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The Joy of Giving Back ~ 2013

December 19, 2013


Welcome to the annual (just made that official) Joy of Giving Back post.  It’s a labor of love that gets a great reception. As I wrote last year, there isn’t enough space to highlight the many wonderful organizations that do extraordinary work in service of others around the world. Every time you feel the cynicism creeping in – remember – somewhere right at this moment, thousands of people are doing selfless work that benefits those in need. So I hope you’ll help these efforts by opening your heart and your wallet to give what you can to these worthy causes.  

 Syrian Refugee Campaign ~ OxfamSyrian refugees;syrians;lebanon

Raeda, 15, shown above with her baby brother in Saidnayel, Lebanon, is originally from Aleppo, a city of 2.1 million. She lost sight in one eye after being hit by shrapnel from an explosion near her house   Photo: New York Times

“Love and compassion are necessities. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” Dalai Lama

According to the U.N., the brutal civil war in Syria has created one of the most serious refugee crises in decades.  Tragically, there is no end in sight.  While over 2.2. million have fled the country; over 1.2 million people are living as refugees in tent cities in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon. In addition to the horrendous conditions the refugees face, a brutal winter is upon them.  Last week the Middle East experienced an unprecedented snow storm and emergency tents risk flooding. Many people are only wearing the thin summer clothes they fled from Syria in, and those living in tents are sleeping on just a bare mat or thin mattress on cold winter ground. International aid agency Oxfam has launched an emergency $48.9 million dollar appeal to step up aid and delivery of winter kits to the poorest families. Their goal is to reach 650,000 in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria with emergency relief in the next 12 months.

Let’s help them. Donate Oxfam America. Donate Oxfam International UK

K.I.N.D. (Kids in Need of Desks)


Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela

Let’s say you have $65 to buy a holiday gift.  How about this Peony Blush Scented Candle from Nordstrom? Or this “vintage” painted watering can from Williams-Sonoma for $69.95? You know what else your $65 can do? It can pick two or three school children in Malawi up off the dirt floors (typical for Malawi school rooms) and give them a desk for learning.

K.I.N.D was inspired by MSNBC talk show host and former West Wing writer, Lawrence O’Donnell. On a trip to Malawi several years ago, O’Donnell learned that every day millions of children throughout Africa struggle to learn while sitting on the floor. Giving them a desk, where they can write and concentrate is the first step towards creating an educational system that attracts and keeps eager young students. Since the K.I.N.D effort began, O’Donnell, working with UNICEF, has raised over $6 million dollars. Thousands of desks have been made in the communities of Malawi, providing work for local people and schools throughout the country have received desks everyday.

It’s a simple, beautiful and important program that makes life richer and promises a better future for thousands of kids. This year the program expanded to include funding for girl’s education (most families cannot afford to send sons and daughters to school). For $177 a girl can receive one year’s education, including tuition, books, supplies and a uniform for one year.

You can give any amount to the K.I.N.D fund. For $32 you can pick one child up off the floor or buy an entire desk for $65. You can also donate any amount towards a young girl’s education or finance a whole year for $177.


RAINBOW WARRIOR sailing from India to Thailand. Bay of Bengal.

“From caring comes courage.”    Lao Tzu

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of touring the third and latest iconic Greenpeace ship – The Rainbow Warrior.  Designed and built specifically for Greenpeace, the ship is one of the most environmentally friendly ships ever made. Docked in the San Diego Harbor (for ship repairs caused by damage from a recent typhoon) Greenpeace advocates were also in town to campaign against massive tuna overfishing targeting two major corporations whose practices they are committed to changing.

Evolved from the peace and anti-nuclear movements of the late 60’s and 70’s, Greenpeace takes on issues of global warming, deforestation, Arctic drilling, genetic engineering, commercial whaling, ocean pollution, overfishing and nuclear power.  Using direct action, lobbying and research to achieve its goals, Greenpeace does not accept funding from governments, corporations or political parties. It relies on nearly 3 million supporters and foundation grants.

This year in a dramatic and dangerous event, Greenpeace faced a major crisis. On September 18th, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, involved in a peaceful protest at the Russian Gazprom platform (the first to produce oil from melting ice filled Arctic seas) was boarded by the Russian Coast Guard and the crew of 30 were taken off the ship at gunpoint.  Weeks later, the crew was charged with “hooliganism” and piracy by Russian authorities; charges that carry a maximum sentence of 7 and 15 years. Following intense international pressure and facing global media scrutiny during the upcoming Winter Olympics, the Russian Parliament (Duma) granted amnesty for all 30 of the Arctic activist on December 15th. As the Greenpeace press statement stated, “They took peaceful action on behalf of us all, standing up against destructive oil drilling and the onslaught of climate change.”

I can only imagine the bravery of standing up to being held captive without charge, facing years in a Russian prison or weathering the storms in the South China seas – but I am deeply grateful to these modern warriors that do. To support the courageous and important work of Greenpeace ~ Donate here.

International Labor Rights

Myanmar, Burma, 1994, final book_iconic

Photo: Steve McCurry

“Business is a very beautiful mechanism to solve problems, but we never use it for those purposes. We only use it to make money. It satisfies our selfish interest but not our collective interest.”     Muhammed Yunis, Founder, Grameen Bank

Earlier this year in The Shirt Off my Back, I wrote about the terrible working conditions facing millions of poverty-wage workers throughout the world today.  In his beautiful and compelling photo journal of global workers, photographer Steve McCurry wrote, “The appetite for cheap clothing in the West is insatiable. The people making the clothing often pay the true cost of these items. The scale of this factory (photo above) is vast. The sense that these workers are just part of an immense machine is accentuated by the pink shirts they are obliged to wear.”

2013 was a devastating year for garment workers (mostly women) with a massive fire at the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh where 1,1,29 people, making an average hourly wage of $.24, lost their lives. The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. Their work is centered on insuring a safe working environment where workers’ rights are protected and they are treated with respect. Isn’t that what every worker deserves?

Through public education and mobilization, research, litigation, legislation and collaboration with labor, government and business groups, the ILRF campaign works on eliminating child labor (where an alarming 211 million children ages 5 – 14 are compelled to work) forced labor (a form of slavery) and other abusive practices. These workers make your Smartphone, pick your gourmet coffee beans and sew the shirt on your back.  You can help them have a better life. Donate here.

It’s likely that your inbox is full of requests from dozens of wonderful and worthwhile causes.  Many of you have regular and favorite causes to which you contribute.  I hope you will consider adding one or all the above to your list this year. Despite your level of giving (have you noticed how many groups are now (wisely) asking you to chip in even $5 if you can – every organization can benefit from even the smallest contribution.   Monthly giving is also on the rise. You can also help by sharing this article with friends and family. As soon as I’ve completed this post, I’m heading over to the donate boxes to share a little of my bounty with each of these groups.  I’ll do it in the name of Raeda and her baby brother, the kids in Malawi, the brave activists on the Greenpeace ships and those who work in sweatshops with my thanks that I can help – even a little.

Wishing you everything good this holiday season!

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, subscribe, share, like and tweet this article. It’s appreciated.

Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants

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Related Articles ~ To Find More Wonderful Organizations ~ See the Joy of Giving Back 2012  & The Joy of Giving Back 2011

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2013 7:46 am

    A lovely post, Louise. Thank you for putting this together. Wonderful organizations doing important work. You’re right … just a little from many can make a big difference. You’ve inspired me to add to my list.

    And if I may add my own small pitch, it is inconceivable that so many people in this wealthy country, including children, go hungry every day. Local pantries and food programs right here in the United States have been hit hard by funding cuts and yet are being met with ever-increasing need. So please don’t forget them when you give. Even a few extra dollars can help more than we imagine.

    Wishing you and your readers all good things!

    • December 19, 2013 8:06 am

      Hi Ronnie
      Thanks so much – on all levels. There are so many amazing groups out there – big and little – doing exceptional work. I didn’t mention the food banks this time (as I often
      do) because I wanted to share some other organizations (and because I have so many international readers I try to feature groups working globally). Tragically, the U.S. hunger scarcity (the new word for our horrendous situation) is the worse in any of the “developed” countries. Our politics make it so. Economic subsidies that favor the wealthiest individuals and businesses siphon off huge portions of our “wealth.” I heard yesterday that the tax diversions (in moving monies between family trust funds) of one billionaire would have been enough money (if collected) to finance one full month of unemployment benefits for every person in the U.S!

      For those who want to give to the hundreds of food banks across the U.S. I advise they simply google their local one and give. I select one a month from a different city and also give a monthly amount to Feeding America which supports local food banks and pantries. They are all in need. Christmas will come and go and January is a terrible month for hunger.

      Thanks again!

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