Today, Cali Harris, one of the #reverb10 masterminds, asked:
Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
It’s been difficult for me to find what I would call a community since I’ve lived in New York (going on seven, really?, years now). I have friends here, people I identify with and whom I care about, but I think that’s different.
It’s too bad for me that mine only exists virtually because numerous studies (like this one) have indicated that having a community and contributing to it are one of the cornerstones of a happy life.
But it occurs to me that there are ways to contribute to my virtual community in meaningful ways.
That’s why today I…
1. Helped to prevent cholera in Haiti
When I was in high school, I became friends with a super awesome dude named Jess. We lost touch after college, but were able to reconnect on Facebook a few years ago. I was so impressed–though not surprised–to learn that in addition to his day job, Jess had co-founded a nonprofit organization called Life Time International. LTI does microdevelopment projects in communities all over the world.
Right now, they are chin-deep in a cholera-prevention program in Haiti. I love how this organization works, because they partner with locals and their focus is narrow and targeted–they are trying to keep 500 families from contracting cholera. Somebody I know is preventing hundreds of people from dying. And I helped. You can too.
2. Supported mother-child library programs in Kenya
My friend Eva co-founded an organization called Maria’s Libraries to bring libraries to communities in Kenya. The more I read about development economics, the more I learn that institutions are key for empowering the poorest people in the poorest countries. When people have a place to turn for knowledge, services and resources, they become more educated, motivated and self-reliant. Libraries have been one of the most important institutions of my life, especially as a little girl. I wouldn’t be who I am now if my mom hadn’t read to me every.single.day. So this is a no-brainer. Somebody I know is ensuring that Kenyan women learn how to read to their children. So of course I’m going to help. Maybe you want to as well?
3. Helped New Yorkers with developmental disabilities lead more independent lives
For five years, I worked at this place. And even though I ultimately got burned-out by my job, I never (not for a single minute) stopped believing in its mission–to help people of all ages with developmental and learning disabilities lead more productive, independent and included lives in their communities. YAI preschools, doctors offices, job training programs and therapy services do an amazing job to rectify over a century of discrimination and and flat-out abuse. For most people with disabilities, the United States is not a democracy. Their civil rights movement is just getting off the ground. Because I worked there, I know that YAI is effective–far more so than many similar organizations. And because my brother has Down syndrome, I couldn’t believe more strongly in the cause. This is where you can donate.
The common thread
- I know the people who are the driving forces behind these organizations.
- They don’t just help people, they empower people to help themselves.
- They are making a difference right now.
- They serve some of the most overlooked, trod-upon, unsexy groups of people in the world, people whom the rest of us may find it easier to ignore.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of money to give. So I gave what I could afford–$50 to each. $150 may sound like a lot of money, but we don’t exchanged holiday presents, which would surely cost so much more.
(It’s funny, I started this post feeling sad about how I don’t have a community, but I don’t feel that way now. Try it and see.)