The Giving List – 2011 Edition

One of my favorite holiday stories is the O’Henry short story THE GIFT OF THE MAGI. The story says so much in such a short space and for me has always represented the spirit of the season.

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents…Here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest…” ~ O”Henry THE GIFT OF THE MAGI.

This seemed the most fitting way to introduce you to something I have been very excited to display here – my second annual Giving List.

I have had a life-altering year in 2011, one that exceeded my every dream, and at the same time in the gentlest way helped wake me up to a reality in this world. A year ago I was preparing for one of the largest undertakings of my life, which would become a year of having no home of my own, and traveling from Southeast Asia to Kenya. I remember nervously scanning the news for what was happening in these far stretches of the world; I was scared but I was determined. To my great relief and fortune, the areas of the world I was about to travel through and live in had little warnings. I had no idea what I would experience or see in these places. I saw, felt, tasted, and tried so much more than I ever could have imagined possible.

Sadly just a year later, both areas I traveled through are highly prominent in the news and in the most troubling ways. Floods are devastating Southeast Asia, towns are being washed away, crops destroyed, and people’s lives tragically impacted. I remember the houses through much of the Cambodian countryside on stilts to avoid these heavy monsoons and I can imagine the waters rising and wiping so much away. In Kenya there is famine and kidnappings. None of this surprises me. Kenya is such a different place with or without a natural disaster or conflict with neighboring countries; we in much of the world cannot properly comprehend the circumstances.

This is all a very long way to introduce this year’s giving list and to say that it is closer to my heart than ever before. I am proud that this is the second annual list of this kind, and equally excited to think I might actually get to keep this list going for years to come. This year the list is particularly special, as you will find no major organizations listed (sorry MSF, I do love you) but only small NGOs helping directly on the ground in immediate support of the communities they are in. Also, I have focused the groups listed to reflect the travels I took in 2011 and the places I spent time in.

VICDA: This is the organization that facilitated my volunteer placement in Kenya. They are working throughout the country on various projects of merit. It is run by a group of dedicated locals, and despite any of my confusion they are doing the very real work that is making an impact.

“Volunteer International Community Development Africa (VICDA) is a Non-Government Organization (NGO) that was established in Nairobi, Kenya by a local woman, Irene Wairimu Ngatia, in 2004…With the assistance of generous donors and selfless volunteers, VICDA has been able to focus their efforts primarily on the rehabilitation of street children, drilling of wells, HIV/AIDS counseling and assistance, medical camps, medical centers, child education and sponsorship.”

Note: Quote taken from VICDA Website. See link for more information.

GREEN BELT KENYA: “The planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple act of planting a tree, we give hope to ourselves and to future generations.”–Wangari Maathai

“The Green Belt Movement is one of the most prominent women’s civil society organizations, based in Kenya, advocating for human rights and supporting good governance and peaceful democratic change through the protection of the environment. Its mission is to empower communities worldwide to protect the environment and to promote good governance and cultures of peace.”

Note: Quote taken from Green Belt Kenya Website. See link for more information.

VALENTINO ACHAK DENG FOUNDATION: I have supported this organization since reading the book WHAT IS THE WHAT based on Valentino Achak Deng’s life and being inspired by his character and spirit. This year South Sudan became its own nation just days after I left Africa.

The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation is a nonprofit organization working to increase access to education in post-conflict South Sudan by building schools, libraries, teacher-training institutes, and community centers.”

Note: Quote taken from Valentino Achak Deng Foundation Website. See link for more information.

NEW HOPE CAMBODIA: This is the organization I visited in Cambodia and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since that day. I still hope to make it back and volunteer myself in this astounding place.

“Set in Mondul 3, Siem Reap, one of the poorest slum areas in Cambodia. A broken community of army families, karoke/sex workers and displaced men women and children. New Hope Cambodia’s mission is to restore hope, dignity, and promise to these once proud and prosperous people.”

Note: Quote taken from New Hope Cambodia Website. See link for more information.

BUILD A SCHOOL IN BURMA: My father first told me about this wonderful group, and in the last few months it has been my distinct honor to work with Bob at Martin’s and discuss his work in Burma. I have been moved by the testimonials and the passion and dedication in every encounter. I hope more than anything to make it to this special place and be able to work with this deserving organization.

“Build A School in Burma’s mission is to build schools in underserved areas of Burma (Myanmar) to educate children and give them a better future. It costs less than $20,000 to build a four room basic school that will educate up to 125 children. Build a School in Burma recently completed its first school in Nan Ouw village, Shan State.  They are now working on a second school with the Karen Women Action Group.”

Note: Quote taken from Build A School In Burma Website. See link for more information.!

And because it will always be the closest in my heart wherever I go,

MARTIN DE PORRES HOUSE OF HOSPITALITY: I was raised in the shadow of these soup pots and surrounded by this community my entire life.

“Martin’s, as it is affectionately known, is a free restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. Our mission is to serve in the spirit of compassion, understanding and love.”

Note: Quote taken from Martin de Porres Website. See link for more information.

I have been so moved this year. I have been so opened by what I have seen. And I have been so affected by the bounties around me. With such gratitude it seemed only right this year that I do more than simply share my favorite organizations, I am making additional donations to each of the listed organizations in honor of all of you out there in my life.

Thank you for being with me this year. Thank you for caring about me. And thank you to each of these organizations for the important work you do every day.

~ Ra

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12 2011

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  1. Sarah Machuel ( aka Wambui) #

    Ramona I wish you a happy new year. I hope it will bring you everything you want. I wish we could have a talk with a cup of hot chocolate at home in Rongai. You are amazing!

    • ra #

      Thank you Sarah. I hope you had a good holidays and new year. I just moved into a new apartment, so the next time you are in the US you are are welcome to come and visit. I would love to be talking over a cup of hot chocolate in Rongai and a game of cards with you. I miss you dear friend. Best hopes for happy 2012.

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