The time from Thanksgiving to Christmas always seems bring to our attention those that are less fortunate in our communities. Laura and I always try to participate in Angel Tree and other charitable works. This year, though, my friend Cindy Sanders from the Middle Tyger Community Center (MTCC) sent us some statistics that just floored me. In our little school district alone there are over 900 children whose families may not be able to provide Christmas for them. If all of these are school kids, that’s 12.5% of our student population that is in some sort of financial need this year. District Five Family Ministries, which operates out of MTCC, has set up their Christmas House to solicit sponsors for children. Cindy, Susan High, Wanda Fowler, and the other folks from MTCC have been doing a tremendous job organizing contributions and shopping for these needy children.
District Five Ministries, and its counterpart, United Ministries in Greenville, always have needs this time of year, both in terms of money and other contributions. However, those needs continue after the spotlight of the holidays dims. Throughout the year District Five Ministries provides food assistance and assistance with bills, etc. So even if you contribute at Christmas, remember these folks throughout the year.
In addition to our local charities, there are three other global charities that I would like to spotlight. I’ve chosen these in particular because a donation now provides benefits throughout the year. These charities are non-denominational. More importantly, these can be trusted to make sure that donations are used wisely and effectively, and not eaten up in administrative costs.
Heifer International was established to provide livestock and other sustainable food resources for impoverished communities around the globe. For $500 one can purchase a heifer for a community, or one can select from the Heifer Gift Catalog. For $20 you can select a flock of chicks or ducks, or you can select rabbits, llamas, or other livestock. Heifer takes care to make sure that the selections are appropriate for the specific community, and that these can provide a continuing source of food, rather than a one-time resource.
In 2006, “Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their pioneering use of microcredit — tiny loans — to spur development among the poor. ” (NPR Morning Edition, October 13, 2006). Microcredit, or micro loans, are loans to entrepreneurs in impoverished areas that are considered “unbankable.” They are not able to get loans at the often exhorbitant rates charge by their local banks.
Kiva.org is a website that connects individual investors with these entrepreneurs. A loan of $50 – $100 is often all it takes to get one of these entrepreneurs into business. Those requesting the loans post their business plans and requests on the websites, and donors can select which they wish to fund. Some of these business plans include things may sound simple to us – the purchase of a sewing machine to start a small clothing business, the purchase of bees to produce honey, or money for other equipment to begin business.
Unlike a charitable donation, investors are repaid by the recipients. You can then choose to re-invest those funds through Kiva with another entrepreneur. That way your money keeps on giving.
With this time of financial crisis fueled by the downturn in the housing market, it’s even more difficult for some to get loans for affordable housing. Therefore the work of Habitat for Humanity has become even more important. Habitat seems to be better known that the other two charities listed above, so I won’t write much more about it here other than to say that this is one that is worthy of our support. One can contribute financially, or by volunteering in the construction of Habitat homes.
On a side note, a classmate of mine, Karen Foreman, served as director of the international branch of Habitat for awhile. This does not surprise me. I remember a bunch of us piling into her old Lincoln Towncar with suicide doors to work on repairs to low-income homes in Greenville County. Habitat seemed like a natural career path for her.
I’m sure there are other charitable groups that are equally deserving of our attention and support. However, I wanted to highlight these three as some that do excellent work throughout the year, and who treat donations as an investment, rather than a one-time quick fix.
[tags]Kiva.org, Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, charities, micro loans, microcredit[/tags]