It’s been a tough year. Tsunami. Hurricane. Earthquake. War. Poverty. Injustice. Here’s a list of extraordinary groups that are working to make next year better. Put them on your holiday list, right after the champagne.

Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.

Incredibly, given the Bush Administration’s professed concern for Iraqi women, the small network of shelters founded by heroic secular feminist Yanar Mohammed offers the country’s only refuge for women fleeing domestic violence, rape, honor killing and forced marriage. As religious extremism and civil strife increase, the need grows ever greater. Help Iraqi women start new, safer lives by writing a check to MADRE, the women’s international social justice group, with OWFI (or Iraq) on the memo line. If you go to, you can honor friends and relatives with a donation; MADRE will send a beautiful card announcing your gift, and nobody will have to return a sweater (MADRE, 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001).

Women for Afghan Women/Afghan Women’s Fund.

Despite some progress, Afghanistan remains the poorest country on earth and one of the worst in which to be a woman. Tragically, much US aid to Afghanistan is lost to mismanagement and corruption. A donation to WAW’s Afghan Women’s fund, by contrast, goes straight to help poor women and children. (Full disclosure: I’m on WAW’s advisory board, but quite wisely they never ask me for advice.) This year its major project is building a girls’ school in Herat province. The land has already been purchased, so if you have a spare $50,000 you can fund the whole thing and transform the lives of more than 1,000 little girls in one swoop. Smaller donations will be warmly welcomed, too. (Checks made out to WAW/AWF can be mailed to WAW, 32-17 College Point Blvd., Suite 206, Flushing, NY 11354;

University Scholarships for South African Students.

Founded in 1990 by philosopher Robert Paul Wolff, this need-based fund has helped educate more than 1,200 black, colored and Indian students. With the deepening of the AIDS crisis–a just released UNAIDS/WHO report estimates that one-third of South Africans are HIV-positive–USSAS has focused on supporting those committed to combating the disease and related social devastation. It currently finances almost 100 young people, including ten medical students, twenty students of social work and fifty undergraduates. You can help fund even more. (Send checks c/o Wolff to 107 Buffam Road, Pelham, MA 01002;

Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Thanks to Sharon Lerner’s terrific reporting (February 7), Nation readers knew about the ongoing crisis at Mississippi’s sole remaining abortion clinic way before Frontline‘s shocking documentary aired in early November. Poor women in a poor state, patients often arrive having traveled for hours, children in tow, and spend the night in their cars to get through the mandatory waiting period the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, held was not an undue burden on their reproductive rights. Help the clinic help its patients by donating to its emergency fund for low-income women. (Checks with “Foundation” on the memo line can be mailed to Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 2903 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39216.)

Abortion Conversation Project.

Do you sometimes feel that the debate over choice is drowning out communication about pregnancy, abortion, sexuality and families? For instance, much as legally compelled parental notification is a bad idea, wouldn’t it be good if girls could be helped to involve their parents in an experience that is hard to go through alone? The brainchild of some of the most thoughtful providers in the country–among them Margaret Johnston, Kudra MacCaillech and Karen Kubby–the ACP is looking for donations so it can launch its “Mom, Dad, I’m Pregnant” information project, which includes a website, brochures and counselor training. (Send checks with “Mom, dad website” on the memo line to ACP, 908 King Street, Suite 400W, Alexandria, VA 22314; www.


Fight legal injustice and help the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast at the same time! Reprieve is looking for funds to help families of death-sentenced prisoners and exonerated death-row inmates who lost housing and other essentials in the hurricane. Writes co-director Billy Sothern, “It is folks like these who need the most assistance in putting their lives back together–lives that were unimaginably difficult before the storm–and who have been given the least from the government.” This is an entirely volunteer organization with no overhead–its costs are borne by the Justice Center of New Orleans, an umbrella organization of nonprofits defending indigents charged with capital crimes in the Deep South. That means 100 percent of your donation goes directly to these extremely needy people (Reprieve, 636 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA 70113;

North Star Fund.

Named for Frederick Douglass’s abolitionist newspaper, this group underwrites grassroots social activism in low-income New York City communities. Recent grants went to organizations of immigrants, battered women, teen parents, public housing residents, people living with AIDS, lesbian/gay/bi/transgendered people, Teamsters trying to reform their union, and more. As New York becomes increasingly a city of haves and have-mores, a donation to North Star keeps working-class activists on the map and in the mix (305 Seventh Avenue, 5th floor, New York, NY 10001;

The Kopkind Colony.

Longtime readers treasure the witty, trenchant reporting of Andrew Kopkind, for whom

The Nation

was home base for many years, and where colleagues still mourn his death, in 1994. The Kopkind Colony carries Andy’s legacy forward, with summer residencies for young progressive journalists–think workshops, mentoring, community and fun. You wouldn’t believe the slender shoestring the entire operation runs on, which is another way of saying that it really needs your help! (158 Kopkind Road, Guilford, VT 05301; 802-254-4859.)