A few years back there was a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin that spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list. The author had an epiphany that she wasn’t happy and didn’t spend enough time doing things that brought her joy. The result was a year long journey exploring her happiness and a bestselling book on the topic.
I have been following an amazing group on Instagram called by the same name but in no relation to the book. A few times a week I come across beautiful images of happy people doing service projects from feeding the homeless on skid row in Los Angeles, bringing brown bag lunches, visiting senior homes with flowers repurposed from other events (even plucked from Rose Parade floats) and the list goes on. So finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I reached out to find out who was behind The Happiness Projects?
The answer, a joy filled young woman named Ivy Luong, whose passion is to bring happiness to others. An event planner by day and philanthropist in every spare moment in between. I talked to Ivy earlier this week about what inspires someone with a full-time job, a full life and tons of friends to create a group that serves others? I think you will find her answers as inspiring as I did.
Charity Matters: What inspired you to start The Happiness Projects?
Ivy Luong: I have always felt grateful for all that I have. I am a first generation American and have watched my parents work so hard for our family. I know that there are so many people in need. Last January, I reached out to a bunch of my friends to see if they wanted to volunteer. I made it easy, fun and we called it The Happiness Project. I never thought a year later what we would accomplish.
Charity Matters: So what has your impact been in just 365 days?
Ivy Luong: We didn’t set out with a goal, we simply wanted to show people (the homeless, the elderly) that someone cares. We just wanted to help empower as many people as possible. I reached out to a few friends and a few nonprofits that I cared about and before I knew it there were more friends and more causes. Last year we completed 18 projects, had over 115 volunteers and delivered happiness to 1, 666 people.
Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work and when do you know you have made a difference?
Ivy Luong: All the people I meet. Bringing strangers together to do good. The interaction from the people we serve. Our lunch bag project on Skid Row, for example, when you feed someone who hasn’t eaten in days and they smile at you when you give them food. It not only makes you realize that their hurdles in life are bigger than your own but more than that it compels you to move forward to the next project.
Knowing that if I can help just one person, that’s when I know I have made a difference.
Charity Matters: What life lesson have you learned from The Happiness Projects? And how has this year of service changed you?
Ivy Luong: I have learned big lessons. First, is that you never know what someone is going through . More than that, give back whenever you can. Connecting people, opportunities and causes has been one of the greatest experiences, not only for me but for everyone involved. Just knowing you have helped one person let alone hundreds is what The Happiness Projects is all about.