you have to do is enter the book’s title, author, or ISBN number and this site will search through the web and find the best deals for best new, best used, and best rental price for the book that you need.

Almost all colleges and universities have a college bookstore. Purchasing from the college bookstore is often convenient but costly. Also, check to see if there are any local bookstores that are competing with your college bookstore and these stores may have the textbooks that you need for a cheaper price then the college bookstore. However, in my experience textbooks sold online are almost always cheaper.

If the course requires you to purchase scantrons or booklets for exams I would recommend purchasing those in the first week just to get them over with and have one less thing to worry about when its exam time.

Start Studying

From my experience, most of my fellow students always started studying only a few days before the exam if not the night before. I would definitely recommend studying as soon as possible and especially after every lecture when the material is still fresh in your mind. With this method you only have to study a few minutes each day instead of trying to cram all the material before the exam. Cramming the material before the exam can become very stressful and you are much more likely to really understand the material if you spend a few minutes studying it each day.

Take a nap

Many students often sacrifice their sleep in order to fit in enough time for their academic and/or social life. Some students even brag about pulling an all-nighter. The reality is that sleep is vital not only to our physical health but it is also very important in making us cognitively awake and alert which can help us perform better academically.

As someone who is a recent graduate I know that sometimes life gets too busy and we simply don’t have time to get the required seven or eight hours of sleep. However, in order to avoid feeling burned out or tired feel free to take a nap ideally for around 30 minutes a day. Research shows that a quick daytime nap can reenergize us without harming the amount or quality of the sleep that we get at night.

Stay Positive

It is totally common to be a little nervous at the beginning of each school year whether it is because you are starting a new school or you are taking a class or classes that you feel are challenging. I know it might be intimidating to ask a teacher or professor for help but there are there to help you and the majority of them are very happy to help. Always try to stay positive and remember that with hard work and determination you can excel in any class!

I hope you all find these tips to be helpful!

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

 

Five Tips for Becoming a More Effective Reader

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well! book-1867716_640

Back to school season is upon us! I can’t believe how fast the summer is flying by! For me it feels kind of weird and exciting because this will be the first back to school season in which I will not be in school or university because I graduated this past June.

Anyways, in my many years as a student I always struggled to keep up with the assigned readings because I always felt that I would forget everything I had read by the time exams were coming up.

Throughout my college years my Psychology professors really encouraged us to use the SQ3R method as a technique for helping us remember many of the important things we were reading in the textbooks.  The SQ3R method consists of the following five steps: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

Survey

Before you start reading simply open to the assigned pages and casually skim through them to get an overall view of how the information is being presented. If possible read the chapter summary, look at the chapter introduction, headings and subheadings.

Question

Look at each subsection and try to come up with questions that you think will be answered in that subsection. Try asking yourself questions such as: What is this section about? How can this information help me? How does this information relate to other things that I have learned? Try to keep these questions in mind as you read that section and of course, as you are reading you may come up with even more questions. The reason why this step is helpful is because the more actively your mind searches for answers the more engaged you become in the learning process.

Read

When it is finally time to read, try to answer the questions that you have created as you read each section. Also, try to relate this new information with things you’ve learned before.

Recite

After you have finished reading each section try to remember (create a written and/or mental list) of the main ideas discussed in each section. If there is a particular section for which you cannot remember the main idea then try to go back and reread that section. It is very important not to move on until you can remember that sections main ideas.

Review

Finally, go back through all of the questions you created and see if you can still answer them. If necessary go back and refresh your memory.

Why is the SQ3R method effective?

The SQ3R method is effective thanks to a phenomenon social scientists and education researchers refer to as the testing effect. According to the testing effect, long term retention of material is better when you test yourself while you are learning the material versus just studying the material over and over again.

Sometimes we might read something and feel like the material is familiar and we may feel overconfident about how much we understand what we just read. Its important to remember that just because you can recognize something as being familiar as you read it, doesn’t mean that you will be able to choose the correct answer from several similar or familiar concepts on a multiple choice test.  Of course, on a written exam it is even harder because simply recognizing things doesn’t help, you actually have to recall the information.

Overall, the SQ3R has been supported by research as an effective study technique because it forces you to remember the main ideas and answers on your own which in turn makes you much more prepared to take the exam.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

 

The Top Safety Precaution that Passengers are Avoiding

Hey Everyone.

Hope you’re all doing well!

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A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that four out of five people do not wear their seatbelt when they are sitting in the back seat of a car if it is a short trip or if it is in a Uber, Lyft, or any other similar service.

The report by the IIHS found that the majority of people who do not wear their seatbelt in the back seat believe that it is not necessary to wear a seatbelt because the back seat is much safer than the front seat.

However, research by IIHS engineers and others have shown that this idea is absolutely false. In the event of a car crash unbelted back seat passengers can be violently thrown like a missile to the front.

In 2015 alone 1,018 back seat passengers died because they were not wearing a seat belt.

A separate report conducted in 2016 by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that unbelted back seat passengers were three times more likely to die in a crash.

According to the IIHS the driver can also be severely injured because an unbelted back seat passenger can slam into the drivers seat, pushing the driver into the airbag and steering wheel with a 35  mph impact.

Okay so I have a confession to make. Usually when my whole family and I ride together in a car, my parents are in the front and my two brothers and I are in the back seat. It is often the case that one of my brothers is on one side and the other brother is on the other side and I am in the middle.

I have to admit that when I am in this middle seat I never buckle up because the seatbelt in the middle is, in my opinion, uncomfortable. Although we rarely all ride together, after reading these stats I will definitely be buckling up.

Additionally, it has been reported that Princess Diana was not wearing a seatbelt on the night of her fatal car crash. According to a simulation experiment by CNN her life could potentially have been saved if she was simply wearing her seat belt.

From the bottom of my heart I would like to really encourage all of you my dear readers to please make sure to buckle up whenever you are in a car, no matter how short the trip is. Its something that can be done in a few seconds but it can save your life and even the lives of those with and around you.

With Love,

Yasmin