Giving Love :: Here’s to a Season of Connection

Right now in the northern hemisphere, the sun is going down early. The winter solstice is 20 (short) days away. It’s not my favorite time of year, but throughout history, around the world, in the days of diminished light, humans have celebrated connection.

And boy do we need connection right now.

My family stopped obligatory gift giving years ago (formerly performed at Christmas, which was celebrated at my Jewish grandma’s). It’s felt right, instead, to earmark that currency (both the energy of giving and the energy that money represents) to different organizations creating the kind of world in which I want to live.  

Here’s a list of nonprofits that I am supporting (and / or hoping to support in the future). May it spark some ideas for your own season of connection. Maybe that family member who doesn’t need any material gifts would appreciate a donation in her name.

Oh, and I’d be really excited to see which organizations you support (post in the comments)!

My Giving List

Wikipedia. Not a conventional “donate here” list item, but it occurred to me recently: barely a week goes without me referencing the site, or learning something from this website. I don’t want to go back to a world in which Wiki doesn’t exist. I also recommend digital subscriptions to your favorite news organization — hopefully one known for in depth reporting and unbiased coverage of a wide variety of news. 

For those of you deeply moved by the protests at Standing Rock, I hope you’ll also consider supporting these two organizations advocating for environmental protection of indigenous lands and people (and the planet).  

Indigenous Environmental Network. I have so much respect and love for the decades of heart-based advocacy that Tom and the other leaders of this organization have put forth. They are working with Standing Rock, as well as many other long term issues, including climate change and other pipelines and fossil fuel challenges. It was an honor to work in conjunction with IEN back when I was a Climate Justice Fellow in 2003.  

Black Mesa Water Coalition: Headed up by my Alaska roomie (yes, I once lived in Alaska), Jihan, BMWC is protecting Navajo-Hopi lands from further coal exploitation. And she’s catalyzing youth involvement in indigenous leadership.  

Health care access is, of course, a huge passion of mine. 

Partners in Health provides essential, culturally-competent medical care in the U.S., Peru, Haiti, and elsewhere to individuals unable to afford it otherwise. It was founded by the tireless Dr. Paul Farmer.  

Seva Foundation brings sight to rural Nepal, and has been fundamentally involved in post-earthquake recovery since 2015.  

Leukemia Team in Training My student Chrissy is hella-passionate about fundraising each year for leukemia research. Chrissy inspires me, and I hope you’ll consider donating through her link. is the well-being of our planet

Bonobo Conservation Initiative My cousin, Deni, is an award-winning author who dedicated multiple years to living in and understanding the conflict in the Congo. He wrote an incredible book identifying how the struggle to save the bonobos depends not only on the protection of their habitat, but on full recognition of the sovereignty and rights of the humans nearby. On the ground, this is the organization most active in that pursuit.

The following are two DC organizations whose work I wholeheartedly support. I’d bet there are similar bike advocacy and tree planting orgs in your town, too. Post them in the comments, or start up a nonprofit for your community based on these models!

Washington Area Bicycling Association  Beyond the beltway, DC is better known for its car traffic than for happy cyclists. Yet, in the 15 years that I’ve lived (on and off) in this city, we have seen huge expansion of bike paths (and cyclists!). Our robust and growing bicycle culture part of what makes this city a good place to live, and part of why I finally gave up on exotic locales and decided to simply love where I was at. WABA helps.

Casey Trees Trees planted in cities are extremely important in fighting climate change. Casey Trees works to expand the tree cover in DC, and maintains a census of trees in the city.

The elephant in the room. 

Election Defense. I spent a year of my 20s working at a civil rights nonprofit under the leadership of the powerhouse that is Barbara Arnwine. She now oversees a voting access project with Election Defense, which is how I know the organization is solid. At this moment, many in the U.S. are struggling to find common ground after our recent presidential election. But I think we can all agree that elections should be free, fair, and secure. I, for one, was ill-informed about this subject, but essentially the patch-work of methods and methodologies used throughout our vast country is vulnerable. Just not in the ways we might think. Support those that keep it clean.

Think local: DC

Martha’s Table – feeds the needy, runs a sliding scale daycare, and a thrift store where you can also donate home goods and clothing.
YoKid – Kids are our future. When it feels like all hope is lost, imagine a room full of schoolkids using the tools of mindfulness and yoga to re-channel their frustrations. Then donate to YoKid help make it happen.  

Think local: RVA 

Project Yoga Richmond These guys have their hands in so many yoga projects, and they do everything incredibly well. They host a rich yoga studio. They have regular, meaningful continuing ed courses for yoga teachers. Their nonprofit arm teaches classes all around the city for kids, adults, those with special needs or with eating disorders. They put the spread in “spreading the love”.

There you have it: my top orgs for giving in 2016. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.