Because everyone you know already has a scarf. Because the presidential primaries are not the only thing happening in the world. Because you will be happier if you multiply your good fortune by giving generously–extravagantly!–to these amazing groups.
1. The Women’s Health Initiative of HEARTT. Under Africa’s first woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia is emerging from a devastating, protracted civil war, and its healthcare system is pretty much in ruins. Only about fifty Liberian doctors serve a nation of 5 million people, one reason Liberia has the world’s highest newborn mortality rate; high rates of HIV, malaria, TB, obstetric fistula and maternal mortality; very little access to family planning; and very little capacity to care for the disadvantaged–i.e., almost everybody, especially women. The WHI, set up just in time for this column and your gifts, will fund prenatal care, safe maternity and family planning at Monrovia’s JFK Hospital (HEARTT Women’s Health Initiative, Box 1097, Stratford, CT 06614; through January, online donations at heartt.net will go to the WHI).
2. Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. The scandal of Katrina continues. Most media coverage focuses on the challenge to homeowners, but New Orleans has always had a high proportion of renters–now priced out of a tight, booming market even as FEMA evicts thousands of poor people from its horrible trailers. GNOFHAC fights against racial discrimination in housing and for affordable housing (GNOFHAC, attn: Katrina Relief Effort, 228 St. Charles Avenue, Suite 1035, New Orleans, LA 70130; gnofairhousing.org).
3. Tipitina’s Foundation. The New Orleans musical community was–is–a national joy. Help keep it going by giving to the Instruments A Comin’ school band program and bringing along the next generation. So far, it has provided students with $800,000 worth of instruments, but thousands more await a chance to play. And yes, if you have a band instrument you’re not using, they want it. You can also help fund instruments and delight the music lover on your gift list by ordering the CDs Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino or Fats Domino: Alive and Kicking, the musician’s post-Katrina recording (Tipitina’s Foundation, attn: donations, 4040 Tulane Avenue, Suite 8000, New Orleans, LA 70119; tipitinasfoundation.org).
4. The Women’s Lodge. Charon Asetoyer, a tireless campaigner against South Dakota’s misbegotten and ultimately unsuccessful abortion ban, runs the Women’s Lodge on the Yankton Sioux reservation, which aids women fleeing domestic violence and sex abuse–rape counseling, transportation, legal assistance, help with utilities, groceries and finding work. This year the Lodge is trying to raise $55,000 for transitional housing so that women and their children have an alternative to living in danger or sleeping on a shelter floor. That doesn’t seem a lot to ask, does it? (make checks out to “Native American Community Board” with NAWHERC on the memo line, Box 572, Lake Andes, SD 57356; nativeshop.org).
5. International Rescue Committee. More than 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes because of violence, at least 2.2 million within Iraq and 1.8 million to other countries. This venerable NGO assists them in Jordan and southern Iraq, where many are living in desperate conditions, and will soon expand to Syria and northern Iraq. These are people who, thanks to our unprovoked and illegal war, have lost everything. Remember the Pottery Barn rule? We broke it; we have to fix it (write “Iraqi refugee relief” on your check; IRC, Box 98152, Washington, DC 20090-8152; theirc.org).