If you sometimes feel like you would like to give to a charity, but just don’t think the few dollars you can spare is going to make a difference, this is a great book to get you thinking about what skipping that coffee and taking the plunge to help the needy can really do. Give a little by Wendy Smith details 48 different charities and all the amazing things that they are trying to do, many with small donations, as well as some facts and figures about how giving works and the problems facing those in need today.
The beginning of the book is meant to be inspirational, and I think it would be, if I wasn’t a bit of an avid reader of books that want to change the world. As it was, using the 2004 tsunami to emphasise the $6.2 billion that was raised left me a bit leery, as in my third wave review, you may remember that for some people on the ground it seemed that a lot of that money wasn’t spent as it should have been, and although many people were helped, there was some sense of mismanagement of those funds. That aside, the point Wendy was making was that $3.16 billion of the money raised came from the US, and of that $2.78 billion came from private families with incomes under $100, 000. This is where the stats start to get inspiring, as it’s nice to see that so much of charity support actually comes from real people, instead of corporations and celebrity causes.
The best parts of this book, in my humble opinion, were the short stories about how each of the charities changes the lives of the people they help, including personal stories about what motivated the founders to take the leap. Although this book does cover many of the usual suspects in important areas of need such as maternal care, nutrition, health, and education, one of the things I liked most was that it also covers charities that are just as important, but get less attention. For example, did you know there was a World Toilet Organization? I can’t help but get excited when I hear of people trying to help others, particularly in less conventional ways, so here’s a little bit on two charities I found interesting.
First, there’s One Million Lights. It’s easy to forget, when you live in a world where light happens at all hours with the flick of a switch, that many people on this planet are trying to live their lives in areas without electricity. If you are in this situation and it gets dark because the sun sets, spending money on kerosene lamps or candles to keep the night at bay could be taking food off your table. If they do decide to splurge a percentage of their dollars-a-day income on these supplies, there is also the sad truth that open flames can be dangerous, the light quality isn’t that good, and fumes in inclosed spaces can be toxic to their health. So, when One Million Lights come in, providing people with solar lighting, it makes a big difference in their quality of life. Allowing people clean and free light sources lets them live without restraints, opening up worlds of possibilities that would otherwise be swallowed in darkness.
Another slightly less obvious charity and one of my favorites in the book was Bridges to Prosperity which makes a difference by building bridges. In some remote areas travel to larger centres can be almost completely inaccessible or extremely dangerous due to flooding, nonexistent or crumbling infrastructure. Keeping people from travelling can make it difficult to break the cycle of poverty because it prevents people from getting better employment, going to school, and reaching medical facilities that are outside their home areas. Imagine having to take your pregnant or elderly family member to the local clinic by crossing the following bridge:
Staying home might be safer, but sometimes that’s just not an option. Building bridges provides important points of access which stimulates the surrounding communities both socially and economically, reduces hours of travel time and loads of effort, and most importantly, saves lives.
Now, to be fair, I wasn’t always convinced with everything this book had to say. Occasionally, I felt that the statistics seemed a little too perfect, and some of the ripple effects noted were a little too best-case-scenario. But then, as you know, I’m a bit of a cynic.
What I’d prefer to stress is that although it may not be perfect in some respects, I also think that this book does an excellent job of highlighting the loads of places that are doing good works, and really, that’s what this kind of material is about. Maybe you won’t save the world for the price of a latte…but by participating in one of these great causes (including freerice and some other donate-by-clicking causes), you can help make a difference in someone’s life who has it a lot harder than we do. So, if you want to know more about how these charities work and what good they’re doing, I’d recommend taking a look. I think that Give a little might just be giving a lot.
“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.
And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.
While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
– Nelson Mandella