Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Week 6: Donors Choose

I come from a family of teachers: my grandparents were teachers, my parents were teachers and while only one of my siblings went on to be a teacher, we all married teachers.  So I have witnessed first-hand my whole life how hard they work and I know how frustrating it can be when you are trying to do such a difficult job and you don't have access to the resources and tools you need to do that job properly.  I have also witnessed how much petty bureaucracy and red-tape and paperwork most teachers have to battle in order to get what they really need in the classroom, rather than what some administrator thinks they actually need.

This is why I am so drawn to this week's charity: Donors Choose.  This organization lets teachers request funds for specific programs and then lets donors choose which program to fund.  You know exactly where your donation is going and what that teacher is going to do with it.  You can browse all the various requests by geographic location or by subject type and you can refine your search by student age, school type and lots of other criteria.  If you really want to fund a set of left-handed scissors for a class in West Virginia, I bet you can find a teacher who needs those.

For me, the only difficulty was narrowing down my selection to a manageable list.  There were so many exciting projects I wish I could support.  It's great to feel like I am helping out in the classroom without having to actually BE in the classroom.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week 5: Pacific Wildlife Care

Ask anyone who knows me and you will learn I am not exactly a fan of getting back to nature.  I have never gone backpacking.  Car camping or day hiking are activities I care to do once a year.  Maybe.  If I have to.  I prefer to observe nature through the window of a moving vehicle (car, train, boat, whatever, I'm not picky).  Nonetheless, I really like knowing that there are wild birds and animals out there doing their thing (however messy and disgusting that thing might be to witness).

Unfortunately, when wild animals come into contact with humans or human detritus, the animals usually come out worse for the encounter.  It's a dangerous world out there for birds, seabirds in particular  If they aren't being impaled by barbed wire or loose fishhooks, they are being hit by moving cars or entangled in fishing lines.  Worst of all is when they get caught in an oil spill and find themselves soaked in deadly petrochemicals.

Which is why I'm really glad there are organizations like Pacific Wildlife Care.  Their mission is to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife that is injured due to human interference.  They are situated near a bird sanctuary (in an absolutely beautiful part of coastal California) and so they unfortunately have no shortage of patients.

I think of it like a little bit of karmic balance for the human race.  It may take many man-hours and a hefty chunk of change to save one bird, but that bird wouldn't have been in distress if it hadn't been for human interference in the first place.  Every endangered bird facing a life threatening injury that they save and return to the wild is just one more out there doing that messy, disgusting thing that they live to do.

Week 4: Water.org

There are many factors that keep far too much of the world in poverty.  And lack of access to clean water is may be the most important one.  Disease and parasites spread more easily without clean water.  When families have to spend an inordinate amount of time obtaining food and water, children don't have the luxury of attending school and adults don't have any time to spend on anything more than basic survival.

But there is more to providing clean water than just digging a well and walking away.  Families need a safe way to transport that water from the well to the household or else it becomes contaminated en route.  Sewage systems need to be established lest the groundwater become contaminated from wastewater borne diseases.  And all these systems need to be serviced and maintained.

This is one of the things I really like about the organization that is my choice for this week's charity: water.org.  They are looking at questions more complicated than "how do we dig a well?" but rather trying to answer "how do we provide clean water to people for the rest of their lives?"  Not only are they asking these questions, but they are answering them.  With $25 they do exactly that: bring clean water to a single person for the rest of his life.  

So today I positively changed a few people's lives forever.  Pretty cool accomplishment considering I'm still in my pajamas.