Try giving a gift to charity

If you’re looking to buy that perfect Christmas gift for a special loved one, head to the Craft Market in George Town.

If you don’t want to buy something, the next best thing is to give a gift to charity in someone’s name. Here’s how:

Start by choosing the perfect charity that fits the person you’re thinking about. If that special person in your life has a special needs child or cares deeply for those afflicted by certain mental impairments, maybe the Special Olympics (in the US) or Mind (based in the UK) is an organization that they are interested in.

A basic Google search on ‘top charities’ will yield plenty of results to start thinking of the charity that best suits your loved on.

Some outstanding aid groups across the globe are the International Rescue Committee (www.theirc.org), UNICEF (www.unicef.org), Save the Children (www.savethechildren.net), and Mercy Corps (www.mercycorps.org).

Next, visit the website of the charity you’re thinking of. Almost all of the most helpful charities have a website that is easy to navigate.

Find out what type of gift donation can be made. Are they asking for a cash donation? Or is the charity asking for you to sponsor someone? This is very important, and it speaks to different ways to help.

New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, wrote the international best-seller Half the Sky. The book focuses primarily on women and education, and gives a list of wonderful causes and foundations that donators can turn to for reference.

Some of the best charities in the world are religious-based group that feel a strong obligation to help around the world. The Christian-based organization International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) is committed to fighting sex trafficking, for example.

A few years ago, Oprah Winfrey had the topic of fistulas as the focus of her daytime programme. This shed light on fistulas, a subject that very few people know about.

A fistula is an abnormal tear that many times results in girls who are impregnated at too early of an age, sometimes the result of rape. Their bodies then leak faeces and urine, and often times they are cast out of their family or community.

Two of the main organizations that work to improve maternal health and have built hospitals dedicated to fistula operations and recovery are the Worldwide Fistula Fund (www.worldwidefistulafund.org) and the Fistula Foundation (www.fistulafoundation.org).

In Kolkata, India, a brave and heroic woman named Urmi Basu runs the New Light (www.newlightindia.org), an organization to help prostitutes and their children. It welcomes volunteers. Apne Aap (www.apneaap.org) also battles sex slavery in India, including in remote areas that get little attention. ECPAT (www.ecpat.net) is another network of groups that fight child prostitution, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Shared Hope International (www.sharedhope.org) and Vital Voices (www.vitalvoices.org) are two others dedicated to ending sex slavery and child prostitution.

For those interested in educating impoverished children in the Middle East, there are a couple of top aid groups working there.

The Afghan Institute of Learning (www.creatinghope.org) operates schools and other programmes for women and girls in Afghanistan and in the border areas of Pakistan.

Pennies for Peace (www.penniesforpeace.org) in an organization that also provides education to girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This group is run by Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea.

Pro Mujer (www.promujer.org) is an organization that supports women in Latin America through micro-finance projects and business training. Women’s World Banking (www.womensworldbanking.org) is another group that supports micro-financing institutions around the world that assist women.

All of these organizations are committed to charitable work that benefit those people who would otherwise be without a protector or supporter.

For the avid animal lover, there are several charities and causes that might meet the gift giver’s fancy.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is a sometimes controversial organization in America that is dedicated to protecting all kinds of animals. Their Website is www.peta.org.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (www.seashepherd.org) is a group that has been in the news recently. They’re committed to protecting the world’s oceans. Captain Paul Watson, the group’s leader, has been featured on the Animal Planet television show Whale Wars and in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.

If you’re looking for an animal cause close to home, venture no further than the Cayman Islands Humane Society (caymanhumanesociety.com). They provide shelter and care for unwanted companion animals like cats and dogs.

Those people interested in giving to an environmental cause can visit the Web-sites of and donate to the Conservation Fund (www.conservationfund.org) or the Environmental Defense Fund (www.edf.org).

In fact, the website www.charitywatch.org will give a list of the top-rated charities by classification and/or topic. Visit the site for the charity that best suits you.

These are all worthy causes. It’s just a matter of which charity speaks to you the loudest.

Regardless of the charity you choose to donate to, one thing remains true: The best gift is the one you give.

In these cases, the gift you give could save a life.

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