note: i will let you know now that this is going to be a long post, but it’s also one that i think will make you feel pretty good.
this was hands down the most fun “mini challenge” of the year.
as we were heading from november into december i wanted to do something for others but was struggling with how to make that sustainable across an entire month. and then literally as i was falling asleep on the night of november 30th, it came to me: make a donation each day to a different organization. there are so many awesome nonprofits out there, and i wanted to give back. but of course i had to take it a step further, so instead of me selecting the different organizations, i reached out to friends and asked them for where i should donate and why.
the timing was perfect, too. december 1 was giving tuesday, so it provided the perfect launch for my project. i messaged all the people and asked them to send me the organizations that are near and dear to their hearts, and i also asked for a few sentences on why they chose that particular organization.
and i was blown away by the responses. i don’t know why i was surprised, because my friends are awesome, but i loved learning about so many amazing organizations and reading why that particular one was chosen. if you’ll indulge me, i’d like to share these really great places with you in case they strike a chord with you as well. and in true veena fashion i messaged too many people, so i made a few donations into 2021 to cover everyone. it felt like a pretty good way to kick off a new year.
the organizations i chose:
i kicked off the month with donations to the cltv and to the conscious kid.
the cltv [the collective] is a memphis-based arts nonprofit founded and run by a black woman that works to elevate black artists, empower black communities, and shift the culture of memphis. i have been to a few events at their space and have been following their work for a long time, and it felt like the right time to put my money where my mouth is.
the conscious kid is one of my favorite instagram accounts to follow, and i love the work they are doing to educate everyone – especially youth – about what it means to be anti-racist. they share incredible resources on their page, and they have a goal to add diverse and anti-racist books to school libraries across the country.
additionally, the conscious kid is included on the giveblck website, which is a huge database of black-founded nonprofits. i specifically wanted to begin the month by supporting black-founded / black-led organizations because they very often get overlooked. black-led nonprofits receive less that 4% of grants and contributions, even though they are often the organizations closest to the ground in terms of grassroots support.
and on december 5th, in honor of st jude memphis [virtual] marathon weekend, i made a donation to charlotte larsen’s st jude fundraising page to continue their lifesaving work. charlie completed the sjmmw kid’s marathon, and i loved being able to support her.
the organizations others chose:
[as well as some information in their words about why they chose their organization(s)]
corrinne | decARcerate | they are working to combat the affects of mass incarceration in arkansas. most recently their focus has on the inhumane treatment of incarcerated folks during the pandemic, which is what i spent my summer researching. they are as grassroots as it gets and employ formerly incarcerated people because lived experience is the best form of expertise!
brother | phace syndrome community | i had a patient during my peds rotation who had this and then I did research on it and did my final peds presentation on it and since then have been a member of the atlanta chapter and donated to it. seeing the children and what they go through dealing with this syndrome really got to me.
cait | fair fight | for democracy to work, every voice has to be heard. fair fight is working to ensure that elections are free and fair for everyone — regardless of race, socio-economic status or geography.
steve | cotting school | my cousin delaney was born with cerebral palsy. she just graduated from the cotting school which specializes in educating students with special needs. i follow the school on facebook and love seeing the stories they share. it makes me happy to know a place like that exists.
jane | safe passage | i’m choosing safe passage because of the gigantic impact they have on the families they work with, who primarily work and live on the edges of the city dump. their programming is amazingly wholistic, and all safe passage programs really speak to the community needs.
nick | wkno-fm | i’m a huge supporter of public radio and believe it’s an actual “unbiased” news source. plus they really need the help!
jessi | urban art commission + rhodes college | i love public art and the idea of supporting artists who desire to make an impact on society. uac is local and works to support artists and memphis through public art and art advocacy. they bring in both established and upcoming artists whose visions align with the uac mission and growth ideals // supporting the annual fund with a monthly gift ensures the college’s ability to offer an excellent education for all students and nimbly respond to rising challenges the college may face.
lauren delery | mid-south food bank | i don’t want to forget that people are still struggling with unemployment and food insecurity. for some people it’s been bad and getting worse, and there’s not much hope in sight.
chris | national park foundation | i really do think they are america’s best idea, and i think it’s vital that we preserve them as best we can for not only us, but as long as possible.
in memory of tommy pacello | overton park conservancy | overton park is a part of memphians’ stories—a place where they connect with their best selves, with each other, and with the natural world. your gift helps overton park conservancy protect this treasured space today and tomorrow.
katie milligan | nwa women’s shelter | with the pandemic domestic violence is a huge issue and everyone deserves someone in their corner and a safe place to sleep.
sarah the mini-me | assata’s daughters | a “black woman-led, young person-directed organization rooted in the Black Radical Tradition” of assata shakur. it focuses on equipping young people with political education and capacity-building skills for organizing.
claire | make-a-wish + latino memphis | make-a-wish provides life changing experiences for children battling critical illnesses. being able to support an organization that works to bring joy to patients and their families during a tough time in their lives is incredibly rewarding // for many in the latinx community in memphis, latino memphis is the first stop in their pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families. latino memphis provides the necessary services and resources that are vital in that journey.
sam | more than words | i learned about more than words last year in my educating incarcerated youth class at hgse. they do a great job empowering court-involved and unhoused youth while providing them with meaningful work and skills-development opportunities. ed note: adding them to my job search asap!
moo | canopy nwa + arkansas coalition to abolish the death penalty |canopy does incredible work helping to not only welcome and settle immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, but also work on job placement and other important opportunities. plus several clinton school alums work there / have been on the board!! // i have admired the work of arkansas coalition to abolish the death penalty for a long time. they work tirelessly to end the death penalty and educate arkansans on the subject. it is the only org in the entire state solely focused on this issue.
christina | comfort zone camp | they are an organization that supports kids who have lost a parent or sibling. i volunteered a lot with them in richmond, and donations help them expand their focus across the country.
lisa jain | baton rouge emergency aid coalition | because 100% of what you donate goes directly to individuals affected by crisis. ed note: my awesome sorority grand big sis lisa is one of the coordinators for breac! they formed after the baton rouge flooding in 2016 and since then have done an incredible job responding to crises. it is entirely volunteer-run, so anything you donate goes to people in need.
patrick | food bank of the rockies + metro volunteer lawyers | given the year everyone is having, making sure people don’t go hungry or have one less thing to worry about heading into winter seems like maybe the most tangible good for right now // we [mvl] basically take pro bono cases, but they want to move to having several permanent fixtures like having legal clinics.
meg + ryan | north penn valley boys and girls club | one of my teammates from college coordinates the holiday giving and their need this season is tremendous. i know it’s weighing on her to support the families they serve, and every little bit counts!
dillard | mifa | the home cooking podcast with samin nosrat and hrishikesh hirway has been a highlight of humor and home chef lessons for me during the pandemic. they’ve kept me entertained with their witty banter as they convinced me to try recipes i wouldn’t have tackled before. they’ve become the quarantine best friends i never knew i needed. my parents decided not to come for thanksgiving (the right decision) … after i bought a turkey and had started making our favorite side dishes. i continued on with the original cooking plan as a coping mechanism knowing there would be empty seats at the table. i was in the kitchen the wednesday before thanksgiving amidst a marathon cooking day and was delighted when i saw the latest episode of home cooking pop up in my podcast queue. but my excitement quickly faded as the podcast took a serious note. hrishi’s beloved mother who was frequently referenced in previous episodes, kanta hirway, passed away days earlier just as they finished recording the episode. box grater in hand, i sunk into the kitchen chair gripped with grief at the news. my sadness at my parents not coming for thanksgiving suddenly seemed so small and silly. while i did not know kanta personally, i heard so much about her from listening to the podcast. she expressed her love through food and lovingly folded her indian traditions into those she acquired from her neighbors in peabody, ma, creating hybrid holidays, evidenced best by her nyt-featured mango pie recipe. the home cooking website asked listeners to make a donation to a local food bank in honor and memory of kanta hirway, and for that reason, I have chosen mifa for my dear friend veena donate to this december. from home cooking: we’d like to encourage you to contribute to your local food bank. because of the pandemic, food insecurity is at unprecedented levels — nearly 1 in 4 households have experienced food insecurity this year. if you’d like to make a donation to your local food bank in honor of kanta hirway, you can use this handy tool to figure out where you can donate.
kache’ | child advocacy center | as someone who works with youth i’ve seen the impact that abuse and adverse experiences have on young people. this organization “helps victims become children again” but also provides prevention and response training.
jen | memphis music initiative | i serve on their board and i believe that we need the arts now more than ever to offer young people an outlet for creative expression, a place to process all we are living through, and to keep them connected to a community.
mama and papa swami | world central kitchen + church health center | so many of our winter holidays revolve around food, and this year food insecurity is at an all time high. wck is not only working around the clock to provide food to families in need but have also created numerous jobs for people at a time when many need them // this year in particular our family is grateful for our healthcare. from the frontline workers going in everyday to treat patients with covid, to the incredible team who took care of my mother when she broke her hip. each day since then we have given thanks for the incredible care she has received, and today we wanted to honor church health center, where those without insurance can still receive the care and support they deserve.
ellie-bear | mermaids uk | they are a charity supporting trans, non-binary and gender diverse children and their families. not only do they provide incredible support to families and children, they also do lots to educate the wider population.
jeremy + baxter | memphis humane society | for all those pets out there who still need good homes.
tosca | black girls code | black girls are often overlooked and underrepresented in stem studies. bgc allows black girls to see themselves in the tech world and gain skills that will be essential to future careers.
helen | wyxr | local news is SO important [realized it even more while working for a quasi-public org], and wyxr is not only providing quality and unbiased local news but free jams to memphis [curated + dj’d by memphians]. it feels like they will just uplift the memphis music community by bounds. i’m all about it.
lauren albright | waltham partnership for youth | having just moved to waltham, i want to support local organizations that empower the youth in our neighborhood. providing skills training, career paths, and mentorship for youth can make a huge impact on their lives as well as the whole community.
kat | the marshall project | for their reporting on issues surround the criminal justice system.
chrystal | greater cleveland food bank | because no one deserves to be hungry around the holidays.
jesse | project safe | i’m picking them because they provide resources and safety to those trying to escape domestic violence. organizations like project safe provide essential services to people in a vulnerable situation. i also had the chance to help with one of their fundraising efforts several years ago via their dancing with the athens stars.
i will absolutely be continuing this project on an annual basis and look forward to finding out which organizations people choose for the next round.