My in-laws always do their charitable giving the last weekend of the year. I think it's a great routine because at this hinge point in our lives -- looking back at the past and looking forward to the future -- it encourages you also to look out at the world and how you can use what you have to make it better.
Orphans of Rwanda -- ORI is a wonderful organization whose guiding principle is that MDG #2 (universal primary education) is just a first step and that for a nation like Rwanda to get back on its feet, a lot more is needed. The basic idea is taking the best and brightest of the genocide survivors and making sure they get a full course of education ... not just primary school but secondary and university, too -- so that Rwandans will be best positioned to rebuild their own country. I was introduced to it by my friend Josh Ruxin (who blogged here yesterday) here is Josh's recent posting on Orphans of Rwanda. You can give online or by check -- information is here.
Partners in Health - PiH and its founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, have revolutionized global public health -- particularly in treatment of TB. The philosophy is there should be one excellent standard of care for all people ... not one standard for the wealthy and a lesser standard for the poor. He began in Haiti and has since substantially changed the public health systems in Peru, Russia and Rwanda. If you're looking for an excellent read (a compelling and entertaining story as well as educational), Tracey Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains details Paul Farmer's story. GiveWell has rated Partners in Health as one of the top organization dealing with public health and extreme poverty. You can give online here or by filling out this donation form and sending in a check.
Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance - GAIA is an interfaith effort to reverse the AIDS pandemic in one specific location -- Malawi. Because the church is the most integrated and effective grassroots network already extant in Malawi (and most of the rest of Africa for that matter), and because the church has often been a barrier to AIDS education, an interfaith coalition working on AIDS prevention is incredibly effective -- and that's what GAIA has been. You can give online or by check -- information is here.
Hunger and Poverty
The Hunger Project - What makes THP great is they don't just give food aid, they work to change systems so people can lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. The silver bullet for this is empowerment of women (the fastest way for a society to develop is to empower and educate women ... it makes sense, you've got 50% of your population whose gifts aren't being used!) so THP has many initiatives for educating and empowering women. Their approach to end hunger is a bottom-up approach that is about building capacity rather than creating dependency on outside aid. Charity Navigator gives THP a four-star rating. You can donate online or by check with information here.
El Circulo de Mujeres (The Circle of Women) - This is a remarkable organization run entirely by women that helps the women of Oaxaca, Mexico create their own industry and economy using their own traditional weaving. It's an integrated approach of women's empowerment that involves not only economic capacity building but literacy training and other education. You can't give by check (I'm not sure why) but you can donate online.
Five Talents International -- Five Talents is one of the best microfinance organizations around. It works through partners in the Anglican Communion, which means that the local church structures provide much of the necessary organizational infrastructure -- so that more of your donation can actually get to the people who need it. Microfinance is all the rage right now, but that also means there are a lot of profiteers who are taking advantage of people who want to give to it. Five Talents does it right. You can give online or by check with information here.
Getting it all done at once
Millennium Village Project -- Mayange, Rwanda - This is the single best integrated approach to addressing extreme poverty that I have seen. I was impressed by it through my work with its administrator (Josh Ruxin ... again!) just hearing about it ... and now having been to Mayange, I am completely sold. Josh uses a capacity-building approach in all they do. Almost his entire team is Rwandan and in addition to building amazing programs and making sustainable change in systems all this work is done with the people on the ground feeling personal ownership for the progress. The interventions they have done have been simple and common sense but with incredible results. I am not kidding you when I say that the 50,000 people who live in the Mayange cluster of villages have better access to basic health care than the population of the City of St. Louis. In fact, the interventions have been so successful that the week before I came to visit, President Kagame and his cabinet came to Mayange and announced that they were using the "Mayange Program" as the structure for their nationwide development program ... and so Josh is now working feverishly on the scale-up! You can read Josh's post on the EGR blog here -- and you can also download a Forbes article on everything they're doing.
Under "select a designation" use the drop-down menu to select "Millennium Village - Mayange, Rwanda" and then follow the rest of the directions.
Donating by check is a little obtuse (they're working to improve it), but here's what you have to do:
Check made out to: Trustees of Columbia University