The first holiday sale ads are out, and soon the season of sales, shopping lists, and stress will be here. I’ve already seen 2 back-to-back commercials for completely different products using the same Christmas carol, with the lyrics modified to encourage rampant consumerism. While I’m all for supporting our failing economy, let’s take a moment to reassess what the “season” is about.
No matter what your beliefs, I think we can all agree that we could “spend out” in other, better ways than buying more STUFF. Extra storage space and home organizers are a first world problem. What if we took our holiday money (or even half of it) and used it in ways that created a ripple effect of GOOD?!
Give to Charities That Foster Health!
Choose them wisely.
I prefer to donate to charities with clear mission statements and well-outlined projects. I give mainly to organizations that work within the community, utilize local resources and staff, and provide training to residents in a pay-it-forward model that fosters sustainability.
MY Favorite Gift: It’s a card that tells me someone donated to help pay for a surgery to repair a child cleft lip and/or palate. I cry every time I get this card: out of joy for that child, and out of sorrow for all the children still waiting.
The New York Times called Smile Train “…one of the most productive charities—dollar for deed—in the world.”
Problem: Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly. Aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. And face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache. Their clefts usually go untreated because they are poor – too poor to pay for a simple surgery that has been around for decades.
Solution: Smile Train provides free cleft lip and palate surgery to hundreds of thousands of poor children in developing countries. Each surgery takes only about 45 minutes and costs around $250. The focus is on treating the “whole child” with comprehensive, total rehabilitative care including: speech therapy, general dentistry and orthodontics. They also train doctors and medical professionals in over 80 countries to ensure that this care will be available for years to come.
Other Charities I Donate to:
“Not a cup, but a cow.” Heifer focuses on long-term development, rather than short-term relief. After immediate needs for food, shelter, fresh water, clothing and other necessities have been met, Heifer works within communities to empower disaster survivors with the economic means – such as livestock, training and other resources – to rebuild their families, their neighborhoods and their hope for sustainable futures. Check out their gift catalogue here!
I gave my mom a goat last year!
A typical Heifer project consists of three essential components:
+ Livestock and other material goods
+ Training and extension work
+ Organizational development, which includes planning, management,
record keeping, passing on the gift, reporting and evaluation.
Every family and community that receives assistance promises to repay their living loan by donating one or more of their animal’s offspring to another family in need. This practice of “Passing on the Gift” ensures project sustainability, develops community and enhances self-esteem by allowing project partners to become donors.
Episcopal Relief and Development
Rather than imposing “one size fits all” solutions, Episcopal Relief & Development supports unique local, long-term initiatives that address poverty, hunger, disease, economic development and disaster response. Their support goes where it is needed, to peoples of all faiths and cultures. Like Heifer, provide animals to communities, but they go much further, offering seeds, medical treatment, basics for life like wells and smokeless stoves. One year I bought everything a child would need to get through one day: food at school, a health clinic visit, clean water, and a mosquito net. Check out their endless gift catalogue “Gifts for Life!”
+ Alleviating Hunger and Improving Food Supply
+ Creating Economic Opportunities and Strengthening Communities
+ Promoting Health and Fighting Disease
+ Responding to Disasters and Rebuilding Communities
What are your favorite charities?
How do you give in meaningful ways?