A Month of Philanthropy

Charity wordsIn December I decided to donate to charity for the first time.   I won’t explain here what charities I donated to or how much… I’ll just say that I mostly chose causes that I care about and think are important.

I’ll also explain a few interesting concepts that I learned while educating myself on how to donate effectively (these are all explained in the videos listed at the bottom of this blog post). Here are the concepts:

The percentage of your donation that goes to the cause isn’t important; what matters is the results generated by your donation

Peter Singer uses the example of helping blind people.  If you wanted to help blind people one thing you could do is donate money to organizations that train guide dogs. In America it apparently costs about $40,000 to fully train a guide dog and to train the blind person to work with the dog.  And it costs $20-$50 to cure a blind person in a developing country if they have trachoma.  So if you have $40,000 to donate, you could either train one guide dog, or you could actually cure over 1,000 people of their blindness.  I think it’s clear what the most effective use of the $40,000 would be.

Even if the guide dog organization put 90% of your donation towards training the dog and the blind person and used only 10% for their own overhead, whereas the organization that cured trachoma put only 10% of your donation towards the cause and used 90% for their own overhead… your donation would still generate far greater results in the hands of the trachoma-cure organization.

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A Month of Eating Vegan

Kale Plant Closeup

Kale: A common food during my vegan month.

While I was doing the Paleo Diet last year, an acquaintance suggested that I try eating vegan. In his opinion it was healthier, and he pointed out that some top athletes are vegan.

So last month I finally gave the vegan diet a try, and something happened that I never expected (more on that later). [Read more...]

A Month of Volunteering (@ A Long-Term Care Residence)

I was sitting at a table in a long term care residence, waiting for a bingo game to start.

On my right was a very old woman in a wheelchair who always brought a stuffed toy rabbit around with her. She’d often pet the rabbit and try to tell me about it, or she’d talk about other things, but unfortunately I usually couldn’t make out what she said. She seemed very sincere when she tried to communicate. Her lips would move slightly, and little puffs of unintelligible sound would come out, but recognizable words were few and far between.

Luckily she didn’t seem to be aware that no one could really understand her. And when I responded by smiling and nodding, or by saying something that I feared had no connection to what she’d just tried to communicate to me, she seemed to be satisfied.

A few seconds before the bingo game began her daughter showed up to help her mother with the game, so I didn’t end up needing to help her myself.

Instead, I was able to focus most of my attention to the guy on my left.  He was a also in a wheelchair but was around my age – much younger than most of the residents.

[Read more...]