Matthew’s Issues & Charities at end 2015, start 2016

Every year (well almost) I write a letter to friends and contacts about which charities I give to and which issues I support, and recently I’ve been posting it on THCB–hey I own the joint so who’s going to stop me!. Here’s this end/start year edition–Matthew Holt

Yes another year with a Matthew issues letter nearly missed but not quite. I’m poolside in Maui winding down as much as possible when on a vacation with little kids and I’ve missed getting this out for end 2015 but because of the weekend 2016 isn’t really here yet, and I’m finally hammering out my end of year news, gossip, charities and issues letter. A couple of weeks ago someone asked me how the new year was shaping up, and I told them I was about ready for 2012….and I still feel the same way. I seem to spend more time reading articles on the habits of productive people than actually being one …thanks Buzzfeed!

If you don’t know, this is a letter I write mostly to myself about what happened in what’s now last year and what I should do about it–in terms of making charitable donations while it’s still 2015, although I must confess that I sometimes give money on Jan 1-2 and claim it on my taxes for the year before, so I hope the NSA isn’t sharing this email with the IRS. People do ask me about it every year, sometimes in advance, so hopefully it’s not a waste, and if you don’t care then hit delete, or go onto the next fascinating Facebook article on 15 celebs that look gross after plastic surgery, or whatever….and I love comments on the blogs/Facebook/Twitter or by email, so please let me know what you think.
The main stuff is the issues below, but quick update on me and mine. Aero (1), Coco (4) and Amanda (unspecified) still continue to interrupt my attempts to waste my life away. Amanda says that my appeals for a diaper changing robot are unnecessary as Aero only has about 2,000 changes to go. She does say though that I might soon need one, Health 2.0 had a great year with our biggest ever crowd in Santa Clara plus 2 other successful conferences in the US plus others in Europe (Barcelona) Korea, Latin America  (São Paolo) and Japan, where I had great fun this November. I also snuck in a trip to Finland to talk about Health 2.0 (12 mins of fun here) at the wonderful SLUSH conference and had a cold plunge after a sauna, leading to my most viewed and commented Facebook video post ever! (Thanks to my host Pekka Sivonen). Thanks to everyone who worked for, volunteered at, spoke at or came to a Health 2.0 conference. 
In addition due to the work of  my long suffering partner Indu Subaiya, and our New York team led by Graeme Ossey & Jen David we now have a really vibrant business running challenges and pilots, including a huge new project for the World Bank exposing hospitals in India to new technology. You can also very occasionally see me write on The Health Care Blog which I own while John Irvine manages it (well sort of!!)
But this email isn’t about that, it’s about about issues, charity and politics—I missed end of 2013 but 2014’s was pretty good, so much of this is a minor update. If you want to see the past editions here’s 20122011 2010 20092008 and you can search back to 2002 (first one was either 2000 or 2001 but either way it was pre-Blogger so I dont have a copy!), As ever, this letter is about my views and suggestions for donations about health care, poverty in developing world, poverty at home, torture, drug prohibition, and other stuff…. And as I said earlier comments/insults are welcome
Health care & (poor) women’s & kids care
The affordable Care Act is finally established, having survived yet another crazy attack in the Supreme Court. And in the most expensive and inane way basically 10 more million Americans have health insurance than did before. But before you criticize, realize that this was the best that could be done given the insane politics of America and that, other than the disgraceful refusal by many southern Republican governors to expand Medicaid in southern states leaving many of the very poor uncovered, almost everyone now has the chance to be in the system–including those  people who had health conditions who were previously left to go broke or die. America hasn’t done entirely the right thing yet, but we are getting there.
What sadly has come into focus this year is the desperate attempts to attack women’s access to health care. If you’re a woman– especially a young or poor one who needs access to contraceptives, mammograms, cervical cancer screening, sexually transmitted disease testing, and all kinds of health procedures including safe abortions, it’s become the mission of mainstream Republicans to stop you getting them–using disgusting, deceitful, and downright illegal methods. And that’s as polite as I can say it. So my biggest bump in funding this year went to the one organization that consistently not only campaigns for but actually provides reproductive health services (including contraception, STD testing, counseling, pregnancy support and, yes, safe abortions), Planned Parenthood. I cannot believe that men want to live in a world where women cannot get these services, although I guess the evidence shows enough do….especially in Texas, Louisiana, Indiana and many more.

Finally Coco’s first pediatrician, the amazing Nadine Burke Harris just got a big grant to study the impact of Adverse Childhood Events.. Worth checking out some information about that here (no donation required!) 

And some old favorites…….Engage with Grace founded by my friend Alex Drane. No donation needed–use the 5 questions you can download to start that hardest of conversations about what you want for your care at the end of life. I think Alex has something else up her sleeve, but I’m not sure what……Jeremy Nobel’s Foundation for Arts & Healing is engaging patients in arts, and it’s especially effective for veterans with PTSD, and is remember now tackling loneliness. You can offer (financial) support here. I keep giving so I can tease him for virtually anything :)…..and I’m still on the board of YTH, a really cool organization that helps use technology to educate young people about sex. The YTH Live conference is in San Francisco in April & it’s great and cheap

Poverty in developing countries

This section is with one obvious exception a straight crib from last year. The good news is that fewer than 1 billion people are in extreme poverty, the lowest proportion ever–OK we are only talking $1.90 a day here but still it’s in the right direction. The bad news is that several forces, not the least of which is extreme religious and political intolerance, are trying to make the situation worse. But with advances in technology and education, we can sense a breakthrough. Here’s whom I support

  • Mercy Corps has multiple projects in the very poorest countries in the world, and tends to focus on the education of girls. Fast Company’s quote about them is“Mercy Corps insists on serving up smart, bold solutions to seemingly intractable problems … supporting seeds of change in the wake of turmoil and tragedy.”
  • Heifer International gives animals directly to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty. They also allow you to give in other ways. For less than you’d spend on dinner for 2 I bought a goat for a poor family in North Africa. No, I don’t know what they’ll do with it!
  • Saigon Children’s Charity is one of my favorites. It’s a small charity (receiving a little over $1m a year in donations) focusing on providing rice (and bikes and books and pens) to the families of very poor children in Southern Vietnam so they stay in school. I support a few individual pupils.
  • At the source of the Nile in Uganda where I went rafting in 2008 (sadly now they’ve flooded those amazing rapids!) is a charity called Softpower Health which sells cheap mosquito nets, and provides a health center and family planning outreach. This article is about kayaking doctor Jesse Stone who started it more or less accidentally
  • Also focusing on childbirth is We Care Solar which makes a suitcase-sized portable solar powered generator and supplies it to health workers in off-grid clinics across the world. My friend Enoch Choi has used them in his relief efforts, and I sent one for work in the field in Tanzania. You could alternatively give to Power the World which provides Nokero solar lights, the WE CARE Solar Suitcase, SOCCKET (all of which I’ve featured in previous letters) and clean cook stoves. 
  • Finally, Health eVillages is a charity launched at Health 2.0 by Donato Tramuto from health tech company Physicians Interactive. It delivers iPads, and  smartphones with preloaded medical information to clinicians in remote parts of Haiti, Kenya, South Sudan and India, and also focuses on improving child mortality rates by encouraging birth in clinics via education and outreach.
These are all little things, but it’s the combination of thousands of little things that will add up to big changes, and over the years it has.
However, one thing this year has gripped the news and that is the crisis in Syria and the resultant flood of refugees across Europe. Let’s ignore for a moment the venomous crap spewed by too many American politicians, and instead compliment Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau for their leadership. But what to do? I ended up giving to the Guardian Newspaper’s appeal fund which is split amongst 6 pre-selected charities dealing with various aspects of the crisis.

Poverty in the US

OK it’s not 2009 any more but the housing crisis continues and for the very poor things aren’t getting much better. You may have your local favorites, but here’s the list I support:

  • San Francisco & Marin food bank. Put your zip code in here to find out your local equivalent
  • Hamilton Family Center, is a small shelter offering emergency and transitional care, as well as getting families into permanent housing. If you live in San Francisco you know that the housing situation is dire at any income level and is getting worse. Think about those at the bottom. You can help by clicking this link.
  • Homeless Children’s Network supports care services for homeless children. No one should have to start life that way. You can help here
  • Delancey Street Foundation helps people who have hit bottom (think addiction/prison) get back into society and work, It’s run by the residents themselves and has several businesses you can use including a moving company, Christmas trees, flowers, office decorating and two restaurants. HQ is across the street from where we live (but it has outposts elsewhere in the US). You can donate here although I must confess that my contribution went up when I discovered that all the tips at Crossroads Cafe get put into the same pool (and I can therefore not tip, donate instead and effectively write my tips off against tax!)

Torture & Human Rights

The record here by basically all nations, but particularly ones that should know better like the US, is dismal. Imprisonment without fair trials and torture is also counterproductive to safety and increases the amount of future terrorism. These organizations help those being tortured (or who have been) and protest those governments who should act better.

The environment
It was above freezing at the North Pole on Christmas day. Think about that for a moment. In fact every single person sitting around the hot tub in Hawaii one afternoon this week had “weird weather” going on in their home country. Global warming will be the planet’s biggest story for the rest of my life and beyond. There is some hope with the recent Paris agreement, the price of solar power crashing and the increased capacity of batteries to change the way we live. But we are way behind schedule.

I give to both the Sierra Club (respectable) and Greenpeace (more radical but it has more or less got the Japanese to stop whaling although they are being very tricky about it, and the civilized Norwegians and Icelanders are blotting their copybooks with their continued support of whaling), and locally to the Marine Mammal Center–a wonderful facility that helps seals recover, including most years one or two that get shot (yes, really!).

Drug prohibition–a terrible idea that is closer to being toppled.

I’ve been protesting drug prohibition forever. A system of taxed and regulated drug distribution is the only solution to removing the criminality associated with drug taking, much of which is relatively harmless anyway. 2015 was another year of, in balance, positive news. 4 US states and Uruguay have legalized marijuana, it’s very likely California will follow suit this Fall, and the Federal government has now stopped enforcing Federal law (which still bans marijuana) in those states that have legalized it. But we’re still a long way from a commonsense way of dealing with drugs, and there’s still lots of criminals and police forces making too much money & budget from what is a medical not a criminal problem. And no one is talking in the US about dealing sensibly with harder drugs (as they are in Portugal, Switzerland and other countries). And of course one Republican in the White House in 2017 could turn all this back. I give to

  • DRCNet home of the best blog and email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle. They’re working on a new campaign to get the UN to overturn its foolish charter banning legalization–here’s their round up of 2015
  • The Drug Policy Alliance — the main lobbying organization promoting “harm reduction”
  • Incidentally I stopped giving to the Marijuana Policy Project, as while it’s done a ton of good, it’s now partly funded by “industrial” medical marijuana growers. 

A Dog’s Life.

Charley  gets tortured regularly by Aero now, but still spends most days hanging out at Health 2.0 barking at the FedEx guy. For dogs that aren’t as lucky, Amanda and I support Rocket Dog Rescue $50 pays for an adoption, which usually means saving a dog from being destroyed.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. Have a great 2016, and see you hopefully live in person somewhere or you can photos of Coco & Aero & more on Facebook or see me on twitter @boltyboy

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