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I don't make a point of special charity donations at Christmas time. That's something which only really makes sense if you are a Christian, and invested in the idea of charity as a suitable way of commemorating Jesus' birth - which I am very much not. Rather, my main form of charitable giving is via monthly direct debit, because that means my donations can be counted by the cause I am supporting as part of their regular stable income stream, which most charities seem to prefer. That said, I also make ad hoc donations in response to fund-raising campaigns if I am struck by the worthiness of the cause, or do things like donate goods to charity shops or buy items whose profits go to charity as and when it suits me to do so.

The main charity which I support via monthly direct debit is the Red Cross. In all honesty, this is partly because one of their fund-raisers rang on my doorbell one day and asked me to do so. But I said "OK" rather than "Please go away" because I have huge respect for their non-partisan work in helping the victims of wars and humanitarian disasters, and very strongly wish that more human beings would behave like that instead of creating the disasters in the first place. It seems the least I can do to encourage and support the people who are working to repair damage rather than cause it. Also, I know that the Red Cross have amazing people like missfairchild working for them, which seems like the badge of a sound organisation.

I feel like I should be supporting some kind of charity which works to provide education to people who would otherwise have poor access to it as well - e.g. people in developing countries, and especially underprivileged groups within those countries such as women and girls. I can't think of a more effective way to achieve positive improvements in people's lives - both socially and economically, and both individually and collectively - than by helping them to access a good education. If anyone has any suggestions for suitable charities which work cost-effectively and in ways that are respectful of and responsive to the real needs of the people they are helping (i.e. which don't push particular dogmas at the same time as providing charity), then please do tell me about them in a comment.

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 10th, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)
I would suggest the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative or Deworm the World.

In many countries the main barrier to children getting an education is chronic illness from neglected tropical diseases, but they can be treated very cheaply.

Deworming through Deworm the World costs about 30p per child per year (this is the complete cost, including all administration, training, transportation etc. - the actual drugs are donated for free by their manufacturers) and increases school attendance by 25%.

If anyone knows of a more directly education-focussed charity that does half so well as that, I would love to hear about it!

Deworming has noticable longterm effects too - a 20% increase in adult earnings (this is likely to be partly due to better school attendance, partly due to better health/growth).

SCI's statistics aren't in quite so neat a form, but their results are comparable and I can probably dig out the long version. Basically they do the same things. I support SCI rather Deworm the World because it's easier to include Gift Aid in SCI donations, as it's a UK-based charity.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 10th, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
I was, and to some extent am, a huge fan of Givewell, but I really don't understand what GiveDirectly is doing in their top three recommendations. There's a good critique of that decision here, and I write about it here.

If you like Givewell, you might also like Giving What We Can, which uses Givewell's research and also does its own, and comes to slightly different conclusions about the most effective charities to give to.

In the interests of full disclosure, I was so impressed with GWWC that I'm now quite involved in volunteering for it, so you might consider me biased.
Dec. 10th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)

I sponsored a child through Plan for a while, and they seemed to be sound on working with communities, having the community express priorities for the incoming money to be spent, and not letting the sponsored family be a disruptively-sole recipient of the money. They also gave firm and helpful guidelines about being culturally-sensitive in the letters sponsors write to their sponsored children, and appropriate gifts to send.

I stopped because I wanted to give money to different causes, but they seem like they might be what you are after.
Dec. 10th, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
I thoroughly recommend www.riverkidsproject.org. They help children and families living in the slums in Cambodia. Their main emphasis is on education, but of course you can't teach a child who's starving, or has been sold into the sex trade, so they tackle those problems too. I've watched this charity grow from an idea to the mainstay of hundreds of children's lives. Their work s started when the founder, Dale found out that the child she'd adopted (in good faith) had been trafficked, and actually had an extensive family in Cambodia. The emphasis of the charity is on stabilizing family life for kids so that trafficking is not necessary (especially but not exclusively for girls). They organise local fostering, run boarding and day schools, run food programmes, provide social workers, and do vocational training for teenagers and adults. I'll stop rabbitting on now, but do check it out.
Dec. 11th, 2012 10:03 am (UTC)
'That's something which only really makes sense if you are a Christian, and invested in the idea of charity as a suitable way of commemorating Jesus' birth - which I am very much not.'

I think I get where you're coming from, but I'm not so sure Christmas charity donations could be considered to be any more exclusively 'Christian' than a donation at any other time of the year. I donate throughout the year, but Christmas is a time when I become much more keenly aware of the difference between the haves and have nots - so my motivation is probably middle class guilt ;-p Of course, charities are well aware of this and bombard us with adverts as this time of year!
Dec. 11th, 2012 11:42 am (UTC)
Yes, I agree with this. I always give money to the Salvation Army at Christmas, which is something my father did before me. I have some problems with their ideology, but they take care of people nobody else bothers about, and for that reason alone they deserve my support.
Dec. 11th, 2012 10:14 am (UTC)
I agree with you about educational charities in the developing world. Being better educated is a great way to be ready to grab opportunities as they arise. I think a lot of opportunities are going to come the way of the developing world over the next twenty years. I think it’s one of the best ways of lifting the standard of living for individuals and for their whole country.

Incidently, the quicker workers in the developing world reach wage parity with us the quicker we’ll find our own standard of living rising again.

So it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

As an aside I was watching some Sunday morning television with the Captain over the weekend and we found ourselves watching the Great Ethiopian Run on BBC2. Where there appeared to be significant private sponsorship of the professional runners and crowds of fun runners of similar sizes to crowds I’ve seen at the Great North Run.

I was filled with a great sense of hope. When I consider how bad things were in Ethiopia when I was a kid for them to be in a position where they have tens of thousands of fun runners and pro-atheletes is a remarkable achievement.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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