Archive for the ‘Support’ Category

Do Your Due Diligence – Give Well

coins stacked up in pilesSo many of us are staring the Tax Man down in these last weeks running up to April 15, and one of the deduction categories I am always wishing my wallet would allow me to use more is Charitable Contributions. I was able to donate more in 2015 than in some previous years, but wish I could support every race, walk, dance-a-thin, head shaving event, GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and volunteer gig that every one of my friends undertakes as well as the many issues and organizations to which I am already loyal.

When you are donating to a good cause, especially if it is new to you (or one you think you’ve understood for a long time…witness trouble with some of the largest charities in our country and how much of their donated money actually goes toward their mission), do you dig in a  little and find out more about them before you hit the digital PAY button or write your check? Please do–it is easier than ever to get the skinny on charities and non-profits.

One terrific tool to use is the online site GiveWell.com. Give Well is like other charity scoring organizations, but perhaps a bit more faceted and nuanced than the review sites that simply break down dollars toward overhead, administration, and service. Give Well focuses on a more modest number of charities for its examination—the ones they feel are most likely to succeed and best accomplish their mission. Then they take a deep dive and ferret out how an organization does on many levels, not just spending, but how they genuinely impact the world. Their analysis is evidence-based and thoroughly vetted, inclusive of open and transparent conversations with the organization themselves (instead of coming from a secret shopper separate status). Site visits and interviews with stakeholders mean the heart-driven business of a non-profit is not judged like a high schoolers GPA–numbers alone rarely tell the story we care most about–but on real change.

Check out the site, discover something new to engage your passion, and share what you find! We’d love to hear about what fires you up in the comments below.

After a Long Hiatus – Meet the Sheroes

My apologies to readers–it’s been too long since I’ve posted here on my blog. We all get into those frenzied busy states and inadvertently push things to the back burner. Well, I pushed the wrong things back, and I’m sorry that Change by Doing got neglected. My world is no less busy at the moment, but I hope to right my priorities and continue to find ways of inspiring, connecting, and informing. Please use this space as a place of dialog, and send ideas or requests for what you want to see here–I truly love hearing from you.


the staff of Sheroes Hangout in Agra, India, sit in front of mural

Photo: Staff at Shero’s Hangout

SHEROES HANGOUT

In India, where the cruel and inhumane crime of acid attacks is perpetrated against women with frightening regularity and beyond the reach of current laws, a group of breathtakingly powerful survivors is flying against the wind of tradition and bringing new attention to survivors. In India, at least five women are attacked with acid, usually targeting their faces, every week, and it is rare that they get the immediate medical or legal attention required to begin a long and difficult recovery.

Sheroes Hangout is a coffeehouse and cafe based in Agra (where you’ll find the Taj Mahal), where survivors of acid attacks not only proudly eschew veils that would cover their scarred faces, they work tirelessly to empower women and advocate for desperately needed change. The Hangout has a cafe and a growing donation library of books and magazines, a community radio broadcast program, an activism workshop and meeting place, and a handicraft exhibition space and gallery.

Workshops train girls to use computers and social media for change and expanding education and employment opportunities, teach the community of survivors and supporters about legal rights and routes for judicial procedures (acid attacks are not always prosecuted, and are most often perpetrated by family members—fathers, husbands, brothers…), and cultural programs like film screenings, art classes, poetry, and gender issues.

The Sheroes Hangout is an initiative of Stop Acid Attacks and the Chhanv Foundation in New Delhi and just one program of their diligent work to change laws and support survivors. Due to scant access to care and support, most survivors find no hope and live out their lives as outcasts. The Sheroes are changing that in a big, bold way. Consider lending your support here.

Here is a short video with some of the Sheroes:

Giving Tuesday | Be Thoughtfully Strategic

pexels-photoYou likely already know that today is Giving Tuesday, designed as a respite for all that spending we do on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Today is a great time, at the end of year (important for tax deductions) and in the spirit of the season, to do a big portion of your annual giving and support of non-profits and charitable organizations.

Be sure you know and understand the mission and purpose of the organizations you support. Many of us have gotten into a habit of giving to the large organizations with broad name recognition, because we assume they do the best, most potent work. Often, this is thinking that is sadly off target. Some of the best known are the least efficient at service, with huge advertising and fundraising budgets, bloated executive director salaries, and more energy put into sustaining the company than in fulfilling the mission.

Check out your cause or foundation in the database of an impartial third party reviewer, like Charity Navigator. If you discover your favorite charity is not doing the work you thought they were, don’t get discouraged about giving, just know that there are others in the same space, serving the same mission, who run a little more leanly and effectively and could put your dollars to better use. Here is a great resource list of the Highest Rated and Lowest Rated Charities by Cause compiled by Charity Navigator.

Giving Tuesday is an important and highly visible campaign to create a NATIONAL DAY OF GIVING at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations. We had our day for giving thanks, a few days for getting deals, now it’s a day for giving back. It’s not just big organizations that are behind it, small, grassroots charities drive the engagement and power behind the movement. There are #GivingTuesday campaigns in countries all around the world, with thousands of partners with special initiatives and projects tied to this day, so it is super easy for you to get involved. Choose your favorite cause and give: time, money, both (or a commitment to show up and volunteer soon)…then spread the word…be audacious and vocal about your good deeds, it will inspire others. If you let the rest of us know what inspires you most and who you support, it helps us discover new gems we might embrace in our own charitable giving–and THAT is how you spread a movement!

ALSO:

Keep your eyes peeled this time of year for programs that allow you to give or give extra or match your donations with no effort or extra outlay from you. For instance, when online shopping at Amazon, if you simply log in by typing smile.amazon.com you will go through their charity portal. Choose your charity and every eligible purchase you make will automatically generate a donation to your cause, without raising your price or requiring extra effort. Here is a blog post with more detail.

Help a Lucky Iron Fish Travel the World

iron fish held in hand and over soup potIron deficiency in the diet is a severe problem in many developing nations. Around 3.5 billion people suffer from anemia and iron deficiency—it ranks as the worst diet/nutritional problem (aside from hunger) and it is so easily treated. The kinds of vitamins and pills we commonly give kids as supplements at our breakfast tables are not as affordable or easy to come by in other societies (and if you live anywhere humid at all, you know your kid’s little cartoon-shaped chewables can, very quickly, get super gloopy and unusable).

Here comes the Lucky Iron Fish to the rescue! Looking like a cool Pottery Barn table decoration, this palm-sized fish made of iron is a simple solution to the problem. This project started in Cambodia, and basically, a family takes this metal fish sculpture, drops it into boiling water for ten minutes, and the small amount of trace iron that leeches from it is enough to help fight the deficiency in a family, straight from their normal food source. Pull out the fish, add all the other ingredients you may want for a soup or stew, and the lucky fish has worked magic in your pot.

The fish is a lucky symbol in Cambodia, and as the project spreads, they can create other shapes for this reusable (just rinse and it is ready to go next time, for hundreds of pots) treasure that in each meal can add 75% of each person’s recommended amount of dietary iron. Locally made and hand-packaged, the project also employs locals, many of them recovering survivors of landline injuries. Safe, easy, socially spectacular, and kinda cool to use. Some lemon or other citrus makes the iron, which doesn’t change the flavor of the food, even better absorbed by the body. Restored iron levels increase energy and health, as well as brain power and focus. In Cambodia, the communities where this project is underway have seen more than a 50% decrease in iron deficiency and anemia.

Check them out, donate, watch the video below to learn more, buy a Lucky Iron Fish for yourself and one is donated to family in need, and help put  fish in every pot.

 

Reach Out to Nepal, Directly

prayer flags blowing in breeze in Nepal mountains

Nepalese Prayer Flags

I have a friend and former co-worker, Jade, who just a couple weeks ago jumped on a plane with her best girlfriend to jet from the San Francisco Bay Area to Kathmandu, Nepal.

These two young, inspired women were off on a grand adventure, volunteering with local NGOs along the way, truly dedicated to making a difference. Their first volunteering gig was in Nepal, with an organization dedicated to supporting those who are caught in the sex trade and human trafficking web. The organization they were serving, Volunteers Initiative Nepal, is a local enterprise focusing specifically on a small community outside Kathmandu. Jade and Danielle were ensconced with a local family and spent every day working on communication and life skills enrichment with the women and girls finding their way out of the sadly thriving sex traffic industry.

Then the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. It took many painful hours of waiting to learn that Jade and Dani are fine, though everything they were just adjusting to as their new normal is completely, and literally, upended.

They now have a brand new focus: getting vital food and survival supplies to the small community they serve. They are collecting food staples (bags of rice, etc) and blankets, temporary shelters, and other necessities. They would drive through the rubble and rapidly assembled tent cities, go as far as they could from the capital toward the village until arriving where the road is blocked by debris, then hike the remaining two hours to deliver essential items. With the slew of aftershocks, the district, Sindhupalchok, (with the highest reported death toll in a tragic statistic already more than 5,000 casualties in the nation, with some estimates anticipating that number doubling), has now been declared unsafe for these women to continue their direct handoffs. They remain in Kathmandu—Jade was donating blood this morning—to mobilize awareness, raise funds, secure supplies, and hand them off to the men of the village who are still making the dangerous daily trek.

As each of us searches our hearts about how to respond, where to send money, what to do…I encourage you to seek out on-the-ground resources that can have an immediate effect and not get caught up in international bureaucracy and huge organization stasis. The large international aid societies are, by and large, fantastically committed if not always as agile as I would like, but supplies sitting on an airport tarmac are not arriving rapidly enough to tip the balance of need. If you’d like to support the work of Jade directly, here is a link to her fundraising page, originally designed to support her human trafficking advocacy work, now refocused on immediate survival: http://www.gofundme.com/jadeanddanielle

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Another fantastic organization on the ground and locally based is IDEX

Their most recently updated statement:

Nepal Recovery and Resilience Fund —

In response to the devastating earthquake in Nepal, IDEX is launching the Nepal Recovery and Resilience Fund to channel 100% of your donations towards immediate disaster response led by our partners, ASHA and WACN.

Organizations like these – that are already embedded in the community – are the first responders to any disaster. They know the region well, and in the early days of a catastrophe such as this, their staff and volunteers are engaged with first aid, light search and rescue, disaster assessments, and delivery of relief services.

Disasters and emergencies such as these affect poor people and rural women disproportionately. That is why IDEX partners are well-placed to respond and will continue to do so.

ASHA Nepal and WACN are both organizations that work with networks of Indigenous women in Okharpauwa, Chhaimale, Kavre and several additional districts in rural Nepal. Their collective membership is over 36,000 women in over 50 communities. Each of these communities has an autonomous local affiliate which have been serving as the hub of community development for years. They are uniquely situated as trusted leaders, educators, and resource people.

IDEX knows that local organizations’ contributions must be front and center following disasters, because it is extremely difficult for international actors to attain a rich understanding of local dynamics and needs on their own. Of course the international community adds value, but local organizations have been there, are there, will be there on the ground, responding to people’s most immediate and crucial needs.

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There are so many organizations worthy of support, doing the hard work of disaster response. I encourage you to look deeply and discover the way you would like to make an impact. Times like these challenge our separateness and remind us that we are one global family. I only wish it wouldn’t take disasters to hit this lesson home.

Please use the comments below to let me know of organizations and foundations that you have found and support in their work responding to the crisis in Nepal.

Medical Tattooing for Burn Scars

This is an amazing story about survivor support. Burn survivors (the word “victim” is never used, despite how some media are covering this story…please know, victim is neither appropriate nor correct language) have a new tool for dealing with scars. Paramedical tattooing of the sort and expertise demonstrated by Basma Hameed in the video below, camouflages scars by matching existing pigment.

Basma has a big schmancy title: Para-Medical Micro Pigment Implantation Specialist, and her deep interest was born of her own childhood injuries resulting in facial scarring. She, in fact, first experimented on herself to perfect her technique. Basma has also developed a cosmetic concealer to help temporarily blend discolored scars with healthy tissue.

Learn more about this huge step toward confidence, ad consider supporting or volunteering with burn foundations like the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation that has multiple survivor services, including makeup and self-esteem counseling for survivors re-entering school or work or social life in general after long stays at burn units.

Respond to Banned Books Week – READ

burned book, pages aflame, censorshipWe’re now into the second half of Banned Books Week, when attention is paid to censorship and celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week (BBW) unites the community of librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas.

In the United States, since 1982 when BBW began, there have been official challenges to more than 11,300 books! Some of the most challenged books are the most popular, like recognizable titles of the list toppers of 2013: Fifty Shades of GreyCaptain Underpants, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Hunger Games. I, of course, come down on the side of, “If it ain’t your cup of tea, don’t read it…”

In celebration, and some easy defiance of those that would curtail intellectual freedoms, honor banned books by volunteering with a program like READ Global, whose work in Bhutan, Nepal, and India is building and filling libraries for entire communities that were previously book-poor. Since their start in 1991, more than 2.1 million villagers have access to READ centers, and the mission has grown from supporting access to books and supporting literacy, to also taking on broader education issues, economic empowerment, technology, and women’s empowerment. Find out more, and support READ here.