Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Week 13: American Diabetes Association

This week's charity was not exactly chosen by me.  I have a relative who is biking in the Tour de Cure and I wanted to support his efforts.  The more I learned about the cause, the happier I was that he had chosen this particular event to stretch his legs in.

Diabetes is one of those diseases I am always surprised that we haven't cured yet.  It's been around forever, and we have pretty much known what is not working in the body for ages, and yet, they have not yet figured out how to actually fix the insulin regulatory system when it decides to stop working properly.  I think that part of the problem is that many people think as I do, "Oh, it's totally treatable now.  All you need is an insulin pump or something and you are just fine."  While it's true that diabetics can live very normal lives, this is not a disease you can ever forget that you are living with.

I would love to see a cure for diabetes in my lifetime so that no child will ever again be sentenced to a lifelong battle with every scrap of food she eats or every exertion she chooses to make.  Not to mention, on a purely selfish note, that I run a slightly higher than average risk of developing pre-diabetic or diabetic issues as I age.  I'd really like you guys to fix this problem before it starts affecting me, OK?

Week 12: The Trevor Project

Teenaged years were quite a while ago for me., (OK, that's an understatement!)  but I still remember the emotional turmoil as my brain and hormones and body all transitioned from childhood to adult-state.   I had a fairly benign experience, but even so, it was not a walk in the park. It's a really difficult time for anybody and when you add additional stressors, such as questions about one's own sexuality, difficult home life and bullying at school, it can make this transition almost impossible to navigate for some.  And so, some teens take what they see as the only way out of this madness and make the decision to end their lives.

Looking back, from the vantage point of an adult, it's easy to see that many of these problems will work themselves out over time and it truly will get better, but for teens in the middle of the emotional storm, that bright future is often impossible to envision.  This week's donation is going to an organization that is trying to guide kids like this through this difficult transition and see them safely on the other side.

The Trevor Project not only provides counseling to at-risk LGBTQ youth, but also helps them find local resources so they can build support systems and develop life skills that will help them cope with the challenges they are facing today and those they will encounter throughout their lives.  It's not only a cause I support, but this is also an organization that is effectively working toward these goals.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bonus Charities: Disaster Relief

As I've mentioned before, the goal of this blog is to find 52 new charities to support, but I did want to draw attention to some other organizations that do great work in the area of disaster relief, as long as we are on the topic:

  • American Red Cross: I spent many years as a local volunteer for the ARC and saw first hand how they help families in need.  One thing I really like about them is that they respond to all disasters.  Not just the big ones that make the nightly news reports, but they will show up in the middle of the night for anything, even as small as a single family fire.  
  • Philippine Red Cross: When Typhoon Yolanda devastated the islands of the Philippines, we wanted to send assistance to a group we knew would be working with local vendors and suppliers to provide disaster supplies.  Buying locally after a disaster is doubly beneficial to a community.  Firstly, it makes sure the assistance gets the the victims as quickly as possible and secondly, it helps to pump money into the local economy, which has been just as affected as the citizens,
  • Habitat for Humanity:  While the Red Cross is great at trying to provide immediate aide to disaster victims, a long term solution is also needed for people who have lost their homes and this is where Habitat for Humanity comes in.  They have been building homes for people in need, both domestically and internationally, for decades and they almost have it down to a science.
One final note on donating to big charities that do a lot of work in different areas, (this applies to any big organization, not just disaster relief).  In general, I've found it best not to specify a particular cause, but rather mark your donation "wherever it is needed most" and let the people who know the situation on the ground decide whether to send it here or there.  Often what happens is some disaster or cause will get a lot of press and attention and donations will pour in for those people in need, but other people, who have just as great a need (or even greater) but who don't get the press attention, are left out in the cold.  Literally.

One group that is working to find a solution to this issue (and a group that we have donated to in the past) Center for Disaster Philanthropy.  They work with donors and NGOs to try to develop strategies for disaster philanthropy that will provide aid where it can do the most good.

Week 11: ShelterBox

Whew!  I am really far behind.  As I type this up, we are actually in week 21, so I am going to try to churn out a flurry of entries quickly.

One thing about living in earthquake country: it does tend to make you think about what would happen if (when!) the big one finally hits.  Natural disasters are not just for us folks in paradise however, they can and do strike all over the nation and the world.  Often they come with no warning, but even a few hours of warning isn't much help when your whole house is leveled (or flooded, or engulfed in flames).  In the immediate aftermath of a natural (or unnatural) disaster, people's needs are reduced to the basics: food, water, shelter from the elements.  It's providing that last element that ShelterBox specializes in.

Their goal is to deliver a kit that can be used by a family of four to provide basic shelter in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.  The standard box contains a tent, tarps and blankets, a small cook stove, a water purification system, a set of hand tools and some small toys for the kids.  It's all packaged in a large waterproof box that can be repurposed as well.  The contents of this box will be modified and customized for each disaster response with the goal of providing materials that are truly needed on the ground.  All told, it costs about $1000 per box to stock and deliver it to the disaster site.

Although I am not donating enough for an entire box this week, I feel confident my donation will at least help stock some of the elements in a box that will brighten the world of someone who is going through a pretty dark time.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Week 10: International Rescue Committee

In the past three years, Syria has been undergoing a civil war which has had a devastating effect on the civilian population, in particular the children.  Over 5 million children have been affected: injured, killed, lost friends and family members, lost their homes and schools, and been displaced to refugee camps.  This video from Save The Children gives you an idea of how this sort of turmoil can have a devastating effect on these children.

I couldn't watch that without wanting to help, but since Save The Children was a charity we had recently donated to, I went looking for others that are working to improve the lives of these kids.  I found this article that mentions several options and I picked International Rescue Committee, for their assistance to the refugees and for their very high rating on Charity Navigator.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Week 9: American Brain Tumor Association

I can count on one hand the number of people I know living with diabetes or who are paralyzed or who have MS(all conditions that are unfortunately common) and yet, I need two hands to count friends (or friends of friends) and relatives (near and distant) who have suffered and, most often, died from brain tumors.  I don't know why I have encountered so many people with this affliction, but I figured maybe I should try to do something about that.

I wanted to find an organization that is not just helping current patients, but trying to change the situation for future patients as well.  So I did a bit of research (it's not googling, it's research!!!) and I found an organization that is funding research into finding treatment and cures for these conditions: American Brain Tumor Association.  I don't know how long it will take to find a cure or even an effective treatment.  This organization has been working on this for over 40 years, but I do know that they have been making progress and someone who is diagnosed today has much better treatment options than even those who were diagnosed 10 years ago.

They are in this fight for the long haul and for this week, I am there with them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Week 8: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

I grew up watching Michael J. Fox on TV and in movies.  I never wrote him letters or joined his fan club, but I always loosely followed his career.   He was about my age and he seems like he is a really grounded and decent guy with a great family and circle of friends and I always rooted for his success, even when his work wasn't quite up to standards.   (Bright Lights Big City?  Dude, what were you thinking???)

I think it was the fact that we are roughly the same age that made his diagnosis of Parkinson's seem so tragic.  I couldn't imagine dealing with such a life-altering event at my age, and I was so impressed that he took that challenge in stride and has used it as an opportunity to improve the world.  His charity, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, has raised an incredible amount of money and, as far as I can tell, has spent it wisely in the attempt to find better treatments and even a cure.

From a purely selfish point, I know that the chances of me, or someone I love, developing Parkinson's disease is pretty high.  Those chances increase as we all age and I would love to believe that there could actually be a cure by the time that day arrives.  For all those reasons, this week's donation is going to an entertaining voice from my childhood: Marty McFly.