Sunday, October 17, 2010

Balancing Luxury and Charity

Last month, our family went on a cruise to Alaska. It really was an enjoyable trip but as I was thinking of the luxury of the experience I also thought of the life situations of many around the world that is so opposite from what I was experiencing. I've become more aware of global poverty and my role in being the change I want to see in the world that I knew if I could afford a trip like that that I could also afford giving more to alleviate the poverty of many through out the world. I started thinking about what I could give. It really was a vague thought while on this trip and one I knew I wanted to continue pondering.

Then this last week, like an answer to a prayer, I heard on NPR an interview with Peter Singer who wrote "The Life You Can Save" which is his call to the people of the world to give a portion of their income to causes working to address global poverty. The website The Life You Can Save provides a calculator where you can find out what 1% of your income is (since I assume most of my readers earn less than $105,000 USD a year) as well as a list of organizations that are addressing poverty in a sustainable and community building way.

It was a bit of a wake up calling knowing that 1% of my income is less than what my family spends in eating out at restaurants each year (blush...) and yet its also a good lesson that giving to causes that actually make a difference in the lives of people is more possible than I had thought.

One of the organizations named on The Life You Can Save website is the Worldwide Fistula Fund which helps repairs physical damage to a mother caused by prolonged labor and lack of access to emergency maternity care in poor countries. The documentary A Walk to Beautiful highlights what is like for a woman who becomes completely incontinent as a result of childbirth and how she becomes an outcast in her community as a result. The treatment is estimated to be about $450 to restore a woman where she is able to rejoin her community.

Another organization that has come highly recommended to me is The Hunger Project because it assists an entire village for five years. This one is highly attractive to me as it focuses on an entire community rather than an individual or family.

I am also familiar with the humanitarian work that the LDS Church does and I know that in addition to providing immediate emergency relief in natural disasters, they also work on community building in poverty stricken areas around the world. I look forward to the day when my husband and I can serve humanitarian service missions. Perhaps I'll be able to put my midwifery training to use in this way.

In taking a look at my finances, I know this is something that I can do even in addition the tithing that I pay on my family's income to my church. In viewing the comfort and opportunities available to me and my children, I know that it is something I should do.

I took the pledge on The Life You Can Save and used their calculator to figure out what the guidelines are for my income level. I am encouraged by the stories of the people on the site who report that they can comfortably give more than the recommended guideline even on low incomes. One man from the UK makes the equivalent of $25,000 a year and finds he can donate 5% of his income to global poverty efforts.

Have you heard of this idea of widespread societal giving? What do you think? Will you take the pledge? Which organizations do you feel drawn to support?

1 comment:

cc said...

These are great resources, thanks for sharing!

We try to give it some thought throughout the year and look at how much we are going to give and whether we want to spread it around or just give it to one place. Last year we did a bunch of smaller donations because we involved our girls and let them help us pick out people to donate to. Kiva was really great for this because they could see individuals that were going to benefit. We even found a father raising livestock to sell that had daughters the same age.

There are so many ways to involve kids at different levels of giving now. I hope it helps their attitude towards the inequality of resource distribution in this world.