Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. It’s so easy to get caught up in the gimme, gimme, gimme of sales and Santa letters and wishlists and stuff every year, but I find that there’s a great peace to the season if you make giving for good a priority. I invite you to join me in “alternative giving” today and this upcoming week of last-minute tax-deductible donations. Give for a cause to an organization you believe in… don’t know where to start or looking to add to your charitable spending before 2013 comes to a close? Here are some organizations and causes dear to my heart.


Handicap International: My best friend introduced me to the French non-profit when she got a job there a couple of years ago, and ever since then she’s made me aware of how daunting, how awful, how limiting life is in countries with no protections and accommodations for people with disabilities. Life in certain impoverished countries is tough enough for the able-bodied and healthy, so imagine how tough even the most mundane tasks, everyday life can be if you’re considered a social pariah, if you live in a refugee camp, if you can’t even leave your bed. Find out more.

Heifer International: HI is nonprofit community development organization dedicated to helping end hunger and poverty while working to protect the environment and care for the Earth. Heifer provides living gifts of area-appropriate livestock and training in environmentally sound agricultural practices so that families in need can lift themselves out of poverty and become self-reliant.  Every family that receives an animal gift agrees to pass on the first female offspring of that animal and training in its care to another family in need, creating an ever-widening web of hope and change.


Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation: The IBCR is special to all of us who loved our friend Susan Niebur aka WhyMommy of Toddler Planet and Mothers With Cancer. Susan died on Feb. 6, 2012, but those of us who were lucky and blessed enough to know her, read her blog, call her a friend, will never forget her. Susan valiantly aimed to make people aware of IBC , and to help the IBCR fulfill its mission “to assist scientists and researchers in their quest to determine the definitive causes of inflammatory breast cancer. The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation seeks to assist them in their work so effective and meaningful detection and diagnosis, prevention and treatment can be pursued and achieved.” Here’s how you can donate.


The Lucayans Taino: Chances are that unless you grew up in the Caribbean/Miami or took a college course about indigenous populations (or remember everything you learned about Christopher Columbus), you probably don’t know about the Lucayans, the original inhabitants of the Bahamas. The Lucayans were the first people Columbus encountered in the Americas, and Lucayans expert Sandra Riley (my former English teacher) has written a historical account of the Taino tribe illustrated by renowned Bahamian artist Alton Lowe. The book, available for a $50 donation, comes with a DVD of the full-length documentary “Full Circle: A Taino Story” by Travis Neff and helps cast a monument to the Lucayans/Taino. This is a lovely gift for anyone interested in anthropology, history, and world art.

The Lucayan Taino

American Cancer Society: And last but not least, an organization that remains special to me, five years after my mother died from cancer. The ACS’ “Save the Birthdays” campaign is important, because no other organization has done as much to help people battling and surviving cancer. Last year, the ACS spent more than $700 million to help save lives and fight cancer. It’s crazy to realize that 1 out of 3 people will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. I want to make sure the ACS is around to support every one of them. Here’s how to donate.