To me, giving is an essential part of citizenship. There are multitudes of ways to give; money isn’t the only thing organizations are looking for. Honestly, most organizations just want your time, whether it’s simply paying attention to what they’re trying to say or actually volunteering some of your time to help them.
Giving isn’t only good for those on the receiving end; there are health benefits! So here are some of the organizations I either currently give to or have been involved with in the past.
I haven’t found another organization that stretches your donation dollars farther than Kiva. That’s because your donation isn’t so much a donation as a loan. Microloan financing is one of the most sustainable forms of giving, as your donation is loaned to an entrepreneur who uses the money to invest in their business which is then paid back to you. You can then choose to either get your money back or reinvest it. Like any loan, there’s a risk you may not get your money back, but the risk is extremely small. I have a whole $75 invested in Kiva and I’ve re-loaned that money 11 times. The success stories are amazing. So if you’re looking to make your charitable giving contributions go farther and last longer, Kiva is the way to go.
World Vision is another favourite charity of mine. You’ve seen the ads on TV, no doubt. And that’s how I got my Mom to sponsor a little girl from Kenya many years ago. My current sponsor child is from the Congo, a country involved in perpetual civil war and where stories of women being brutally raped are commonplace and a fact of life. World Vision is one of the most reputable charities in the world and is involved nearly everywhere in the world. I enjoy getting progress reports about my sponsor child, seeing her grow through pictures and learning how my money is making a difference in her life and that of her community.
If you’re from Saskatchewan, you know exactly what Telemiracle is all about. The Telemiracle foundation helps those with special needs and those who need assistance to access medical treatment. What I love best about Telemiracle is how the entire province gets into the spirit and raises money that stays within the province. Sometimes we think we need to go on volunteer or mission trips in order to help others and in the process we ignore the huge needs that are in our own backyards. Telemiracle exemplifies the best of the Saskatchewan spirit and it has helped people I know. Telemiracle has raised funds that contributed to the purchase of the handi bus my Dad drives everyday to bring special needs adults to their sheltered workshop. It gives money to families who have needed to go out of province with their children in order to obtain medical treatment not available in province. The fact that the marathon is still going strong 37 years later shows not only how great the need still is, but how it has become a part of our province. It’s possibly the thing i love best about Saskatchewan.
Best Buddies is a new organization to me. I volunteered with it last year, and it was an amazing experience. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to volunteer this year due to my health issues. But I highly recommend it! Best Buddies matches high school and university-aged students with people with intellectual disabilities. My aunt has Down Syndrome and I’ve worked with community living organizations, so I really connected with this organization. The best thing about it is that not only does it help intellectually disabled people connect with their communities and better their quality of life, but it helps to combat the stigma these people face on a day-to-day basis. When I worked with these people and took them out into the community, other people gave us all kinds of disgusted looks and uttered mean and derogatory things mostly out of ignorance. The work of organizations like the R-Word are also helping to reduce the prejudice that exists against the intellectually disabled. I learned so much from my work with them; in fact, I learned far more from them than they ever learned from me.
If you’re looking for an organization to spend your time with, most cities have websites that list volunteer opportunities. If you’re looking for a charity to donate to, MoneySense, a Canadian website, has a list of its top 2012 charities ranked for transparency, accountability and how they spend their money.
In the future, there are lots of organizations I’d like to work with. I’ve always wanted to work at an animal shelter, but I fear I’d get too attached to the animals and want to take all of them home with me! Having worked in an emergency foster home, I’d like to donate my time to working with children again. There’s also an organization that allows me to use my music skills and teach inner city kids how to play the piano. I’d also like to go on a mission trip and help build something for people in another country. The possibilities are endless!
As citizens, we owe it to each other to give of ourselves.