This is the very question I asked myself as I ran at a blazing pace (humor me) on the treadmill yesterday, feeling the urge to write about charity, but also puzzling over how to unify the two concepts.
So I ran, and I ran…and it suddenly hit me as hard as the cramp gnawing at my side: charities are about giving, about caring, and about helping others to reach their goals and dreams. We who have the ability to give, the capacity to share our compassion—if we really make an effort, then we can help those who need our assistance for anything from healing, to resources, to companionship. No matter what the objective, charities provide a clear path toward fulfilling a longing, or a dream—the attainable fantasy of making this world a better place for everyone, not just those who can help themselves.
Saturday night I attended a wonderful charity event for the Ria Foundation, which was founded after the unfortunate passing of a talented young artist named Maria Ann Hsiao, or “Ria.” For the last ten years, the Foundation has been running a program called Art4Kids (http://riafoundation.org/kids.html), bringing art and self-expression to children throughout California and Hawaii and inspiring them to explore their own creativity. As I listened to the presentation about Art4Kids, I thought about how many children could benefit from organizations like this, and also how many children, and people in general, just need a little love and support from others.
My parents are heavily into charity organizations and charity work, and it has rubbed off on me over the years. The reward of helping someone else live the fantasy that we so often take for granted—homes, health, companionship, and food in our bellies—is a pleasure in its own right, and unfortunately, it’s not a topic we often get to discuss with one another.
So, I thought I’d share a few of the organizations that I’ve investigated in the last few years; though there are an infinite number to choose from, these are some of my favorites. I’ve provided an extremely brief description of each, so please be sure to click on the links for more detailed information.
- Water.org — this organization builds wells and sanitation systems, bringing safe drinking water to communities in Asia, Africa, and Central America.
- Madre.org — promotes women’s rights and safety in war-torn countries, and supports women’s voices where they remain otherwise unheard.
- Bestfriends.org — Best Friends Animal Shelter is a no-kill sanctuary in Utah, caring for wild and domestic animals until they are rehabilitated or adopted.
- Heart.org — The American Heart Association provides tons of research and care for heart diseases. This one is particularly dear to me—several years ago, a close family member was diagnosed with a rare heart condition. She is quite well now, and the organization’s research remains imperative.
- Dtrf.org — promotes research for a rare and often fatal disease that forms locally aggressive tumors in connective tissues and destroys neighboring tissues—even bones and organs. A close friend of mine has this condition, but she’s had a clean bill of health for about two years thanks to some incredible doctors and the research funded by this group.
- Africare.org — works to improve the quality of life for people in Africa through sanitation and water services, care and education for HIV/AIDS, and food security for its people.
- Bbbs.org — Big Brothers/Big Sisters is an experience-based program connecting a “big” brother or sister with a “little” considered in need of company beyond his or her circumstance. I had the pleasure of working with a charming girl for about two years through this program, and we had a fantastic time together every time we met. The time commitment is minimal, but the rewards for both parties are tremendous.
This list is by no means a suggestion, nor is it a very exhaustive one. If you are interested in a charity, do some research to find an organization that fits your heart. The American Institute of Philanthropy gives a great list of top charities based on those that use the majority of their funding for causes and research instead of administrative costs at http://www.charitywatch.org/toprated.html.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to donate or work with a charity, I encourage you to consider it—it is an incredibly satisfying experience, and if every one of us could give even a little, we could share the fantasies and dreams we’ve built for ourselves with so many others around the world.