catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 1 :: 2009.01.02 — 2009.01.16


No problem, Warren

If Warren Buffet asked me what to do with his millions and billions, I would recommend that he give $1 million (or $10 million!) to the following organizations: 

  1. Growing Power: Growing Power is one of those organizations that I read about and thought to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Growing Power develops community food systems in largely low-income neighborhoods.  Growing Power not only helps individuals and families start gardens in their communities, but the organization focuses on educating the communities they serve about the importance of whole, healthy foods and being stewards of our environment.  Will Allen, Growing Power’s founder, sums up their mission beautifully: “If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community.”
  2. Kiva:  Kiva’s mission is to “connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.”  Kiva could change the world with a $1 million donation. Buffet’s money would double or even triple after the entrepreneurs selected repaid their loans.  My husband and I picked a woman to support, inspired by this video.
  3. Invisible Children: Invisible Children was started by three young filmmakers wanting to witness to the atrocities going on in Darfur.  Instead, God led them to northern Uganda to document the ramifications of the ongoing civil war there, specifically on the children of the region.  After returning to their homes in southern California, they created a documentary about their experience and the war in northern Uganda.  The documentary quickly gained a huge following, and the young men decided to start a non-profit organization.  Today, the Invisible Children team has created a movement that has sparked passion and commitment in young people especially.  We became involved with the organization in 2006 and helped organize the Global Night Commute in Indianapolis.  The Global Night Commute was a peaceful event held in over 130 cities around the world and over 80,000 people participated.  It was haphazardly organized, relied on local volunteers to pull-off and it was one of the most meaningful evenings of my life. 
  4. Partners in Health: If you haven’t already, read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains about Dr. Paul Farmer, the brains and heart behind Partners in Health. You will quickly understand why PIH is deserving of $1 million.
  5. Your local food pantry: It’s vitally important, especially during the current economic times, that we support the food pantries in our community.  I live in Hamilton County, Indiana, one of the twenty-five wealthiest counties in the country, and our food pantries are desperate for food due to the huge increases in the number of middle-class families in need of food. Often in rural or suburban areas, the food pantries are the only social services available in the immediate community. I would ask Mr. Buffet to spread some of his wealth around to the local food pantries in Omaha. I would also encourage him to go visit a few of them to help out with a meal or just odd jobs that need to be done.
  6. PlayPumps International:  I first heard about this organization after watching a PBS special exploring unique organizations making a difference.  I think I had a smile on my face for hours after hearing about PlayPumps.  It is such a simple, fun idea: on the surface, a PlayPump looks like a merry-go-round, but, underground, it is connected to a water pump that pumps clean water from underground into a 2,500 liter tank close by.  PlayPumps transform communities.  Clean water is a critical necessity in addressing many of the health issues facing impoverished communities.  PlayPumps not only provide easily accessible clean water, but in communities where PlayPumps are installed, children are more likely to stay in school because they don’t have to travel long distances to haul water home for their families, women used the time saved from transporting water to care for the families or start small enterprises that bring in much-needed additional income, and the organization sells advertising space on the storage tanks, so that the pump is self-sustainable. 
  7. Rice Bowls: “Collect change, fill bowl, fight hunger” is the mission of Rice Bowls, and it doesn’t get much easier than that.  As a child, our church would hand out rice bowls for Advent and Lent, and I love the memory of our family collecting loose change wherever we could find it.  As a child, I imagined my loose nickels and dimes paying for food for a family in need halfway around the world.  We don’t have children yet, but I plan on our children having rice bowls of their own, in hopes of teaching them that giving is a regular part of our lives. I would ask Mr. Buffet to give Rice Bowls $1 million not just to fund their programs around the world, but I would ask him to set aside some of that money to fund the organization to send out thousands of rice bowls to churches and schools in the U.S. It is a simple idea with profound implications.
  8. Victory Acres: I would ask Warren to find an organization similar to Victory Acres in several communities around the country. Victory Acres is my CSA (community supported agriculture), so they provide my husband and me (and our friends and family) with delicious, fresh, organically grown produce all summer long, but they also provide a place for individuals in trouble to rehabilitate and rebuild while working on the farm.  It is a joy to partner with such a wonderful organization.  If I had my way, Buffet’s $1 million would be split among hundreds of CSAs around the country, some of which would go toward purchasing much-needed new equipment, and the rest would go toward CSA share scholarships for low income families, so that families who would normally not be able to afford such high quality produce could taste the difference.  If more people supported local farms and farmers, our food system would be healthier, more reliable, less dependent on foreign players and far better for the environment in most cases-not to mention, it’s just more fun to know where your food comes from and to become friends with farmers in your neighborhood!
  9. Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC): CIVIC was founded in 2003 by Marla Ruzicka, an idealistic young woman concerned about victims of war.  I first read about CIVIC in April 2005 when Marla was tragically killed in a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad.  At the time of her death, Marla had been working to collect information about the victims of the war in Baghdad.  Marla’s friends, family and colleagues vowed to continue the work she had started and hired a full-time staff for CIVIC.  Today, CIVIC has expanded their mission beyond Afghanistan and Iraq to “recognize the commonality of varying degrees worldwide and the lack of accountability among warring parties.”  CIVIC does the work of peacemaking and building everyday.
  10. Better World Books: I’m cheating a bit, but I feel so strongly about this organization that I just had to include it.  BWB is an online bookstore with a purpose: BWB collects and sells books to fund literacy initiatives worldwide.  In addition, BWB ships every order carbon neutral using offsets and funds literacy programs through four partners around the world, which makes them a triple-bottom-line company. I would tell Mr. Buffet that he should throw some money at those literacy organizations that partner with BWB, that he should purchase all of his books (he likes to read, after all) via Better World Books and that he should tell all of his friends about it…and you should too!

I obviously believe strongly in all of these organizations and encourage you, even if you don’t have Buffet’s millions and billions, to check them out.  As we all know, every little bit helps!

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