It’s been around seven months since the inauguration of Donald Trump as US President, and everything is topsy turvy. In almost every sphere of life, Americans are witness to turmoil; behind the scenes and away from public eyes, there is more chaos yet. In midst of all that’s going wrong, it’s easy for even the most idealistic youth to lose hope of reform.
Some become numb to their own fear, some isolate themselves from what is becoming an overwhelming amount of negativity, and others take their outrage to social media. As for myself, I’ve gone through all of these states, growing more and more cynical.
Listen, social media is powerful. Words are powerful. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be writing at Affinity. But their effect is limited. For spreading awareness, for grabbing a politician’s attention, for manipulating news coverage, sure – bring out the hashtags and tweet away. But there’s a line.
Tweeting about how much it sucks that people are lacking X, will not give them X. For all the hashtags we produce, fracking will go on. So, I’ve compiled a list of nonprofits, organized by cause, that you can donate to or volunteer with to help people at a local level. Grassroots activism holds a host of untapped powers that we cannot neglect to use at a time when the executive branch of our government is bearing down on organizations fundamental to the good of the people.
Despite technology being one of the fastest growing fields in the US, the percentage of females in the field continues to shrink. In fact, the percent of women in technology has been chopped in half in the past 33 years. Girls Who Code aims to encourage women to pursue the field by setting up clubs nationwide for 6th through 12th graders, as well as summer immersion camps. Thus far, this organization has impacted “40,000 girls in 50 states” and it continues to grow. Donate to this phenomenal program here.
Menstruation. The cursed word. Though considered an “uncomfortable topic” by many (that’s an entirely different cup of tea that I won’t bother diving into right now), the fact remains that it’s a struggle, especially for those living in poverty.
Listen, for those of y’all who don’t know: Pads and tampons? Hecking expensive. And they’re not counted as “necessities” (unlike Viagra, but again, that’s another…piping hot cup of tea), so they’re not tax deductible. So, if you barely have the money to pay your bills and/or feed yourself, they’re…hard to get. Helping Women Period, based in Lansing, Michigan, helps those struggling get the products they need.. They locally distribute menstrual hygiene products to anyone who needs them in the area. You can help them out by donating money or products or by volunteering. It’s all on their homepage.
If you want to make an impact in your own community, I suggest checking with local homeless shelters or searching your area for nonprofits like this one. If you come up short, start your own club. Just get a group of a few passionate people to help organize things and rally up support in your school or neighborhood.
This one seems both obvious and self explanatory, but it’s of paramount importance. Trump’s 2018 budget proposal cuts all federal funding for this organization, meaning they’re going to be 100% reliant on donations. And, Planned Parenthood does a heck of a lot more than abortions – though those are important too. They help with cancer, birth control, STDs, sex education, and health and wellness (important checkups for all kinds of things!). You can help them out by donating – but if that isn’t financially within your bounds, fear not. They also have tons of ways to volunteer locally. However you choose to help, don’t neglect this one. A lot of people will lose access to very important health services if we gloss over it
350 works against various coal, gas, and oil projects that harm the environment. They invest in community based sustainability efforts, fight the fossil fuel industry, and run political campaigns for various environmental causes. Their approach is integrated, thorough, and incredibly expansive – spanning 188 countries. You can look for a local chapter here or start your own chapter here. Scientists are saying that by 2050, we’re going to have a heck of a lot of extinctions on our hands if we don’t change emission patterns, so if I were you, I’d hop right onto this train.
Passionate about local, sustainable agriculture and stripping the power away from the godless soulsucking corporation that is Monsanto? This one’s for you. The Cornucopia Institute fights against major corporations on different issues, conducts research on agricultural technology, and provides a support system to family and local farms. They also do comprehensive reviews on the sustainability of various brands. Pretty cool, right? Donate here to support their mission – “promoting economic justice for family-scale farming”.
This powerhouse of an organization, founded by John Muir in the late 1800s, hosts a membership of over 3 million. They’ve protected 250 million acres of land, shut down 251 coal fired power plants, and, more recently, have “[lead] the charge to move away from…dirty fossil fuels…and toward a clean energy economy”. They continue to fight for the passage and protection of important environmental legislation. You can donate to this organization, but that’s just one of many…many ways you can help out (while I was researching this one, I almost got overwhelmed by the sheer number of opportunities they had listed). You can join a Grassroots Network team (of which there are many to choose from), attend an organized outing, join a local chapter, and sign up for email updates.
Racial Equality Advocacy
So the list of organizations for this is quite long, and they all have essentially the same goals. These advocacy groups back different minorities in civil rights cases, immigration, the criminal justice system, and legislation, and empower people of color to protect their rights and run for office.
“NAPABA engages in legislative and policy advocacy, promotes Asian Pacific American political leadership and political appointments, and builds coalitions within the legal profession and the community at large. NAPABA also serves as a resource for government agencies, members of Congress, and public service organizations about Asian Pacific Americans in the legal profession, civil rights, and diversity in the courts.”
“The Mission of the League of United Latin American Citizens is to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of the Hispanic population of the United States.”
“NARF has successfully asserted and defended the most important rights of Indians and tribes in hundreds of major cases, and has achieved significant results in such critical areas as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, and Indian education.”
“South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States. Our ultimate vision is dignity and full inclusion for all.”
“We design campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward. Until justice is real.”
With over “100,000 immigrant youth and 55 affiliate organizations”, United We Dream runs multiple political campaigns for immigrants’ rights. They also work to stop deportations, give immigrants broadened access to education, and provide information and resources to immigrants (i.e. a section on “Knowing your rights”, help getting a work permit). They’ve won several awards for their activism. Join their mobile action network, donate, or find a group near you.
This organization works on several different scales. Locally, it connects immigrants and refugees to essentials like “jobs, education, and health”, ensuring they feel safe and welcome upon arrival. Nationally, they lobby Washington to act on important issues like the Refugee Crisis. They also fight against human trafficking and deportation that splits up families. This description is brief – for more detail on the innumerable ways they help immigrant and refugee communities (I haven’t even touched the legal representation they provide), go to their main site. After you finish reading, consider donating money or goods, or signing up to be a volunteer.
The Trevor Project provides a 24 hour hotline for LGBT+ youth. It provides guidance to those having suicidal thoughts, in dangerous situations, or in need of “a safe and judgement-free place to talk”. In addition, the site offers confidential messaging services, for those who need them. They also connect LGBT youth to resources that allow them to advocate for LGBT rights, connect with other members of the community, and fund-raise to keep the project going. You can get involved by volunteering or donating. Especially as things like the trans bathroom bill come into prevalence, accessibility to this kind of service is essential.
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project seeks to provide legal assistance to “guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence”. Their site contains a masterlist of legal resources for members of the LGBT+ community. Attend one of their events if you can, sign up for their mailing list to stay updated, volunteer, and, of course, donate if it’s within your means!
The TLC works to protect trans citizens on multiple levels, from fighting against abuse in the criminal detention system, providing legal representation, fighting for fair laws, and helping trans youth view themselves in a positive light. Their numerous programs cover all bases. The site also houses a massive list of resources for trans people, including information on housing, employment, health, immigration, and more. Two volunteer programs (one for legal experts and another for community members) and a donation page provide plenty of opportunity to take action and help out this organization.
Karam Foundation seeks to provide scholarships to Syrian refugees. They believe education is the foundation for success, and work to ensure that it is not denied to anyone, no matter their country of origin. Currently, they have scholars in Turkey, Jordan, and the US. This organization is barely two years old, but it has grown rapidly. To help them continue down that path of progress, donate to their cause or, if you can, sponsor a Syrian refugee family and add to the over 200 children that the Karam Foundation has sponsored to attain an education.
Okay, this one is a personal favorite of mine. I’m part of this organization called Junior World Affairs Council, and as president of my chapter, I got to attend several leadership training events in Dallas with two of the leaders of this organization. Amy Merk and Bhavani Parpia are two of the most brilliant, thoughtful people I’ve had the privilege of meeting, and they wholeheartedly believe in what they’re doing. ConnecTeach goes to different impoverished regions all around the world – from Iganga, Uganda, to Gazientep, Turkey, to the slums of Delhi, India – and improves education for the children there in a host of different ways. Using problem based learning, they gear education towards serving as the solution to many of the problems that urban slums encounter.
By connecting sustainability, inclusiveness and societal relevance to the teaching process, we believe that education can have a transformational power. Education with an emphasis on solving problems that are relevant to the community itself—poverty, gender inequity, violence, and community health and well-being—emerges as the means to establish a strong, virtuous, and self-sustaining cycle.
That quote is straight off their site. Yeah. It’s pretty phenomenal. Every $100 raised pays for one teacher, teaching 50 kids – so, really, every $2 you donate gives a kid a transformative education.
So. There you have it. I’ve heard a lot of people say they feel helpless these days, and I get it – I did too. With all the gerrymandering Republicans have done, it’s hard to see things taking a turn for the better in Washington.
But legislation is not the only path to change. That’s why non-governmental organizations exist.
We, all of us, need to join together in this critical time and do more. The resources are right there – will we use them? You have power. You have a voice. Use it to vent on twitter all you want – but don’t forget to use that power to prop up these organizations, because in the end, they, along with others like them, are the strongest barrier of defense the people have.