opinion | Make a donation this holiday season: children and families need your help

This article is part of the Times Opinion Giving Guide 2022. Continue reading about the guide in a note from Kathleen Kingsbury, Editor of Opinion.

Hunger is spreading in poor countries, American students have fallen further behind since the pandemic, and a brutal war in Ukraine is creating desperate refugees — but here’s the encouraging news: We can ease that pain with modest donations.

Instead of giving your Aunt Sue and Uncle Bill another scarf and tie to languish in the closet this holiday season, how about donating on their behalf to help children in need?

It’s time for my annual holiday giving guide, which recommends nonprofits that are doing outstanding work. (This week, my fellow Times columnists will be suggesting groups that they think your donations can help.)

As in the past, the group I select as the grand prize winner will receive $100,000 from a foundation, while each runner-up will receive $25,000. These organizations will benefit even more from the much larger sums that I hope you will all contribute.

You can easily donate via Kristof Holiday Impact Prize websiteand here is what the totals will achieve:

Help hungry families feed themselves. My grand prize winner is this One Acre Fundwhich works with hard-working but impoverished farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi and other countries to increase harvests.

I am seared by memories of starving children I met – one child dies every 14 seconds somewhere in the world from starvation-related causes – and the optimal solution is not to rush American aid but to help farming families increase production improve and help yourself.

It’s so difficult to be an African farmer. Some of the seeds and fertilizers on the market are fake, the climate is changing, land titles are elusive, bank credit is almost impossible to come by, and after a harvest where can you store your crop to get the best price?

One Acre Fund helps small farmers, most of them women, increase productivity with improved techniques, quality seeds and effective fertilizers. Each family increases rural production in the project by an average of 45 percent — usually enough to stave off malnutrition, pay school fees, and lead fundamentally better lives.

The non-profit organization was inspired by two women who farm neighboring plots in Kenya. Andrew Youn, an American business consultant, visited the area and saw that one woman was struggling and had lost a child, while the second had four times the crops and was able to feed and send her children to school.

Learning that farming practices made the difference, Youn founded the One Acre Fund in 2006 as a non-profit organization supporting just 38 families. Participants saw large increases in production, and the One Acre Fund has exploded, now supporting 1.4 million families in nine countries. I like the organization’s emphasis on data and rigorous analysis, including the use of randomized controlled trials check effect.

The One Acre Fund also benefits the entire region. Research has found that nearby farmers are also adopting the “one acre fund path,” leading to large ones overflow increases in harvests also among those who are not in the program.

I chose One Acre Fund in part because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed up food prices worldwide and, as a result, will almost certainly kill more children in Africa than in Ukraine itself. Even before the Ukraine war, it was a fifth of all children worldwide stunted from malnutrition.

One Acre Fund is now expanding its tree planting campaign, enriching families with fruit and timber for sale while improving soil health. The cost is only 50 cents per surviving tree. And a $100 donation will help the One Acre Fund enroll four more families in the core program. You won’t find a bigger bargain this holiday season!

Get children’s glasses. About a quarter of American schoolchildren need glasses, and they usually get them in middle-class homes. But look around any school in a low-income area and you’ll see few kids wearing glasses.

That’s the problem vision to learn Addresses heroic and inexpensive. Since its inception in 2012, it has given glasses to approximately 330,000 children in 15 states and the District of Columbia, helping to transform their lives.

Austin Beutner, a businessman who was for a time the superintendent of schools in Los Angeles, founded Vision to Learn because he saw that when children cannot easily see the board, they become restless and are then labeled as disruptive or slow learners . They cannot read well, have problems at school and drop out more often.

A disproportionate share of young people in juvenile detention centers wear glasses (often it’s the first time they’ve had eye exams and glasses) – suggesting that some schoolchildren get caught up in the criminal justice system for a lack of cheap glasses. Wouldn’t it be better and cheaper to help children see?

The Vision to Learn model addresses real-world problems. Researchers have repeatedly found that many children who fail school performances never actually get glasses. Even vouchers for free glasses are often not redeemed. Or children break their glasses or hide them because they think glasses are for nerds.

For example, Vision to Learn brings screenings and eye exams to schools and provides students with glasses. Celebrity athletes come to convey the message that wearing glasses is cool — to the point that some kids with perfect eyesight are clamoring for glasses. And when a pair of glasses breaks, they get replaced—even for Isaiah, a boy from Inglewood, California, who managed to break four pairs of glasses playing basketball in one year!

A published study found that when Vision to Learn provided glasses to underperforming students in Baltimore, the impact on learning was slightly greater than tutoring and significantly greater than longer school days or new technology.

The total cost for Vision to Learn to provide a pair of glasses for a child is approximately $150 (only $10 for the glasses themselves). Raising a $150 child on the path to success in life feels like a gift for eternity.

Help a child read. The best measure of where a society will be in 25 years is its education system, and everyone has theories about how learning outcomes can be improved. But it’s hard to find an educational initiative as scientifically rooted – or as successful in its impact – as this Success for all Foundation.

Success for All was founded by experts at Johns Hopkins University based on thorough research to improve outcomes. It focuses on helping children through third grade read as it is the cornerstone of educational gains and achieves this through tutoring, professional development, better materials and more.

More than three million children in 42 states have benefited from Success for All and it has been the subject of more than 50 studies which have shown remarkable effects on children’s outcomes. It works in underperforming school districts, including Native American communities, and consistently helps students get on track.

find researchers students in the Success for All schools are, on average, a full grade ahead of students in a control group in fifth grade. In just three years, Success for All cuts the race distance in half. However, after setup ($300 per student in year one), the cost per student drops to $70 in year three. How can we afford not to invest so much in at-risk students? What I admire most about Success for All is its proven ability to encourage reading so kids are not left behind.

“Learning to read is truly magical,” says founder Nancy Madden.

You can learn more about these three organizations at KristofImpact.org and donate for them there too. Philanthropy in focus, a non-profit organization I’m collaborating with on this project, will process contributions received through the site and will report back to you on the results. Focusing Philanthropy also covers credit card transaction costs, so 100 cents of the dollar goes to your chosen charity.

For families that are of goodwill but short on cash, I’m happy to recommend two nonprofits that need volunteers across the country:

Become a mentor. Countless children in underserved communities would benefit from having an adult to talk to and guide them. So sign up Big brothers, big sisters. It brings adults (“Bigs”) together with young people (“Littles”) and nine out of 10 littles see their bigs as very important adults in their lives. But 30,000 kids across America, mostly boys, are on a waiting list for a Big because not enough people are volunteering.

Sponsor a refugee. Thousands of Ukrainians, Venezuelans and others fleeing bombing or oppression need help relocating to the United States — and Welcome.US makes it easy for a group of Americans to provide that assistance. The sponsorship can be a religious group, book club, charity, veterans group or just a bunch of friends and is based on the highly successful Canadian model of refugee sponsorship. I see sponsorships as an opportunity not only to help individual refugee families, but also to express our compassion in a brutal world.

70 years ago that fall, a group of Americans in Portland, Oregon, sponsored my father, then a stateless World War II refugee, to come to America. Your help hasn’t solved the global refugee crisis, but for our family, that generosity has been transformative. It’s what we all have the power to do – change lives, one at a time – so consider joining me to support these organizations KristofImpact.org.

This article is part of the Times Opinion’s Giving Guide 2022. The author has no direct connection to the organizations mentioned. If you are interested in an organization mentioned in Times Opinion’s 2022 Giving Guide, please visit their website directly. Neither the authors nor The Times can answer questions about the groups or facilitate donations.

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