2015 is the year of the alternative Black Friday. REI’s #optoutside campaign is encouraging people to spend the day in the great outdoors instead of under fluorescent lights. Bookstores across the UK are observing “Civilized Saturday”—all the deals and none of the chaos—with comfy chairs, classical music and prosecco. And, now in its fourth year, 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation are celebrating #givingtuesday and encouraging people to kick off the charitable giving season at the same time that they kick off the holiday shopping season.
It’s a jarring transition from a day of thanks to a consumer frenzy, so this year, consider skipping the sales and instead donating to help Syrian refugees. (Or enjoy the sales but make an effort to give back as well.) The refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East is currently the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world and millions of refugees are heading into winter without adequate food, clothes, or shelter. With many organizations running matching donation campaigns, there’s no better time of year to give. We know that the number of charitable organizations can be overwhelming to choose from, and while charity watchdog websites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator make it easier, these 8 charities are a good place to begin.
1. Migrant Offshore Aid Station
MOAS works to prevent loss of life at sea through providing search and resuce services to people in distress. It is often the first point of contact for many refugees escaping over the Mediterranean. Border crossings at sea are extremely dangerous and the life-saving efforts of MOAS help prevent tragedies like the Syrian toddler Aylan Krudi’s heartbreaking fate, and to save refugees lost at sea.
2. Karam Foundation
The Karam Foundation is based in the US and works in Turkey to provide what they call “smart aid,” or aid that goes to providing education opportunities for Syrian children and to rebuilding schools in Syria.
3. Refugees Welcome
You may have read about the German couple who started Refugees Welcome, a sort of Airbnb for refugees. Their insistence on creating a culture of welcome went viral and, as a result, the organization is rapidly expanding to many other countries. Whether or not you have a room to offer, you can still donate to the cause.
4. Carry the Future
Carry the Future started as a small campaign to provide 100 baby carriers to Syrian refugees in Greece. Refugees can end up walking hundreds of miles to their asylum destinations and the organization continues to work to provide refugees with safer, more comfortable ways of carrying their babies and toddlers along their journey. Carry the Future continues to grow and now provides relief packs in addition to baby carriers. They accept monetary donations as well as new and used baby carriers.
5. Medical Teams International
Medical Teams International is a disaster-response organization that is providing on-the-ground health and dental care to Syrian refugees in Lebanon as well as community health services. MTI provides many ways to direct your donation, from supporting the organization as a whole to funding specific relief kits filled with health and hygeine supplies.
6. UNHCR Refugee Agency
UNHCR provides on the ground relief to refugees in camps and in urban settings. They work with other agencies and aid groups to compile and distribute winter survival items like thermal blankets, sleeping bags, water, and clothes, and to provision emergency shelters.
7. International Rescue Committee
The IRC is an emergency-response organization that is responding to the refugee crisis on all fronts—from their long-term programs within Syria and neighboring countries to resettlement programs in Europe and the United States.
8. Doctors Without Borders
Médecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders is another organization that is always among the first on the ground. MSF provides medical relief in areas that lack access such as refugee camps and areas suffering from heavy bombings.
Additionally, bigger and more establishd organizations such as International Medical Corps, UNICEF, Shelter Box, Oxfam, Save the Children, Mercy Corps continue to rely on donations and support to continue their humanitarian aid activities.
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Maggie Fuller Maggie Fuller is a San Francisco–based but globally oriented writer driven to provoke multicultural worldviews as a multimedia journalist. She covers sustainability, responsible travel, and outdoor adventure.