Thursday, February 21, 2013

Charities

I'm a little obsessed with two charities right now.

New Horizons for Children organizes an "exchange student" program where kids from orphanages in Latvia, Ukraine, and China get to come to the US for 4-5 weeks in the summer or over winter break.  Unlike a traditional exchange program, though, these kids don't have families to cover their passport, Visa, airfare, etc so the host family or a network of sponsors covers the estimated $3500 costs, in addition to the cost of room and board during that time (they generally arrive with just the clothing on their backs), taking them to a dentist and eye doctor, and showing them a fun time.

Some kids end up being adopted later on by their host families or another family who got to know them during their visit, but that's not the point of the program.  They'll help an interested family get in touch with the adoption agencies because they know them, but they are not in any way an adoption program.  The fact is, orphanages are shut down during those weeks and the kids have to go somewhere.  Many go to host families in Europe or Asia, but the ones that meet the qualifications for the US program (excellent behavior and academic records, good health, etc) get a chance to spend that time in the US learning English, seeing the sights, eating American food, etc.

Video here; it won't let me embed it.


My other charity right now is Free The Girls .  They work with women who have been trapped in human trafficking and forced into prostitution, mostly focused in Mozambique.  There is a whole industry there of selling used clothing.  Most of the inventory comes from local sources to avoid destabilizing the general economy, but one item is in demand and rarely available: Bras. FTG works to help rescued women develop their own business in general and provides them with a supply of gently used bras.  The first supply is a donation to get them started, but after that they pay a small purchase cost for additional inventory to make the program more sustainable and make this a true business for them and not just a charity handout.   There's a great documentary done by CNN here, and lots of information on there about how this allows them to work mostly with women and avoid men (given their history, most aren't comfortable around men); gives them a flexible schedule so they can also go to school or take care of families; and generally is just a good fit to their constraints.

I first found them because, having lost 15 pounds in the last 3 months (!!), I have changed sizes on nearly every item of clothing (my socks still fit) and don't want to waste stuff.  I was looking for a place to donate various things and found the FTG website and became a little obsessed with them.  I've asked the owner of the gym I use to consider posting information about the organization and being a drop-off location for a 2-3 week period and then I'd send all the boxes to the donation address.  I know a lot of women at this gym (which is about 90% women) have also had dramatic success in changing their body shapes which means there are probably a lot of gently used but no longer fitting items looking for a home.

Why post all this?  Well, if you're interested in either organization they both could use financial support and are tax deductible charities.  If neither of these do much for you, let me assure you that there is a charity that could use you or your odds and ends in a way that is meaningful, no matter how unusual it may seem.

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