’Tis the season when we inflict on one another neckties and perfumes that no one really wants, plus more than $1 billion in gift cards that are never even redeemed. Hence my annual column with suggestions for “gifts with meaning” that are warmer than any scarf.
If you insist on a gift certificate, how about one for GlobalGiving, whose website lists aid projects all over the world? The recipient can support a tribal child in India in school for a year, or street children in Ecuador, or L.G.B.T. rights in central Africa.
Or here are some other options:
Help overlooked Puerto Ricans. It has been more than a year since Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico, yet many families are still struggling and President Trump is talking about ending aid efforts. So consider supporting hurricane victims through the Puerto Rico Funders Network; donations are matched if you contribute through GlobalGiving.
Give kids better brains. This is one of my favorite interventions, a bit nerdy but incredibly cost-effective. When there isn’t enough iodine in the food supply (or, for a fetus, in the mom’s body), children’s brains often don’t develop properly. Iodine deficiency also causes goiters, but the biggest impact is mental disability: The world has lost billions of I.Q. points this way.
This is easily solved by adding iodine to salt, for pennies per child per year. You can thus build brains by donating to the Iodine Global Network through GiveWell, which analyzes the most cost-effective ways to help people. (GiveWell has other excellent suggestions, such as deworming kids and fighting malaria.)
Help refugee children. This is the year that the United States tore immigrant children from parents at the border, so consider supporting an organization like Raices or Covenant House. Raices, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, provides legal help for these children, while Covenant House operates shelters in the U.S. and abroad for desperate migrant kids and others in need of a roof and comfort.