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The Joy of GIVING BACK ~ 2011

December 14, 2011


The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.  ~Nelson Henderson

I was reminded by a recent offering from Chris Brogan of the power of the post to energize and deepen community through giving. This year I am struck by the sheer magnitude of the need surrounding us. I’m also inspired and impressed by the legions of wonderful organizations that work tirelessly with creativity, commitment and love.

Researcher Stephen Post says helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise.  Researcher Elizabeth Dunn found that those who spend money on others reported greater happiness than those who spend it on themselves. Regardless of the proven benefits of altruism,  helping others contributes to making real a vision of a we vs. me world.

Having literally dozens of worthy organizations to share with you, it was very tough to pick just five. Not on my short list are outstanding organizations that serve and protect our environment, our human rights and the precious animals that share our planet. You know who they are and if your favorite groups and causes are not on my little list – I hope you will consider giving to them once again.


Bread for myself is a material question.  Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.  ~Nicholas Berdyaev

A few months ago, on Blog Action Day, I wrote about the acute hunger needs facing nearly 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 7 globally. That means that over 13% of the planet lives without adequate nutrition. Tragically, most of us do not have to go further than our own communities to find families and children in need. Food banks are springing up in neighborhoods everywhere. Many people prefer to give locally. Feeding America partners with food pantries all over the US and you can donate through them directly or find a local food bank here

“It is every (man’s) obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.”  Albert Einstein

A few years ago, good guy (and fine actor) Matt Damon started Since then Damon has done much more than lend his considerable global “brand” to a desperate cause – his group has created scalable solutions  for remote villages and communities in 8 countries. Currently, 884 million people lack access to safe, potable water. (that’s more than 3x the population of the US)

Based on the simple idea (and challenging mission) that clean and sustainable water is a basic human right,, has played an important role in educating people on the shocking facts that prevent millions from obtaining fresh, clean water and sanitation. When people learn that every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water related (preventable) disease, they are quick to support this global cause.


I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.  ~Tracy Chapman

There are more slaves now than at any other time in human history. It is estimated that there are about 27 million slaves around the world, with more than half being less than 18 years old.  According to some estimates, approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation.  Slaving is big business – just as it always was. While the average cost of a slave is only $90, the profits from prostitution, forced pornography, labor and debt bondage are enormous.

Forced to work in a brothel along with other children, Somaly Mam  was brutally tortured and raped on a daily basis. One night, she was made to watch as her best friend was viciously murdered. Fearing she would meet that same fate, Somaly heroically escaped her captors, with the help of a French aid worker, and set about building a new life for herself. She vowed never to forget those left behind and has since dedicated her life to saving victims and empowering survivors. 

In 1996, Mam created her first nonprofit organization  that worked with local law enforcement to raid brothels and reintegrate the trafficked women into society. That group has evolved into  the Somaly Mam Foundation dedicated to ending sex slavery around the world with a results-oriented, three-step approach: action, advocacy & awareness. Mam, now 38 or 39 (she does not know her birthday), has established a model for addressing this issue and has already helped more than 4,000 women escape the brothels. Somaly Mam stands as an active symbol against the oppression of our human brothers and sisters. Contributing to their work helps towards eradicating slavery forever.



Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.  ~Edwin Hubbel Chapin

The Lionheart Foundation is dedicated to providing emotional literacy education programs that significantly alter the life course of incarcerated adults and at-risk youth. Currently, there are over 2 million people in prison in the United States, which is the global leader in the amount of incarcerated citizens. China, with 4 times the population of the US, has 1.6 million imprisoned people.

Lionheart’s programs have been integrated into thousands of institutions, schools, and community programs throughout the United States and abroad. The Lionheart Foundation, established in 1992, by the inspiring author of Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart, Robin Casarjian, provides professional trainings and free nationwide distribution of resources to advance emotional awareness and competency within prison populations.

The cultivation of emotional literacy nurtures and elicits the best in people. Knowing this, it surely makes good sense to offer the necessary resources to support emotional literacy for every prisoner, youth-at-risk and young parent. In fact, most adults and all children can significantly benefit from the heightened emotional competence gained through specific education in this domain. If we truly want public safety, we must make emotional literacy a national priority. A donation to the The National Emotional Literacy Projects for Prisoners and Youth-at-Risk will support  unique, accessible, and powerful resources toward this end.


How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.  ~Anne Frank

I first learned of the great work of Partners in Health when I read the book,  Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, about the remarkable Dr. Paul Farmer

Dr. Farmer’s world-renowned work in developing the PIH model of care shattered the conventional wisdom that drug resistant TB and HIV/AIDS could not be treated in developing countries. PIH proved otherwise, developing a model to treat DR-TB in the slums of Lima, Peru and delivering antiretroviral therapy in a squatter settlement in rural Haiti. National health authorities in both countries incorporated the lessons learned by PIH in these pilot projects into national health systems.

Since then, PIH has expanded its community based approach to health care and socioeconomic support to 12 countries worldwide. The work of PIH is driven by three goals: to care for patients, to alleviate the root causes of disease and to share lessons learned with other countries and NGOs.

Through community partners, PIH works to improve access to food, shelter, clean water, sanitation, education and economic opportunities. In 2012, PIH will make history by opening the doors to Mirebalais Hospital. For the first time poor rural Haitians will have access to lifesaving medical care. PIH believes that high-quality medical care is a human right and their exceptional work is proof that it is possible. Giving to Partners in Health enables these remarkable people to continue to set a new standard for global medical care for every man, woman and child in our world.

I sincerely hope that these mini-profiles of ordinary people and organizations doing extraordinary work in these challenging times will inspire you. The good news is that there are literally thousands of motivating stories of work being done for the greater good in every nook and cranny of the world. The bad news is that the need keeps growing. That’s why I hope you will share your abundance, in any way you can, with these fine organizations and any others that  speak to your heart and call you to action.

Tis’ always the season for giving – but at this time, it feels especially fulfilling. 

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!

As always I appreciate your readership, subscriptions, shares and tweets. 

Louise Altman, Intentional Communication Partners

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