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.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bonus Charity: Polaris Project

While we are on the subject of human trafficking and slavery, I wanted to mention another charity.  This is one that we have donated to in the recent past, so it doesn't really count as one of the 52 new charities I want to highlight in this blog, but they do very good work and shouldn't be overlooked.  The Polaris Project has been working for over a decade to end human trafficking in the United States and globally.

Lest you think this is a problem only developing countries face, you should know that human trafficking was reported in each and every one of the fifty US states last year.  It could very well be that  just down the street from where you live or work, there are people held against their will and forced into the sex trade or other labor.  If you ever see signs of such a situation, call the Polaris Project's hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.   You can report your suspicions anonymously and it will be forwarded to social service providers and/or law enforcement officials, as appropriate.

Week 7: International Justice Mission

Slavery.  It's a really ugly word and yet it is a far too accurate one that describes the daily living condition of millions of people in the world today.  It is a concept so horrific and grotesque that I don't even want to confront the reality.  This post has been so hard for me to write because every time I try to force myself to look at this issue, it's so disturbing that I find my attention skittering away to anything else, just so that I can pretend that human slavery has been resigned to the far distant past.

Fortunately, there are people in the world who aren't adherents to the ostrich approach that I favor.  These are people who are not only willing to confront this reality, but spend day in and day out working to rescue those who are living under oppression and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

International Justice Mission has a worldwide team of lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals whose mission it is to rescue victims of violence and slavery, bring the perpetrators to justice and provide restitution and care for the victims.  They are kind of like super heroes who are lawyers by day.  Except this isn't a fantasy and they are using international law as their super power.  By donating, I'm kind of like the super hero sidekick.  Without the tights and cape.