'Tis the Season to Be Generous
Money's tight this year, I know. But tradition is tradition. So here's my annual list of suggestions for your end-of-year donations. Read on to learn about some great groups that help people who are worse off than you are.
Commune des Femmes de Kamanyola (CFK).
Ann Jones's recent Nation story about the horrific wartime rapes, often followed by mutilation if not murder, of hundreds of thousands of women in Congo highlighted the work of this grassroots organization. Founded by a mother who refused to accept in shame and silence her teenage daughter's rape by soldiers, CFK takes rape victims to the hospital for treatment and drugs to prevent STDs, HIV and pregnancy; pressures their families to accept them; works to prosecute rapists; and educates communities that rape is not men's right--or women's fault. Make your check out to IRC, with CFK on the memo line. Address: Heidi Lehmann, director, Gender-Based Violence Unit, International Rescue Committee, 122 East 42nd St., New York, NY 10168-1289.
Bronx Freedom Fund.
This year-old organization posts bail for indigent people awaiting trial on misdemeanor or nonviolent felony charges in New York City's poorest borough. These are men and women who without the fund would languish in jail for perhaps six months for lack of $500, including many who are innocent and would plead guilty just to be free. Of all clients bailed out, 95 percent have returned for every court appearance and half have had their cases dismissed. Bonus: money used to post bail is returned when the cases are over, so a single gift can keep on giving. Address: 860 Courtlandt Ave., Bronx, NY 10451; BronxFreedomFund.org.
Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The little group you supported last year through donations to Vietnam Veterans Against the War has doubled in size and is walking on its own. Help IVAW organize vets and soldiers against the Iraq occupation, develop support networks for war resisters, present Winter Soldier testimonies about the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, and run truth-in-recruiting education in schools. IVAW supports reparations for the Iraqi people and full benefits for returning vets, including mental healthcare. Address: Box 8296, Philadelphia, PA 19101; ivaw.org.
Resurrection After Exoneration.
An outgrowth of The Innocence Project of New Orleans, RAE is run by John Thompson, who spent eighteen years on Louisiana's death row after being wrongfully convicted, and provides housing, training and life opportunities to innocent people released from prison. Did you know that Louisiana has one of the highest exoneration rates in the country as well as the highest per capita rate of incarceration, with a recidivism rate of almost 50 percent? You can help exonerees start to rebuild the life the state did its best to destroy. Address: 3301 Chartres St. New Orleans, LA 70117; r-a-e.org.
Health in Harmony.
Two years ago, Nation readers helped kick-start this small group with a big idea: provide poor Indonesian villagers with healthcare in return for giving up illegal logging in the gorgeous, fragile rainforests of Gunung Palung National Park. It's working. People and nature can flourish together, with your help. Address: 6114 La Salle Ave., Suite 752, Oakland, CA 94611; healthinharmony.org.
The Lambi Fund of Haiti.
This year's hurricanes have devastated Haiti's poor and deforested countryside. The Lambi Fund works with grassroots groups to plant trees, start organic vegetable gardens, give pigs and goats to malnourished families, build cisterns to provide safe drinking water and teach methods of farming that prevent the erosion that has made recent storms so deadly. Building women's leadership is a part of everything they do. A dollar goes a long way in Haiti. I'm just saying. Address: Box 18955, Washington, DC 20036; lambifund.org.
Founded in 1998 by a Ugandan and an American, this group helps Ugandan girls who resist female genital mutilation by sponsoring their education so they can grow up and change their culture from within. It's working: the first girls have gone on to become nurses, midwives and, just this year, graduates of Kampala University. $575 pays one year's tuition for one girl (or boy--because men need to be part of ending this tradition). Smaller donations are welcome, too. Address: 409 Waldemere Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06604; godparents.net.
Women for Afghan Women.
As I've written in previous years, WAW does on a shoestring the work that is the only way to bring peace, democracy and progress to ordinary Afghans: clinics, schools, women's councils, orphan sponsorship (only $50 a month--think about it!), small-scale economic projects that simultaneously let a woman feed her family and improve her status within it. WAW fights forced marriage, domestic violence, rape and other abuses of women's human rights. If you're disturbed by the resurgence of the Taliban, this is the way to fight them. Address: 32-17 College Point Blvd., Room 206, Flushing, NY 11354; womenforafghanwomen.org.
. This web-based organization lets you choose among thousands of public-school classroom projects--maybe one in a school in your neighborhood. Books, musical instruments, sports equipment, class trips, calculators, paper--paper?! It's truly shocking how many essentials kids are expected to do without. Gift certificates make a great last-minute present.
The Modest Needs Foundation.
For struggling low-income people, one unexpected event--an illness, a fire, a car that dies, a missed child-support payment--can quickly lead to poverty, even homelessness. MNF stops that process by offering financial help up to $1,000. The website (modestneeds.org) lets you decide where your donation goes. In these harsh economic times, there's probably no better way to offer a lifeline to a stranger.