Can it really be the holiday season already? With one turkey down (don’t forget latkes on the side) and one to go, it’s time to take out the checkbook and support groups that are trying to make the world a little happier and fairer all year round.
1. Texas Abortion Funds. Governor Rick Perry and the GOP-dominated State Legislature have managed to shut down a third of Texas abortion clinics, leaving women in vast swaths of the state stranded without services. Many are poor and face grueling and costly journeys to the nearest provider. If you make only one charitable gift this year, help state abortion funds finance their care. Make out your check to National Network of Abortion Funds, with “Texas” in the memo line. National Network of Abortion Funds, PO Box 170280, Boston, MA 02117; fundabortionnow.org.
2. National Center for Science Education. It is shocking that a hefty percentage of Americans think the earth is no more than 10,000 years old, evolution is “just a theory,” and global warming is a liberal hoax. The NCSE understands that we need real science in our schools, not fundamentalist claptrap. Its experts testify at school board meetings, work with groups that lobby state legislatures, help journalists analyze “controversial” issues, offer workshops for teachers and more. National Center for Science Education, 420 40th Street, Suite 2, Oakland, CA 94609; ncse.com.
3. Southern Border Communities Coalition. While politicians dither on immigration reform, the militarization of the US-Mexican border proceeds apace. With little attention from national media, border patrol agents have used violence with impunity against unarmed Mexicans and American citizens, resulting in twenty-two deaths since 2010. The SBCC brings together sixty local civil rights and humanitarian groups to demand accountability. The coalition brought its 175-panel quilt protest to Washington. Will Congress listen? Your dollars will go a long way here. SBCC, c/o Alliance San Diego, 3750 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104; soboco.org.
4. UNHCR. I usually focus on smaller and less well-known organizations, but some disasters require an immediate, muscular, coordinated response that large organizations are best equipped to handle. If you want to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or of the civil war in Syria, the UN agency for refugees is a very good place for your dollars; UNHCR, PO Box 97114, Washington, DC 20077; unhcr.org.
5. Afghan Women’s Fund. While huge wads of foreign aid go into the pockets of middlemen and corrupt politicians (and a government committee flirts with bringing back stoning), this aid organization, headed by brave and tireless Afghan expatriate Fahima Vorgetts, gets on with the work of running schools, literacy and income-generating projects, and women’s shuras, or councils, where community women meet to deal with their problems together. If Afghanistan has a future, it will be thanks to women’s struggle for rights and progress, because misogynist theocrats and warlords just keep everyone poor and miserable. Afghan Women’s Fund, PO Box 1563, Olney, MD 20830; afghanwomensfund.org.
6. Help Lesotho. This desperately poor African nation has one of the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rates—one in four. HL, a Canadian NGO, does a lot with a little: providing tuition for students, material support for grandmothers raising orphaned grandchildren, HIV education and leadership camps for youngsters and more. For $45 a month, you can send a child to school and camp; $20 a month helps a grandmother take care of her family—and herself. Help Lesotho, 610 Bronson Avenue, Ottawa, ON K1S 4E6; helplesotho.org.
7. National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Reproductive rights are more than the right to end a pregnancy—there is also the right not to be treated legally as a fetal vessel. If you read my coverage of Bei Bei Shuai, charged with murder after she attempted suicide while pregnant and her newborn died, you’ll know the great work NAPW does to defend pregnant women’s personhood. Bei Bei is free today because of NAPW’s dedication—but many other women are being arrested for alleged drug use during pregnancy or face coerced medical treatment. With your support, NAPW can stop the infringement of their rights. National Advocates for Pregnant Women, 15 West 36th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10018; advocatesforpregnantwomen.org.
8. Your local food bank. One in six Americans receives food stamps, and now, thanks to Republicans in Congress, they receive less each month. Millions more can’t put food on the table but don’t meet government criteria for aid. It’s so wrong that people must rely on food pantries and soup kitchens, but there it is. So support your local food bank, wherever you are. (Money is better than boxes and cans; food banks can buy food more cheaply than you.) In New York, send checks to the Food Bank for New York City, 39 Broadway, 10th floor, New York, NY 10006; foodbanknyc.org.
9. Rainforest Action Network. This energetic group takes the fight against global warming to the corporations and the banks that fund them. How crazy is it to let Heinz, Campbell’s and other grocery giants destroy rainforests in order to put unhealthy palm oil in your snacks? Almost as crazy as letting our addiction to petroleum and coal heat up the planet. RAN lost its inspiring young director, Rebecca Tarbotton, in a tragic accident just about a year ago. A donation would be the perfect way to honor her memory. Rainforest Action Network, 425 Bush Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94108; ran.org.
10. Legal Information for Families Today. Did you know that you’re not entitled to a lawyer in family court? Imagine: you’re poor and having a crisis affecting the most personal part of your life—child support, custody, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency—and you have to navigate the Dantean court system by yourself. Totally unfair, but at least in New York City, LIFT is there to help with free legal support and other assistance. LIFT, 32 Court Street, Suite 1208, Brooklyn, NY 11201; liftonline.org.
Jessica Valenti interviewed Merritt Tierce, executive director of Texas Equal Access Fund in North Texas, about Texas' new abortion restrictions.