Choosing the perfect holiday gift is one of life’s greater challenges, modestly more difficult than earning a Ph.D. in astrophysics. So it is time for my annual gift guide.
Major humanitarian organizations offer alluring holiday gifts. Through the International Rescue Committee, $30 buys a flock of chickens for a needy family. At CARE, $29 gets a girl a school uniform. Through Heifer International, you can stock a fish pond for $300. With Mercy Corps, $69 can start a female entrepreneur in the sewing business.
Beyond those organizations, here are some lesser-known charities that offer a world of good.
Helen Keller International fights blindness and malnutrition around the world with simple and cost-effective programs. One of the best ways to improve children’s health is to focus on micronutrients, like iodine, vitamin A and zinc — and in some cases to fortify foods with nutrients at a negligible cost. Helen Keller International, at hki.org, is a leader in that effort.
Against Malaria has a simple model: $5 will buy a net that protects people from mosquitoes that carry malaria. All the money that donated goes to buy nets, and the charity, at againstmalaria.com, gets a rave review from GiveWell, which rates charities.
Reading Is Fundamental is a program that promotes literacy in America. Its government financing has been slashed, so it needs support. The group is a public-private partnership with 400,000 volunteers, bringing huge efficiencies. It provides new, free books to four million children across the United States, and encourages the kids to read. Information is at rif.org.
The Citizens Foundation was started by Pakistani businessmen concerned about their country and builds schools for needy children there. Billions of dollars in American military aid to Pakistan haven’t accomplished much. The best way to moderate Pakistan and defeat extremists is to bolster secular education. Information is at citizensfoundation.org.
GEMS is a New York-based organization supporting American girls who have been trafficked, prostituted, or sexually abused. It provides shelter and education for those rescued from pimps and provides some of the first nurturing many have received. Prostitution of children should be a stain on the national conscience, and GEMS helps survivors while using peer counseling to prevent the trafficking in the first place. It is at gems-girls.org.