As I watch America grapple with a national identity crisis, our usual holiday season seems forced, farcical even. It was hard to ignore the irony of our Thanksgiving celebrations, when many of us gathered over feasts while indigenous populations faced life-threatening conditions as they fought to protect sovereign land.
If you feel the same, consider using this holiday season as a time to begin taking action. Below, I’ve compiled a few causes and organizations that need your donations more than ever this year.
1. Standing Rock
The BBC reported that the North Dakota protest site at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has grown into the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. The protesters, who are comprised of multiple tribes and other allies, are taking a stand against the four-state Dakota Access Pipeline Project, which threatens their sacred tribal lands and water supply. The protests have been gaining momentum for months, with public figures such as Senator Bernie Sanders, Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, and actor/environmentalist Mark Ruffalo lending their support. With winter conditions worsening and a recent mandatory evacuation order from North Dakota Governor Dalrymple, donations are needed now more than ever.
For more information and to donate, please visit this page.
2. Flint Water Crisis
A couple of states east of North Dakota, residents in Flint, Michigan, are also struggling with access to clean water. The problem first arose in late April 2014 when lawmakers switched the city’s water source from Lake Huron to Flint River. Almost immediately, residents began to complain about the water’s color, taste, and odor. Physicians began finding elevated blood lead levels in the children of Flint and it was finally determined that the river water’s higher chloride concentration was leaching lead from aging pipes and effectively poisoning residents. A state of emergency went into effect in January 2016 and the Michigan National Guard was deployed to distribute bottled water and filters. This state of emergency ended in August and now the the state of Michigan is fighting a judge’s order mandating water delivery to Flint residents who need it.
The United Way of Genesee County has set up a fund for the purchase of filters, bottled water, emergency support services and prevention efforts. 100% of the fund is used for these projects and no Administrative Fee is assessed. Donate here.
In addition, lead exposure in children has short- and long-term side effects that include decreased bone and muscle growth, poor muscle coordination, damage to the nervous system, kidneys, and/or hearing, speech and language problems, developmental delay, and seizures and unconsciousness. The Flint Child Health and Development fund is working to mitigate some of these issues. For information on how to donate, please visit their website here.
3. American Refugee Committee
Much of our President-elect’s campaign rhetoric revolved around demonizing Muslims, and as countless Syrians risked and lost their lives attempting to flee terrorism, he promised to deny those refugees entry into the United States. The American Refugee Committee is committed to helping refugees around the world rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient. They provide everything from shelter to access to health care and are currently reaching about 160,000 civilians in Syria. A lack of funding limits their work, but you can contribute to their mission by donating here.
Somehow, the jury is still split on climate change, and financial interests keep our country from taking the appropriate measures to ensure a safe climate for future generations. 350.org spearheads climate-focused campaigns, projects and actions to hold political leaders accountable and influence policy. 350.org refers to “350 parts per million (ppm),” which many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments agree is the “safe” level of carbon dioxide. Currently we’re at 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Visit their website to donate or get involved.
5. American Civil Liberties Union
For nearly 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has fought to protect the freedoms of Americans. With more than 500,000 members, nearly 200 staff attorneys, thousands of volunteer attorneys, and offices throughout the nation, the ACLU challenges government abuse and vigorously defends individual freedoms including speech and religion, a woman’s right to choose, the right to due process, citizens’ rights to privacy and much more. The ACLU is a champion for traditionally disenfranchised populations, with much of their work focused on equality for people of color, women, gay and transgender people, prisoners, immigrants, and people with disabilities. Click here for more information.
6. The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ teens and young adults. The movement began in 1994, when producers Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone saw writer/performer James Lecesne bring to life Trevor, a character he created as part of his award-winning one-man show WORD OF MOUTH. Trevor’s story was adapted into a short film, and went on to win the Academy Award® for Best Live Action Short Film.
When producer Peggy Rajski noticed the lack of real-life resources for people like Trevor, she worked with writer James Lecesne to bring The Trevor Project to life. They launched the Trevor Lifeline in 1998, which became the first national crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ youth. Today, they have expanded their services to include TrevorChat, TrevorSpace, and Trevor Education Workshops. A mere $30 donation allows the organization to counsel one youth for 30 minutes and helps them continue their mission to provide support to young people 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Donate here.
7. Team Rubicon
Founded by U.S. Marines Jake Wood and William McNulty, Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Their mission began on January 12, 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Port-Au-Prince, Haiti and devastated the lives of millions. Since then, they’ve amassed a growing team of skilled responders to help solve crises around the world. Team Rubicon helps veterans cope after leaving the military by giving them a purpose gained through disaster relief. Coupled with leadership development and other opportunities, Team Rubicon looks to help veterans transition from military to civilian life. To support their current operations, donate here.
8. The Humane League
Whether or not you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you probably want your food to be treated ethically before it arrives on your plate. The Humane League has a mission to reduce farm animal suffering by inspiring change at all levels. They advocate for reform at the corporate and institutional level through hard-hitting animal welfare campaigns targeting specific companies. From Starbucks to Philadelphia’s public school system to every major foodservice company, The Humane League achieves major victories that reduce meat consumption and spare millions of animals from a life of misery in cages. In 2013, they launched Humane League Labs to pioneer research on various forms of activism related to their mission. The labs conduct exploratory studies on the relative effectiveness of videos depicting cruelty on factory farms, leaflets used for outreach at campuses, and the messaging they use in their online and printed materials. Donate here.
9. Standup for Kids
Standup for Kids is on a mission to end the cycle of youth homelessness throughout the United States. With 39% of the homeless population under 18 years of age, it’s a mission that has the potential to save millions of lives. StandUp For Kids is primarily a nighttime program, with volunteers walking the streets in the evening to distribute food, clothing, hygiene products, resource information, referrals, and offering an 888 number where the kids can reach a StandUp For Kids counselor in cities nationwide. StandUp For Kids teaches youth the basic “life skills” so that they can survive off the streets, helping to build a foundation away from the streets and street life. With more than 94% of financial donations directly assisting homeless and street kids, you can feel confident that your gift will go to someone in need. Donate here.
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