A mourner attends a candlelight vigil at Ram's Pasture to remember shooting victims, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
I was gearing up for the happiest task of the year, my annual holiday donations column. Then came the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School—twenty little children and six teachers, murdered in minutes by a heavily armed, disturbed young man who had just killed his mother. It’s heartbreaking. Will we ever get serious about gun control? Will we ever find good ways to help families with seriously troubled kids? Will we ever talk honestly about why it’s overwhelmingly boys and men who commit these atrocities? Or why these crimes are so much more common in the United States than anywhere else? Let’s make this tragedy the turning point in the way we talk, or don’t talk, about our outrageous levels of violence. Meanwhile, hug your kids, reach out to your neighbors and be as generous as you can.
1. Violence Policy Center. This nonprofit focuses on research, education and advocacy on gun violence. I don’t usually recommend policy groups in this column, but we need this! Check out its website, which is chock-full of important information. Did you know there are more than ten US murder-suicides every week? And that, contrary to popular wisdom, the gun-owning percentage of the population is on the decline? Help the VPC fight for a safer, more peaceable America. Violence Policy Center, 1730 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Suite 1014, Washington, DC 20036; VPC.org.
2. Youth Guidance. Spectacular violence like the Newtown massacre shouldn’t make us forget young people who struggle every day with poverty and the violence it engenders. This Chicago-based nonprofit helps low-income inner-city kids stay on track with counseling, after-school programs and tutoring, with help for parents, too. Youth Guidance believes every child can succeed. Don’t you? Youth Guidance, 1 North LaSalle Street, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60602; youth-guidance.org.
3. Occupy Sandy. These dedicated volunteers may be the best thing to come out of Occupy besides the brilliant framing of “We are the 99 percent.” While official agencies dither and delay, it’s helping the people of the Rockaways and other struggling areas rebuild their houses and neighborhoods. Check out the latest and donate at interoccupy.net/occupysandy. A quick way to help is by buying items on its Amazon “wedding registries,” which list everything from face masks and brooms to heaters and diapers; interoccupy.net/occupysandy/wedding-registries.
4. Afghan Women’s Fund. Led by the heroic Fahima Vorgetts, for ten years AWF has built schools and provided them with teachers and supplies; set up and stocked clinics; and organized women’s councils, literacy classes and income-generation projects in Afghanistan’s poorest regions. Did I mention that they also dig wells? Afghan NGOs are famous for waste, but this all-volunteer group really knows how to stretch a dollar. Send yours to AWF c/o Jean Athey, Box 1563, Olney, MD 20830; afghanwomensfund.org.