The Joy of Giving Back – 2012
Last year I wrote The Joy of Giving Back to celebrate the season and the anniversary of this blog. It was a pleasure to do and got such a great response that I decided to do it again.
The hard part is not having enough space to give to the dozens of wonderful organizations doing extraordinary work in service of others around the world. As much as I’d love to write each one a BIG FAT CHECK, I also know that even a little means a lot to all of them. So I hope you’ll open your minds, hearts and wallets as I share some information on these givers that are the “better angels of our nature.” .
“If there was ever a wake-up call, this is it.”
Bill McKibben (speaking on Hurricane Sandy and climate change)
This year I decided to begin with our precious planet. Like many of you, I cringe every time I read another report on the perils of climate change. Being a long-time (and always in my heart) New Yorker, I was deeply saddened by the brutal beating New York and New Jersey experienced from “Superstorm” Sandy in October. As climatologists warn, the “hundred year storm” is likely to become a more common occurrence. Unless we begin to take serious and immediate steps to significantly reduce carbon emissions, all of us face serious challenges from the effects of extreme weather.
One of our global heroes is Bill McKibben, author and founder of 350.org. Bill has been a leader in the fight against global warming for 20 years and wrote one of the first books that sounded the alarm in 1989, The End of Nature.
Bill founded 350.org, an international grassroots campaign that is mobilizing a climate movement. By spreading an understanding of the science, 350.org is working locally and globally to create bold policies and fair solutions to the climate crisis. The name 350 comes from the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon in parts per million, so 350 ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. To get there, says McKibben, we need a different kind of PPM – “a people powered movement.”
While there are many excellent environmental groups working on climate change and related issues, 350.org’s grassroots activism feels urgently needed at this time. Right now, they’re working on fossil fuels divestment, raising awareness about the Keystone pipeline and helping to end government subsidies for fossil fuels. 350.org is also committed to educating and empowering a new generation of climate leaders.
You can help Bill McKibben and grow the 350.org movement by donating here.
“Let there be Light”
Did you know that nearly 1.6 billion people around the world lack reliable access to electricity? When night falls, they live in the dark. Some burn candles and fires or use kerosene lanterns polluting their space with dangerous fumes. They don’t have electric lights for students to study. Their hospital services are extremely limited; medicines can’t be refrigerated and babies can’t de safely delivered at night. If they have cell phones, they can’t easily power the phones, limiting their ability to create markets or sell goods. Lack of light literally dooms millions to poverty.
This week I learned about the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) a non-profit on a mission to design and implement solar energy solutions to assist those living in energy poverty. Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in more than 20 counties pioneering unique applications of solar power for drip irrigation in Benin, health care in Haiti, telemedicine in the Amazon rainforest and online learning in South Africa. .
SELF’s Executive Director Bob Freling believes , “It’s time to declare energy to be a human right. Without energy there is no way to light our homes, pump water, store vaccines, run computers, operate machinery or communicate with the rest of the world.” As energy sources become more competitive as the world’s population soars, the chances these villagers will connect to large power grids are slim. These communities, often tiny and remote, will become even more isolated unless they can connect with the modern world.
The Solar Electric Light Fund’s innovative systems offer millions a life-line to the light. Help them guide the way.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Right now millions of human beings, mostly girls and women, but boys and men as well, are being kept against their will. Many are too young to even understand what is happening to them, or what the future may hold. As I wrote in 2011, there are more slaves now in captivity than at any other time in human history, with estimates around 27 million, the majority being under 18 years old.
It’s a painful reality that most of us can’t bear to think of. Last year I wrote of the heroic work of Somaly Mam, who escaped her captors and rose to become a global leader in raising awareness about human trafficking. Many Americans are shocked when they hear that human trafficking is on the rise in the U.S. The types of trafficking that occur here are not dissimilar to many other countries: forced labor, debt bondage, document servitude and the fastest growing – sex trafficking. Estimates in 2011, start at around 100,00 and the numbers are growing.
I first learned about the Polaris Project from New York Times columnist and human rights champion, Nick Kristof. In his recent article, Gifts That Change Lives, he wrote, “(The Polaris Project) is a leader in the fight against human trafficking in the United States. One of the most important projects is a nationwide hot line, with interpreters on standby for 176 languages, for anyone who sees people who may be trafficked. This year alone, Polaris says, it has helped more than 3,200 victims get services through the hot line. Polaris has also been a powerful advocate for tougher laws around the country – those that target pimps rather than just the girls who are their victims. Polaris says this year alone it has helped 17 states pass laws on human trafficking. And Polaris has supported nearly 500 trafficking survivors as they start new lives.”
In a recent interview Nick Kristof was asked what piece of memorabilia from his travels was most emblematic of his work. He quickly took out two pieces of crumpled note paper with sloppy handwriting on each. These, he explained, are “receipts” for two young girls “I bought” from brothels some years ago. The girl’s captors had no problem accommodating the American buyer with proof of sales. Freed from bondage, Kristof helped the girls get the support they needed to recover and build new lives.
This 21st century story is real – and so is the need. You can help the Polaris Project do their lifesaving work by donating here.
“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.”
At any given time, approximately 27,000 individuals representing dozens of nationalities who are doctors, nurses, logistic experts, administrators, epidemiologists, lab technicians, mental health professions and others who work together in accordance with the organization’s guiding principles of humanitarian action and medical ethics.
The photo shows a recent intervention in Syria where the group performed under life-threatening conditions. As the crisis intensifies daily, with thousands continuing to flee to neighboring countries to search for safety, humanitarian needs inside and outside of the country are escalating rapidly.
The situation in Syria is desperate, where thousands (estimated 30,000) have been killed and wounded. Since the crisis began the ability for international aid agencies to provide aid inside the country has been severely limited. In response, Doctors Without Borders/Mededins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has expanded its efforts to reach refugees fleeing Syria into neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Every day you will find these committed people vaccinating against cholera in Guinea, tending to “invisible wounds” to Sudanese refuges in South Sudan, experimenting with new treatments for HIV/Aids in Swaziland, fighting Ebola in Uganda and most recently providing emergency medical care to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey (their first U.S. intervention).
This season you will receive dozens of appeals from many worthy causes. For some of you, giving may be constrained by financial challenges. Keep in mind that all of these organizations, despite recommendations for a certain level of contribution are HAPPY to receive even a small amount of money. Groups like Doctors Without Borders, have begun campaigns for monthly giving, starting at as little as 35 cents per day. Monthly giving is often an easy way to share all year long. Sharing this email and other appeals you get with others is another way to help.
It’s comforting to know that every moment of the day, courageous and committed people lend a hand to those in need. They lift us all with their generous spirit.
Wishing you everything good this holiday season.
Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants