Almost all Indians whom I have met in the US love to pontificate on what India should do to counter various evils and problems? Almost all of us love to complain about everyday hurdles that people face in India and our own pet solutions to these issues. While some like to blog, some just talk about it to their friends, some contribute money and some work at grass-root level organizations. I belong to the first and the third groups. I will try to explain my rationale as to why monetary contributions are the best way to make a difference.
My first stint with charity contributions started in 2001 - CRY was the first organization to which I had contributed. I feel that if you are that individual who would like to make a difference in a poor kid's life, CRY is the best way to do it. CRY has an established presence in India, has some very good initiatives, and it is is very easy to donate money online. The way I go about doing this is that I make a commitment to that I will give away a certain percentage of my annual income to such organizations. I know I have made a difference in someone's life and that it is not just talk when I say something about the problems that a developing country like India faces. Charity begins at home. If you are one of those interested in empowerment rather than feeding the poor, I am sure there are organizations that do that as well, for example AID is one such entity.
If you are looking out for organizations that do some good work - the good news is that there are many out there.
My favorites are:
1) Kiva.org - has a micro-finance model running in various countries. Currently it does not have anything in India. The money you donate is not exactly a donation; it is an interest-free "loan". You get back the amount that you donate over a period of time. For those, who are not very keen on parting with their money but obtain solace in helping others who need the money, Kiva is a great place. You can pick projects to which you would like to loan your money. Kiva was featured on CNN Heroes series.
2) Cry.org - my favorite. You can choose to sponsor a kid's education or health or any other such combination. For example, sponsoring a child's education for a year would cost you about 800 rupees - roughly about 20 USD. I have mostly donated money to this particular option.
3) Children's heartlink - They facilitate heart operations for kids suffering from congenital heart disease in poor countries.
4) Doctors without Borders - read about what they do here.
These organizations are organized well and although they have different objectives - they are all involved in meeting the needs of underprivileged. They are good avenues to help out the needy in India and elsewhere. My opinion is that above and beyond having a general feeling of wanting to help, it would be good if at least some of us are involved in the actual giving process.
Happy giving people! It is a great feeling to earn a lot of money and to see our 401(k)'s growing. I am sure it would be a lot more fulfilling if we also know we helped educate a dozen kids every year.