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Feb 27, 2008

The following was originally written on a Facebook application that was supposedly dedicated to helping the poor but does not appear to be run by any known organization.

  ***

First of all, I like the idea of this group but I would like to see some official information as to the organization behind it (if any), their tax status and so forth, to determine if we are dealing with an individual or an actual charity. Since I have some doubts as to the validity of this application and its owner's actions and methodology, I just wanted to point out some "alternative" ways to help the needy/starving.

1. Give to food banks and thrift stores. This is a no-brainer -- you have extra food, you buy some extra food, or clothes, whatever, then you take it to your local food bank or charity store (Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.). This helps people in your own area, as well.

2. Save all that time you would have spent clicking and just make a donation. For myself personally, I run a home business (as a rare book dealer) and should be spending most of my computer time listing new things for sale or fulfilling orders. This makes a great impact on my income and would make it easier to just make a donation to a charity that I can pick out myself. Even $10 would probably be more than is raised by my clicks in a year's time, if you understand how banner and click advertising works (I do, I use Google Adsense and have used Engage, ValueClick, and numerous other publisher/advertiser programs in the past). Your situation may be different; but it's something to think about.

3. Buy Fair Trade goods. Fair Trade goods are bought from the producers at prices that allow the seller to make a profit but still give the producer a fair shake instead of pennies per day. This helps them, their families and communities immensely and Fair Trade programs are also usually tied to programs to improve education and sustainability in third world countries. You may have to go to health food stores or specialty gift stores to find such products, but they are becoming more abundant in stores and are easy to find online.

4. Invest in or donate to microfinance programs. These are programs that give poor people the chance to break the cycle of their poverty and go into business. Often these are people that already have businesses but are so poor that they are locked into business deals that yield almost no income, such as a basket weaver that cannot buy her own supplies so she makes her baskets for someone else at pennies per product. These people sometimes only need the equivalent of $10-$25 to get out of these horrible situations. You can donate small amounts to these programs or invest in them, in which case your money is returned with interest and you are still helping others immensely. There are also mutual funds that do some microfinance investing, such as the PAX World mutual funds. In my opinion this is the best idea since donations are meaningless unless the people can begin to produce food and income for themselves.

5. Go green and conserve resources. Until the world switches completely to renewable energy (which I don't see happening by the end of this century), our energy and materials (metals, etc.) are finite. Finding ways to save energy saves you money and leaves more for the people who can ill afford rising energy prices (and keeps those prices from rising more steeply). Likewise with recycling; prices for metals and other materials have skyrocketed in the last five years and will continue to do so without extensive recycling and more creative use of materials by manufacturers. Recycling does our part to make sure the little people can afford the things they need as well.

6. Buy locally from the little guy. Buying food and other goods locally saves greenhouse gases and helps those in your community immensely. Of each dollar you spend at a national chain, around $.40 is returned to your own community and the rest goes to corporate expenses and coffers. Of each $1 you spend at a farmer's market or locally-owned store, usually $.65 or more makes it directly to your community. It may seem that this does not impact people around the world, but it does both through the benefit to the environment, the money not getting "lost" in corporations, and the fact that this is thinking about the "big picture" -- "thinking globally, acting locally." This is what everyone else around the world should be doing (in Tunisia, in Kenya, in Bangladesh) so we should do it here as well.

Just a few thoughts, I will add more if I get a chance. If you think some of these things take a little more effort, thought or observation, you are right -- but to those who care, it is worth it and can even become like a game and a fun and rewarding habit to have.

William A. Otis
http://media-log.blogspot.com
Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Wednesday February 27, 2008, 10:21 am
Tags: world helping poor the poverty hunger third needy starvation [add/edit tags]

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William Otis
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