FAVORITE CHARITIES

I work in the nonprofit sector and while I believe any individual or company can find ways to do good, there's a part of me that gets excited when I discover a new charity organization that does important work in an innovative way. I've had the pleasure of working with several great organizations, many of which make this list. That work has also put me in contact with many others who represent great groups.

For me to feel good about suggesting an organization, I look for a few things. I want them to be financially transparent and responsible (which doesn't always mean being stingy!) I make sure they operate on a message of hope rather than guilt, pity, or fear. I look to see if they empower those they serve so in the long run, they aren't dependent on more services. And also, I like to look for people who have a really proven solution to critical problems. Here are a few that I think fit that description–

PLANT WITH PURPOSE

Why I love them: Full disclosure... I work for them! But even if I didn't, I would still love their approach. Plant With Purpose works in rural areas, with important but often forgotten populations that make up 85% of those living in poverty. Their work is holistic in every sense- it looks at the root causes of sustained poverty: economic, environmental, and spiritual and does work that radically changes lives. I'm a big believer in world-change not being an overnight fix, but a long-term commitment.


5CEES

Why I love them: I know and love the kids they serve personally. Christ Church Christian Care Center is a care center for orphans and vulnerable children in an extremely violent part of Johannesburg. I spent a good portion of 2013 living in the center with the kids as a volunteer and it wildly shaped my worldview. I love having an outlet for giving and service that wouldn't be recognized too widely, but that represents a connection and a long term commitment to the kids.


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PRE-EMPTIVE LOVE COALITION

Why I love them: The Middle East- Iraq and Syria in particular, seem to be a constant source of bad news. In the middle of all that darkness and chaos, these guys shine pretty brightly. At the start, they practiced love across enemy lines through providing life-saving surgeries for kids. As the needs and conflict intensified, they've adapted their mission to take on an approach that goes into the scary places under a commitment to love anyways.


WORLD RELIEF

Why I love them: They do a lot of important work, in many different forms, all over the place. Often I gravitate towards smaller, specialty nonprofits that take on specifically defined missions, but there is also a definite need for large actors that have it together. World Relief intervenes in places affected by war, disease, famine, or disaster, and they also do some very important advocacy. I admire their approach to acting "politically" but non-partisan, and what it accomplishes.

INTL RESCUE COMMITTEE

Why I love them: Refugee resettlement has become such a significant issue to me, and I think I've found it to be a great way to act on a global worldview in a local setting while providing critically needed help to some people who have been through some horrors. The International Rescue Committee is one of the most comprehensive resettlement agencies and services out there and is one of the easiest to get connected with to begin helping.

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LIBERTY IN NORTH KOREA

Why I love them: Full disclosure... I used to intern with them and still consider myself a part of the LiNK family. Speaking of which, I love LiNK because they are all about people. They've taken an issue known for nuclear weapons and caricatured dictators and they've returned the spotlight to the North Korean people in need. No easy task! The work they've done in rescuing and resettling refugees is inspiring, and the change in conversation they're creating is important.


WISH OF A LIFETIME

Why I love them: Wish of a Lifetime helps senior citizens accomplish lifelong dreams they've held. Sometimes it's something like throwing out a pitch at a ballgame. Other times it's reuniting with a long lost sibling. I love this work because loving and serving others doesn't always require solving a major crisis of the world. It's important to remember that loving people can be extremely simple but profoundly beautiful, and efficiency isn't always the most important thing.


100 CAMERAS

Why I love them: First of all, photography and using images to tell stories has played such a massive role in my own personal growth and spiritual development, that I'd love for others to experience the same thing. Also, while many organizations "tell the stories" of the less privileged, 100 Cameras literally puts the storytelling devices into their hands. It's worth noting that similar organizations that I also admire include Picture Change and I Was Shot in Joburg.


TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS

Why I love them: These guys have totally helped reshape the conversation surrounding mental health in a positive direction over the past decade, and continue to do so. I have some friends who've worked with them, and even more who have been impacted by their widespread reminders that seeking help is a good thing. I think it's easy to underestimate how important the work of changing cultural perceptions surrounding a topic like mental health truly is.

Philippe Lazaro