Photo Credit The New York Times
In an effort to help my daughter appreciate the opportunities in her life, I am forever seeking ways to educate her about the challenges that so many people, especially children, experience outside of her own privileged existence.
Last week Andrea Elliott gave me and many other New Yorkers a reality check with a five-part series of articles in the New York Times entitled “The Invisible Child”. It drove home the importance of philanthropy and helping others.
So this past weekend my daughter and I decided together, in this season of giving, how we should allocate funds to a short list of charities focusing on children and their families.
Photo Credit The New York Times
The stories in “The Invisible Child” series revolve around an 11 year-old girl named Dasani, her seven siblings and her parents, who have spent the last three years living in a 520 square foot room in a homeless shelter in Bushwick Brooklyn. There are many heart-breaking descriptions of a brutal social and economic landscape that are too familiar to Dasani; the story offered an intimate look into her life with limited glimmers of hope.
Dasani’s story is in stark contrast to the world of privilege enjoyed by my thirteen year-old daughter, so I was glad to have the opportunity to read her the first, and very long article during this season of giving. It helped to give a context for our choices of charities to support.
Together we choose these four worthy organizations to support;
HEIFER INTERNATIONAL – Heifer provides people tools, education and livestock to bring about sustainable change for families in developing countries struggling with hunger, and lack of opportunities for financial stability. We “purchased” a water buffalo and a Llama that will be given to families, affording them the opportunity to develop self-sufficiency, regular income, nutrition.
SMILE TRAIN – This is an international children’s charity that provides corrective surgeries to children in 85+ developing countries born with cleft lips and palates – preventing them from speaking and eating properly, attending school or getting jobs later in life. The surgery is relatively inexpensive – $250 – takes about 45 minutes, and provides immediate and life-changing results.
EVERY MOTHER COUNTS – This is a relatively new organization founded by Christy Turlington in 2010, and one that my daughter feels a connection to because Turlington and her husband Ed Burns are members of her school community. Last year I heard Turlington speak about why she started Every Mother Counts, their goals, and their success stories – it was personal and quite moving. As a father of a young woman, I love the fact that a supermodel known globally for her beauty provides an example of how to make a difference on a level much deeper than fashion and beauty.
DONORS CHOOSE – This is essentially ‘crowd funding’ for classrooms in need. Public school teachers from across America post classroom project requests describing what their goal is and why. We selected quite a few projects – many in Brooklyn – and brought them to total funding; some of the projects we selected provided books, including dictionaries, while others were for art supplies, or replacement bulbs for equipment.
My daughter and I talked about our own good fortune, how important it is to help others less fortunate, and to work to make the world a better place. To me, this is the essence of this season of giving.