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).
6. Vietnam Vets Against the War. It's a different war, but VVAW is still organizing against it. These hardy campaigners wage protests, support soldiers who resist the war, address classrooms, demystify the false promises of recruiters, help homeless veterans and support Iraq Veterans Against the War. They run on a shoestring, and Howard Zinn says we should send them money--and I always try to do what Howard Zinn says (VVAW National Office, Box 408594, Chicago, IL 60640; vvaw.org).
7. National Network of Abortion Funds. Before the Hyde amendment, some 300,000 poor women received Medicaid funding for their abortions annually. Since then, only a handful. Roughly one in five low-income women say they were unable to afford an abortion when they needed one. Last year the NNAF helped around 22,000 women pay for their procedures. This year the first fifty new donors who give $50 or more will receive a copy of Learning to Drive, my new collection of personal essays, which I will sign to any name you like (NNAF, 42 Seaverns Avenue, Boston, MA 02130; nnaf.org).
8. Libri Foundation. Showing what one determined person with a great idea can accomplish, the Libri Foundation, founded in 1989 by Oregon librarian Barbara McKillip in her living room, today provides dozens of small, underfunded rural libraries each year with new high-quality children's books. Feeling pinched? You can send the foundation a book--just one book!--through its amazon.com wish list (Libri, Box 10246, Eugene, OR 97440; librifoundation.org).
9. Women for Afghan Women. Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries, where billions of development dollars have been wasted by a large cast of schemers. This group is different. Headed by the indefatigable Fahima Vorgetts, the WAW's Afghan Women's Fund provides material aid, healthcare and literacy classes, vocational training and organizes small businesses and women's co-ops. AWF has built three girls' schools and will be starting construction on a fourth in the spring. For $50 a month, you can support an orphan and give him or her a shot at a future (make checks out to WAW/AWF, 978 Yachtsman Way, Annapolis, MS 21403; womenforafghanwomen.org).
Money still burning a hole in your pocket? Consider these favorites from previous years:
10. Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. The war has made life more dangerous for Iraqi women both inside and outside the family. Heroic secular feminist Yanar Mohammed runs the only women's shelters in Iraq, plus an Underground Railroad to help women escape from abuse and threats of "honor killing." You can help Iraqi women start newer, safer lives by writing a check to MADRE, the women's international social justice organization, with OWFI in the memo line; MADRE, 121 West 27th Street #301, New York, NY 10001; www.madre.org .
11. Health in Harmony. Have you ever wished you could preserve the environment while providing medical care in the developing world? Here's your chance: Health in Harmony offers low-cost high-quality medical care to impoverished rural people living around the beautiful, fragile, incredibly biodiverse Gunung Palung national park in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. By promoting environment-friendly economic activity, HIH hopes to help animals, trees and people in one fell swoop; 6114 La Salle Avenue, Suite 752, Oakland, CA 94611; www.HealthInHarmony.org .
12. National Center for Reason and Justice. Donations from Nation readers were crucial in the NCRJ's successful appeal in the case of Bernard Baran, imprisoned since 1985 in the wave of daycare-sex-abuse-panic cases that look so bizarre today. Released last year, Baran is rebuilding his life. But what about other people--men, women, parents, teachers, schoolbus drivers--wrongfully charged with or convicted of crimes against children? The NCRJ is an innocence project for them. Horrified as we all are by such crimes, putting innocent people in prison on the basis of "evidence" concocted out of "recovered memories," leading questions from ill-trained therapists and such is not the answer. The NCRJ runs on a tiny budget and the dedication of volunteers. Your contribution will make a huge difference; NCRJ Box 230414, Boston, MA 02133; www.ncrj.org .
13. Canadian Harambee Education Society. This small-scale organization funds tuition and support for Kenyan and Tanzanian girls who do well on high-school entrance exams but whose families cannot afford the fees, which often exceed their annual income. For $450 Canadian, you can sponsor a girl who has already beaten considerable odds, and at the same time help promote women's education, which is so crucial to economic and social development for all. Canadian Harambee Education Society, 446 Kelly Street, New Westminster BC V3L 3T9, Canada; www.canadianharambee.ca . Questions about US dollar donations and tax deductibility? E-mail CHES .