I was sitting in Cambodia indulging in 50 cent beers when the Cambodian bartender at my hostel inquired if he could ask me an important question. What he asked was unexpected and it still remains one of the most powerful and influential conversations in my life:
Never before had I stared my privilege so directly in the face. Despite being a citizen of America, the Land of the Free, it is not a question I had ever really sat on, because the truth is my freedom has never really been threatened. What he was referencing in particular was my ability to easily travel. While my passport extends to me the privilege of being able to visit nearly every country in the world, Cambodians are only able to freely travel to 52 countries, with another 146 requiring a visa, not to mention the Cambodian Riel doesn’t go nearly the distance of a US dollar (the average income per capita for Cambodians was 1,093.46 USD in 2015).
Even though my friend was talking about travel, his question was far more loaded than that. Despite having grown up far below the poverty level myself, I had access to a nearly free education, clean and unlimited water, food, shelter, basic medical care including vaccinations and dental care, and at times even a meager amount of disposable income. Yes, the welfare system, cost of education, and access to health care in the US has more than a few issues, but comparatively, I still had much easier access to a higher quality of universal needs than a good majority of the rest of the world. And I wasn’t subjected to war, sex-trafficking, or a country-wide genocide like many Cambodians.
While my privilege has allowed me experiences that were once beyond my imagination as a young child, it is these moments from my time abroad that have marked my soul the most. Awareness is powerful and the amount of travel that I have been fortunate to partake in the past few years has granted me a much greater understanding that my freedom also grants me the ability to use my voice, my money, my actions, decisions, and lifestyle to contribute to a platform for change.
As WWS celebrates its first birthday, our primary focus will still be on producing and sharing the best self-care related resources. Self-care should not be confused with being self-centered though, and a large part of taking care of our own selves is also making sure that our environments remain a place of nourishment for everyone in them. Taking steps to improve our global environment is a necessary and often over-looked part of self-care, so I am making a commitment to reserve some space on this platform for helping to give our global world a bit more nourishment.
Aligning yourself with and giving support to charities that share your values is one of the absolute easiest ways to provide this kind of nourishment. It can be tricky to navigate the charitable waters though, so I am providing you with three of my favorite global charities that give back in a powerful way. If you need a bit more help wading through, I also strongly recommend researching your chosen charity on Charity Navigator, which helps bring more clarity to where your money actually goes, making your donations more impactful.
This organization helps donors provide micro loans to individuals around the world, fulfilling a mission to “connect people through lending to help alleviate poverty”. Donors can directly choose a project to lend to, and upon repayment of your loan (the charity has a 97% repayment rate), you can further the use of your dollars by re-lending to a new person and project. This structure gives high utility to your dollars and truly gives meaning to the phrase “a gift that keeps on giving”.
Working to bring “clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries”, this organization helps to provide many with one of the most basic human needs: clean and accessible drinking water. To date, they have funded over 28,000 projects giving over eight million people access to clean water, leading to improved health, education, and women’s empowerment around the world. How freaking amazing is that?
Cambodia stole my heart and gave me an amazing amount of soul-nourishing experiences and memories. This charity has a focus on 6 core areas – education, leadership, community outreach, healthcare, child care, and vocational training, to deliver a large impact to some of Cambodia’s most impoverished communities. Considering the large impact this country had on me, this work of this charity is incredibly important to me.