Feeling Overwhelmed By the News? Here are some Tips

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

If you’re like me sometimes you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all of the chaotic, frustrating, and often tragic new stories that you come across throughout your day.

Studies have shown that constantly consuming tragic or infuriating news stories can eventually lead to sadness and anxiety. Research has shown that negative news stories that may not be directly related to our lives can further increase our personal worries.

Here are just a few tips that can help you stay on top of the most important stories without feeling overloaded:

  • If you have any news apps on your phone, try to turn off notifications for that app. A while ago, when I had my news notifications on I definitely found it to be a distraction especially when I was trying to get work done because every once in a while whenever a notification would pop up I would be tempted to check my phone instead of working.
  • It is usually best not to follow live updates. Following a breaking news story may make you feel more involved but it doesn’t necessarily make us more informed. Live updates have a lot of commentary and extra details and its often more noise than news.
  • I think its best to set your laptop or desktop web browser homepage to Google or any other webpage with minimal distractions. I know that on many personal computers the homepage of the browser is set to Yahoo or MSN or any other site that has lots of news stories and articles. Every time you open the web browser you might be tempted to click on one of the article links and this can end up taking up a lot of your time.
  • This next tip is obvious: Read, watch, or listen to news stories that come from reliable sources. Here in the U.S. unfortunately, not everyone agrees on what is or is not a reliable source of news. However, I think that in general most people agree that you should be cautious of the stories that you read on social media.
  • Nowadays, a lot of the news programs have people that call themselves political pundits or commentators that come in and talk about and predict what might happen. While some of these political pundits might make valuable points ultimately no one can really predict the future so its best to avoid watching too much of these commentators.
  • I really believe that timing is important when it comes to consuming the news. In order to avoid spending too much time on the news its best to designate a specific time to check the news and try not to check it at any other time. Many experts recommend not checking the news before bed because certain stories may interfere with your sleep.

I know that everyone has a different habit or preference when it comes to the news but if you are someone that feels that perhaps you spend a little too much time on the news I hope that you find these tips to be helpful.

With Love.

Yasmin

Happy 4th of July!

sparkler-839806_640Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

To everyone here in the U.S. happy 4th of July.

To those of you who may be unfamiliar, the 4th of July is a holiday that celebrates America’s independence from Great Britain.

Admittedly, in this political environment it is difficult to be a proud American.

I, like many of my fellow Americans, am absolutely outraged and disgusted by our government’s decision to separate children from their parents at our southern border. Without a doubt, this was an inhumane and cruel decision.

I am also deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a travel ban which prohibits immigrants from seven countries, one of which is Syria. This is especially disappointing considering the fact that the Syrian refugee crisis is one of the worst humanitarian crises of our times.

Despite all of this negativity, I have immense faith in the goodwill of the American people.

As an example, when the first travel ban was initiated, many Americans went to the international airports to protest this unfair travel ban. Some American women even wore headscarves in solidarity with the Muslim women who were affected by this ban. Also, many lawyers left their lucrative jobs, for many days, to go to the airports to help those who were impacted by this ban.

More recently, thousands of Americans all over the U.S. protested against the government’s decision to separate immigrant children from their parents at our southern border. These protests and condemnation had a role in forcing the president to reverse his child separation policy. I am hopeful that these protests will continue because those children that have already been separated must be reunited with their parents as soon as possible!

To my fellow Americans, one of the only ways that we can stop some of these injustices is to go out and vote in the upcoming November midterm election. I know that our current political environment is especially dark but we should never lose hope.

There was a time, not all that long ago, that America graciously welcomed refugees from all over the world. Thirty years ago, my parents left the war in Afghanistan and they each came to America with very few possessions and barely any money. They both worked very hard to establish a basic life for themselves. They then met each other and got married. After marriage they worked very hard together in order to provide a comfortable life for their children.

Their story is just one of millions of similar stories. I am truly hopeful that with the help of the younger generation, the United States will once again become a beacon of hope and a place of refuge for those that are in need of it.

I am hopeful that one day we will elect a government that actually works for the well-being of all of the American people and not just those that are extremely wealthy and also has compassion for those suffering outside of America’s borders!

 

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

 

Water and Other Blessings

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

This post might be a little bit all over the place but I just wanted to share some things that have been on my mind lately.

I know this might sound a little weird but lately I have been thinking a lot about water.  I think it all started when I heard that the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa is about to run out of water in as little as three months. I just found it so shocking that a large city of nearly four million people would run out of water so quickly. I cannot even imagine how much of a nightmare it would be for the people and government of Cape Town if Day Zero becomes a reality.

And then yesterday I was listening to NPR news on the radio and there was a story that UNICEF reported that the majority of the children that are dying in impoverished and war torn nations are not dying from bombs and bullets rather they are dying due to a lack of access to safe and clean water.

These two stories really made me realize that often we take the things that we have for granted. Whenever I get thirsty I go grab my cup and put it under the water filter in our kitchen and thank God in a matter of seconds I am able to drink a cup of safe and clean water but it breaks my heart that millions of innocent children do not have access to this most basic human necessity.

Also, the Cape Town story has really reminded me to be more mindful of how I use water and it has encouraged me to try to avoid wasting water. I think this is especially important for me and all others living in drought stricken areas to start implementing water saving strategies because some reports are suggesting that other large drought stricken cities, such as Los Angeles, should also be careful.

In the mornings, I usually like to listen to the news on the radio and recently I heard a story about the increasing number of homeless people here in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. Once again, this story really pulled at my heart strings because it reminded me that there are people that are suffering right in my own backyard. To make matters worse the story added that the local authorities were basically trying to kick out the homeless people from the encampments they had created and in the process they were throwing away many of the basic possessions that these homeless people had with them. Its tragic that in one of the most affluent parts of the world there are still people that are suffering.

On another note, my heart goes out top my parents homeland, Afghanistan. More than 130 people have died in the past two weeks due to various terrorist attacks. Yes the story has been covered by the news media but unfortunately I haven’t seen an outpouring of support on social media. I think that, God forbid, if this were to happen to a Western nation then there would have been a larger outpouring of condolences and support.

To be completely honest I don’t blame anyone I just think that people have gotten so used to hearing about tragedies in war torn nations such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc. that they’ve become desensitized to it. We assume that these tragedies are just a common part of life in these nations but we often forget that these people are human beings just like us and they have similar dreams and aspirations and for them this unnecessary and inhumane death and destruction is just as painful.

I certainly hope that this post doesn’t make anyone too sad rather my goal is to remind myself first and then my dear readers that sometimes we are stuck in our own bubble as they say. We are often so focused on our own problems and we focus on what we lack rather than all that we have been blessed with.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

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. 

World Refugee Day: How You Can Help!

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

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Today June 20th 2017 is World Refugee Day and this is a topic near and dear to my own heart because my parents immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan and if they had not done so, or rather, if they were not allowed to do so, then I probably wouldn’t be here today.

In order to better shed light on this issue  and present you, my dear readers, with some tangible solutions to this heartbreaking humanitarian issue, in this post I will summarize a recent  TED Talk by David Miliband about this issue.

David Miliband is a British Labour Party politician who has been a member of the British parliament and he is the chief of the International Rescue Committee charity.

Speech Summary

  • The current refugee situation is indeed a humanitarian crisis however, it is manageable.
  • Facts in numbers: In 2016 65 million people were displaced from their homes. Of these 65 million people most of them stayed in their own countries but 25 million of them became refugees. Most of these refugees are currently living in developing nations.

Causes: (as presented by Miliband in this TED Talk)

  • Weak states that cannot support their own people
  • An international system weaker than at any time since 1945.
  • Differences in theology, governance, engagement, with the outside world, in significant parts of the Muslim world.
  • This refugee crisis is a long term problem with deep causes however, it can be solved.

Solutions:

  • The refugees need to get into work in the countries they’re living in and these countries that they’re living in need massive economic support.
  • Education for kids is a lifeline and not a luxury especially since many of these people are going to be displaced for a long time.
  • Most refugees live in cities and so they need cash to pay rent, buy clothes etc. Give refugees cash to boost their economic power and to help the local community.

Controversial Solution:

  • The most vulnerable refugees need to be given a new start and a new life in a new country including in the West. The numbers (of those needing to be admitted into Western nations) are small but the symbolism is huge. Now is not the time to ban refugees but it is the time to embrace victims of terror.
  • It is a good question to ask are they properly vetted? However, the reality is that refugees are among the most properly vetted people that enter our countries.
  • Refugee is not another word for terrorist.
  • If refugees are not given the proper help, they take risky journeys in unstable boats with life jackets that cannot even prevent children from drowning. He describes this as not just a crisis but a test of our humanity.
  • Yes, refugees are often very different from us but this should not prevent us from helping them.
  • Empathy and altruism are two of the foundations of civilization and we should use these beliefs as our motto to help others.
  • In this modern world, thanks to our smartphones and other gadgets  we cannot say that we did not know what was going on.
  • If we fail to help then it shows that we are lacking a moral compass.
  • Saving refugees is a part of Western history, especially after World War II. So if we trash refugees, we trash our own history.

More Solutions:

  • If you’re an employer hire some refugees
  • Take on the myths that friends and family have about refugees.
  • If you have money try to donate some it to charities that make a difference for refugees.
  • If you’re a citizen try to vote for politicians that will implement some of the above mentioned solutions.

Concluding Remarks:

  • He mentions the story of a French man who helped his Jewish grandmother  and aunt during World War II by giving them refuge in his village. When Miliband, as a teen visited this now elderly French man and asked him why he took such a risk the man’s reply was: “one must” meaning that helping others was a natural and innate thing to him as it should be to us too.
  • He concludes by reiterating the point that it is possible to solve this problem and by helping refugees we are upholding our own cherished morals and values.

Here is the link to the TED Talk

Want to know more about the refugee crisis? Check out CNN’s article on this topic. This article also has a how to help section at the very bottom of the page.

if you’re in the U.S. and want to contact your elected official regarding the refugee crisis or any other issue that you’re passionate about? Click here for some tips and pointers.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Orlando

Hey Everyone,

I hope you’re all doing well!

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I want to start this post off by saying that my heart truly goes out to all the victims and  families of the senseless and completely inhumane act of terror that occurred in Orlando, Florida. From the bottom of my heart I hope that those that have passed away rest in peace and I wish a speedy recovery for those that have been injured.

Yesterday, once again, my heart broke when I woke up and read the news of yet another tragic mass shooting right here in the United States.

I was later further shocked to learn that the suspect was an American with Afghan parents. As some of you may know I am also an American whose parents were born in Afghanistan. So this definitely hit me hard to know that someone from my own cultural group would do something so disgusting and inhumane.

The wide majority of Afghan immigrants came to this beautiful country to flee the violence of their own war torn nation so I would have never imagined that anyone within this community would ever even think of inflicting such pain and suffering on others. I guess like they say there are black sheep within each community.

It brings me great sadness to know that because of the actions of this one inhumane individual there are others who will put the blame on Muslims and the religion of Islam. As a Muslim I know for a fact that these are not the teachings of Islam.

The Islam that I know and love has taught me that taking one life is the same as killing all of humanity and saving one life is as if you have saved all of humanity. Here is the exact verse from the Holy Quran:

“…if any one killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…” – The Holy Quran (Chapter Five, Verse 32).

Just last week the United States and the entire world was celebrating the life of “The Greatest of All Time” Muhammad Ali who was a proud American Muslim and now some of those people are blaming Muslims and Islam for this recent heinous act.

As The Champ himself eloquently stated: “The word ‘Islam’ means ‘peace.’ The word ‘Muslim’ means ‘one who surrenders to God.’ But the press makes us seem like haters. ”

I sincerely hope that throughout these difficult and trying times we all stay united in our fight against extremism and that we always remember that the actions of one person or a few people are not representative of an entire religious community.

With Love,

Yasmin