My best friend is one of the (if not) best events planners in D.C., routinely planning and executing large scale events ranging from Wounded Warriors Fundraisers to Justice Kagan’s swearing in luncheon.

We had a playdate a couple months back and discussed some non-profits she throws parties for. She asked how I decide who I support. I told her about She mentioned that she always ends up giving to Doctors Without Borders, because it is well known and gets good press.
Doctor’s Without Borders (or MSF, the acronym for the organization’s original French name, Medicins Sans Frontieres) generally stays mum regarding politics whenever possible, which I appreciate. However, they do admit to negotiations with criminals in order to provide medical services in torn regions.
In "Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed", a self-expose published by the MSF, the organization provides an intimate look at how Doctors Without Borders weighs risk and relationships in order to serve citizens and refugees in states where there is absolutely no medical infrastructure. In other words, MSF sometimes deals with the devil in order to reduce suffering. This includes paying an Al-Quaeda affiliated militia a $10,000 fee per project to remain in Somalia.
The work of MSF is imperative in treating those who would otherwise die. But for someone like me, who’s husband served, I have a hard time sending relief money that could end up supporting or arming a militia who may sooner or later have contact with American soldiers or other allies.
As a country, in 2013, we collectively gave approximately twenty-three billion through tax dollars for humanitarian and international development efforts, but many of these dollars end up funding corrupt governments, not always reaching the needy. According to Forbes, 2.47 billion was given to Afghanistan and Somalia combined, countries with the poorest scores on the Corruption Perceptions Index. I realize that America supports questionable regimes at times as an alternative to truly terrible regimes, but I have a hard time swallowing the fact that my tax dollars may be doing some damage along with the intended good.
It’s the end of 2014, and like many others I’ve gotten dozens of requests from non-profits pushing for a late year boost in support. Some I’ve wrote off due to political affiliations. I no longer send money to women’s groups that are staunchly pro-choice or organizations that obviously align themselves with the environmentalist agenda. Because as important as grasslands are, people matter more to me. But I do have a few favorites I’d like to plug in case you are open to philanthropic suggestions. Very personal, small potatoes non-profits that offer a chance at connecting with a needy someone on an individual level. They are Mission to the Fatherless, Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School, and Soldier’s Angels.
Mission to the Fatherless is an orphanage in Kakamega, Kenya. It was founded in 1990 by a friend of mine, Virginia Veith. She so inspired me that I fashioned a character in my novel after her and several chapters take place in the orphanage that she and her very recently deceased husband, Herb, built together. Now there are two orphanages, both successfully raising children who would have otherwise died of starvation or neglect. The children are often orphaned from AIDS, their parents having died, leaving no one to care for them. They are well spoken, respectful and fun-loving young ones that need sponsoring or a home. I have a friend from church who went there to visit and consequently came home with a baby girl, whom she named "Joy".
Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School is located near the hopeless slum that they serve in Nairobi. Run by The Marianists, a Catholic order, the school is managed by Brother Joseph Maricky, who routinely sends personal letters and even emails to patrons to include photos of the children at work and play. A sponsor gift of $125 pays for an entire year of education as well as two hot meals per day, a vital source of nutrition for children who previously went without regular meals. Brother Maricky says that initially children attend for the meals but stay when they experience the joy of learning.
Lastly, Soldier’s Angels, a non-profit run by vets, utilizes an almost entirely volunteer staff to match up individuals with deployed servicemen and women who would otherwise not receive care packages. Many folks verbally support our troops, but this is a tangible and inexpensive way to support those overseas who fight for us. A precious someone to provide letters, goodies and personal hygiene items to, and a name to add to your prayer list.
Our children loved going shopping for our soldiers. We’ve had three so far, the last being the longest, almost six months. He was in the 1-8 Cav. and would send our family texts when he was able. We could ask what he needed and get packages to him wherever he was. His first request was Lays and Doritos…Although, the Copenhagen got the most excited response. Last year at Christmas, our older son, 5, sent him Spiderman body wash and our younger daughter, 8, picked out a light-up Raven’s team Santa hat that went over well. His last text came in February, a humble "thank you" with news that he was headed home.
Soldier’s Angels also sends Girl Scout Cookies, coffee, and personal care kits to our vets overseas, as well as offering clinics for homeless vets stateside who need help rebuilding their lives after violence. Because the organization is small with an annual budget of just over three million and only two salaried employees, Soldier’s Angels can quickly change course to meet new needs as they arise.
There are organizations that serve vets on a much more comprehensive level and are entirely worthy investments in our wounded active and retired vets. We have enjoyed being part of these much needed charities as well and they come first. But through Soldier’s Angels, we were blessed with the additional bonus of personal interaction with our adopted soldiers. We felt connected to them.
Having something to give is a privilege and as educated folks blessed with jobs and income, we can choose to be deliberate in our giving. There is still time in 2014 to embrace someone who personally needs your help.
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