Results of the Happiness Survey

Back in March I crafted a survey to help understand what makes people happy and if technology can help us become happier. Volunteers completed the survey anonymously either online or on paper. There were two groups of respondents: a) middle class, age range of 20-40 y.o., who use technology for social purpose, not particularly religious, mainly employed, b) middle to upper class retired people, i.e. 50 y.o. and above, who are not too fond of technology vs. face-to-face meetings for social purpose, mainly non-religious, but with high priorities on ethics and humanism (representatives from Boston Ethical Society). Thank you to all participants!

The Happiness survey is phase One of The Ultimate Answer project, which is about:

  • ›What makes people happy?
  • ›How open are people to share their ideas about happiness and help each other?
  • ›Are there any “common denominators” of happiness?
  • ›Is it possible to measure happiness and how?
  • ›How can happiness be increased in the world?
  • ›Can technology leverage human potential to increase happiness and how?
  • ›What is the meaning of life and how to find it?

82 people answered the survey: 15 from Boston Ethical Society(BES) and 67 from non-BES.

Here are some highlights:

  • 99% knows what happiness is, but only 72% knows what the meaning of life is. Those 28% who have no clue really need to catch up on Monty Python…
  • People are more likely to give a piece of advice than to receive it.
  • 9 out of 10 said that happiness is not permanent, it changes over time.
  • Answers from BES (more ethical and older) group were different from non-BES respondents.
  • Meaning of life is different from personal happiness.

Please, feel free to check out the results of the survey for yourself Happiness Survey Results

via Results of the Happiness Survey.


June 3, 2011 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year Resolution

I don’t know why I delayed publishing this blog post from 5 months ago, but maybe it was meant to be, here it goes:

I finally formulated my New Year resolution. This year I want to stop worrying and being anxious – I want to Embrace Impermanence. The ambition is quite Buddhist, even though I’m not. Why impermanence? 2010 was an interesting year in my life and I learned a lot from it. Looking back I can see the same trend – constantly worrying about different things, waiting for some changes to come to only find later that there is always something else to worry about. The lack of job or dissatisfaction with existing job, being too idle or too busy, the lack of passion for something or too much passion which is excessive, not enough money or enough money but then not enough time for hobbies. Have you experienced that too? It goes on and on. And finally I realized: it is all temporary,  just like our lives. 

There were several years when I wanted to go to grad school to use my brain more and do something great. I was anxious about this big plan. Then I did it and struggled to support myself through the expensive course of studying. At last I graduated and then I was anxious about finding a job to pay off my school debt. I found the job, but not long after I again was anxious about finding an even better job with event better pay, more challenging and in a better location. I found it, but somehow along the lines I lost my purpose, and was disgusted by making money for already rich guys, while putting others out of work. After suffering though all that, I learned that I should do what I think is right for me, not what others think is good for me.

Then in 2010 I left my job and went to Vietnam, where I was truly happy except for suffering from heat. I was in Saigon for three months volunteering for OLPC . And then I was pondering my next steps. I came back home and again became anxious about finding the job that I like. I went to Central America to connect with non-profits about volunteering, and got kidnapped. There was a moment I thought I might die… and that moment I realized how stupid I was worrying about something all my life, mainly things that are not important. I felt sorry for my parents, who may not accept losing me, and that all this happened in my life because I always trespassed status quo … although robbed I got away unharmed. I returned home and felt so ungrounded and free of all worries for a while…

Right after that I embarked on a journey to start my own website for volunteers, but several developers/designers turned out to be unreliable. My idea of the website failed but after worrying a little I accepted, that it was for the best, because my business model was not that great and later I’d come up with a  better idea, timing would be right and I’d have enough resources to implement it.  Instead I decided to turn my website idea into a blog, and besides SaigonOLPC I created ChebVolunteer to tell people about volunteering.

Then somehow I forgot the feeling of lightness and started worrying about being unemployed and became anti-social. I still worried I would not find the right job and would stay unproductive for the rest of my life.  But I met great people over the summer and started socializing again. There was a moment I wasn’t doing much and felt very idle, just like a plant, but then … olpcMAP opportunity came up and I grabbed it, as I sensed it was exactly what I wanted to do. And then …

I found a much better job than I thought I could possibly find in this economy. I became so productive, that I managed to work in a new field, organize exciting  fundraising events for my writers group, volunteer for OLPC and move to a new place at the same time. 

I’m not anxious or worrying anymore. I realized, that worrying and anxiousness is meaningless. It only takes time and energy from our lives and brings negativity. All is temporary, we all in our lives go through waves and circles (like in Hinduism), which repeat, come and go, move us up and down and we should not be obsessed about controlling them. We just need to be prepared for the next phase while accepting what life gives us at present and trying to make positive changes. There always be idle and negative moments, but they are all temporary.

I also realized that when we don’t worry, but stay open to right opportunities and follow our heart, we make right decisions. I went to Vietnam instead of working in Boston last winter and it made me happy. I went to SF OLPC Summit instead of an annual social party in Boston, and that helped me find what I love to do. It gave me answers to many questions I had before. Do I even have a talent? How can I help others who are in need? How can I be useful and improve the world?

We all have moments when others expect us to do something, but we know it is not right. Follow your heart so that you don’t blame yourself for the rest of your life for not doing what you really had to do… Find courage to do what is right and even if  you fall after that, there will be an even bigger rising. Find similar minded people and continue doing what you are destined to do. Eric Johannson said it better in his Photo Collage Work.

May 30, 2011 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happiness Survey

Dear all,

I’m doing research on happiness. Please, take Happiness Survey, which should only be a minute of your time!

You can complete the survey anonymously or include your email address in the last open text answer and participate in the raffle. The deadline is March 14, and the winner will be picked randomly from all participant’s emails and announced on March 15. The winner will get a gift certificate that will make you happy!

Please, feel free to forward this link to all your friends.

Thank you!

Marina 🙂

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jan 2011 Newsletter of La Esperanza Granada, Nicaragua

I have a special connection to La Esperanza Granada in Nicaragua. I read their newsletters every month, and I would like to share this one with you :

What a full month we have had here, so much has happened, so I will give you the highlights and trust the pictures to tell the story:

 ·        The fence for the high school in San Ignacio was completed, with the wall of the latrines forming part of the fence.

·        Westfield State College students led by  Christin Cleaton Ruiz, Kathi Bradford and Catherine Savini, made an enormous contribution to the new high school.  They raised sufficient money, and came and labored for a week, to build the walls of three classrooms (one building) of the high school half way up.  They had a great week here with us, and are hoping to stay involved with this project.  Work has now stopped on the high school, but Karin van Eijk is gathering funds, and the students from Westfield will be trying too, also Amped for Education, so hopefully we will make further progress with it soon.

·        Professors Soraya, Raul and Jose completed work on the textbook/activity book for the course we will be hosting this year on protecting the environment and renewable energy.  Thanks to the Body Shop foundation, this will be taught to all the grade 3 and 4 children in the schools where we work, and so exciting for the children, each will have their own book, with a space for their name on the cover.  Often there is only one textbook per classroom here.

·        Our three summer schools have been running all month, next week is the last week, and we have over 150 students attending.  Kathleen Pillie and other visitors who came with the Archdiocese of New Orleans Mission Group came and did eye testing with all the children last week.

·        New faces as ayudantes, plus some new university scholarships through Grupo 2013 in Spain – now we have 20 young people attending university, 14  of who are full time volunteers in our ayudante program, plus this year  75 sponsored to attend high school.  (we are still looking for a few more high school sponsors).

·        Our first home renovation project happened last week!  Dalia Ramirez won the raffle we held of students with the best attendance at San Ignacio, and the Ramirez family got a full home makeover.  T.J. Swearengin and his friends ‘The Carpenters’ funded this and did all the work too laboring each day, along with a little assistance from our local builder.   All four. T.J., Chad, Josh and Guy, have desk jobs, and despite the name ‘Carpenters’ are really average home handymen, but they did a wonderful job – I’m adding an extra photo link just for this as they are such great pictures, before, during and after.

Former volunteer, Ciaran Tierney, returned home to Ireland at Christmas after a spell in Central America in which he spent ten weeks with La Esperanza Granada. Here, he reflects on how his experiences in Nicaragua contrasted with the current ‘crisis’ in his own country.

 And finally two photo links for this month :

And a special on the house renovation:

A great start to 2011,  hope all of you had a good start too, from all of us here,

Regards, Pauline.

Note: In orginal newsletter you can find a list of people who made donations, brought goods and volunteers coming to teach this new school year.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hospice Volunteer Training offered by Boston Shambhala’s Group

I completed 3 levels of Shambhala Warrior Training, and they were extremely useful for me. I was happy to learn that Shambhala groups offer other trainings and worshops, like this one offered by Shambhala’s Turning the Flower Outward group:

Hospice Volunteer Training begins Thursday February 3rd: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM.

In our effort to “turn the flower outward” and push the Boston Shambhala Center’s envelope beyond its present limits, Shambhala members interested in reaching out to the greater Boston community are dedicating their merit to those facing life-limiting illnesses. Individually and as a group, our collaboration with hospice volunteering is another step towards sharing our practice, exertion and heart with patients and their families, who are facing a time of major transition fraught with fear and uncertainty. Putting other people before ourselves is a powerful way to cultivate compassion and attract blessings. The power of meditation practice mixed with organized group service for others in need is a potent catalyst towards creating an enlightened society.

Join us for five weeks of hospice training with The Beacon Hospice office in Charlestown, MA.

The Beacon Hospice approach to care creates a patient and family environment of hope, comfort, and dignity. This approach is extended through our volunteers, who can make an enormous difference in someone’s life. Volunteering takes many forms. From working directly with patients at the bedside, to knitting lap blankets, to working in the office…there is something for everyone.

Please join us for this hospice volunteer training, which is scheduled for five consecutive Thursday evenings, February 3rd – March 10th from 6-9pm.  Please feel free to contact Jill Hurley with any questions at

Note: this training will NOT be at the Boston Shambhala Center. Contact Jill Hurley for more information. Email us if you would be interested in another training in the future.

Click Here to Register

February 1, 2011 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Final Analysis of Volunteer Survey Results

We collected results of the olpcMAP survey and summarized them in a olpcMAP Survey Results. On Wednesday, Dec 29, I presented olpcMAP Survey Final Analysis, which interprets survey results and suggests major themes and underlying motives for volunteering.

I was glad to receive feedback and comments at the end of the presentation. Mark Battley agreed about people wanting to have a hobby that realizes their untapped talents. When you develop those talents, you become happier and frequently more successful, and he witnessed it. Ryan and Alexandra commented on tailoring projects for volunteers. We all agreed that  there should be opportunities for 2 hours a week, 2 weeks a year or even 2 years at a time, etc. Then volunteers decide which one is right for them.  Because the same person maybe interested in all three option at different times in his life. It is all about perpetual balance. We all want to find it. People struggle whether they should have a well paid job but no meaning, or spend time on an unpaid project that has a great social value. We are all constantly moving and adjusting our choices to finally find our perfect mix of life variables to reach our personal balance.  Another important comment was about helping people figure out what they are good at or where do they fit as volunteers… Main Takeaways:

1. Help people feel useful and appreciated

2. Design perfect conditions for volunteering

3. Don’t judge people, educate them on what opportunities are available and what is possible

4. Create happy social identity

5. Provide facilitation

Download full presentation olpcMAP Survey Final Analysis. Also see my favorite commencement speech ever by Steve Jobs

January 1, 2011 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Results of Volunteer Survey

Thank you for suffering through all 10 questions! We heard feedback that it was hard, confusing and even not logical, but we are positive it was worth it, as we received great answers from you which will help with our initiative. 

There were almost no multiple choice questions as we wanted you to brainstorm, because we don’t need to know what we already know. So with open text answers you had to be creative and generate a lot of new solutions.

I summarizes results of the survey in a presentation to share them with you: overall public opinion on every question and highlights. Download olpcMAP Survey Results, read, share with others and let us know what you think.

The second presentation is different, it comes with thorough analysis of main themes, since questions were more psychological than logical… Some questions were asked for different reasons and that is why they might have been confusing. So you will see our subjective interpretation of your answers to modify our strategy.

What we wanted to know: 

A)     What volunteer needs do you have?

B)      What recognition do you want for your work?

C)      What questions can we use for trivia?

D)      How can we help you?

E)      If you were to design your own volunteer gig, what would it be?

F)      Do you need social identity?

G)     Do you need help deciding what you need?

H)     What do you want to know?

I)       How can we use your answers for strategic good?

Stay tuned for Final Analysis of olpcMAP Survey Results to be posted next!


January 1, 2011 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Survey About Volunteering

Dear all!

Whether you are a current volunteer or not, whether you have ever tried to volunteer or not, I really appreciate your feedback.

I’ve been researching the topic of volunteering for more than a year. And it still seems that some people know more about volunteering than others. Some people try to volunteer and continue doing it, other stop because they either burn out or don’t like it. And there are those who’ve never done it  but some of them could potentially try it if given an opportunity to participate in an interesting project. What many people still don’t know is that there are many great purposes volunteering serves for everyone involved, especially volunteers.

Please give your feedback as I’m trying to understand what motivates people to volunteer and why some people are interested in volunteering and others are not. It is only 10 questions and totally anonymous! Please, take this Survey.


1. Are you currently volunteering with any organization and why?

2. Whould you like to volunteer in your or foreign country (which ones)?

3. How much time do you have for volunteering (number of hours/days per week/year)?

4. What type of volunteer work are you most interested in?

5. What kind of recognition/incentive do you deserve for volunteering?

6. What do you want to know about others and others to know about you?

7. If the world were a game/contest, what would it be?

8. Would you want to participate in community events/workshops/summits?

9. Do you need help deciding whether volunteering  is right for you and where exactly your help is needed?

10. Any other comments and suggestions?

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fraud in Volunteer World

I received a comment from to one of my posts and would like to share it with you. Remember, that everyone would want to take your money and help you volunteer abroad, but be warned that some of the organizations are either fraud or simply bad for everyone involved. Always do research beforehand and check feedback from former volunteers:

“If you are interested in visiting Africa on a Volunteer program, for heaven’s sake do not go any where near “Dr” Peter Mc Hendry or Global Adventures, Christian ski or any other companies run by “Dr” Peter McHendry – have a look at what he did to this poor chap!

Peter McHendry is a fraudster who has been deported from Zambia for breeching labour laws (not paying his poor village staff) and failing to register any sort of business interest in Zambia, he does not legally own any land there, only the President of Zambia can grant a lease in Zambia, most of his deceptions are based on owning things he quite clearly cannot and does not!

The Police in South Africa are looking for McHendry in regards to Insurance Fraud and conning investors into his failed Global Bio Diesel and Akula Trading 227 PTY Companies.

This man is very dangerous and is believed to have several personality disorders, such as Jerusalem syndrome, his wife and other girls have complained of violent behaviour and at nearly 60 “Dr” Peter McHendry has an unhealthy interest in young vulnerable women and strippers as the Lonely Planet article shows.

The Lonely Planet confirms that “Dr” Peter McHendry had not paid his staff for at least two months when the volunteers’ had paid over $2500 US each to live in a tent with no food!


He steals from poor African Villagers and may have molested several village children which is why a deportation order was issued by the Zambian government and why the South African Police are looking for him!

Do not give him any money it will not go on any sort of good, it will all be spent on young girls that “Dr” McHendry has no chance of sleeping with, you can see lots of them on his website which makes many, many, false claims all of which are badly spelt!

South African Police are looking for investors into a franchise scam run by Dr Peter McHendry in 2008 under the name “Global Bio Diesel” A company which does not exist!

Here is a list of investors who should contact COMMISSIONER KWEYAMA ON +2782556758 at Pinetown Police Station or Commercial Branch in Durban

DJW / Nelson Mbatha Invested R4,000,000.00 on 30/05/2008
Kitesh Cara Invested R160,000.00 on 04/06/2008
Mr Kwazi N Sithole Invested R800,000.00 on 19/09/2008

These funds were paid into Akula Trading 227 PTY and then spent on McHendrys mortgage arrears, court cases in respect of unpaid debts, which are still owed as Peter McHendry has lost every case against him, details below.,_Volume_511_(Part_2_of_2),_141/,_Volume_506,_B,_128/

Reposted from

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tufts Health Plan and Volunteer Work

Three weeks ago I started working for Tufts Health Plan (THP), and on the first day during orientation I learned about volunteer opportunities available for employees, which impressed me tremendously! Here is what I found:

1. Full-time employees are offered 8 paid hours to volunteer wherever they would like to contribute. Employees have a chance to leave work and volunteer their time to any organization they choose.

2. There are numerous volunteer opportunities listed on the THP website. There are about 20 organizations listed, among them are:

Boston Health Care for the homeless Program – Volunteers play a critical role at BHCHP. They help out in countless ways, like offering recreational activities at the in-patient respite care facility, working behind the scenes in our administrative departments, engaging patients in caring conversations, organizing fundraising events and helping out in the clinics.

Springwell House – Volunteer to spend time with elders by becoming a friend, being a medical escort or teaching elders about health insurance options and how to manage money.

3. That is what homepage for volunteering says:

Volunteering Is Not for Anyone; It’s for Everyone!
Volunteering gets good people and good causes together to make a difference in the community. Volunteering is the perfect vehicle to discover something you are really good at and develop a new skill. Take some time out of your year to give back to your community, make new friends and network, feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and most importantly, give back to someone in need. Part of being a great volunteer is loving what you’re doing. Find something that you’re passionate about or something that inspires you, and then find a need in your community.

4. There are numerous Onsite Philanthrophy Activities.  Each year, THP organizes several opportunities for employee philanthropy, often to benefit local service agencies. Examples: Holiday wish Tree, Blood Drives, Food Drives, Workplace giving Back to Schools Drive and others. Right now employees can donate gifts for the holiday season to Cambridge Salvation Army and Department of Mental Retardation-Fernald Center.

5. Very compelling line Think You Don’t Have Time to Volunteer? You Do!
Busy schedules and hectic lives seem to be the norm these days. But, thanks to THP, take a deep breath, step back from your desk and use a paid day off to volunteer. THP has worked with a number of agencies in the area. In addition, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley Web site provides an easy-to-use, online database of current volunteer opportunities that can be searched using a number of variables, including location and type of agency (children, elders, etc.).

I decided to suggest Strategic Volunteering Workshop for our employees.

I’m so proud to be working at Tufts Health Plan, and I mean it! In my opinion, encouraging employees to volunteer and giving them opportunities for it  is very important for employee’s own health and happiness !

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Volunteering | , , , , , | Leave a comment