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Reviews | Donate This Holiday Season: Kids and Families Need Your Help

This article is part of Times Opinion’s 2022 Giving Guide. Read more on the guide in a note from Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury.

Hunger is spreading in poor countries, American students have fallen further behind since the pandemic, and a brutal war in Ukraine is creating desperate refugees — but here’s the uplifting news: We can ease that pain with small donations.

This holiday season, instead of giving your Aunt Sue and Uncle Bill one more scarf and tie to languish in the closet, how about making contributions on their behalf to help children in need. ?

It’s time for my annual holiday gift guide, recommending nonprofits doing exceptional work. (This week, my fellow Times columnists will suggest groups they think your donations can help.)

As in the past, the group I choose as the grand prize winner will receive $100,000 from a foundation, while each finalist will receive $25,000. These organizations will benefit even more from the much larger sums to which I hope you will all contribute.

You can donate easily through the Kristof Holiday Impact Prize website, and here’s what the monies will accomplish:

Help hungry families feed themselves. My big winner is the One Acre Fund, which works with hard-working but poor farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi and other countries to boost harvests.

I am scarred by the memories of starving children I have encountered – a child dies every 14 seconds somewhere in the world from hunger-related causes – and the optimal solution is not to rush into help rather than helping farm families increase their production and help themselves.

It’s so hard to be an African farmer. Some seeds and fertilizers on the market are fake, the climate is changing, land titles are elusive, bank loans are almost impossible to obtain, and where can you store your crop after a harvest to get the best price?

One Acre Fund helps small-scale farmers, mostly women, increase their productivity through improved techniques, high-quality seeds and effective fertilizers. Each family increases production on average by 45 percent on project land – usually enough to fight malnutrition, pay school fees and live a fundamentally better life.

The non-profit organization was inspired by two women cultivating adjacent plots in Kenya. Andrew Youn, an American management consultant, was visiting the area and saw that one woman was struggling and had lost a child, while the second had four times the harvest and could feed her children and send them to school. .

Youn learned that farming practices made the difference, and in 2006 he co-founded One Acre Fund as a nonprofit serving just 38 families. Participants saw their production increase dramatically and One Acre Fund exploded and now supports 1.4 million families in nine countries. I like the organization’s emphasis on data and rigorous evaluation, including the use of randomized controlled trials to verify impact.

One Acre Fund also benefits the entire region. Research finds that nearby farmers are also adopting the “One Acre Fund method,” resulting in a significant increase in crop payout, even among those who do not participate in the program.

I chose One Acre Fund in part because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up food prices around the world and as a result will almost surely kill more children in Africa than it not kill any in Ukraine itself. Even before the war in Ukraine, a fifth of all children in the world suffered from stunted growth due to malnutrition.

One Acre Fund is now expanding a tree planting effort, enriching families with fruit and wood to sell while improving soil health. The cost is only 50 cents per surviving tree. And a $100 donation helps One Acre Fund enroll four more families in the core program. You won’t find a better bargain this holiday season!

Get children’s glasses. About a quarter of American schoolchildren need glasses, and in middle-class households they usually have them. But look around a school in a low-income area, and you’ll see few kids with glasses.

This is the problem Vision to Learn is tackling heroically and inexpensively. Since its inception in 2012, it has given glasses to approximately 330,000 children in 15 states and the District of Columbia, helping them change their lives.

Austin Beutner, a businessman who served for a time as Superintendent of Schools in Los Angeles, founded Vision to Learn because he saw that when children cannot easily see the board, they become restless and are then referred to as disruptive or slow learners. Unable to read well, they struggle in school and are more likely to drop out.

A disproportionate share of young people in juvenile detention centers wear glasses (this is often the first time they have had eye exams and glasses) – suggesting that, in the absence of inexpensive glasses, some schoolchildren find themselves entangled in the criminal justice system. Wouldn’t it be better and cheaper to help children see?

The Vision to Learn model addresses real-world issues. Researchers have repeatedly found that many children who fail school exams never receive glasses. Even vouchers for free glasses are often not redeemed. Or kids break their glasses or hide them because they think glasses are for nerds.

So Vision to Learn organizes screenings and eye exams at school and provides glasses for students. Prominent athletes are showing up to spread the message that wearing glasses is cool – to the point that some kids with perfect vision are crying out for glasses. And when glasses break, they’re replaced – even for Isaiah, a boy from Inglewood, California, who managed to destroy four pairs of glasses in one year while playing basketball!

A published study found that when Vision to Learn provided glasses to low-achieving students in Baltimore, the impact on learning was slightly greater than tutoring and significantly greater than longer school days or new technology. .

The total cost of providing glasses to a child through Vision to Learn is approximately $150 (only $10 for the glasses themselves). Putting a child on a path to success in life for $150 feels like a gift for the ages.

Help a child read. The best measure of where a society will be in 25 years is its education system, and everyone spouts theories on how to improve learning outcomes. But it’s hard to find an educational initiative as grounded in fact – or as effective in its impact – as the Success for All Foundation.

Success for All was founded by experts at Johns Hopkins University based on rigorous research into how to improve outcomes. It focuses on helping third-grade children read as a keystone of educational gains, and it accomplishes this with tutoring, professional development, better materials, and more.

More than three million children in 42 states have benefited from Success for All, and it has been the subject of more than 50 studies that have shown a striking impact on child outcomes. It works in underperforming school districts, including Native American communities, and consistently helps put students on the right track.

The researchers find that in fifth grade, students in Success for All schools are on average one year ahead of students in schools in a control group. In just three years, Success for All has cut the racial gap in half. Yet, after setup ($300 per student in year one), the cost per student drops to $70 in year three. How can we afford not to invest so much in students at risk? What I admire most about Success for All is its proven effectiveness in improving reading performance so kids don’t get left behind.

“There is real magic in learning to read,” said Nancy Madden, one of the founders.

You can learn more about these three organizations at KristofImpact.org and donate there as well. Focusing Philanthropy, a non-profit organization I’m partnering with on this project, processes contributions made through the website and will report back to you on the results. Focusing Philanthropy will also pay credit card transaction fees, so 100 cents of every dollar goes to the charity you choose.

For those families hungry for goodwill but strapped for cash, I am pleased to recommend two nonprofits in need of volunteers nationwide:

Become a mentor. Countless children in underserved communities would benefit from an adult to talk to them and guide them, so consider signing up with Big Brothers Big Sisters. It associates adults (“Bigs”) with young people (“Littles”), and nine out of 10 Littles see their Bigs as very important adults in their lives. But 30,000 kids across America, mostly boys, are on a waiting list for a Big One because there aren’t enough volunteers.

Sponsor a refugee. Thousands of Ukrainians, Venezuelans and others fleeing bombs or repression need help resettling in the United States – and Welcome.US makes it easy for a group of Americans to provide that assistance. The sponsoring group can be a religious congregation, book club, service association, veterans group or simply a group of friends, and it is based on the extremely successful Canadian model of refugee sponsorship. I see sponsorship as a way to not only help refugee families, but also to affirm our compassion in a brutal world.

Seventy years ago this fall, a group of Americans in Portland, Oregon, sponsored my father, then a stateless World War II refugee, to come to America. Their help did not solve the global refugee crisis, but for our family, this generosity has been transformative. This is what we all have the power to do – transform lives, one at a time – so consider joining me in supporting these organizations through KristofImpact.org.

This article is part of Times Opinion’s Giving Guide 2022. The author has no direct connection with the organizations mentioned. If you are interested in an organization featured in Times Opinion’s 2022 Giving Guide, please go directly to their website. Neither the authors nor the Times will be able to answer questions about the groups or facilitate donations.

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