If you’ve never participated in a Tweet Chat, they’re a lot of fun. They’re kind of like online message boards of old, if those message boards happened in real time and drank a Venti Latte chased down with a Red Bull. Lot’s of questions and opinions fly around and you learn more than you thought you ever could in an hour. This is where I will put the shameless plug for Hl7Standards.com weekly #HITsm Tweet Chats on Fridays at 11 am Central Time.
A Dec. 6 #HITsm Tweetchat question caught my eye and stuck in my brain:
“T5: In this season of giving, how can the #HIT community give back? Feel free to share examples/favorite causes.”
Giving is near and dear to my heart. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school from kindergarten through high school and helping the poor or others in need was a part of the curriculum. I would now describe myself as a “retired Catholic” meaning I watch football or go to yoga on Sundays rather than go to church. Nevertheless, I got a good education and learned the importance of caring for others. In fact, it’s probably why I’m a nurse today.
From Thanksgiving through the New Year, we stepped up our giving. Each year our 4-h group adopted a family and donated a complete Thanksgiving dinner to them. The families in the town where I grew-up still host sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base for Thanksgiving dinner. My sister and I always got excited when we picked out a toy for Toys for Tots.
I’m hoping to instill the same sense of giving into my 2-and-a-half-year old daughter. We practice the concept of sharing, being gentle to animals and kind to other children. I think it’s sinking in since when she meets a baby she will softly say, “You are so smart.” We also donate our gently used and no longer needed items to a thrift shop that raises money to shelter animals.
Still I feel like it would be good to have a consistent “gig” for charitable giving and many of you probably feel the same way. So in honor of this season of giving here’s are 12 ways to give back.
29 gifts is a memoir by Cami Walker. Walker has been battling Multiple Sclerosis since her early 30s and she shares how angry she became as a result of coping with the disease. During a particularly bad exacerbation, Walker called a friend for sympathy but ended up with a project instead. Her friend told Walker that to feel better she needed to “get outside herself” by giving away one gift a day for 29 days. At first she was none too happy with this advice but out of desperation she took up the challenge and her health improved. She outlines in the book how readers can do their own 29 gifts project. I have done it more than once and it really does lift your spirit as well as bringing positive encounters into your life. This book and project has become a favorite of mine. I constantly give it as a gift and have had to replace more than one of my personal copy because I’ve loaned them out never to be seen again. I just chalk it up to one of those 29 gifts I needed to give. The nice thing about the 29 gift project is that it doesn’t take a ton of time so it’s great for busy people. The gifts don’t have to cost money, helping an elderly person load their groceries into the car or throwing your spare change into the Make-a-Wish jar can suffice, as long as it’s done with intention.
My poor husband has to listen to me preface most facts or conversations with, “On the Colbert Report,” or “On NPR.” Well, this next charity I learned about on a Colbert Report episode featuring Nicholas Negroponte. Negroponte was discussing the group One Laptop per Child, which aims to provide children with ” rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptops.” About 2 million children across the world are using the XO laptop from OLPC. It’s a tool used for learning that helps connect children peer-to-peer and give them a window to the world. The computers are relatively inexpensive, I believe they’re $35 each, and extremely rugged. Colbert tested it by throwing it off his stage and onto the floor and it was a-OK. There’s many ways you can get involved in OLPC. You can donate, work as a translator, provide tech support and programming skills or organize a local event.
Those of us under the age of 40 think computers are cool. They weren’t as prevalent as they are today but we’re still extremely comfortable with them. We cut our tech teeth on Apple II E’s and Pong. But for some of our parents or even grandparents computers are intimidating. Still many of the 60+ set want to learn enough to feel comfortable rather than terrified by a computer. VolunteerMatch.com lists many opportunities for you to volunteer to help teach seniors computer literacy. You can also offer your skills at a local senior center or library which often have classes specifically for seniors.
According to its website, ITDRC “was founded in 2009 to provide communities with the necessary resources to continue operations and recover their technology infrastructure from disaster.” The group is made up of volunteers with a variety of technology backgrounds and skills. The goal is to help communities continue to function during a disaster and aid in recovery. ITDRC welcomes volunteers with technology skills, corporate partners or donations.
Medwiser was founded to help fight HIV and AIDS with the help of technology. The group is committed to developing technology to help end the AIDS epidemic with innovations like HATS, a free app to help individuals know if they need an HIV test. Medwiser is in the process of planning and developing social networks to provide support and reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS in addition to websites where online collaboration generates customized educational content. They have a ton of volunteer opportunities for computer programers and software and app developers.
Many of us take access to technology for granted. I have more than one computer, video game stations and smart phones. But there are still many people who don’t have access to technology. Yes, unfortunately, the digital divide still exists, even in the United States. By visiting Network for Good you can find organizations committed to bridging that divide by improving opportunities for disadvantaged students and their families by providing them with computers and technology skills. You can make a donation or volunteer through the organizations listed on their site like Byte Back or Computers 4 Kids.
My phone is getting up there in terms of phone lifespans (it’s three years old *gasp*). It’s about time to get a new phone and a new contract. So what to do with our geriatric phones? You can donate them to NCADV which works with Cellular Recycler to collect and refurbish used cell phones. NCADV uses the money from sales of the refurbished phones to support its programming to help stop domestic violence.
This giving opportunity isn’t tech related but its story is so beautiful I couldn’t resist. As we know it’s been just over a year since Super Storm Sandy ravaged New Jersey and a lone gunman took the lives of innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. These two tragedies led retired New Jersey firefighter Bill Lavin to found The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play Project. You can hear an amazing interview with Lavin, which will explain the project more eloquently than I can, on Here & Now. Lavin’s goal is to build 26 playgrounds in honor of each of the Newtown shooting victims in communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy. So far 15 playgrounds have been built. You can find out more about ways to donate and volunteer on the foundation’s website.
Your knowledge of the healthcare system and all its complexities could be put to good use as a patient advocate. The Patient Advocacy Foundation is a volunteer program made up of patients, caregivers, physicians, nurses, attorneys, patient advocates and patient services professionals. PAF provides mediation and arbitration services to help patients overcome barriers to healthcare like medical debt, insurance access and employment issues.
I’m not sure if I’d call Codeacademy a non-profit but they are giving back by providing opportunities for the general public to learn coding for free. They also offer a kit to help start an after school coding clubs for kids.
Yes, another charity I learned about on The Colbert Report. What can I say, the guy is a wealth of information (and hilarious, too). At Donors Choose, public school teachers from across the country post classroom project requests on the website. Donors can give any amount to the project they find a connection to. When the funding goal is reached, Donors Choose ships project materials to the school.
Another non-tech way to give back and it’s way too adorable to overlook. The society began in Australia in 2008 when a crafter named Bianca wanted to create, as the website calls it, “a something for nothing” experience. So she began leaving handmade toys for strangers to find. Now the society has grown to include 3,200 members around the world. Members, known as toy droppers, leave a toy wherever they choose like example a grocery cart, a playground, etc. The handmade toy is place in a Ziplock bag with a note to the finder that says, “Take Me Home I’m Yours.” Finders are encouraged, though not required, to update the society when they find a toy. You can read about drops and finds on the society’s website.
Do you have any favorite stories about giving or receiving? Let us know, we’d love to hear them!
Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ
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