Charities

Charities

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Charities

by maria on 19.03.2009 - 00:41  

Since my employer does not have a charity donation program, I have been struggling to deal with donations. Mostly I've been unsuccessful, and my donations have been erratic at best. But, recently I have discovered two sites that make life easier, and my donations more consistent and thoughtful. Network for Good is a nonprofit that is set up to distribute donations to other nonprofits. They make it very easy to make regular donations to charities you like. The other useful web site is Charity Navigator. This web site makes it easy to see how well charities do at being charities, so you can somewhat objectively narrow down which charities you want to donate to. Charity Navigator is itself a nonprofit, but does not accept funding from the charities it evaluates. Here I discovered that two the organizations I have been supporting are vastly different in their use of funds. Heifer International is not nearly as efficient as Mercy Corps, and I have decided that for now it makes sense to send more money to Mercy Corps than to send each less money. There is another nonprofit that has recently come to my attention. It is not listed in Charity Navigator, and I think that is because of its unique status. It is Kiva, and it is currently the only nonprofit international microlender. So you don't really donate (although you get the opportunity to donate to Kiva itself when you lend money), but give loans to people. You get to choose the people you loan to from a bunch of selected entrepreneurs, and can loan amounts as small as $25. When your loan is paid back (and it appears that most of them are, but there is some risk that they won't be, of course), you have the opportunity to re-invest, donate to Kiva, or pull your money. You do not receive interest for the loans (and neither does Kiva).

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Video War

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Politics, Charities

by Maria on 05.09.2008 - 01:26  

I read this article and this one in Slate a while back, and they have been needling me ever since. The articles are about drones that the military uses. They are remote controlled weapons. The military has worked with video game technicians and programmers to make the experience, well, more video game-like. I find this concept so much more scary than cloning or gene therapy or any of the other 'scary' technologies that are currently being explored. How can anyone understand the ramifications of what they are doing, if killing just looks like a video game?

Both articles brings up lots of good points about how scary it is to have combat military that doesn't truly see the damage that it is doing, so I won't go into that, except for one point. Since other countries are developing the same technology, it seems that future wars could be fought by people that are hidden away in various locations, while the countries at war are blown to smithereens. And to the people fighting, it will all be video images.

But here is some more food for thought:

I have no idea what the range of these things are currently, but one can imagine that it won't take too long before they can be very long range. And if they aren't already small enough to go undetected by radar, one can also imagine that not being far away. The damage that a terrorist could do with a drone, once the range is large and the size is small, would be incredible. And, it is hard to imagine any border control that could do much about it.

I realize that we will never get rid of terrorism completely, but clearly we need to start really dealing with the breeding grounds, and the rampant growth of terrorism. We need to attack the root causes of people choosing to become terrorists, because the weapons that they can get a hold of are only going to get more sophisticated and scary. According to one of the Slate articles France, Germany, Greece, India, the Philippines, Russia, even Switzerland are all building or buying drones; soon enough, someone will start selling them to terrorists. I think Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea) is on the right track, and I would encourage everyone to donate whatever they can to help his organization, the Central Asia Institute. It is imperative that we do all in our power to promote peace, so I hope that everyone reading this will take a look at his work. From the CAI website: "The best hope for a peaceful and prosperous world lies in the education of all the world's children."

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Uganda

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Travel, myLife, Charities

by maria on 12.02.2008 - 20:41  

My very dear friend Dorothy married a wonderful man from Uganda last year in New York city. They had a fantastic wedding, and I have some pictures from that wedding on my old web site. Unfortunately my camera was not behaving well for that particular trip, so the pictures are limited, and not the greatest. This year they had another wedding, this time in Uganda, following Ugandan traditions as much as possible. Calvin runs a charity called Pilgrim, which assists Ugandans who are in need. It does this using a multi-armed approach. They help in several of the IDP camps, giving assistance directly to families. This assistance comes in many different flavours. They help the people in the camps to begin to pick up their lives, often by helping them to farm by providing seed and other necessities for farming. As well as the direct assistance of food, shelter, clothing and medical attention for people in the camps, they have created groups to help people with trauma, as many of these people have seen family members killed or abducted by the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) or the Karamojong or have themselves been abducted. They work to help to get the children back into school. When there was extreme flooding at the end of last year, they were one of the first aide groups to respond, ferrying people out of the flood zones, and working with other organizations to bring food, clothing, and medical aid to the people displaced by the flooding. They also run a secondary school, which is targeted towards children from the camps, and most of which are sponsored by Pilgrim or their sister organization Three Loaves, which Dorothy directs. Currently they are involved in a radical program to eliminate malaria in the Teso region. Most of their work is done in an area of the country called Teso, which includes the village where Calvin's family is from, and is now one of the poorest regions of Uganda. Click on Dorothy's picture for more pictures and commentary from our trip to Uganda to attend her wedding, and to see the work that Pilgrim is doing in Uganda.

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