No Matter How Small
There’s a short children’s story about an elephant who comes upon a small bird laying on its back with its spindly legs up in the air and its tiny feet stretched out as if ready to catch whatever falls. The elephant asks the bird, “What are you doing?’ The bird replies, “I heard that the sky is falling and I’m doing my part to hold it up.”
Every morning, I go to the online version of the Wall Street Journal to see what’s going on in the monied and not-so-monied pockets of the world. Aside from the sweep of financial news that we all need to keep up on, there’s always a few off-beat articles and opinion pieces that catch my attention. But it’s the daily collection of photos from around the world that nails my heart to the wall. Sometimes I hesitate before I open the page. I know I will see at least one image of war, human suffering or planetary devastation. That’s how the world looks. Sure, I could shield myself from this reality. It would be so easy to stay in my world, here in this little corner of America, where I live perched in the Berkeley Hills, often sitting on my porch, watching the occasional hawk soar over this peaceful canyon, high above the urban chaos, and oceans away from all that suffering.
Yet each morning, I open that page in the Wall Street Journal and let those photos drive nails through my heart. Why? If I cannot feel the pain of others, than how will I know to help? Rather than feel like my small life has no power against all these atrocities, I know I can do something, be it ever so small.
Here is a list of my favorite organizations that use the combined treasure, talent and time of their members to effect large-scale and lasting change to make the world a better place. And who knows, if you find something on this list that attracts your interest, you might feel better yourself, just for learning about all the good that’s going on in this big wide world of ours, and maybe discover a place where you can contribute your time, talent or treasure!
Clowns Without Borders
Clowns Without Borders (CWB-USA) is a non-profit organization which offers resilience through laughter. We aim to relieve the suffering of all persons, especially children, who live in areas of crisis including refugee camps, conflict zones and other situations of adversity. We partner with individuals and organizations to bring small teams of professional performing artists to share performances and workshops with children and their families in refugee camps, conflict zones, or with communities who have experienced trauma or crisis.
The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
Committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research.
Ashoka’s vision and understanding of the world comes from their experience in pioneering the field of social entrepreneurship over the last 35 years—finding, selecting, and supporting the world’s leading social entrepreneurs (Ashoka Fellows). The network of more than 3,000 Ashoka Fellows is implementing system-changing solutions to human and environmental problems in 89 countries.
Our work with Ashoka Fellows helps us see patterns of social development across various fields, providing key levers and a new framework for living in the world as a changemaker. We help people see the world differently so they can do differently, fully participating in the new environment. For example, Ashoka is building and activating networks to create fundamental changes in the growing up experience of children and young people so that everyone can become a changemaker.
Rather than looking for someone who is building one school or one hospital, Ashoka looks for individuals who are changing the way children learn or the way healthcare is delivered, a process known as systems change. For example, Ashoka Fellow Kailash Satyarthi has acted to protect the rights of more than 83,000 children from 144 countries. It is largely because of Satyarthi's work and activism that the International Labour Organization adopted Convention No. 182 to prevent the worst forms of child labor, which is now a principal guideline for governments around the world. In 2014, Kailash received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
Doctors Without Borders
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation. Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality and impartiality.
MSF was founded in Paris, France in 1971. Its principles are described in the organisation's founding charter. It is a non-profit, self-governed organisation. Today, MSF is a worldwide movement of 21 sections, 24 associations and various other offices. They are bound together by MSF International, based in Geneva, Switzerland, which provides coordination, information and support to the MSF Movement. Thousands of health professionals, logistical and administrative staff – most of whom are hired locally – work on programmes in some 69 countries worldwide.
MSF's work is based on humanitarian principles. We are committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently. We conduct our own evaluations on the ground to determine people’s needs. More than 90 per cent of our overall funding comes from millions of private sources, not governments.
MSF is neutral. We do not take sides in armed conflicts, we provide care on the basis of need, and we push for independent access to victims of conflict as required under international humanitarian law.
MSF medical teams often witness violence and neglect in the course of their work, largely in regions that receive scant international attention. At times, MSF may speak out publicly in an effort to bring a forgotten crisis to public attention, to alert the public to abuses occurring beyond the headlines, to criticise the inadequacies of the aid system, or to challenge the diversion of humanitarian aid for political interests.
World Justice Project
The World Justice Project® (WJP) is an independent, multidisciplinary organization working to advance the rule of law around the world.
The work of the World Justice Project is founded on two premises: 1) the rule of law is the foundation of communities of peace, opportunity, and equity, and 2) multidisciplinary collaboration is the most effective way to advance the rule of law. Based on this, the WJP has three mutually-reinforcing lines of business: Research and Scholarship, the WJP Rule of Law Index, and Engagement initiatives.
Effective rule of law helps reduce corruption, improve public health, enhance education, lift people from poverty, and protect them from injustices and dangers large and small. Despite this, all over the world, people are denied basic rights to safety, freedom, and dignity because the rule of law is weak or non-existent. The natural environment is degraded when environmental protection laws are ignored. Women suffer abuse when they don't know they are protected by laws or when their access to justice is limited. Families suffer when parents are coerced into paying bribes to get their children admitted to public schools or to get them basic health care. Local and international businesses avoid investing in communities because of the lack of stable rules and regulations and excessive amounts of risk.
Rule of law means better public health, economic development, and political participation. It is the necessary ingredient to all forms of human endeavor, especially in communities of greatest need.
One of the ways the WJP achieves reforms in rule of law is through on-the-ground programs conducted with leaders of government, businesses, civil society and individuals across work disciplines in countries throughout the world. The WJP convenes these leaders to find common ground, to examine how the fundamental importance of the rule of law matters in the everyday lives of people in their own communities and to incubate rule of law reforms.
The top priority of many aid organizations is to provide food, water and medical care to help people survive the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Without protection from the elements, survivors are at a higher risk as they await nourishment or medical attention. We recognized that little or no assistance was given in terms of proper shelter to help them through the first few days, weeks and months as they tried to rebuild their lives. Today, ShelterBox assists disaster survivors during the critical period following a disaster but preceding reconstruction.
To help them begin to rebuild their lives and communities, we deliver shelter and lifesaving supplies to the most vulnerable people.
Highly trained ShelterBox response teams distribute aid on the ground, working closely with local organizations, international aid agencies and a global network of volunteers.
Rotary is made up of three parts: at the heart of Rotary are our clubs, that are supported by Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.
Rotary clubs bring together dedicated individuals to exchange ideas, build relationships, and take action.
Rotary International supports Rotary clubs worldwide by coordinating global programs, campaigns, and initiatives.
The Rotary Foundation uses generous donations to fund projects by Rotarians and our partners in communities around the world. As a nonprofit, all of the Foundation's funding comes from voluntary contributions made by Rotarians and friends who share our vision of a better world.
Together, Rotary clubs, Rotary International, and The Rotary Foundation work to make lasting improvements in our communities and around the world.
Rotary is made up of neighbors, community leaders, and global citizens uniting for the common good. With you, we can accomplish even more.