(CONTROVERSIAL SUBJECTS ALERT. The following post will include: wealth inequality, abortion, prisons, Syrian Refugee Crisis, and Homelessness)
Hey everyone! This is another long post, but it is an important post, so I’m just going to jump right into it because I have a lot I need to share.
I am starting a personal initiative that I’m calling “Social Investing” which means that I am going to be much more proactive in my giving. I’m tired with the depravity in this world and there is so much need out there and it isn’t because of total scarcity, but rather an inefficient allocation of resources. I am tired of people starving to death while all it would cost is $.50 to provide a full meal. I am tired of living in greatest economy in the greatest time in history and yet there are teenagers who are homeless walking the streets of Seattle. I am tired of how we treat incarcerated people as “evil people” and not as broken people. I am tired of children dying of easily preventable illnesses simply because of lack in basic medical education. But most of all I am tired of politics getting in the way of helping those in need. Politics have turned a refugee into a debate topic and the person who has lost everything and has no resources is forgotten. Politics has built up a division between pro-life and pro-choice, a pregnancy is now linked to women’s rights, religious relevance, government legislation, violence and pure hatred, and what is forgotten is a young woman in critical need of help.
Here’s the thing, there are many touchy subjects in there, and I’m sure one of your pet topics came up and you wanted to say “yeah! We need to support ____!!!” But what are you doing about it? Oh sure, you probably posted some clickbait article that cherry picked stories to support your agenda. Maybe you protested one thing or another, but how do you expect your agenda to be supported? Oh you want the “1%” to do it? Sure, that is an easy route. Honestly, with my further education in Economics, I see the issues with the concentration of wealth, but demanding rich people to pay for your agenda is hypocritical. If you are going to hold that standard that relative to your own income, someone else has more than you and therefore should be responsible for giving back, then what about your position relative to the rest of the world? If you make $34,400 in a year, you’re in the 1% of the world. This isn’t to take the pressure off the super wealthy, but to say you need to understand where you stand before you can call others to act.
We can call for change all we want, but change will only come once our lives reflect the change we want. Policies don’t just change, they are reflections of the society. You can scream and gnash your teeth all you want, but until everyone follows suit with the same ideal will pressure be put on policy to change.
So this is what I am going to do, I am going to put my money where my heart is. I may be a broke college student who has to work two jobs while taking full-time classes, but I have allocated my budget to have at least 17% of my income to go towards giving back. But I am not just giving aimlessly, I am approaching this as if it was an investment. My giving may be a small dent, but it is a direct and intentional dent. I will be strategic in my giving to support in the best way I can with my limited resources.
These are the organizations I will be giving to on a regular basis:
Charity Water: https://donate.charitywater.org/donate/home
New Horizons: http://nhmin.org
Compassion INTL – http://www.compassion.com
Delancey Street: http://www.delanceystreetfoundation.org
The Restoration House: http://therestorationhouse.net
Charity Water is an organization with one goal: Eliminate the global water crisis. Their objective is to reach a point where everyone has access to clean drinking water.
Why I am investing: There are a few reasons, first being that they have partnered with strategic donors who fund their administration expenses so that 100% of your donation goes directly towards the project. That is incredible! Secondly, they are taking on a single objective on a macro scale. My money is supporting the singular objective of bringing access to water to the world. Then of course they are amazing people and also Cubby Graham, probably the most amazing person I know and is one of my dearest friends works there.
New Horizons Ministries is an organization that works in the Seattle area to help homeless youth. They provide housing and counseling to help these youth who are living in the worst of circumstances and help get them back on their feet. They also have a coffee shop called Street Bean Coffee on 3rd Ave and all the baristas are the homeless youth that New Horizons works with and this is an added step to provide job training and work experience so that they have working skill to take into the market. Plus they honestly make my favorite coffee in all of Seattle.
Why I am investing: Because then I am investing in my local community and attacking one of the greatest problems in Seattle: Homelessness. If we can get to these kids early enough, we can get them on their feet and moving forward before they get sucked into this terrible death trap that keeps them on the street.
Compassion International is an organization where they provide comprehensive support for children across the world. Their model is they look for donors who will sponsor a child on a monthly basis and cover all the expenses to provide for a child in need.
Why I am investing: This is a way to have a tangible connection with my giving. This is a micro objective in a micro scale. While Charity Water is a macro scale where I’m helping tackle the global water issue, here I am helping a single person. It helps provide perspective to all the other giving I am doing and I will be reminded that this money is not just going into a black hole, but I am helping provide an opportunity to a child’s life.
Delancey Street is an organization in San Francisco where they work at rehabilitating convicted felons. Delancey Street provides the option of a reduced sentence by living and working in Delancey Street. What is amazing about this group it is almost completely run by people serving a prison sentence, and yet, Delancey Street is a dorm, a restaurant, a cafe, a moving company and more. There are no security and there are no locks. What Delancey Street is doing is breaking the gang and criminal culture within the individual. I think the number is about 90% of members never are convicted of another crime after being in Delancey Street.
Why I am investing: These next few organizations are more topic-based reasons. I am investing in Delancey Street because I see how we have the highest percentage of incarcerated citizens per capita in the world, and I hate how we as a society turn our back on them. Yes, most of them have done horrendous things are must pay the penalty, but how hypocritical of us to live in an age where we say it is wrong to judge someone who was born male but identifies as a female, but then all the sudden if you go to prison once you must be an evil person? Once a convict gets out of prison, nobody will hire them because of their record and their family disowns them, nobody will give them a loan or a place to stay; where else is there to turn then other than back to the gang? We provide absolutely no incentive to these people to live a better life and then we judge them when they fall back in? I want to see these people as broken people who need help! Delancey Street is one of the best ways I can do that.
International Rescue Committee Seattle is global organization that has a Seattle office that helps support refugees coming to Seattle. Most of the time these people have to spend months going through interviews and inspections before being declared as an “Refugee” and once they have been identified as a refugee, they are sent to an almost random location in America. Refugees that come to Seattle probably don’t know English, and they have no money, they have no connections, and are essentially defenseless. The IRC assists in being that first buffer for them in getting them temporary housing and a counselor to help them transition into the community. The IRC is also one of the main institutions in the fight against human trafficking. Since many of the refugees have so little options, they become easy targets to getting sucked into the underworld of sex slavery and laborer slavery.
Why I’m investing: I don’t care what your stance is on the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Whether you think letting them in represents the definition of what our country was built on, or you think letting them in is a free pass of ISIS and other extremists into our borders, the fact is that there are refugees entering America. There are people who are coming into our country with no resources and are some of the most vulnerable and exposed individuals our country has. You want to know what ISIS and Al-Qaeda is able to perpetuate the message that America is evil? Look at how we reject those who are here! It sure doesn’t take a whole lot of spin to convince innocent people that America is the enemy of Islam and Islamic people. This support isn’t pushing either side of the political agenda, I just see at the end of the day, we have people here and they need help.
The Restoration House is an organization in Tennessee where they provide housing for single mothers that are in need.
Why I am investing: Here is the thing, I’ll bring up another touchy subject–abortion. There is one side that says this is a fight for women’s rights and the other that says it is murder. But just like the refugee crisis, I want to focus on the forgotten subject of the political debate: women in need. What is forgotten in all this is that this revolves around a woman who is caught in a crisis of an unwanted pregnancy. Most of the time these women are young, unmarried, sometimes victims of rape, and lack the financial and time resources to raise a child. Again there is need that because of politics we are never addressing the root problem, but rather using someone’s suffering as a backboard to our own personal agenda.
Now I consider myself a feminist, but the one issue that I have personally struggled with is this subject. I’m sure some would then say this disqualifies me from being considered a feminist, but I am not in support of the pro-life movement either. They both get it all wrong! Here pro-life Christians say every life is valuable and demonize women who opt for an abortion, they say, “Why don’t you just give away to adoption?” “Why don’t you try to keep it?” But then look at how society treats those women who kept the pregnancy? “Whore!” “You need to learn self-discipline” “How irresponsible.” They drop out of school, drop to a part-time job, and live in poverty. Then when they go on food stamps we look down at them as second-class citizens. Do you not see how hypocritical that is? You say keep the child, but once the child is born, we turn our backs on them.
Abortion is a symptom of a greater issue, and while we are at each other’s throats over the subject, the women who are caught in the middle of all this slip through the cracks of society. I rather focus on the bigger issue and find ways to support these women who are vulnerable, and if they choose to keep the child, do what we can to assist them. That is what The Restoration House does; they give these women a foundation to build on.
MEDRIX is an organization that I currently work for in Redmond. We work in Vietnam where we help put together training courses for nurses to spot early warning signs of treatable deadly illnesses in children, as well as sponsoring life-saving heart surgeries and safe drinking water systems for children in Vietnam.
Why I am investing: Because Vietnam is still one of 4 communist countries in the world and there are very few non-government organizations that have the accessibility and influence in the community like we have. We can help cut through a lot of the red tape that most of the local organizations are limited by and get straight to helping children and cut down the infant mortality and morbidity rates in Vietnam.
Zidisha is an organization where they crowdsource loans for small-scale entrepreneurs in Africa. This comes from the microcredit concept developed by Nobel Price Laureate, Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Most of these people in developing countries simply lack the capital to pull themselves out of poverty, and Zidisha provides the opportunity to crowdsource the funding.
Why I’m investing: Zidisha accomplishes the most similar return on investment to what an investor would expect from the capital market. With Zidisha, I know that my money will multiply on itself to have an exponentially greater impact than the actual input of my investment. I know that was kind of a mouthful, but what that means in layman’s terms is that since it is a loan, I give $20 to a person to buy more inventory for her shop, 4 months later she sells that inventory and pays me back my $20 after she made a profit. I then take that same $20 and loan to another person, who will then pay me back, and so on and so forth it goes. But when I look back a couple of years later, that single $20 investment was used multiple times to help multiple people. Much more help was provided by that $20 than any single purchase could have done.
I know this was very lengthy, but I hope I can encourage you look at the resources you have and see what small good you can do. Technology has allowed the disbursement of information to be effortless. It is so easy to shout your opinion, but what the world really needs is for you to act! Stop thinking the solution resides outside of yourself. Be the change that you want the world to have. You want to know how to make social movements happen? It’s not by trending on Twitter, that just is attention, and attention is fleeting. No, to make a change, the whole community needs to change internally and then, and only then, will you start to see legislation change and other external manifestations come out.