January 2019: Back to school

Where we live, in Australia, the end of January is synonymous with hot weather and kids going back to school. First day back at school for both of our kids was a stinking hot day – 35 degrees. But they both rode off to the local high school, perfectly situated right next to the beach. And rode home, able to jump into our pool to cool off.  Living the life.

They also both had their pick of school lunches to take with them.

My son, a stereotypical ‘growing lad’ of 14 who tucks away an extraordinary amount of food and is still skinny as a rake, opted for three roast beef and salad rolls and two apples. He likes food he can hold in hands and eat while he plays soccer. Why waste lunch time sitting around eating, right?

My daughter, embarking on her first year of high school, chose to take her primary school lunch box with its little compartments that can be filled with sandwiches, fruit and a ‘treat’ for her sweet tooth. But no yoghurt – as apparently this year yoghurt is embarrassing. Go figure, poor yoghurt will need to employ a PR agent for the pre-teen demographic it seems.

Once again, their privilege – simply in being able to choose what they’d have for their school lunches – was apparent.

And talking about it was a good reminder for us as a family that in some countries the incentive of a school lunch is enough to get kids to school – increasing their opportunity for learning. Vice versa, if you’re at school and you haven’t eaten, your ability to learn is compromised.  

In July 2017, one of our first effective altruism monthly donations went to Oxfam, donating school meals for 23 children for a year. We backed this up with our January 2019 donation. Due to me not working for half of January, and perhaps the price of supplying school lunches increasing, our commitment to donating 5% of our income translates to school lunches for 12 children every day for the next year.

December 2018: Double Up Drive

The ‘Double Up Drive’ is now in its fifth year. Details on the website are scant, but in essence it looks like five professional poker players who pledge every year to match donations given to certain charities, up to a total this year of almost $2.5 million.

One of the charities supported in the Double Up Drive this year is the Against Malaria Foundation – an organisation that always ranks highly on the effectiveness charts and that we’ve supported twice in the past.

While there seems something a little random about having our donation matched by poker players, we’re going to roll (the dice!) with it and give it a go.

Our December donation goes to Against Malaria Foundation providing 178 malaria nets that will protect around 318 people. And with thanks to the Double Up Drive poker players this will increase to 356 nets protecting 637 people.

Thanks guys – may all your cards be royal.  

November 2018: The Tap-Out

My 12 year old daughter and I both recently read ‘Dry’ by the Shustermans. A teen fiction book, the novel outlines the repercussions of a fictional Californian drought that escalates to catastrophic precautions. The ‘Tap-Out’, as it’s referred to in the book, comes to a head when the taps run dry. Within days neighbours and the local community have turned on each other in the search for water.

While reading the book I felt a little guilty every time I turned on the tap for a glass of water, to brush my teeth, or to have a shower. How completely we take this luxury – access to clean water – for granted.

As often happens in what appears the perfect synchronicity of the world, around the same time we received a letter from Care Australia seeking support for their appeal to bring safe and clean water to some of the most remote and vulnerable families in the world. 

Care’s appeal words ‘… because what you get with the turn of a tap, some children have to walk miles for…’ couldn’t have come at a more apt time, with water scarcity and supply being top of mind.  On top of the availability of water, often the water children are walking miles to collect is dirty – full of dangerous, deadly bacteria. It can be collected from an open well – a hole in the ground where water gathers, along with rubbish, animal waste and many other things no one should be drinking.

Our November donation provides 123 families in remote areas, where water cleanliness and supply are real life-threatening issues, with access to clean, safe water from a borehole.

October 2018: Investing in training and employment opportunities

On our last night in Nepal we ate at Sarangi restaurant in Kathmandu. The restaurant runs under the Sarangi Social Enterprise, set up by Australian Sandra Fiedeldy, and committed to empowering communities through partnership and social enterprise.  

The food was amazing and the kids had a great chat with the young waiter who was from Chitwan, where we’d just come from. We later found out from Sandra that the waiter was Sudesh and that he had been involved with the restaurant project since he was a boy.

As well as the restaurant, Sarangi Social Enterprise partners with local organisations to create training and employment opportunities, with fair pay and fair working conditions. Think manufacture of chef’s clothing and fabric shopping bags.

Our October ‘donation’ allows Sarangi Social Enterprise to purchase the fabric for 373 shopping bags, with profits from the bags sold to pay for further training and machines. Creating a sustainable business for the Nepalese people involved.

I use the term donation lightly, as the model employed by Sarangi favours an ‘investment’ over a ‘donation’. So the money is accepted as a one to five-year interest free loan.

Personally, when the loan is repaid, we intend on reinvesting it straight back into Sarangi if it’s still needed.

Find out more about Sarangi Social Enterprises.

September 2018: High-quality healthcare in the Himalayas

In September and October we were lucky enough to have a family holiday to Nepal. A fortnight of exploring Kathmandu, mountain trekking, whitewater rafting and national parks. It is a beautiful place.

It is also poor. So much poorer than I expected. And the poverty seemed fairly universal.

With poverty comes self-sufficiency. More than 80% of Nepalese people still live in rural areas, and often grow their own food. In the areas we trekked there were no roads so any food was either grown locally or brought in by donkey.

With rural living comes isolation. And a lack of access to essential services, such as medical treatment.

We met a waiter who told us he looked after his mother and his sister as his father had become ill and they couldn’t afford the medical treatment he required so they had to ‘let him go’.

We knew we wanted our monthly donation to help in some small way.  We found Possible, an organization that provides sustainable health care to Nepal’s poorest communities.

And our monthly donation will provide 15 patients with quality healthcare they wouldn’t otherwise receive.

 

 

July and August 2018: Raising effective altruists

After just over a year of effective altruism, with 13 regular family discussions to decide where to direct that month’s money under our belt, we decided it was time to hand the reins over to the kids for a couple of months. With a few guidelines in place – aimed at directing their ideas towards effective charities – they went away to research and came back to the family with three choices for our monthly donations. We then discussed the options and voted for where the money would be donated out of the three options presented. Our daughter, who is 12, took July. And our son, who is 14, took August.

Over to them…

July

The Food Fortification Initiative provides food fortified with iron and other minerals to people who lack the basic nutrition needed to survive healthily. I chose this charity because last year I wrote a speech for school about people who needed this food, and when I looked up photos to support my arguments and to persuade people to pay attention to these people, the images that I saw made me think about what it really would be like to live in those conditions. Even though it was just another school project, I stopped thinking about the spelling and grammar of my speech and began wondering if people like us (who live in first world countries [I’m assuming the reader of this lives in a first world country as they need to access a computer/iPad/iPhone to read this]) would be able to live in these conditions, having lived in the lap of luxury compared to the people in the photos for most of our lives. And when I thought deeper about the lives some people are living, I decided I really wanted to improve those lives because after all, we are all humans and we all deserve to live great lives. And so that is why I chose the FFI as this month’s charity.

August

I was given the donation money for August and asked to find three viable charities to donate to. I began by doing a general search of “good charities”, which probably gives you a good indication of my experience in this field. In the end, the three charities that stood out were: Save The Children, Afghanaid and one more charity which assisted “fake” orphans in Nepal as well as other countries. Save the Children was our selected charity, and we donated four barns of animals to people in need. These animals will provide food as well as income for the families, both vital to survival. One of my other charities, Afghanaid, assisted Afghani people with education so that they can better help their communities, as well as fruit trees to provide food for rural towns. My final charity helps children who are stolen from their families and called orphans, to reunite with their family. They work in Nepal, a country that our family will be visiting shortly. I am happy to help people in need by providing food and income and our whole family is happy to have bettered four families in need.

June 2018: One year on

After one full year of effective altruism, we have come full circle and given this month’s donation to the Against Malaria Foundation. Our thirteenth month of giving provides 269 nets, protecting an estimated 484 people from malaria for three to four years.

Looking back over the year’s donations brings a sense of pride. It is an easy thing to do and has helped develop a deeper sense of gratitude among the family for what we have and how fortunate we are.