I have been meaning to do a post about some of the organizations that are featured in my "I think you're nifty too!" sidebar, and this seems like the perfect opportunity.
Habitat for Humanity "seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action." They help build houses for people who wouldn't be able to afford a house through traditional means. Most of the materials and labor are donated, and the houses are sold for no profit to the recipient families. The families who receive houses must invest "sweat equity" by assisting in the actual building of the house and by helping to build houses for other families. If they are physically unable to participate in the building process, they can volunteer in other ways. Habitat's program is a great example of a hand-up not a hand-out mentality and it fosters a lot of community/neighborhood support by getting local people involved in the building of a house. I've volunteered on a work site, and while there weren't many of us who knew how to build a house, there were enough people that did who could instruct the rest of us about where to pound nails, how to cut the necessary lengths of lumber, etc. The progress we made in one day was pretty impressive, and it was a great feeling to know that you were helping to give a family a home.
Heifer International is another great "hand-up not a hand-out" program. Heifer works with families and communities to educate people about animal husbandry and farming techniques that are sustainable and, very importantly, relevant to their local areas. Heifer recipients must also pass on the gift by sharing their wealth and knowledge with their community or other communities. For just $20 you could provide a family with a flock of ducks, geese, or chicks or you could purchase a share of a llama. A flock of birds can provide a family with protein for themselves as well as providing a new stream of income through the sale of eggs and fowl. Sometimes this can be the difference between a child being able to receive an education or not. The recipient family must also pass on a part of their flock to another family in need, and so forth and so on. You can purchase anything from a beehive to a water buffalo. This is a great chance to get a child interested in charitable giving!
Kiva.org facilitates microcredit loans to people in the developing world. You can lend as little as $25 and know that it is going to help somebody who is trying to build a better life for themselves and their families. Recently there was so much interest in Kiva.org that they actually ran out of loans to fund! This is amazing, but they seem to be back on track with new entrepreneurs awaiting loans. You can read a brief biography on all the loan applicants and decide to whom you want to lend money. To date I have loaned out $950, $723 of which has been paid back. Lenders don't earn interest on their loans, but then that's not really the point. The point is that you're doing something good with your money.
Lesley's Life is Sweet is founder Lesley Byrne's way of fulfilling her mission to "help end extreme hunger, poverty and diseases in the world through the sales of [her] artisan chocolates and gourmet confections." Her chocolates are amazing-you can read about how they made me cry here-and you can eat them completely guilt-free because by doing so you are helping to make the world a better place! How's that for win-win?
Women for Women International is a great organization that goes into war-torn communities and helps rebuild those communities one woman at a time. In times of war women are often the most victimized and also are the ones left to rebuild when all of their men have died in war. These women need to know that they have rights as individuals, what those right are, how to stand up for those rights, and how to exercise those rights. They also need to be able to provide food, clothing, shelter, and, hopefully, an education for their families. Women for Women International's programs help women develop literacy and vocational skills, learn about their rights and become active members in their communities. Individual women are sponsored through monthly donations, and their sponsors are encouraged to communicate with them via letters.
Of course any of these organizations will accept cash donations and, indeed, rely on them to continue doing what they do, but if you can donate your time, even better. Please check out these organizations to see if any of them might be a good fit for you or let me know which organizations you've found that you would like to share.
**Update-10/23/08-You all know how much fun I have finding the little coincidences between what I'm reading and my everyday life. Well this time it has to do with what you're reading (in this case, my blog!) and my everyday life. Don't worry, I haven't gone totally off my rocker; I realize that there's usually going to be some tie in between what I write and what's actually going on in my life, and I'm not going to start pointing it out to you all the time-(Hey, guess what! I just wrote about going to the mall, and today, I was AT THE MALL!! Ooooooh.).
I have worked with Habitat for Humanity in the past, but I haven't been in touch with them recently, and while putting together this post, I was thinking, Hmmm, I really should get in touch with them again and see if they need any help right now. Well, 3 days later, they called me! They were trying to pull together some last-minute help for the following day's annual kitchen and bath tour and wanted to know if I could help. I could and I did! So, yay me! Ok, it would have been a much bigger and better "yay, me!" if I had called them, but still. You gotta start somewhere.