Mark & I have been more purposeful about our donations to charities in the last few years. Instead of giving small amounts of money to many different organizations, we give larger amounts to making-a-direct-impact places. (And we still donate to any family member or friend who raises money for a good cause--that's always a nice feel-good connection.)
Our transition began 4 years ago at Lawrence's alternative giving fair, where two students of mine, Oliver & Rebecca, talked about their project: Caneille Regional Development Fund. These were college students deeply committed to providing education, nutrition, & basic needs in an impoverished region of Haiti (in fact, Oliver began the project as a high school student). Oliver & Rebecca are inspirational people who make a real difference in this world. And their generosity motivated me & Mark to rethink our giving. (BTW, they are now doing wonderful things in the Peace Corps, and they blog about the experience.)
This year, Mark & I started a new tradition. Instead of buying each other Christmas gifts, we each researched and chose 3 charities to which we will give money. Then, during dinner on December 23, we shared the stories of our charities and why we chose them. It was a heart-opening, interesting, perspective-forming, happy evening. The small worries of our lives quickly faded after hearing about the great work these charities do for people in serious need. We're giving monetary donations, but it's really us who receive the gift. It's our new holiday gift-giving tradition.
In case you're interested, here are the 6 charities we chose this year:
Pearl S. Buck International (sponsorship helps provide education, health care, & counseling to at-risk children in third-world countries)
Charity:water (100% of donations go to water projects, bringing clean water to people in need; and there are many--estimates say 1 billion--people who desperately need clean water)
Harmony Cafe (an Appleton cafe that embraces music & arts, but more importantly provides wonderful programming and a safe space for all; their check-it-at-the-door policy is spot on--I wish the whole world had this policy)
Freedom from Hunger (through micro-loans and the empowerment of women, this organization provides sustainable solutions to the world hunger problems)
Heifer International (provides people a sustainable source of food and income, yet with training, animal well-being, and a pass-on-the-gift requirement that animal offspring go to another family in need)
Caneille Regional Development Fund (because this is where our giving process began and because they continue to do such making-a-difference, great work)
HUGE thanks to all the people working hard for the many worthy charities across the globe.