Activism / Column / December 7, 2023

In Turbulent Times, Look for the Helpers

It’s been a rough year. If you can lend a hand, these causes need—and deserve—your assistance.

Katha Pollitt
Planet Earth

It’s hard to think about the holidays this year, with so many terrible things happening around the world. Still, Mr. Rogers’s mother told him to look for the helpers, and she was right. There are always helpers. Here’s my annual list of groups that are doing their best to bring help in a dark time.

1. American Near East Refugee Aid. So many groups are asking for donations to alleviate the appalling humanitarian crisis in Gaza, it’s hard to know which ones are effective or even legit. I’m going with a recommendation from my friend, the award-winning Gazan poet Mosab Abu Toha. ANERA, which says it has no religious or political affiliations—a definite plus in my book—works on relief and development in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Jordan. Right now, it is seeking donations to support blood banks in Gaza and to provide displaced families with nourishing meals and hygiene kits, with more help to come as the needs evolve.

2. The Brigid Alliance and WRRAP. Right after Dobbs, outraged pro-choicers rained gold on abortion funds, those energetic local groups that help low-income women and others arrange and pay for their procedures. Now many donors have moved on, but you can help fill the pot by giving to the Brigid Alliance, which helps people in abortion-ban states travel to clinics, and the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, which helps women all over the country.;

3. Secular Rescue. There are some 14 countries in which apostasy or blasphemy is a capital crime, and more in which open atheists risk violence and persecution from families, neighbors, and community. Secular Rescue arranges and funds their escape—to another country or a safer place in their own land. A lot of them are Afghans under threat from the Taliban. You remember Afghanistan, don’t you?

4. Afghan Women’s Fund. I put this small but effective group on the list every year. With the Taliban in power, AWF’s work is harder, more dangerous, and more necessary. Now that girls are banned from school after the sixth grade, AWF has developed “school on a thumb drive,” an entire self-guided curriculum that can be accessed on a computer or smartphone. (Most Afghan girls don’t have these devices, but AWF has ways of getting the contents to them.) It’s a big project, so please give generously.

5. Wisconsin Democrats. You probably know that many state Democratic parties are barely functional, but that’s not true in Wisconsin. In that crucial battleground state, the Dems have scored big wins. In April, they elected liberal Janet Protasiewicz to the state Supreme Court, tipping the balance, and subsequently forced Republicans to abandon attempts to impeach her on spurious grounds as soon as she took her seat. The secret: relentless year-round organizing. Help them keep it up in 2024, when Trump may be back on the presidential ballot. He won Wisconsin in 2016—don’t let it happen again.

6. Black Voters Matter. Black voters led the charge in defeating Trump in 2020, and the same will hold true this time around. But Republican state officials are making it harder for people in Black communities to access the polls. Black Voters Matter does the long-term deep grassroots organizing needed to register, engage, and support Black voters—not just on Election Day, but every day, and in every election up and down the ticket.

7. Health in Harmony. Global heating is driving us toward irreversible disaster, and the world isn’t doing nearly enough about it. HIH works with Indigenous communities in Indonesia, Brazil, and Madagascar to end illegal logging, provide greatly needed healthcare, and generate sustainable ways of earning a living. They do this by listening to the communities themselves—their deep local knowledge, their histories, their needs and desires. It’s called “radical listening”—the opposite of the top-down approach of so many NGOs. HIH projects are mostly women-led, which is also great. This is the crucial decade to stop global heating, so don’t wait—give now.

8. Canadian Harambee Education Society. This secular-humanist volunteer project funds school fees and support for girls in rural Kenya and Tanzania who have passed the admissions test for high school but cannot afford to go. You can sponsor a girl for $40 a month, follow her progress via letters, and change her life forever. You can also make a donation of any size, which will be combined with others.

9. Alice’s Kids. So many children today don’t have the basics—decent shoes and clothes, a warm coat, a backpack—let alone fees for sports uniforms, after-school activities, and other “extras.” Alice’s Kids works with teachers, social workers, and others to provide the things that let kids feel like they belong, in a way that is discreet and respectful. You’d be surprised what a difference even a $50 to $100 donation can make in a child’s life.

10. The print magazines you love. Even if you don’t read every article (I promise I won’t tell), keep them going by donating and sending gift subscriptions (a holiday gift that arrives throughout the year and costs less than the Cheese of the Month Club). First on your list should be The Nation, of course. If you’re reading this, you know what a valuable resource the magazine is, and how much we need your dollars as the price of postage and everything else goes up and up. But I also want to put in a word for the Texas Observer, which nearly went under some months ago but was saved by a fierce GoFundMe campaign that raised over $270,000. Now it needs to be put on a stronger footing going forward. It’s a great magazine, even for non-Texans like me, so please send them some financial holiday cheer.

Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt is a columnist for The Nation.

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