Action Alert: Olivia’s Art for Animals

A series where we highlight people using their passions to make a difference in their communities.

Olivia Pedrick’s kitchen table is splattered with paint of every hue.

Every weekend, the 12-year-old sits down at her table in Ashland, New York and paints pictures of animals for family, friends, and random strangers.

“I really do like turtles and dogs. Turtles are a lot of fun to paint because you can add so many different kind of greens,” she says. “I like painting dogs because of the shading.”


Olivia with some recent paintings. Her favorite one of all time is one of her and her dog Miller, which was a Christmas gift for her parents. (Photo via Anabel Lago-Pedrick.)

Customers pay her $10 per painting, or more if they’d like, and the money goes to an animal charity of her choice. Right now, Olivia’s waiting list is three months long.

Olivia, who’s been painting since she was four years old, thought of the idea after seeing a woman from a local wildlife rehab center speak as part of the Kindness and Caring club at school. She loves art as much as she loves animals, especially dogs, and brainstormed with her mom Anabel ways she could help out.

She started by selling paintings at a local town event. In one afternoon she sold them all, and her mom set up a Facebook page shortly after.

Anabel takes care of the logistics – managing everything from her web presence to choice of charities – to give Olivia freedom to paint.

Still, finding the time can be a challenge for Olivia, who is also involved in Girl Scouts, karate, skiing and more in addition to having heaps of homework to do. School vacations and summers are when she gets the most amount of painting done.

“It’s a lot of work. But it’s totally worth it,” Olivia says.

Since she started two years ago, Olivia has made 70 paintings and donated over $6,000 to charities. She’s also inspired a girl in the Netherlands to undertake a similar project, and a few friends from school have said they’ve wanted to do it, too.

As to how long Olivia will continue to paint to help animals, she doesn’t even need to think twice about the answer.

“My whole life,” she says. “Definitely.”


Want to use your creative skills for good or know a youth in your life who does? Feel free to contact Anabel Lago-Pedrick, Olivia’s mom, for tips and advice on how to get a project like Olivia’s Art for Animals going.

Do you know someone who is taking a small step toward making their community better? Email


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[Idea File] Traveling? Add purposeful pounds to your backpack

Today’s idea

Photo by Flickr user andymangold (Creative Commons)

How many times while traveling have you come across an organization that had a practical need you could have easily fulfilled had you just known about it beforehand? The folks behind Stuff Your Rucksack think they can eliminate missed connections like this. Rather than packing an extra T-shirt or towel, the UK-based nonprofit asks idealistic travelers to instead bring items that can help local charities in places from Colombia to Egypt to Vanutau. A quick browse of current needs show books, pens and pencils, Legos, board games, Frisbees, mosquito nets – even fairy wings.

Why we’re adding it to the Idea File

Stuffing your backpack or suitcase with extra items is a quick, easy and concrete way to fill a need. And it can be beneficial for both parties:

  • Direct fulfillment of a need. Orgs receive what they are lacking, often at a low cost to the traveler – and without a middleman. And in cases where gently used goods are accepted, the person giving can avoid creating waste in a landfill.
  • Increased awareness and helping good ideas travel. Many times, nonprofits are doing great things but the communication about their work is not far-reaching. In this scenario, travelers learn about a new org and can share its work back home or in other places.
  • Feel good factor. Locals appreciate that their visitors thought of them, while travelers get immediate satisfaction.

How you can replicate it

Since a service already exists, see how you can contribute to helping it grow. Add orgs to Stuff Your Rucksack, or share your success story.

But you don’t need a third party website to connect with locals. Before you hop on a plane, reach out to your trusted networks to see if anyone knows a nonprofit you can help. Get in contact with them, and check sites such as Charity Navigator or Guidestar to vouch for its validity. Also try searching Idealist to find people who have either volunteered or worked for the org using our new personal profile system. When in doubt, you can always reach out to the folks at Stuff Your Rucksack for advice.

Caveats and considerations

  • Logistics: There might not be an org listed in your destination, or the one listed might have out of date information. It’s best to contact them beforehand to let them know you’re coming. It also requires a leap of faith to trust that the orgs really do need what you’re bringing, and aren’t going to sell or misuse it in some way.
  • Cultural impact: People who have the luxury of being able to travel are often perceived as wealthy (especially Westerners), and this could perpetuate the stereotype. Also, dropping off foreign goods and then leaving might actually hurt the local economy.

What do you think? Would you add some weight to your backpack the next time you go abroad? Or does this idea seem too…stuffy?

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