I'm a big fan of Kiva, a web site where you can lend small amounts of money to hard working entrepreneurs in developing nations.
My experience has been very good so far; all of the money I've loaned has either been paid back completely or is getting close. Most people recycle the money that's paid back, which is what I intend to do in the next couple of weeks.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is currently asking for donations to help the dancing bears in India. If you'd like to help prevent animal cruelty, please consider contributing to the cause.
One of the world's most successful orangutan rescue sanctuaries – Nyaru Menteng – has completely run out of funding. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) need your help to stop the sanctuary from closing and give vulnerable orangutans a future. To learn more and maybe make a donation, click here.
One way to give someone an unusual and uplifting gift is to purchase an animal for a poor family on their behalf. Heifer International works with communities to end hunger and poverty by giving families a source of food rather than short-term relief. If you visit their gift section you can buy anything from a cow ($500) to some honey bees ($30). Bear this site in mind since father's day will be here soon.
I just came across the Mercy Ship web site. Doctors on hospital ships tour developing nations and provide free medical care to people that badly need it. In many cases, they perform surgery to remove horribly disfiguring tumors.
This blog does a great job of providing insight into what it's like to work on a Mercy Ship, with some stunning but disturbing examples of the difference their help can make. After visiting the site, I felt compelled to make a donation; just a few dollars can make a huge difference to someone's life.
I periodically evangelize one of my favorite charities, and this time it's The Smile Train. This organization ends the suffering of children born with clefts, and does so for around $250 per child. Every single penny of donation goes directly to helping the children, as the founding supporters pay all other expenses. Click here for some before and after photos, and click here to make an online donation.
One of the charities that I support is the Animal Welfare Institute. This organization and others provide plenty of evidence that large numbers of animals are subject to unnecessary cruelty, primarily in order to reduce the cost of feeding our growing population. This situation will only improve when more people become aware of the way that animals are actually raised and killed.
In the short term, I think it would be good if high schools conducted field trips to slaughterhouses so that kids around the age of 16 could see where their food comes from. In the long term, I hope we figure out how to create artifical meat on a large scale so that we don't need to kill animals for food in the first place.
I recently learnt about a charity called Pediatric Oncology Friends which raises money to help children with cancer. One of their most famous supporters is Tom Clancy, who has personally donated around $2 million. The money is channeled to the Syndey Kimmel Center at the famous John Hopkins hospital. Visit here to contribute; enter the amount and press "Add to Cart" to contribute to a general fund rather than a specific department.