‘Tis the Season

Who’s the most difficult person to buy a gift for on your list? You know what I mean: the uncle who has more stuff than he needs or desires, the friend who likes to travel light, and neighbor whose is taste so specifically her own it’s almost impossible to choose something she’ll really like. The perfect gift for those people could be a donation made in their honor. A cause matched with the person’s interests takes things to the next level, but if even if you’re a lefty with a Tea Bagger cousin or a fur lover with a vegan best friend, there’s a cause out there that’ll leave you basking in the mutual glow of holiday generosity. Here are some of my own favorite organizations; in this era of tightened belts, remember that any amount will do. And even if you’re through with this year’s spending, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about these organizations.

BEADS For Education There are many ways to contribute to BEADS. You can shop for gifts made by members of women’s beading collectives; proceeds are used to fund the women’s groups and BEADS programs. Gifts start at $15 and most are no more than $30. If your budget is larger, you can sponsor a Kenyan girl’s education, which might be the most rewarding gift you can give yourself. You can also simply donate.

Airline Ambassadors Years ago, on a flight from JFK to SFO, I chatted with flight attendant Nancy Rivard, and she mentioned me a little non-profit she’d started. Since then, Airline Ambassadors has grown into an organization that does big things, like delivering humanitarian aid to children around the world, escorting children to hospitals, rebuilding or delivering supplies to areas hit by disaster or poverty. You can make a donation and even join a mission.

Polaris Project’s vision is simple: “a world without slavery.” It’s one of the largest organizations of its kind, with numerous programs for combatting human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Schoolbags For Kids So much beauty in a simple idea: you buy a very cool schoolbag for someone you know, and another schoolbag filled with supplies is donated to a child who needs one in India, Thailand, or Belize. (May I brag a little? One of the founders is a fan who has become a friend. Bravo, Kalon!)

Project VoteSmart is a completely non-partisan organization dedicated to the idea that a knowledgable citizenry is an empowered citizenry. With the click of some keys you can find out everything you need to know about candidates and elected officials: biographies, voting records, issue positions, public statements, campaign finances, and more. This is seriously valuable information; there’s no cost to use the site, so donations keep it going.

The Jazz Foundation Jazz musicians play well into old age. One of the things that’s always nagged at me is a concern for some of the elders who are still with us; after all, a lot of gigs pay no more than they did three or four or five decades ago (and I’m talking actual dollars, not inflation-adjusted ones). How are these folks in their seventies, eighties, nineties getting by? In many cases, not very well. This is where the Jazz foundations steps in, with programs to provide emergency housing and assistance, pro bono medical care for uninsured musicians, performance opportunities for elder masters, and more. Read about some of the people the JFA has helped.

Society of Singers Similarly, SOS provides support to singers in need. Programs include financial aid, case management and referrals, scholarships, and more.

Potters For Peace is a network of potters, educators, technicians, supporters, and volunteers that works with clay artisans on ceramic water purification projects. Want to see the beauty of a low tech miracle? Potters for Peace travels the world teaching potters (often rural women) how to make low-cost ceramic water filters that can bring clean, potable water to those who need it most.

When I heard about Planting Peace’s deworming project I was struck by several things: the widespread the problem of intestinal parasites is, the devastating effects, and the relatively simple and inexpensive solutions. A one dollar donation pays for deworming sixty seven children; when’s the last time you spent a dollar that made such a huge difference? Of course you can multiply that dollar by any amount and help even more people. And if you’ve got $20 a month to spend, you can sponsor an orphan’s housing, education, medical care, and more.

For the activist on your list, an Occupy Wall Street calendar, with profits donated to the movement. Swiss photographer Juan Carlos Hernandez came to New York to photograph jazz events, and ended up also spending a lot of time at Zuccotti Square. A track from my CD accompanies the promo video for the calendar, or go straight to the store and get a 50% discount with the code HOLIDAYSUPERSAVINGS34 if you buy before December 31.

Happy shopping, happy giving.


Happy International Human Rights Day

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948:


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Articles (full text) / History

The Elixir of Life

Dean’s Beans
Coffee is a serious matter. So are organic, fair trade, shade grown, and so forth, which meant my taste buds were at war with my social conscience. Then I found Dean’s Beans, which satisfies on every level. I am at peace. Not only is the coffee good—really good—but the prices are reasonable (order 4 or 5 pounds at a time, and the shipping cost works out to very little).* I recommend Oromia blend if you like your coffee dark and rich. Here’s another reason for loving Dean’s: I placed an order and accidentally made the wrong shipping selection, which slowed down delivery (this is after I’d been a customer for about two years; what was I thinking?). I didn’t know what was wrong, and when my coffee didn’t arrive with its usual alacrity, I called in search of my order. Two days later, a package arrived, a pound of Oromia, labeled “Get You Through Brew.” The error was totally mine, but they sent me a little present anyway. (And two days after that, my order arrived.) Dean’s.

* I wrote this post in Sept. 2010. In Nov. 2011, I’m updating it to say that while the prices of coffee and shipping have increased a bit, Dean’s remains a bargain. Out of curiosity, I compared the cost of ordering 4 lbs. of my favorite Dean’s blend (at $8.95/lb.) with that of 4 lbs. of Starbucks least expensive blend (House, at $11.95/lb.). Even with shipping added, I saved $9 by ordering Dean’s organic, fair trade. Huzzah!

I Need This. . .

Tide To Go
. . . and so, I’ll bet, do you. There’s always a good chance something I’m eating will end up on my clothes. Knowhudumtalkinbout? You just jab the “pen” into the spill and the spill disappears. Okay, it doesn’t work 100% of the time but it works often enough that I carry one with me at all times. Okay, most of the time. Okay, whenever I remember. But, honestly, I have saved people from the embarrassment of public spill evidence because I’ve had this in my purse. Please use the comments box to tell us what you think we all need.