A few years ago a friend became paraplegic when another driver ran through a red light and hit him.
He was lucky to be sent one of the best therapy programs in the country; he even learned to water-ski.
My friend is still paraplegic, but he's fine.
This got me thinking about folks who aren’t so lucky. According to the World Bank, there are nearly half a billion disabled people in the world, one out of every 13 people. Eighty percent of them live in developing countries, many in places with few resources. They don’t water-ski. They might not even have a reliable way to leave their home.
You might have heard of well-known charities doing good work to help people with disabilities — Seva on blindness, Smile Train on cleft palates, to name just two. But there are less well-known organizations that could use support. Here are a few.
There’s Handicap International, which has comprehensive programs to help folks with disabilities and also works to eliminate land mines (the cause of so many disabilities). Two programs distributing vehicles for mobility are Personal Energy Transportation International (out of Missouri) and Motivation (out of the United Kingdom). The World Limb Bank is a clearinghouse for used prostheses.
And then there are women with obstetric fistulas. No one knows the exact number (one estimate is between 50,000 and 100,000 new cases a year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and in less developed parts of Asia), and they don’t make it into the World Bank report, but their lives are as devastated as if they’d stepped on a land mine, maybe more so. Obstetric fistula happens when the labor is too long because the birth canal is too small or the baby is turned around wrong. The baby usually dies, and the mother can’t control her body wastes. Most of these women are shunned for life.
Fistulas are easily prevented (by Caesarians) and often easily fixed. But it takes resources to do it. Three charities devoted to this cause are the Fistula Foundation, the Worldwide Fistula Fund and the Campaign to End Fistula (UNFPA).
When so many people in our country are having such hard times, what is the point of hearing about people so far away who need help?
When I was growing up there was a little box in the corner of my grandmother’s kitchen, and she put money into it for charity every day. She didn’t have much money, but she knew there were people who had less. Her money went to local charities and to charities around the world. She was a very practical person, and to her this was a practical matter, something she did as a matter of course.
If, in this season of spending, we have something to spend, then we have something to give as well. If you have it, give it: locally nationally, internationally, and, above all, generously.