The evening news shows us the destruction of another earthquake or tornado. We see the plight of families in Haiti still struggling to find a way to live after their disaster, or we look into the eyes of starving children, their bellies swollen and the rest of their bodies emaciated. What can we do? It sometimes feels that any effort we might make would only be a drop in the bucket. But….. that really doesn’t matter. It’s like the story of the boy on the beach caught throwing starfish back into the ocean so they wouldn’t die. The observer ridiculed the boy’s efforts saying that he’d never get them all back in and what he was doing really didn’t make a difference. His answer: “It makes a difference to the ones I throw back in.”
And that’s the answer. We can’t fix the whole world, but we can impact one person or one family or one village. We can alleviate pain and suffering somewhere for a time, and we can make a difference in that circumstance. We have a choice to make—to try to help or to ignore the situation. It feels good to try.
There are thousands of organizations around the world dedicated to giving aid to the poor and needy. And, there are many ways to help. Here are some of the possibilities. Which way will you give to alleviate pain and suffering?
Sponsor a Child
There are many organizations who support the care, feeding and education of poor children. Sometimes they are orphans, sometimes they are just children of poor families who have moved into care homes to be fed and cared for when families can’t support them. Increasingly young girls are being rescued from the sex trade and given a chance at new life in such homes. If you’re interested in supporting a child overseas, be sure to decide whether you are a one time supporter or you’re in it for years. Sometimes you’ll receive pictures and letters from the children you support, sometimes not. It’s important to understand that there are many mouths to feed in such homes and the ones who don’t get supported need to eat as well. So your money may go into the “pot” as it were. These children grow up or move away at times so be prepared to either select a new child or choose another way to give. Some of the best organizations for child sponsorship are World Vision, Shared Hope International, She is Safe (formerly Sisters in Service) and Save the Children.
All around the world women and receiving small seed loans to begin their own businesses or learn how to save and earn interest to better support their families. A loan of only enough money for an American family to go out to dinner will literally change a life in Asia or Africa. Since the beginning of the micro-loan concept it has been established that they work best for women who tend to have a much higher rate of success and repayment. Loans are taken to begin small sewing or cooking businesses. They are taken to save for education of children and for any number of small business ventures. The best known organization for micro loans is Kiva.org. In Britain the British Red Cross also makes micro-loans.
Support Medical Projects
Imagine the joy experienced when a person with cataracts has them removed in a simple operation and can see again. Or imagine one suffering with infected, rotten teeth who has dental services provided. Often the clinics given in poor countries are basic hygiene and eye and dental services that we in First world countries take for granted as normal health care. Giving aid to organizations such as Northwest Medical Teams or Doctors without Borders is a wonderful way to bring basic healthcare to those who never expect to have it.
Providing goats, chickens, pigs and other animals can literally change the life of a poor family. And when training in animal husbandry is added, the animals will bear young and bring both food and money into the family’s life. Heifer International, Practical Presents and Present Aid are three organizations providing such aid.
Community Development Projects
Another way to give to overseas aid projects is to fund organizations who do community development projects. These may be in the form of digging wells to provide clean water to a community, or providing mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria. It might be an agricultural project such as growing a healthier form of a grain or introducing a new trade into a community. MCC, the Mennonite Central Committee do these projects as well as Mercy Corps and Oxfam.
When people are hungry there is nothing else on their mind. They can’t improve their job skills, go to school or otherwise get their lives in order. They need food. Hunger Plus Incorporated and Food for the Hungry are two organizations who specialize in distributing food to the poor. There are many other organizations who do food distribution in addition to many other projects to benefit the poor and needy.
Perhaps you’re saying to yourself something like “There are plenty of projects to do right here in my own backyard.” And you’d be right. While the level of poverty tends to be greater in third world countries, there are many needs in our own communities. Maybe you’d like to volunteer in Big Brother or Sister programs, or work through local food banks to feed the poor in your own community. There is no bad way to give of your time, energy and money.
Below you’ll find several lists of non-profit aid organizations and also a great website, Doing Good Together which teaches families how to intentionally live generous lives.