Sunday, January 01, 2006

Helping People in Central Asia

Sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed by natural and human-engineered disasters; they're too big, too bad for us to comprehend or even want to think about. But here are a couple of small-scale projects that are helping people in some hurting parts of the world.

The Central Asia Institute , an organization begun by a mountain climber concerned by the poverty, lack of opportunity and gender inequity he found in countries he visited, is raising money to help keep schools open in earthquake-damaged communities in rural Pakistan. The money is going toward tents and shelters, clothing for kids, school supplies and other needs. Visit the website and check it out.

For many of us Afghanistan has fallen off our mental map. Ecology Action , a nonprofit dedicated to promoting good, sustainable gardening practices and empowering people in developing countries to grow their own food, is helping sponsor a gardening project in Kabul, where an Afghan agriculturalist and graduate of Ecology Action's apprenticeship program in California is planning on teaching others the gardening practices he learned. Ecology Action is also accepting donations to help fund Kenyan gardening education projects. Among other good things, Ecology Action publishes the Bountiful Gardens gardening catalog, which offers all sorts of wonderful open-pollinated vegetable, grain, flower and green manure plant seeds, as well as gardening supplies and books. I can personally vouch for the quality of their seeds and customer service; once they had to back-order a packet of sweetcorn seeds for me, and I received a personal, chatty handwritten note from one of the staff telling me about her own experience with the variety in question -- very impressive! So visit the website, maybe throw a little change the way of one of their development projects, and shop for seeds -- another way to support the work of Ecology Action.

And...most of our denominations' relief agencies are helping out in Central and South Asia, the southern U.S., Niger, Darfur and other places that may be easy to forget as we enter a new year. Even something as simple as giving up a weekend pizza or morning latte, or earmarking random "found money" for charity, can help you fit some extra giving into your budget. You'll feel good for having done it, and any amount will help.

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