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!
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!)
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.
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.
- Amnesty International campaigns on behalf of prisoners of conscience everywhere
- The UK-based Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture which helps people from many countries who have been tortured
- The American Civil Liberties Union. If you’re not a card carrying member, you should be.
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.