Happy Mother’s Day

May 13, 2012 | 12 comments
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Charity by Bouguereau

Mother’s Day is a bit like Christmas time in terms of the mass solicitations sent out from various NGOs. To be honest, these are perhaps the only mass emails that I don’t mind. And I frankly agree with their general point: what better way to wish your own mother a Happy Mother’s Day than by contributing to another mother in her name? Also on the bright side, many organizations get matching funds during the Mother’s Day fundraising.

Anyway, while I’m certainly a believer that NGOs alone can’t fix these problems, I’m also a huge believer in the good that NGOs do. It’s another way of our pooling our resources (financial, knowledge, political, etc.) together in order to make a much bigger impact than we ever could alone. So for this Mother’s Day, I’m going to highlight some organizations that I consider gift worthy on behalf of my own mother (and yours).

(For the skeptics and for those interested in accountability, you can check out these organizations at places like charitywatch.org where those large/old enough to be ranked all rank very high.)

Catholic Relief Services (here’s my bit of holy envy – how I wish we had the equivalent)

Partners in Health (I’ve mentioned them in past posts, but they’re worth mentioning again – an amazing organization)

Somaly Mam Foundation (works with both the survivors and current victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation, started and ran by a survivor)

Room to Read (committed to increasing literacy and assisting girls to graduate from secondary school in Asia and Africa)

Family Care International (dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safer)

Women for Women International (a long time family favorite)

I’d love to hear from you about organizations – particularly those working to improve women’s lives – that you find worthy.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, and especially to our Heavenly Mother. May we remember and honor Her in word and in deed.

12 Responses to Happy Mother’s Day

  1. Jax on May 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Shouldn’t the Relief Society be doind the same work as the Catholic Relief Services? Does Holy Envy come into play because they don’t? or because you’ve overlooked all that the Relief Society does do?

  2. Sarah Familia on May 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    What a beautiful painting!

  3. James Olsen on May 14, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Jax: It’s far above my pay grade (and, obviously, I’m the wrong gender) to determine what the RS should be doing. But no, they’re not doing what CRS is. The church collectively doesn’t come close. That’s not a matter of overlooking what the RS (and church) is doing – but on a humanitarian level we pale by comparison. The Catholic church also has a millenium and half on us in being devoted to humanitarian action, and surely time and experience count for something. But they really are quite remarkable as a humanitarian NGO. I’m hopeful that we’ll follow suit.

    Sarah: I like it too (though the darned cropping cut off her head)!

  4. Kent Larsen on May 14, 2012 at 6:09 am

    If it helps anyone, I put together a list of charities run by Mormons last summer:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2011/08/affiliation-and-the-good-cause/

    Of course, just because it is run by a Mormon doesn’t make it a good charity or mean that what they are doing should be done. But at least some of the charities there could be considered also.

    I have to second James’ (3) note. At least in terms of the large, International issues around the world, Mormon efforts are very small. Worse, the total of everything that is being done is a pittance compared to what is needed.

  5. Course Correction on May 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Great post. I would much prefer a donation to a worthy cause than a gift–for Christmas and birthdays as well as Mothers’ Day. Maybe sending my kids a list of my favorite organizations would motivate them.

    For the record, my favorite is KIVA, the online organization which gives micro-loans to entrepeneurs in developing countries.

  6. Jax on May 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    James and Kent,

    I don’t know anything about CRS. I’d be surprised if they didn’t do more given their vastly superior membership. If we take that into account, are we doing more or less on a per member basis?

  7. Naismith on May 14, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    “The church collectively doesn’t come close. That’s not a matter of overlooking what the RS (and church) is doing – but on a humanitarian level we pale by comparison. The Catholic church also has a millenium and half on us in being devoted to humanitarian action, and surely time and experience count for something. But they really are quite remarkable as a humanitarian NGO. I’m hopeful that we’ll follow suit.”

    It was my understanding from reading and touring the LDS humanitarian center that our church has chosen NOT to create its own infrastructure in places like Africa and several South American countries, but rather to provide funds and materials and work with existing NGOs. Back in the 1980s, I remember reading that our church WAS the largest single financial supporter of Catholic Relief Services. This is why our church has been honored by Catholic Relief Services.

    http://www.icatholic.org/article/catholic-relief-services-recognizes-church-of-jesus-5673287

    The church has also worked actively with the World Health Organization on their measles vaccination campaign. Church financial contributions and 59,000 local Church volunteers have supported campaigns in 35 countries since 2003. Since the church chose to collaborate with an existing program, LDS don’t get all the credit, but the work was probably more effectively accomplished that way.

    Do you have some statistics that show how inadequate our LDS efforts are compared to the Catholics? In the past 10 years, LDS humanitarian services have implemented water projects that brought clean water to over 7.5 million people, trained over 193,000 health care workers in neonatal resuscitation techniques, places 415,000 wheelchairs.

    http://www.lds.org/service/humanitarian/church?lang=eng

    One of the water projects was in central Java, where I hope to serve a humanitarian mission, and an area which is getting a stake soon.

  8. Sam Brunson on May 15, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Naismith, the Church is in CRS’s Ambassadors of Hope Circle, which includes its ~75 biggest donors; I don’t know where the Church falls in that, but I suspect that, even if the Church were the biggest single donor, we supply a small portion of CRS’s operating budget. In FY2010, CRS spent a little over $780 million on its various program services.

    And I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that the Catholic church has a broader humanitarian reach than we do, or to aspiring to be like them. I also don’t think that makes the Church bad in any way; Pres. Hinckley was fond of saying that people who came to the Church should keep all that was good that they brought with them, and I don’t have any reason to think that those of us who are already in the Church can’t look outside to see what is good that we can also incorporate.

    (My data’s from here, btw, mostly pages 39-40.)

  9. Naismith on May 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    “And I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that the Catholic church has a broader humanitarian reach than we do,”

    I am not sure that their reach *is* broader. Different, certainly. They have chosen to focus on different priorities, and did not participate in the measles initiative, for example

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2009/measles_mdg_20091203/en/index.html

    So that is something we do, that CRS does not.

    Also, quantifying their “reach” vs. LDS is an apples-and-oranges comparison since some of the work done by CRS in the U.S. is done on the LDS side NOT by humanitarian services, but rather the local bishops (food assistance to non-members) and local Relief Societies (literacy programs).

    I don’t think the criticism that the LDS efforts “don’t come close” stands up to careful scrutiny, not when one looks at the per-member comparison raised in #6 and the volunteer hours donated by membership in relief for natural disasters, serving humanitarian missions, etc.

    “or to aspiring to be like them.”

    If you want to be like them, fine. We just differ. One of the reasons that I give so much to our church humanitarian efforts is that it has such a low overhead cost. Because the church has declined to create their own infrastructure in areas where there is already a suitable partner NGO, more of my dollar actually goes to recipients. We would be “more like them” if we set up our own offices so we could claim all the credit. But since LDS were late to the aid game, having not even been incorporated before 1830, working with others is a cost-effective approach.

    I do love the basic idea of the OP, though. A great idea for any gifting occasion.

  10. rae keck on May 16, 2012 at 1:35 am

    As a member and past leader in local RS I wished their efforts were more centered on humanitarian aid especially at the local level- on the ground and in the trenches.

  11. Sam Brunson on May 16, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    our church humanitarian efforts is that it has such a low overhead cost

    Do you know what our overhead cost is? CRS’s was just a touch over 5%. (That said, I’ve read some people I really respect who say not to overweight overhead cost, because that doesn’t give you a good sense of how good a charity is: if they accomplish their ends, it doesn’t matter if they need, for example, to advertise a little more or whatever).

    Yes, we differ. But I suspect that our reach doesn’t compare to CRS + the Catholic church. (Look, there are like 28 Jesuit universities in the U.S.; there are plenty of Catholic initiatives that don’t run through CRS. I know this, living in Chicago and working for a Jesuit university.) None of this is to say that we don’t do enough. I just think it sounds a little fishy if we try to claim that our humanitarian aid is quantitatively equivalent to those of the Catholic church, and I have no patience for people who claim that what we do is the best. I doubt you’re making that argument, but I certainly have heard the argument made.

  12. lucy on May 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    “I’d love to hear from you about organizations – particularly those working to improve women’s lives – that you find worthy.”

    The Priesthood.

    Holy envy could extend to any number of individuals or organizations. I feel a holy envy toward the sinner who confessed to the Russian Orthodox elder Father Zosima in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov:

    “I love humanity… but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams… I have often come to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually have faced crucifixion if it had been suddenly necessary; and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with any one for two days together, as I know by experience. As soon as any one is near me, his personality disturbs my self-complacency and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity.”

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