The economist Joel Waldfogel claims Christmas presents are a waste of money because most people don’t really like what you give them. So the heck with them–bake some cookies for the folks on your list, because everyone likes cookies, and give generously to any or all of the great groups below.
Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center.
Co-founded by Charon Asetoyer, who did so much to defeat South Dakota’s proposed abortion ban (twice!), this project of the Native American Community Board helps women and children on or near the Yankton Sioux reservation. There’s a domestic violence shelter, a food pantry, counseling, help with transitional housing, plus important work documenting violence against Native American women and the insufficient response of the Indian Health Service and other federal bureaus. (Make checks out to NACB with “NAWHERC” on the memo line, Box 572, Lake Andes, SD 57356; nativeshop.org)
Gulf Region Advocacy Center.
This Houston-based group provides free legal help to indigent capital defendants in execution-happy Texas. GRACE has moved juries to see a life worth preserving, improved the way trials are conducted and helped build the legal framework against the death penalty. Keep it going in these desperate times. (2307 Union Street, Houston TX 77007; gracelaw.org)
Freedom From Religion Foundation
. If you have had it up to here with faith-based initiatives, creationism and clerical prying into our private lives, FFRF is the organization for you. This scrappy group brings lawsuits against church-state entanglements and puts up witty billboards and bus signs promoting, well, freedom from religion. Reason’s Greetings! (Box 750, Madison, WI 53701; ffrf.org)
Founded by a Brazilian sociologist and an American anthropologist, this group helps girls from the slums of Salvador, Brazil, with education, healthcare, food and counseling to help them break out of the cycle of poverty and violence. It works! The first girls went off to college this year, and more on the way. (1005 NE Boat Street, Seattle, WA 98105; bahiastreet.org)
More troops are not going to help Afghan women become literate or self-supporting or safe from violence. That takes local knowledge and hands-on involvement. Women for Afghan Women, on whose advisory board I serve, runs women’s shelters in Kabul and other cities, plus a home for the children of women in prison. Its Afghan Women’s Fund, directed by the heroic Fahima Vorgetts, builds schools, digs wells and sets up women’s councils that provide literacy classes and job training in the countryside. (Checks to WAW go to 32-17 College Point Boulevard, Room 206, Flushing, NY 11354; womenforafghanwomen.org. To support the AWF, make out a check to WAW/AWF, 978 Yachtsman Way, Annapolis, MD 21403)