Give Back to the Big Givers This Season

Katherine Doyle

Is it cliché to remind students to give back during the holiday season? Absolutely. But it’s a good thing that a little cliché, and a little giving, never hurt anyone.

The holiday season’s over-the-top commercialization, over-done fads like Black Friday, and over-used Mastercards should remind us how much we have compared to others in our community, the nation, and around the world.

Volunteering at the Contra Costa Food Bank and donating used clothes to the Moraga Goodwill Store are a couple tried-and-true local favorites for giving. But this season, we’d like to explore some organizations that might capture your interest (and hopefully your time and money) because of their unique causes.

Facing warfare and displacement in Sudan, approximately 2.2 million Sudanese have found themselves in crowded camps lacking wood as a back fuel resource. Desperate to cook meals, women must venture outside the “camp-grounds” in search of wood and face the risks of rape and violence. That’s where the Darfur Stoves Project comes in. Collaboration between local Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California, and Engineers Without Borders has produced a fuel-efficient stove that would reduce “wood trips” to about half, consequently diminishing women’s exposure to attacks. The stoves only cost $20, but in order to provide for the greater population, the organization relies on donations. Your help could be only a click (or two) away!

The Himalayan Cataract Project fights against “preventable and curable blindness” by offering high quality care and education to people in the hard-to-reach areas of the Himalayas and Sub-Saharan Africa. This mountain range bears the highest report rates of preventable blindness due to a combination of genetics, altitude, and diet. Maps, pie charts, videos, and other graphics presented on their website make this cause understandable, and the “News & Media” tab highlights the relevance of their work. Accessible from the side bar, “Donate Now” gives the user the option of donating $20, enough money to “radically improve a human life through the gift of sight-restoring cataract surgery.” You can also subscribe to their newsletter to find more ways to help. Eventually, the Himalayan Cataract Project predicts that “the establishment of a world-class eye care infrastructure” will effectively combat preventable blindness in a large part of the world.

Created in 2006, this organization is dedicated to eradicating malaria in Africa by sending bed nets for protection against mosquitoes and educating the masses about disease prevention. The website is very user friendly. Right off the bat, you can scan facts about malaria (every 30 seconds, an African child dies from this disease), the causes, and unfortunate impacts. Donating a mere $10 covers the cost of “purchasing a long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net, distributing it, and educating [African] communities on its use.” But your help doesn’t have to stop there. By encouraging friends, classmates, or family members to join, you can create a “team” and help fundraise for the cause. Nothing But Nets also offers a “Campaign Toolkit” to help you bring about awareness in your community.

Searching for a meaningful present to give a friend or family member? Donate to a cause in their honor. This website boasts more than 1,500 charities to choose from, and you can browse the overwhelming options by cost, cause, event, or recipient. After selecting an organization to donate to, send a personalized card or an e-card announcing your donation.

Additional Tips:

  • When volunteering at food kitchens or banks, don’t be daunted or intimidated by employees who donate full time. They want you to be there and appreciate your time, regardless if it is a one-time deal.
  • Keep in mind that giving, especially online, shouldn’t be complicated. Organizations need your help, so they’ll be pretty accommodating to your needs, whether it’s picking up or efficiently processing your donations.
  • If you don’t feel like sparing a wad of cash, instead “accidentally” drop coins, literally anywhere. Chances are, a young’n will happen upon your generous contribution and feel much richer than that 10 cents.
  • Stumped when it comes to giving gifts to your old man? To heck with ugly ties and coffee mugs: make a donation to these charities, or any others, in their honor.