Causes Close to My Heart in 2014: A Traveler’s Guide to End-of-the-Year Giving

The last days of the year are critical to charitable organizations.  It is during December that non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) raise more than 30% of their funds….30%!  Charity Navigator reports that 10% of annual giving takes places during the last three days of the year (and we’re in that window now!).  In light of all of the giving that will happen between now and December 31, I wanted to share a few causes close to my heart for your consideration as a part of your end-of-2014 giving.

During my current travels, I have been stopping by NGOs in each country I visit to hear about the work they are doing, see how I can be a part of their work, and share their stories through my blog and other outlets.  These are several of the organizations that Craig and I have visited during our recent travels in Asia and the Middle East.

Her Turn

Her Turn is an organization based in Nepal that works to empower girls and equip them with skills and knowledge to create their own safe and healthy futures.  I met with the organization’s founder and program manager, Ola Perczynska, in October in Kathmandu.  Ola is passionate about girls and working to reach more and more across Nepal.  In November, Her Turn worked with the Day of the Girl Summit to raise awareness of the impact menstruation has on education (#PointPeriod) — an issue often overlooked.  Overall, this organization is small in size but doing great work and having a lasting impact on girls and their families in rural villages of Nepal.  If you want your dollars to have a large impact on projects in the education sector and projects that are helping young and adolescent girls, take Her Turn into consideration during your end-of-year giving.  You can read more about my experience with Her Turn here on The Huffington Post.

Education for Syrian Refugees

The crisis in Syria has faded from the front page of newspapers and prime time newscasts; however, the needs have not ended.  One aspect of the conflict that has caught my attention is the plight of children caught up in the fighting. In mid-December, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance reported that approximately 3.3 million Syrians were displaced in neighboring countries while 7.6 million people were displaced within Syria as a result of the conflict.  Many of displaced within Syria or in surrounding countries do not have access to needed services, including education for children and youth.  Of those displaced, the U.N. estimates that approximately half are children.  As the conflict continues, Syria may find itself with a “lost generation.”  The Brookings Institute notes that “such a generation would be unlikely to contribute positively and productively to society and instead risk becoming involved in crime and constitute a threat to societal peace and stability.”

While in Turkey, Craig and I met with staff from the Syrian Education Commission. Working in Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, the organization aims to educate displaced Syrians so that they will be prepared to lead their country into the future once they return home. The organization is printing books in children’s native language, supporting teachers, building schools, providing needed school supplies, and running various other projects that help children affected by conflict get back into school and continue learning. Their work not only ensures children are continuing their education but also helps to provide a sense of normalcy to displaced children when they are surrounded by the chaos and violence of war. You can learn more via their Facebook page.

While the crisis in Syria has faded from the headlines, the impact of the current conflict will not disappear any time soon. Consider supporting an organization that is helping those impacted by the crisis in Syria.


While in India, Craig and I spent several days in rural villages outside of Chennai visiting adolescents and young adults that are receiving support from ZOE.  This organization, based in the U.S., began its overseas work in Africa and is in the process of expanding to Latin America and Asia.  The projects in India, the first of their Asia expansion, just began in Spring 2014.  Working through a local community partner, ZOE helps children and youth not in school to earn income to support themselves and their families.  Participants select the type of livelihood that they are interested in and through a selection process receive a “start-up kit” from ZOE.  For instance, a young woman interested in managing a beauty salon had training but was unable to pay for the materials needed to run her shop.  With the support of ZOE, she was given the materials she needed and is now running a successful business.  Within an agreed upon time, she will repay ZOE for a portion of the materials’ cost, and these funds will be re-invested in another ZOE program participant.  ZOE’s model not only jumpstarts livelihoods, but it also empowers teenagers and young adults to make decisions for themselves about their financial future.

In addition to the organizations I have visited during my current travels, there are a few other organizations that hold a special place in my heart.

The Ponheary Ly Foundation

It was working with the Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) that I fell in love with Asia, strengthened my commitment to education, and rededicated myself to ensuring that young girls are given opportunities to attend school and make their own decisions about their future.  Not a week goes by that Ponheary, Lori, and the hard-working staff of the don’t PLF cross my mind.  After spending three months working with PLF in Siem Reap, Cambodia, while in graduate school, I can personally say that they are making a profound difference in the lives of children and youth in Cambodia.  They are making education a reality for children who would otherwise not be going to school.  They are helping to give a voice to young people.  And, they are helping to equip Cambodia’s youth to lead the country into the future.  You can read more about their amazing work here.  I’m proud that, if only for a short time, I was able to be a part of the amazing work the PLF is doing.

Project Transformation

I have hundreds of reasons to love Project Transformation (PT) (one of them being that I met my husband while interning with PT!) and hope that you will look at the great work they are doing in Dallas and several other locations around the country. During the summer, PT recruits more than 100 college students to work in churches in transitional communities to run summer programs for at-risk children and youth. Participants have a safe place to stay during the summer, receive free lunch and snacks, improve their reading skills, and participate in a variety of fun and educational activities in their neighborhoods and throughout the cities where they live. PT not only benefits the children and youth participating in the summer program (as well as their year-round program) but also the college students. Interns have the opportunity to explore careers related to service and ministry and build relationships among their peers that will last a lifetime. I hope that you will read more about PT and consider giving here.


KindSight (from Lutheran World Relief)

Launched toward the end of 2014, KindSight is an innovative initiative from Lutheran World Relief (LWR) to engage donors in a new and interactive way.  By donating money, time, or your voice, donors can choose specific parts of development projects to support and then get updates, photos, and stories about how they are helping people around the world to help themselves.  I was lucky enough to be a part of KindSight’s development earlier in the year and look forward to seeing it grow and expand in the years to come.  The current project featured on KindSight is from India and is one of the first development projects I visited in the country.  I know firsthand how important LWR’s work in agriculture with women in Bihar State is!

If you want to learn more about KindSight, you can participate now for free!  For a limited time, you receive a free $20 credit when you sign up to support women farmers in India.  From there, you can decide what portion of the project you want to fund with the $20, including training in new agricultural techniques, building of fences for farming, crates to carry produce to the market, and much more.  Take a look and try it out!

Whether one of these organizations or one of the thousands of others doing good work around the world, giving to charitable organizations allows us to be the hands and feet of God in the world and to make a difference in the lives of those we may be unable to reach directly.  If you have questions about these organizations or any others that I may have worked with or have experience with (such as World Vision or UMCOR), please let me know!

Happy giving!

Before you give, if you want to know more about the organization you are donating to or ensure that your donations are actually supporting what you think they are, check out Charity Navigator.  Charity Navigator is “the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities,” according to their website.  Charity Navigator has developed “an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 7,000 of America’s best-known and some lesser known, but worthy, charities.”  Before giving, inform yourself and make the best decision for you!  If you are considering giving to an organization overseas that is not listed in Charity Navigator, you can read through the organization’s annual report to find out more about how the funds they receive from donors are used.

This list is also not meant to be exhaustive and cover the world’s greatest needs at this moment.  In addition to those listed above, some of the other areas where needs are great this year include West Africa as a result of the outbreak of Ebola, Iraq due to increased displacement and violence, and South Sudan as a result of ongoing conflict.

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