Tag Archives: charities

My charities for 2014 are…

“If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.” Warren Buffett

I take for granted that most people are to some extent concerned by others and many contribute in different ways to alleviate others’ burdens. Some find it that these contributions should rather be kept private. In this regard, I take the opposite approach.

I try to be as public as I can, hoping that I may serve the causes I contribute to also from the awareness point of view. Take this blog post as an example. I expect that it will be read by over 100 people. If just a reader feels compelled by the message and decides to look for a cause to contribute to, the time spent by me writing this post will have been worth it.

Let’s go and see the different causes I decided to support in this 2014 (1):

AACR, the last organization I decided to support.

Kiva, Vittana, Oxfam, MSF, Slavery International, Wikipedia, Fundacion Hombres Nuevos, Gapminder, American Association for Cancer Research Foundation… those are the causes I decided to support this year. If not one of those, I am sure that you will be able to find one which resonates with you. Do yourself a favour and contribute to it. It can be just 25$, the cost of diner at a restaurant. You’ll feel much better. 

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank, diary of Anne Frank

(1) You may check out similar posts I wrote about contributions to NGOs in 2013 and 2012.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Helping others

Summary of (my) 2013

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2013. (1)

I defined my 2011 as a year on the run and my 2012 as a year of change, and yet 2013 brought more running and more change that either 2011 or 2012! To me 2013 will be a family year: as Luca and I got married and we got a baby, Andrea.

At the beginning of 2013 I did not set a list of objectives to be fulfilled along the year as with the wedding preparations and the coming of Andrea I was going to have plenty of occupations. However, that does not mean that it was a quiet 2013.

Getting married.

Getting married.

May 11, 2013. On that day Luca and I celebrated our wedding. That was our highlight of the first half of the year. We celebrated it close to my parents’ place, in the hills close to Madrid, on a great spring evening , surrounded by most of our relatives and friends (many of you, coming not only from all corners in Spain but from Canada, Brazil, The Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland…). Apart from being a very emotive day we had lots of fun.

The monday after the wedding we departed for a honeymoon around the US west coast. We took the opportunity to visit the usual suspects of the area (LA, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Sequoia Park, Yosemite…) and the not so common places: the aircraft cemetery known as The Boneyard and the AF Flight Test Center (this required visiting 2 US Air Force bases: Davids-Monthan and Edwards), the aviation museums of Pima and Seattle, the Lowell observatory, the Boeing 787 / 777 /747 Final Assembly Lines…

Family Irastorza Van Veen.

In February we announced here that we were expecting a baby. On August 11th, Andrea was born in Toulouse (2).

She weighed 3,610 grams at birth and measured 50cm tall. Now, 4 and half months later she is over 7kg and over 63cm. She has been the highlight of the second half of the year.

Family 2.0. All these events made me slow down the blog posts production rate at some times during the year, though not for the lack of ideas or contents! Nevertheless, I managed to write about 90 posts! Plus the blog received over 50,000 visits in 2013 and surpassed the 100,000 since I started it in 2010.

On top of that, we saw how Luca went forward with her own blog, check it here.

Learning. What did I learn this year? The main job here has been to internalize on time the turn to becoming a father. Once that was assumed, I would say that, with the good health Andrea has had so far, it has been rather easy, albeit energy and time-consuming.

I would say that trickiest that I am finding is the balancing of time between family, hobbies and work. And it has been at the other side of the work-life balance, at the work, where another leap forward was required: in terms of new concepts, new position within the team and several challenges encountered. Though, with the great courage and support from Ruth and Loreto, the year has passed way smoother than one could have suspected.

Other than that, this year I did not manage to formally study neither French (booh! to myself) or Dutch (another big booh! to myself), and this is something that I will have to make up for in 2014 (otherwise I risk to be left out in conversations between wife and daughter!).

Online education: after getting started in 2012 with online courses, in 2013 I completed in Coursera platform the following 4 courses: “Energy 101” (Georgia Tech), “Model Thinking” (Uni. of Michigan), “Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health” (Uni. of Pittsburgh) and “Exercise Physiology: Understanding the Athlete Within” (Uni. of Melbourne). On the down side, I did not fully complete other 3 online courses for which I obtained only about 60% of the credits, even though I enjoyed them even more than the previous ones: “Game Theory” (Stanford), “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” (Duke) and “Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity” (Stanford), in all three cases I missed some deadlines due to being travelling without time and proper connections to complete assignments.

Reading. This year I didn’t set any objectives in terms of books due to the reasons mentioned above. Add to that that my eReader broke at the beginning of the year and I only replaced it in June and only started to use the new eReader in December (!). I have only read 7 books in 2013 (“Thinking Fast and Slow”, “Calico Joe”, “Born to Run”, “Les Cow-boys d’Airbus”, “Personal Memoirs of US Grant”, “Moneyball” and “The Art of War” for a second time). I think I will soon write a post about them.

Sports. After about 16 years, I got to practice again skiing (!), which used to be one of my favourite sports. We went with colleagues to Val Louron, Saint-Lary and Baqueira. I also got to play soccer again after about 3 years without playing… with the misfortune of getting injured (left leg adductor) just weeks prior to a marathon.

Skiing in Val Louron (France).

Running the San Diego marathon.

As you can imagine if you are a frequent reader of the blog, what I practiced often was running. In 2013 I managed to run over 2,000 kilometres, I took part in 16 races including: 3 marathons (Rome, San Diego – while on honeymoon!- and Athens), 2 half marathons (La Latina – Madrid – and Toulouse) and 4 trails of around 20km each. For the last marathon I manage to complete a training plan to the end which made me very proud and helped to beat my 10k and half personal records.

I don’t remember from whom I picked the sentence “the running shoes, always in the suitcase”, but I follow it to the point: The year 2012 caught me running in Toulouse (all kind of corners in the French south west region), Gruissan, Madrid (the day I got married included), Torrelodones, Rome, Santander, Murcia, Santa Monica, San Diego, San Francisco (Bay to Breakers race included, and along the Golden Gate bridge), Sequoia National Park, Mojave desert, Tucson, San Diego, Everett, Oakland, San Lorenzo de la Parrilla (Cuenca), Comillas (Cantabria), Athens, Wijchen… so in a way it was also a year on the run. Many of these times I have been running with friends (Jaime, Serna, Manuel, Juan, Kike, Jon, Nacho, Gon, Juan, Nervi, Pablete…), which made it even better.

Investing & helping others: with the organization of the wedding in sight, I had a cash preference for the use of savings. With the wedding gone, I will re-start looking for investment opportunities in 2014 (hopefully the stock market isn’t so hot then).  In a few weeks I will publish how our investments (made in previous years) have fared in 2013, but they have gone well (as most of the stock markets). On the charities side: this year I directed 1.1% of my net income to different NGOs and non-profits (soon I’ll make a similar contribution, check out which ones will I support this time).

Travelling. This year either with Luca, with friends or alone, I visited Santander, Murcia, United States (LA, SF, Seattle, Mojave, Flagstaff, Tucson, San Diego…), Comillas, Greece (Athens, Delphi, Meteora, Marathon), The Netherlands (Wijchen, Den Bosch)… take the case of Andrea, who with just 4 months has been 3 times in Spain, 3 times in The Netherlands and Greece (having flown 11 times already)… those were the leisure trips; the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things.

My first flight on-board the A400M.

My first flight on-board the A400M.

Flying: again, 2013 has been a difficult year to find slots to fly with the instructor. Due to weather conditions, work, etc., we had to cancelled several sessions. In the end I could only fly over 13 hours. However, on August, 30, I did my first solo flight!. That was another highlight of the year. During the summer time, while my parents and in-laws were visiting to see our newborn, I could take onboard my mother and father-in-law. 

On top of that, on August 29, I got to fly onboard the aircraft I work on at Airbus Military, the A400M! (yet another highlight).

Other reasons for joy in 2013 have been:

  • Family: My brother switched jobs within the same company and will soon depart again for Germany. My sister, after completing her degree in Political Sciences, pursuing a course on Energy Security in Madrid and getting yet another certificate in English, moved to Odense (Denmark) to study a Master in Energy Security (you can follow her in her blog). My mother keeps working on her massage business, and my father is now engaged with 2 or 3 NGOs spending part of is time as a pensioner teaching maths, physics, etc., to disfavoured people in Madrid.
  • Some more friends and relatives got married: Marlies, Pablo, Jose, Unai, Marlies.
  • And apart from Andrea, these newborns will share her promotion: Julia, Aaron, Mencía, Diego, Julia, Maeva

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2014 to turn out. I believe the next year I’m going to give it a try to the processes’ approach at the time of setting goals. I have been repeating to myself for years that each year that passes is getting better than the previous one. If I see at the account above, improving 2013 seems difficult, but who am I to question that 2014 will be, again, the best year of my life!?

I wish you the same: the best for 2014, enjoy it!

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

(1) This post is becoming a classic of the blog (like those talking about aircraft discounts, best and worst posts, charities I support, etc). You can see my 20102011 and 2012 recaps.

(2) For the avoidance of doubt: despite of being born in France and due to her parents being Dutch and Spanish, Andrea is of Spanish and Dutch nationality, not French. Quoting a work colleague: “here [on the possibility of getting French nationality at birth or not], French law protects our children…” 🙂

12 Comments

Filed under Personal development & HR

My charities for 2013 are…

January is the month of the year in which I take some time during a weekend to select which charities and non-profits I will donate some money (1). Let me introduce you to the 9 NGOs I have selected this year:

Kiva: this is a micro lending portal. This is the first non-profit to which I made a contribution. This is not truly a charity, as here you give loans to small entrepreneurs in developing countries. I have talked about in the blog sometimes. This year, for the 4th year in a row, I have added some more funds.

Vittana: another micro lending portal. This one is specialized on credits for education purposes, very similar to Kiva in its conception. This year, for the 3rd year in a row, I have added more funds, to help some students study nursing and engineering.

Médecins sans Frontières: I started donating cash to MSF in 2010 while still living in Spain, in 2011 I became member of the French branch. This year I learnt what you can afford with just 100€:

Oxfam: another well-known NGO. Oxfam mission is “to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice”, this is the 3rd year I help them :-).

Anti-Slavery: Can you stand slavery today? In the XXI century? I cannot. This is why since 3 years ago I am contributing to this NGO which works to eliminate all forms of slavery around the world. 

Fundación Hombres Nuevos. My father retired in autumn 2011. In January 2012 he was packing to spend 5 months in Bolivia working in the field teaching some underprivileged children maths, language… or just helping them do their homework. I think that only my sister had such a good opportunity in the past 2 decades!

My father discovered this foundation in a TV documentary about 2 years ago:

That sparkled again a vocational aspiration he had since completing his studies and he went on to fulfil it. I’ll try to get him to write about it… stay tuned.

Brief comment about the foundation: It was founded by Nicolás Castellanos who received the prize “Premio Príncipe de Asturias a la Concordia” in 1998 along with Vicente Ferrer or Muhammad Yunus (who later received the Nobel Peace Prize and is credited with the invention of micro credits).

Wikipedia: When was the last time you checked the Wikipedia? How often do you check it? Wikipedia’s self-description:

“Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project based on an openly editable model. The name “Wikipedia” is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick”) and encyclopedia.”

For the second year running I contributed to #keepitfree.

Gapminder: you might have seen some talk from Hans Rosling, its founder. Gapminder is “a non-profit venture – a modern “museum” on the Internet – promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals”, or better “Fighting the most devastating myths by building a fact-based world view that everyone understands”.

Have you got 13 minutes? Why don’t you check this video about “Religion and babies” and let his performance convince you?

Finally, let me introduce you to the new addition to my list of NGOs:

Fundación Khanimambo. I was introduced to it by two friends, Nacho and Alberto. I loved the message of the NGO: “¿Necesitas sonreír? Déjate ayudar (Do you need to smile? Let us help you). It’s wonderful, the children from Praia Xai Xai, Mozambique, want to donate happiness to people worried and stressed in the rich countries. To do that, they need some money to enlarge their school, buy more pencils, papers, etc… Let them convince you (less than 2 minutes):

Final reflection:

I understand that in these times of economic stress many will not have the opportunity to spare some funds needed by their own families to help others in need. For those of us who have a job, I truly recommend you to take some moments and go through some websites of different NGOs, charities, non-profits, scientific endeavours… I am sure you will find an initiative that will resonate with you. Go and direct some funds to it. You might feel a bit wary the first time. It’s OK. Spend 25$, 50€… (it’s only the cost of a dinner with your partner). You will not only help someone in need, you will feel much better after having done it.

If not for them, do it for you :-).

 ***

(1) I already published two similar posts in 2011 and 2012. In previous year I had set first 0.7% and then 0.9% of my net income as the minimum bar; this year I increased the contribution to 1.1%.

6 Comments

Filed under Helping others

Summary of (my) 2012

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2012. (1)

Seychelles

Finally engaged.

I defined 2010 as a learning year, 2011 as a year on the run… I would describe my 2012 as a year of change:

  • I proposed to Luca and we’ll getting married in May 2013.
  • Luca came to live in Toulouse together with me last September, 4 years after having left Madrid to become a lawyer in The Netherlands.
  • My boss at the beginning of the year, Werner, moved to Germany thus I started reporting to his boss. A colleague, Paula, moved to another department and I had to fill the gap for some months trying to learn a complete new field for me. Yet another colleague, Rosa, moved to another country, and I will partially take over her role… and this implies managing a small team of 3 from January 1st.

I guess that all these changes didn’t give me the stability needed to fulfil all the objectives I had set myself at the beginning of the year… but don’t think 2012 wasn’t rich of events and fun. Have a seat in the roller coaster and run with me:

Sports. I wanted to do plenty of sports… in the end I run some 1,500 kilometres. I competed in 9 races, including tonight’s San Silvestre and two marathons: Paris and Berlin. I set personal best times in marathon (Paris, 3h45′) and 10k. I was not able to do so in half marathon due to an injury in the summer. Injuries forced me to run some 300 kilometres less than in 2011.

The year 2012 caught me running in Toulouse, Paris, Berlin, Torrelodones, Madrid, Sevilla, Rijswick, Papendal, Huelva, Asturias, Gaillac… so in a way it was also a year on the run. I also played some paddle, swam some days (including at North Sea, latitude 58º…) and got started with golf!

Learning. This year was also heavy on the learning side. It could have been much heavier if I had reached all my objectives. On the job I had to learn a great deal about configuration management in Airbus and will have to continue to do so, about leading and managing teams, about A400M aircraft systems…

Off of the job:

  • I subscribed to 4 online courses from Coursera and other platforms at the beginning of the year. I kept up with Codecademy for some 2 months while could not finish any of those courses (on valuation, corporate finance, game theory and model thinking). However, at the end of the year I took on some other 3 courses from Venture Lab and this time I did complete all 3 of them!
  • Languages: I started studying Dutch at the beginning of the year and I kept up with it for some 2-3 months… 2013 will force me to re-take it. French…
  • Toastmasters: I almost didn’t attend to my club meetings. I took part in the contests, though. having good experiences in the Spring winning both speech and evaluation and not so good in Autumn, not winning any, though being able to compete also at the area level.

Reading. At the beginning of the year I wanted to read at least 15 books. I started well, but in the end I have finished just 10 while being half way through other 4. Check out “my 2012 reading list“, including just the finished ones.

Investing & helping others. I again set myself high objectives for saving and investing. This year however, the engagement changed the focus of the savings: from stock market to a preference for cash, at least until all the wedding expenses have been paid out. On the charities side: this year I directed 0.9% of my net income to different NGOs (soon I’ll make a similar contribution, check out which ones will I support this time).

Travelling. This year either with Luca, with friends or alone, I visited Monaco (flying aboard a helicopter again!), Seychelles (where I proposed to Luca!), Asturias (twice), Huelva, The Netherlands (Papendal, Rijswick), Berlin – Nürnberg – Munich, Sevilla (twice), Madrid, Scotland, Corsica, Nancy, Geneva… those were the leisure trips; the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things.

Javi 2.0. For another year I kept it up with the blog. I recently reached 300 posts. I’m not sure whether I’ll always write about 100 posts per year, but if life keeps getting more interesting and I’ve got the time, count on it.

Change of plans due to the bad weather in the mountains, heading south to the coastline, re-calculating the route.

Flying back from Corsica.

Flying. Last year I took on flying lessons. I was slower in this front that had wished to, though it wasn’t always easy to find time slots to fly with so many trips on weekends. I recently surpassed 20 flight hours and started with go-arounds in the airport. Without any doubt, the trip to Corsica with a colleague was the best flying experience of the year. I’ll hopefully start with solo flights at the beginning of 2013 (beware!).

Other reasons for joy…

  • It goes without saying it: Luca came to Toulouse!
  • My sister, Beatriz, completed her masters in Political Sciences. My father spent some 5 months in Bolivia working for NGO teaching children a bit of maths and who-knows-what (he is doing similar work for NGOs now in Madrid), mom kept on giving massages and Jaime had roller coaster year with the A400M!
  • Some friends and relatives got married… Fernando, Diego, Héctor, Sergio, Ceci.
  • Newborns: Clara, Lenny…

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to update the objectives setting for 2013. I believe I’ll give myself a more relaxed set of personal goals to cope with job changes, personal changes and else. One thing I am sure of: 2013 will be, again, the best year of my life!

I wish you the same: the best for 2013, enjoy it!

(1) This post is becoming a classic of the blog (like those talking about aircraft discounts, best and worst posts, charities I support, etc). You can see my 2010 and 2011 recaps.

8 Comments

Filed under Personal development & HR

Summary of (my) 2011

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2011 (as I already did last year).

If I then characterized 2010 as a learning year, I would say 2011 was a year on the run.

At the beginning of the year I set out my objectives for 2011, of which I have achieved 71.4% (just above my 70% target!). One of them was only to “become again a frequent runner”, for which I set up some modest steps, e.g., buy new running shoes, run 3 days before mid-January, run a 10k popular race before November, lose some 10kg by June… If there was a yearly objective which I widely met, it was this one:

Último kilómetro de los 100km de Millau 2011.

Last kilometre at the ultramarathon "100km de Millau".

  • I ran over 170 days along the year, covering over 1,800 kilometres.
  • I took part in 11 popular races, including 6 of 10km, 2 half marathons, 1 marathon (42km) and 1 ultramarathon (100km). More races and more kilometres than ever before.
  • I found myself running in Granada, Villa del Río, Madrid, Torrelodones, Luarca, Rijswijk, Wijchen, Toulouse, Luz Saint Sauveur, Chicago, Washington DC, Des Moines, Montreal…

Learning. After taking some classes in Madrid, I continued studying French and now I feel more confident when facing shop attendants :-). I had to learn and continue to learn lots of new things every day at the new job where I landed about a year ago.

I still enjoy as learning moments the print weekly issues of The Economist or the monthly issues of Scientific American. I delivered the necessary speeches to become ACB within Toastmasters (though lately I’ve missed more meetings than I should). Finally, I read a dozen books along the year (a bit less than in previous years, though some in the new eReader!), being the ones I liked the most the following: first, second and third.

Investing & helping others. I set myself a high objective of saving and investing: I overachieved it by around 50%. I once mentioned it in Twitter: the best thing behind investing is the discipline of saving that is behind it. I not only dedicated a percentage of personal income to savings but as I announced in a post at the beginning of 2010, I directed a percentage to different charities. I initially set it out to be 0.7% of my income, but after raising some funds and contributing others to charities related to the races in which I am taking part, in the end this percentage has been well over 1% in 2011.

Travelling. We together visited Montreal, Ottawa, DC, Chicago, Omaha, and several places in the south of France and throughout Spain. The moment that I liked the most was attending the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, no doubt.

Javi 2.0. I continued to often write in this blog with some remarkable posts. I admit that my twitter account is one of my biggest sources of information / distraction.

Sports. Apart from the running, I recently re-started playing paddle with colleagues, became a kind of fan of the rugby local team, Stade Toulousain, had to subscribe to Canal + not to miss any of Real Madrid matches while living abroad.

Other reasons for joy have been:

  • our friends Teresa & Alberto, María & Óscar, Isa & Pedro got married,
  • we welcomed the newborns Mar, Hugo, Luis and Eneko, while another of our friends is pregnant today (that we know),
  • my sister Beatriz started working as an intern; my brother Jaime continued to enjoy his job in Airbus and moved to a new apartment; my mother Fidela continued to take several courses (and to give wonderful massages) and my father Juan Bautista finally and happily retired (after working for 43 years!).
  • Luca completed all the requirements to become a full-fledged lawyer, winning some court cases in the process.

To close the year, I started taking flight lessons, pursuing another childhood dream. This will allow me to continue learning and experiencing new things!

Now it’s time to update the objectives setting for 2012. This year the exercise will be easier as I already have the methodology and the habit. If the objectives are well chosen and challenging enough, next year’s account will be even shinier.

I wish you the same: a shinier 2012, enjoy it!

2 Comments

Filed under Personal development & HR