Sunday, December 04, 2011

Gifts That Say You Care

GIVE Grandma a bit of credit! These holidays, would she rather receive a silly reindeer sweater or help a schoolchild acquire glasses to see the blackboard clearly for the first time?

Choosing the perfect holiday gift is one of life’s greater challenges, modestly more difficult than earning a Ph.D. in astrophysics. So it is time for my annual gift guide.
For starters, the Web sites of the major humanitarian organizations offer alluring holiday gifts. Through the International Rescue Committee, $30 buys a flock of chickens for a needy family. At CARE, $29 gets a girl a school uniform. Through Heifer International, you can stock a fish pond for $300. With Mercy Corps, $69 can start a female entrepreneur in the sewing business.
Beyond those organizations, here are some lesser-known charities that may help put a grin on Grandma — and on someone else.
Helen Keller International

fights blindness and malnutrition around the world with simple and cost-effective programs. One of the best ways to improve children’s health is to focus on micronutrients, like iodine, vitamin A and zinc — and in some cases to fortify foods with nutrients at a negligible cost. Helen Keller International, at, is a leader in that effort, and gets more bang for the buck than almost any group I can think of.
And those glasses I mentioned for a schoolchild? That’s a Helen Keller International program, ChildSight, which operates in the United States as well as in Indonesia and Vietnam. Schoolchildren are screened for vision problems, and those who need glasses get them. Providing glasses costs just $25 per child — which is a much better value than a sweater that will sit in a drawer for eternity.

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