When I started working, I started replacing volunteer time with money (I'm working on changing that back). Each Christmas, I would send an email to my friends and family who still participate in the gift exchange about my charity pick of the season and encourage them to donate the value of my gift instead. Some have listened. Most have not. I know you cannot force these things but I do my best to communicate and educate.
Because we do not have dependents nor family that requires financial assistance, we have opted to leave our estate to our favorite charities. Here are a couple of our latest additions.
- Room to Read -- I had an opportunity to listen to and meet John Wood last year. He left a lucrative job with Microsoft to build libraries in impoverished areas after a hiking trip in Nepal where he toured a school of bright children who had no books. He made a promise to bring books like many others have before him but he really did. Being a library geek myself, I am looking to tour one of his projects soon. There is no mistaking this man's dedication and purpose.
- Central Asia Institute -- I bought Greg Mortenson's book "Three Cups of Tea" at an airport bookstore last year (using my allowance!). I was sold right away. Greg was climbing K2 when he helped a fellow climber in trouble and ended up not reaching the peak but instead getting lost and stumbles onto a small village in Pakistan. He sheds light on a country that is wrought with violence in a way that makes sense and dispels the bits and pieces of info provided by world press. He is now building schools all over the countryside of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the book, there is a picture used for a family Christmas card of Greg, his wife and baby at the Khyber Pass holding Uzis (borrowed) with the caption "Peace on Earth". What a sense of humour from a man who has been a victim of a gut wrenching abduction by militant forces in the country he has come to call his second home.