A common progressive lament in these times is “But what can I do?” The problems seem huge and it’s easy to get caught in choice paralysis. Years ago, Laurie and I wrote what is still one of my favorites of everything we’ve written: “Wholesale Problems: Retail Changes.” So here are a few roads to retail change that I especially like, or that caught my eye recently.
I was delighted to get an email from CODEPINK, the radical antiwar activist group, with information on how to donate directly to Iraqi refugee women and children. The specific campaign is based around Mother’s Day, and encourages you to donate in your mother’s name. Obviously, that’s not right for anywhere near everyone, but it is right for me. And my mother, if she was alive, would appreciate having her name on my donation. A chance to give a little bit back from what my government continues to take away.
Mohammed Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his microloan program through Grameen Bank. Anyone with a little money they don’t have to spend right away can participate in microlending through Kiva, a site that lets you choose your own microloan recipient. As she (almost all borrowers are women) pays it back, you get update emails, and when the full loan is repaid (without interest), you can take the money out or loan it to someone else. The repayment rate is 99.7%, so the risk is, to say the least, minimal. I’m a participant in the group loan to Esther Oziengbe in Nigeria, who used the money to build her provisions and foodstuffs business. She has repaid 75% of her loan.
Donors Choose is designed rather like Kiva, though it takes donations, rather than loans. The focus is U.S. school projects, most of which would have been funded by tax money before the Reagan era. Again, you can pick your project.
Finally, I’m just dipping my toes into Nabuur, a site for those who want to donate time and experience rather than money. You can pick a third-world project and act as researcher, or project manager, or technical lead. I’m hoping to share a project management task with a good friend, and to start soon. (If anyone knows of a similar site for the U.S., I’d love to know about it. Think globally, act locally, at least sometimes, I say.)
Thanks to Liz Henry for showing me Nabuur.