April 2019: Water, water everywhere…

It seemed only fitting that as our kids have decided the last two months’ charities, it was time for Dave to have a turn. Despite a ridiculous schedule of full time work, volunteer soccer coaching which takes more time than the full time paid work, and a dash of overseas travel sprinkled on top, he managed to find time to research a great charity for April. Over to him to explain…

charity:water gives 100% of donations to clean water projects around the world.

In April it was my task to choose our charity donation for the month. As ever the task was to find a charity that did the most good with our money.

In researching I came across charity:water.  The charity was founded by a New York nightclub promoter Scott Harrison who burned out after a life of drugs and alcohol and decided to do something positive with his life. https://youtu.be/V4E1t2yIZlc (warning – video is ten minutes long so don’t start watching it when you’re rushing out of the house as we did…)

With 663 million people, or one in ten people in the world, without access to clean water, charity:water funds projects across the world to stop people having to drink dirty and polluted water, in turn preventing disease. Having access to clean water allows families to go to school, work and reduces stress on health care systems.

The charity is funded by private donations, with 100% of all public donations going to projects to provide clean water.

To date they’ve funded 38,113 water projects for 9.6 million people across Africa, Southern Asia and South America, and all projects are mapped and registered.

https://www.charitywater.org/our-projects/completed-projects

Like many fortunate people our family take for granted access to clean water at home, so this month the Tapping Family donated A$898.96 to charity:water. The money will help progress the vision of providing clean drinking water to the remaining 653.4 million people around the world who still do not have access to clean water and have to drink dirty unsafe water… putting their health and futures at risk. 

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.

April 2018: Give Directly. No strings attached.

This month we are trying something different and instead of donating to an effective program we are donating directly to individuals via Give Directly.

Give Directly provides unconditional cash transfers to some of the poorest people in Kenya and Uganda. These are people who are living on around 65 cents a day. If I buy a coffee at a café I’ve automatically spent seven times that.

The money is provided for the families to spend in the way that suits them best – they can buy much-needed food and shelter, educate their children or start small businesses.

I feel like it must be empowering – not just to be told here is a program that will help you in a certain way, but here is some money – and hence some freedom and independence – to allow you to help yourself.  No strings attached.

The success of Give Directly is backed by rigorous evidence and is backed by Give Well. On the Give Directly website you can see a live feed documenting the changes made by recipients and how they are spending the money they receive directly.  Read more here.

February 2018: Give a man a rod

Probably fair to say a lot of us have heard the proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’

Too true, but our February donation goes to an organization that takes it one step further. Because sure it’s great to know how to fish, but honestly it’s still pretty useless if you don’t have a rod or a hook or any bait.

So the One Acre Fund, a program run by Evidence Action, provides smallholder farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa, not only with the knowledge and training they require but with access to the tools and resources that go along with that.

Why farmers? ‘When farmers prosper, their communities prosper too. Children who have enough food to eat attend school more often and have better performance. They’re also healthier and are less likely to suffer from stunting and other developmental delays. When farmers have extra income, they invest it in education, they build businesses in their communities, and they help neighbors in need. And when they practice sustainable farming techniques, the environment around them benefits as well, so that future generations can continue to grow nutritious food from the land.

These are some of the poorest farmers in the world. More than 50 million smallholder farmers in the regions serviced by the One Acre Fund are unable to grow enough food to feed their families.

Our February donation provides 23 families of six, with the tools to increase farming and food production and profits by 50 per cent in a single season.

December 2017: The expert road to effectiveness

A blog reader recently asked me how we decide which charities are the most effective ones to give our money to each month. The short answer – we turn to the experts. There are a couple of organisations dedicated to specifically identifying the ‘top’ charities from the perspective of an effective altruist.

When looking for ideas we generally head first to The Life You Can SaveHere an expert panel uses three criteria, pithily encompassed as the ‘three Es’ – evidence, efficiency, execution – to identify recommended charities.

Because effective altruism is ruled by the head not the heart, where possible we also like to donate to charities that we can claim as a tax deduction. More money can then be donated later in the year when it’s tax return time. The Life You Can Save has a search function where you can explore recommended charities based on their tax-deductible status in the country you’re donating from.

From here, you can also calculate the impact your particular donation will have. Which we love to do.

In December we’d decided to donate to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, which facilitates school-based distributions of deworming tablets, primarily in countries such as Ethopia, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Madagascar, Mozambique and the Sudan. In 2017, SCI aimed to deworm close to 50 million children and at-risk adults.

Schistosomiasis is carried by freshwater snails and is transmitted through contact with contaminated water during everyday activities, such as bathing and washing clothes, where access to clean water is limited. STH is caused by a group of intestinal parasites, and are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces, which contaminate the soil in areas where sanitation is poor. Adult worms live in the intestines and feed on host tissues.

It’s a serious issue. The World Health Organization estimates that 206 million people have schistosomiasis and 1.5 billion have STH. These infections can result in anemia, stunted growth, reduced school attendance, impaired cognitive development, reduced worker productivity and internal organ damage.

SCI works with national governments to create and scale mass school-based deworming programs, which have a strong track record of success. These programs provide school children with pills that protect against the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases. The programs are highly cost-effective, generally at around 73 cents per child per year.

Using the ‘impact calculator’ on The Life You Can Save website we were able to calculate that 858 children would receive treatment as a result of our donation.

So a serious issue, with an effective solution. Thanks to the experts.

November 2017: Keeping Fred’s vision alive

When I was thirty, I had laser surgery on my eyes. It cost me a couple of thousand dollars, but I felt it was worth it as it meant I no longer had to wear glasses or contact lenses for my relatively mild short-sightedness. If anyone asks me about it in the years since, I say it was well worth the money.

I almost feel ill when I compare that now to the millions of people in developing countries who stay needlessly blind because they live in poverty. Do you know how much it costs to restore eyesight to a lot of these people? $25.

If you live in a developing country, and you are blind, it arguably has a larger impact on your life than if you are blind in a developed country. If you are blind in a developing country, chances are you will not be educated. You will have no independence. You will not have the ability to work or make a living.

Our November funds went to the Fred Hollows Foundation, and will provide eye cataract surgery to 27 people in developing countries.

The Foundation, set up by humanitarian and eye surgeon Fred Hollows, works in more than 25 developing countries with the aim of making sure everyone, whether they’re rich or poor, has access to high-quality, affordable eye health. They are working towards a world where no person is unnecessarily blind.

It’s pretty clear to see, with knock on effects of increased education, employment and independence, good eyesight is a key element in breaking the cycle of poverty.

July 2017: Intellectual nourishment

The idea of sending my kids to school without a good, healthy breakfast inside them fills me with a mild terror. How would they concentrate? How would they learn? Would they make it through to recess time without breaking down? These are privileged kids who rarely go a couple of hours without something to snack on or declaring they’re ‘starving’.

Yet each day literally millions of children across the globe turn up for school on an empty stomach. Or they don’t turn up at all.

Provision of a daily school meal is a proven, strong incentive for families to consistently send their children to school. Not only do the kids get access to at least one good meal a day, it means they are at school and learning. It’s an important tool in increasing the education of a whole generation and helping break the cycle of hunger and poverty.

Our July donation went to Oxfam – one of The Life You Can Save website’s highly effective charities. Specifically it went towards providing school meals to encourage students to attend and stay in school.

Our month’s donation was enough to provide school meals every school day for 23 children for a whole year.

Making school lunches for our own kids is a relentless chore. It’s like groundhog day. Here we are another morning, here we are at the kitchen bench making up the school lunch boxes. Again. Weren’t we just here yesterday?

Yet now, for the next year, as we make school lunches for our own kids – a roll, a piece of fruit, a sweet treat – we can mull over the fact that firstly we’re lucky to have the means to do so, and secondly that somewhere later today 23 kids will have their own school lunch courtesy of us.

It’s definitely food for thought.