Along with falling leaves and first snows, it's time for my annual holiday gift guide, offering suggestions for presents with meaning.
At a time of racial division and inequity in America, Equal Justice Initiative, eji.org, fights on behalf of low-income people snared unfairly by the justice system. The group is led by Bryan Stevenson, an African-American lawyer whom Desmond Tutu has called America's Mandela.
Equal Justice Initiative fights an uphill battle against mass incarceration. It is a lifeline for innocent people who have been railroaded, and for children in prison. Donations finance its work as the conscience of the justice system.
Camfed, or the Campaign for Female Education, camfed.org, supports girls' education in Africa.
Supporting Camfed is a way to stand up for girls' education, especially after the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria this year. Just $10 buys a girl a school-supplies kit for elementary school. Or $25 buys her the shoes she must have to attend school. Or $300 sends her to a year of high school.
Evidence Action, evidenceaction.org, started by economist geeks, applies lessons from randomized trials to spend money in the most cost-effective ways. For example, a bleach dispenser provides a family with clean drinking water for a year and significantly reduces disease at a cost of just 70 cents per person. Or 50 cents will deworm a child, making that child less anemic, more healthy and better able to thrive in school.
Red Cloud Indian School is a private Lakota and Jesuit K-12 school educating 600 children on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. On a reservation notorious for alcoholism, unemployment and poverty, the school, redcloudschool.org, is a beacon of hope. Students volunteer on the reservation, and they go on to some of the best universities in the country, returning as leaders. The school accepts donations and full-time volunteers, and it also sells holiday gifts on its website - including nifty earrings and bracelets made out of porcupine quills, for $18 and up.
Future Doctors for South Sudan, futuredoctors.org, was started by Dr. Ken Waxman, an American physician in Santa Barbara, California. He was working in war-torn South Sudan, where a girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to learn to read - partly because there are so few doctors. Waxman realized that one solution is to train talented young South Sudanese to become doctors.
So he and others are sponsoring brilliant South Sudanese students to attend medical schools in Kenya or Uganda and then go home to practice and help build up their own country.
OneGoal, onegoalgraduation.org, tackles head-on one of the great gaps in this country: 82 percent of American kids from high-income families graduate from college, but only 8 percent of low-income children do. OneGoal offers a three-year program designed to coach disadvantaged high school students to put them on track to success in college.
A new University of Chicago study found that OneGoal lowered arrest rates in high school and made students more likely to enroll in and graduate from college, and thus break the cycle of poverty.
A group called 20/20/20 helps the blind see. It provides free cataract surgery to impoverished people abroad who otherwise might end up beggars. The cost is just $35 per adult or $300 per child (because children require general anesthesia). Imagine being blind for want of $35!
Visit the 20/20/20 website at 20x20x20.org to see a video of two sisters in India who were blind from cataracts and received this surgery. When the bandages come off their eyes and they take in their surroundings, chills will go down your spine. You'll understand why my purpose is to provide an opportunity to share gifts of hope.
It's also time to announce my next annual win-a-trip contest, in which I take a university student with me on a reporting trip to the developing world. The winner will write posts for my blog on the New York Times website. I've been holding the win-a-trip contest since 2006, and one former winner, Mitch Smith, is now a Times reporter.
One possible destination for our 2015 trip is Congo; another is India and Nepal. Information about the contest and how to apply is at my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground. As before, the Center for Global Development in Washington will screen applications and pick finalists. I'm looking for a smart undergraduate or graduate student with great storytelling skills who wants to help shine a light on neglected issues and doesn't mind bedbugs or warlords. Please pass the word if you know just the candidate.
New York Times