3 Charities that Help People Help Themselves

We’ve all heard the adage about giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day. This holiday season, while you’re donating toys and food to your local charities, give some thought to investing in needy families year-round. All around the world, people young and old are ready to make a living for themselves. They want desperately to stand on their own, but lack the basic money or supplies needed to start their businesses. Rather than feed these families for a day, why not support some causes that will enable them to provide for themselves – and feed them for a lifetime.

Heifer International

Heifer International’s founder, Dan West, coined the phrase, “Not a cup, but a cow.” This sums up Heifer International’s approach: they use donations to provide livestock to needy families. The families receive training in animal housing, care, and husbandry. While they enjoy the benefits of milk, eggs, and wool, they wait for the next generation of livestock to be born. The new offspring is then passed on to another needy farmer, thus perpetuating a sustainable system to fight hunger and poverty.

To select a gift for a needy family, you can use Heifer’s convenient online gift catalog. The offerings range from food to trees to various types of animals. Monetary donations can also be made monthly, or even given as a gift in the name of an honored loved one. Heifer makes it easy to give. They truly are the future of charity.


Kiva distributes “loans that change lives”, pooling donations from many to benefit struggling business owners who need help getting started. Many of the people seeking loans are trying to provide for their families, to end their cycle of poverty. Merchants from Mexico, the USA, Africa, and worldwide, come to Kiva with a business plan and a specific amount of money they need to get going. Then many generous folks from around the world pool their money to help the up-and-coming merchants build their inventory, secure a location, and start selling their products and services. A $1,500 loan isn’t that expensive when ten people share the financial burden.

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Donations to Kiva are made online. Paypal provides them with free payment processing. To date, Kiva’s loan repayment rate is 99.7%.

Dress For Success

Getting a job is hard enough. What if your options were further limited because you didn’t have acceptable workplace attire? Many impoverished women face this problem, and Dress for Success provides solutions. Individuals and corporations alike donate gently-used business clothes to this organization. Their web site contains information on how to donate money, and ideas for setting up a suit drive in your area.

Dress for Success has locations in 39 states and many countries. Check out their web site for valuable information on what they do, and how you can help.

Charity of any kind is admirable. Do continue to drop off toys and food for hungry families on the holidays. But also consider making a sustainable difference with a different kind of handout – namely, putting out your hand and pulling a fellow human to their feet for life.