In part one of this post, I talked about why I want to stretch my “doing good” muscles a bit. The challenge I presented was to creatively do something to increase the good in the world every single day, in a way that is meaningful to you. I have done some thinking, and some exploring, and I am ready with a list of ideas to get started. They do not require any more money than I would be spending anyway, and most do not require much time, either. Most of them represent some creative problem solving that a person or group of people used in order to maximize available resources. They also usually represent someone’s personal passion and desire to do good in an area they feel strongly about, which captures the spirit of what I’m looking for. Their simplicity makes them beautiful in my opinion.
1. I will start with the more commercial enterprises:
–freerice.com is a site where you answer questions and grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. Fast, simple.
–www.freekibble.com is a similar site, where you answer dog and cat trivia questions and a brand of pet food donates kibble to animal shelters. A nice twist on this site is that you can sign up to have the trivia sent to your email each morning, so you can start your day with a bit of animal trivia, a cute picture or story, and a quick donation.
-Care2Causes (http://www.care2.com/) is a website that informs you of causes in a variety of areas (ie- health, human rights, animals, etc) and allows you to do small things to support causes of your choice. It also has a daily email option.
2. What about giving gifts that, in turn, give gifts? Many of us feel we already have so many material things. Instead you can, through any of the large NGO’s or agencies, give donations in the name of someone else. Not just money, either. Let’s say you have a friend’s birthday looming- a quick google of “gift goat charity” gave the websites for fhCanada, Oxfam UK, and Gifts That Matter, along with many others. It is important to do some research with these, but the basic idea is that you can buy material items (in the name of your friend) for a person in the world who really does need it, and your friend gets the certificate.
3. Here is a similar idea, but I think it raises the creativity level to a much higher degree. What about a Kiva loan? Kiva.org is a non-profit organization based in San Fransisco, California. They give out microloans to people all over the world. You can contribute as little as $25.00 to a person’s loan. So, let’s say you want to give your nephew a gift, but he already has every electronic gadget known to humanity. You can give him a Kiva voucher. If he lives far away from you, you can send it electronically (oh yeah you can, Dec. 24th shoppers!). He then goes on to the Kiva site and looks through all the profiles of potential borrowers and chooses who to lend the money to. And here is the really neat part- if he is not impressed with a gift that did not put money into his own hot hands, when the money is repaid he can cash it in and spend it on himself (but every kid I have ever given a Kiva voucher to has re-lent the money instead, which is pretty cool if you ask me).
4. OK- here is a local one. I was listening to CBC a while ago and heard an interview with singer-songwriter Dominique Fricot (here). He talked about how he is collecting old ipods and MP3 players for Music Heals. Music Heals is a not-for-profit society incorporated in British Columbia that supports music therapy programs across Canada. There are likely similar collection programs near where you live, and with the pace that small electronics change, there are likely thousands of old players sitting unused in people’s homes. For an idea of just how much good they can do, take a look at this moving video, that I found on TAP (Tunes for Alzheimer’s Program) at UCLA http://www.eastonad.ucla.edu/tunes-for-alzheimers-patients.asp
While we are on the topic of electronics, many communities have programs to refurbish old computers for educational uses, and cellphones can often be donated to women’s shelters. This can give a woman safe access to 911 services. Call a local shelter or find out how here.
5. And here is my final choice- raising money for a charity while doing something you want to do anyway (like running in a 5K). I always like doubling the benefits in anything I do. This category deserves mention because, although the idea has been around for a long time, people keep finding new, ever more creative ways to do this. Yes, there is the regular sponsorship method, but there are also initiatives like Be Bold Be Bald created by Small Army for a Cause in Boston, that change it up enough to keep it meaningful. For BBBB, you buy (or a sponsor buys) a “skin” hat to contribute and to wear in the race. Larger initiatives like Charity Challenge (Canada or UK) approach it another way, by letting you really push yourself with a world travel adventure that also benefits a charity of your choice. (Ok, that one is on a bit different scale than the rest, but I can dream, can`t I?)
So, that`s it for now. I`m sure there are many more but that should get us started. Send me other ideas and I will choose my favourites and compile a second list for a later post. Just keep to the guidelines- they need to be a little creative, they should not involve direct donation, and they should be meaningful to you.
And, in case you think that some of these ideas may be too trivial to really count, I want to leave you with a story of a hummingbird, recounted to me by my sister (thanks Marg!), originally told by the late Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize:
One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest – a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest. As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless. They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes. Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.
This particular hummingbird decided it would do something. It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again. All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, “Don’t bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can’t put out this fire.”
And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice, “What do you think you are doing?”
And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, “I am doing what I can.”