5 Inspirational Charities

Donating to your favourite charity or charities is a great thing to do at any time of the year but it’s even more worthwhile in the lead up to the end of the financial year. Donations to a registered charity are a tax deduction and what better prompt to bring out the inner philanthropist in you!

Who to support is a question that vexes many. After all, there seems to be a multitude of charities around the globe that are working to overcome one issue or another. As much as we’d like to, we can’t support them all.

My suggestion is to think about what really bothers you when it comes to deciding which cause to help. Would you like to contribute towards alleviating extreme poverty, hunger or non-existent health treatment in third world countries? Have you a closer connection at home to finding a cure for (insert any medical malaise here)? Would you feel better contributing to an aid agency that’s first on the scene in any worldwide disaster? Are you more concerned for animal welfare, nature conservation or environmental issues?

Putting your money where your passion is can never be the wrong thing to do. And when it comes to how much to give, do what you can, remembering the words of Oscar Wilde “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”

For thought starters, here are five of my favourite charities. Some you will know, others you won’t. These are not in order of importance and I am not pressuring you to support them (although you can if you like!).

ONE: The Fred Hollows Foundation

This is an “oldie but a goodie”. Founded Australia in 1992 by eye surgeon Fred Hollows, the Foundation focuses on treating and preventing blindness and other vision problems. It’s appalling to think that blindness afflicts 39 million people worldwide, and another 246 million are visually impaired. Yet four out of five people who are blind need not be but 90% of those affected live in the developing world where treatment is difficult to access. This can be deadly: over half of children die within a few years of going blind, either from the underlying disease or the inability of their impoverished family to care for them.

The Foundation works in over 19 of the poorest countries in the world, across Africa and Asia, including Rwanda, Palestine, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Foundation is also passionate about repatriation, dedicating part of their work to addressing health and rights of Australian Aboriginal peoples. Through its work, the Fred Hollows Foundation has restored vision to well over a million people and protected the eyesight of many millions more.

I admire the work the Fred Hollows Foundation does because it makes a world of difference to those in need of cataract surgery, something we take for granted. For more information, check out www.hollows.org 

TWO: Living Goods

Living Goods addresses the dual problem of lack of economic opportunities for women and poor healthcare in Uganda and Kenya. It also now has partners in Myanmar and Zambia. Inspired by direct sales models like Avon’s, Living Goods applies a highly successful micro-franchise model and leverages the power of human community networks to drive significant health outcomes and provide a living for thousands of enterprising women. These women – or Health Promoters, as they are called – own and operate their own micro-franchisees, while distributing invaluable health and medical supplies to their own communities at affordable prices.

With this blended model, Living Goods solves two of the most vexing problems in community health: how to keep vital products in stock, and how to pay the millions of health workers that are needed for the underserved.

I’m drawn to the concept of Living Goods because it is empowering women and achieving results, sharing its model with other organisations and countries. It proudly states that a randomised study shows it is reducing under-5 mortality by over 25%. The study also showed that drug prices fell 17% at clinics and drug shops near where Living Goods operates, and that the prevalence of fake drugs fell by 50%, suggesting positive competitive pressure. For more information, check out www.livinggoods.org 

THREE: Animal Aid Abroad

An Australian registered charity, Animal Aid Abroad (AAA) is dedicated to improving the living conditions and treatment of working animals around the world. These are predominantly donkeys, mules, camels, horses, bullocks, elephants and dogs. Many of these animals on a daily basis are being exploited on the streets, farms, brick kilns, battlefields, festivals and the timber and entertainment industry. They suffer greatly and are overworked, underfed, mistreated and appallingly undervalued. These animals lead miserable lives and die young.

I am an animal lover, owning donkeys, horses, dogs and cats so I will always help those who stand up to cruelty. I am also immensely proud to be a friend of Janet Thomas who set up the charity in Perth in 2007. This came about after Janet worked as a school teacher in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city with a population of over 4 million people. She told me she used to cry every day because she saw so many distressing acts of cruelty to working animals on her way to school. So she decided to do something about it.

Janet’s courage and determination have now been rewarded, with AAA helping working animals through partner groups in the middle east, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia and many more. Thanks to AAA, there are now mobile clinics on the streets to educate owners and treat injured working animals, plus provide homes at sanctuaries when required. Although much has been achieved, there is still much more to be done and Animal Aid Abroad gives you many options to lend a hand, such as sponsoring individual animals, becoming a member, buying merchandise or simply donating money. Find out more on www.animalaidabroad.org

FOUR: Foodbank

Who would have thought Australia, the so-called Lucky Country, is home to no less than 2.2 million people living in poverty, including 12% of our children! Hunger is largely a hidden social problem in this country and many victims suffer in silence. Each year two million people rely on food relief – around half of them are children. That’s one in every ten Australians in need.

That’s why Foodbank is so valuable. It’s by far, the largest hunger relief organisation in Australia, providing enough food for over 40 million meals last year alone. Foodbank is a non-denominational, non-profit organisation which acts as a pantry to the charities and community groups who feed the hungry. It was first established in 1992 in New South Wales and now has a presence in every state and the Northern Territory with distribution centres in all state capitals as well as a number of regional centres. It operates with a staff of approximately 90 employees and over 3,000 volunteers.

Foodbank is a conduit between the food industry’s surplus food and the welfare sector’s need. It rescues surplus food and groceries from the country’s farmers, manufacturers and retailers. This includes product that is out of specification, close to date code, has incorrect labelling or damaged packaging as well as excess stock and deleted lines. Without Foodbank much of this food would simply go to landfill.

How does it work? Foodbank collects the surplus food or food companies deliver their donations to warehouses around Australia – last year alone they provided 24 million kilograms of food and groceries. Then, over 2,500 charities and 640 schools collect the donated food and distribute it to adults and children in need as prepared meals, food hampers and emergency parcels. The food rescued by Foodbank feeds on average 88,000 people a day.

Supply doesn’t always meet demand, however. In particular, there is a significant gap between the amount of staple foods rescued and what is needed by the charities to provide filling and nutritious meals. Financial contributions from the public and corporate sector are always gratefully accepted to provide essential funds to cover the elements that cannot be obtained through food donations alone. For more information, see www.foodbank.org.au

FIVE: Médecins Sans Frontières

A high profile charity we hear about regularly in the news, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) is the world’s leading independent organisation for medical humanitarian aid. Every day 30,000 staff are providing assistance to people caught in crises around the world.

Médecins Sans Frontières exists to save lives by providing medical aid where it is needed most – in armed conflicts, epidemics, famines and natural disasters. All these situations call for a rapid response with specialised medical and logistical help. But, they also run longer-term projects, tackling health crises and supporting people where the need is greatest. They currently have projects running in almost 70 countries.

The Médecins Sans Frontières Australia office was set up in 1994. Every year around two hundred Australians and New Zealanders are sent to and supported in the field by Médecins Sans Frontières Australia. I believe Doctors Without Borders fills a great need in the world and, in the absence of any personal medical training, I am happy to give as much money as I can each year so this organization can continue to provide emergency, independent medical and humanitarian aid to people living in extreme circumstances. Find out more here www.msf.org.au

Claiming tax deductions

Charity donations can be claimed on your tax return if your charity is registered as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR). This doesn’t affect the amount of money the charity actually receives, just what you’re entitled to deduct at tax time.

There are conditions about what you can claim. Donations must be over $2 and you’ll need a receipt.

Some gifts to DGRs – such as tickets to a charity dinner or ball – aren’t eligible. You can check if an organisation is a DGR via the ABN lookup website. There’s also information about the deductibility of donations at the ATO.

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