If you have ever leafed through a magazine, you’ve more than likely seen a celebrity’s Top 3 playlist, exercise regimen, favorite foods, place to take a nap, etc. Think of this list as something like that. But before I get to my list, here’s why I felt the need to share a list in the first place:
In a world of so many options, it is easy to get overwhelmed– especially when it comes to social justice work. I’ve also found that when people get overwhelmed, they become immobilized.
It reminds me of the time when a former coworker decided she was going to cut her hair. Since her hair was so long, she wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love or to an organization that uses human hair to clean up oil spills. I thought that both ideas were really cool! So the next time I saw her, the first thing I asked her was which direction she went with her donation. I will never forget her response as long as I live.
“Neither. I just couldn’t decide.”
I wish you could have seen my face. For those of you who know me best, you can probably imagine. But if not, it looked a little something like this:
My fear is that this type of reaction was/is not uncommon. Maybe it goes something like this in your head:
“Well, I don’t know if I should support education or anti-human trafficking efforts.”
“Maybe I should donate to community development instead?”
“Or maybe clean water efforts?”
“Maybe I shouldn’t be investing in international efforts, because I really want to invest in my community locally.”
“Ugh. I just can’t decide.”
Then, donating/volunteering/whatever gets put off until another day. Perhaps, it is a day that never comes around.
If that’s you, that’s okay. There’s no shame. I’ve had similar conversations with myself. But today is also the day that I hope that I can push you into taking the first step. If you feel compelled to stop reading this blog post right here and right now to go do whatever it is that you have on your heart to do, THEN GO DO IT. Take the first step towards signing up to volunteer or donating to a cause. DO IT RIGHT NOW.
If you’re feeling like you want to help but you don’t know where to start, that’s okay too. Take a look at my “Top 3 Organizations to Support” list and seriously consider supporting one of them.
I got involved with this organization when I was a sophomore in college, nearly 9 years ago. Back then, they had one after-school program site in Placentia, CA. I have continued to help kids with their homework at that ASP for at least once a week since then. Today, Solidarity is in several different neighborhoods in Southern California, but it has also gone far beyond after-school programs. Solidarity has branched out into: social enterprise (like screenprinting and coffee); plans to open a home for commercially sexually exploited children in Brazil; mentoring programs for fathers and juvenile detention centers; advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform and so on. They have grown and expanded over the years and I am truly excited to see where it goes from here.
What I love about Solidarity is that whether it be homework help, making T-shirts, advocating for the immigrant in our midst, or selling coffee, those “initiatives” are just a means to an end: loving and being loved by people. I could write books on my experiences with Solidarity, but I will sum it up as this: they are the real deal. The mission’s simple: To love God; love others; be loved by God; be loved by others.
A friend in grad school first introduced me to this organization through the 5k that she had organized. All of the sponsorship donations went on to benefit Lifewater.
Since I had been to a couple of developing countries in Africa, I knew how big of an issue clean water was. I remember drinking brown water in Tanzania one time. We filtered it. Boiled it. Then, filtered it again. No luck. It was just brown and cloudy and there was nothing we could do about it. I was fortunate enough to be able to come home to clean water, but the people we visited were left to live with the reality of unclean water. Talk about the sting of feeling like you left someone behind. It wasn’t until my friend had organized that 5k that I realized that there was something I could do about it.
My friend went on to intern with this organization. As a community development student with an eye for details, she thoroughly vetted this organization. A nod of approval from her was good enough for me!
As a bonus, I have received several handwritten postcards from Lifewater. As small as it may seem, it put my mind at ease that I was not just some cog in a corporate nonprofit machine. And as my friend can attest, these are real people helping to meet a real and pressing need.
This is a social enterprise made up of mainly t-shirts. It’s a simple product line with a simple mission: being a friend. Similar to Solidarity, it’s about loving and being loved by people. Their context just happens to be with their friends without housing in Downtown LA.
Compared to Solidarity and Lifewater, Povertees is the youngest of the organizations on my list. Although they have been building relationships with those on Skidrow since 2007, their 501 (c)3 status is fairly new. As such, I wanted to see up close and personal what they were about. So, I joined the Povertees team for a day when they went to hand out some lunches and toiletries. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I’m really glad that I did it.
Povertees is also the real deal. The relationships are real and what I love most about them is that their approach is cyclical. Friends who have gotten off the streets are now helping friends to get off of the street. Their dream is to one day train and employ some of the very people who have benefited from the sales of Povertees. Thus, completing another circle. I’m confident that they’ll get there and I can’t wait to see it.
Awesomely, you can support Povertees through a Povertee purchase or you can forgo the shopping cart for the donate tab.
In no way is the above list an exhaustive list of all of the organizations I like or have ever supported. I’m certainly no official spokesperson either. Rather, this is a list of organizations that I trust. Some of them I have trusted for almost 10 years! They are also the first 3 that come to my mind whenever my paycheck comes. I’d highly encourage you to support one or all of them.
In whatever you direction you choose to go, make today the day that you do something. Be sure to tweet me (@deliaspeaks) your thoughts and/or experiences too. As always, press on, freedom fighters.