November 2014
Can $10 make a difference?

We hope that you enjoyed last month's newsletter and will keep coming back to the sections that you find most compelling.

November Highlights: Several items in this month's newsletter address the issue of sharing your beliefs and choices about global extreme poverty to help engage others, most notably two of our Team Picks:

  • We launch our new video showing what happened when we gave $10 to strangers. Filmed in South Africa, it delivers an understated yet powerful message about what a difference even a small donation to an effective charity can make. Please share it with your communities.
  • We introduce our "UNSelfie" campaign, using pictures to encourage friends, family and community to join you in effective giving, especially during the holiday season.

I suggest other ways to share your passion about giving in my "Closing Thoughts" at the end of this issue.

It's a busy time at The Life You Can Save. While continuing to upgrade the content, organization, and user interface of our website, we are also preparing for the December "Giving Season" when media outlets and donors are particularly attuned to philanthropic matters. This heightened attention means we have a terrific opportunity to move more charitable dollars to organizations that effectively serve the world's 1.2 billion poorest people.

We are in the process of updating our charity recommendations, which will be announced in our next newsletter. That issue is scheduled to come out on December 2nd to coincide with the worldwide "Giving Tuesday" campaign that marks the unofficial start of Giving Season. With your help, we can spread our message about the need to incorporate both the head and the heart in one's giving.

Thanks for your ongoing support and enthusiasm.

Charlie Bresler
Executive Director, The Life You Can Save

In November's Issue


Charity Voices

Louis C.K. crashes Fistula Foundation's donation page; Focusing Philanthropy strikes a "match" with Seva; SCI takes multi-tasking to new levels; Google awards funding for The Hollows Foundation's MARVIN device; Partnering with Possible? There's a (Venmo) app for that!


Team Picks

Suggestions to view and do to help grow the culture of effective giving.


Supporter Story

Read how a 5-hour coffee and an open mind made an effective altruism believer, and Movement Leader, out of philosopher Will MacAskill.


This Month in Giving

What difference can $10 in your pocket make? How sexy is a toilet? Share an UNSelfie to spread your love of giving. See what else is coming up in giving for November.


Highlights from Our Blog

What if your child was blind and you couldn't afford simple corrective surgery? How does Giving Games go over in a workplace or a high school? Would living in a Tiny House allow you to give big to charity? Be engaged and inspired by favorite posts from our past month's blogs.


Closing Thoughts from the Executive Director

Being public about your giving needn't sound like bragging or feel embarrassing: Charlie Bresler shares insights and tips.

Charity Voices
Progress, recognition, and achievement for five of our recommended charities.
Fistula Foundation
A month of recognition
Fistula Foundation - Louis CK tweet

In 2011, Louis C.K. crashed Fistula Foundation's credit card processing service by making the largest online gift we have ever received. Just a few weeks ago, he crashed our website by sending the tweet below, directing thousands of people simultaneously to our site to learn about obstetric fistula. It's the best IT problem we've ever had! We are so grateful for his kind words and hopeful that he will inspire new support of our work!

Dr. Mulu Muleta with Fistula Foundation patient.
Dr. Mulu Muleta with Fistula Foundation patient

Fistula Foundation and one of our surgeons, Dr. Mulu Muleta, were featured in the October 11th issue of Newsweek. Ethiopian-born Dr. Muleta could have taken her surgical talents anywhere in the world, but chose to stay in her home country to treat women suffering from obstetric fistula. Today, she is one of the world's top fistula surgeons and works for Women and Health Alliance International, one of Fistula Foundation's longest term partners. Fistula Foundation funds Dr. Muleta's work to treat women and also to train other surgeons to perform fistula repairs. We couldn't be more pleased that her story and her work have been highlighted this way! Read the full story here

Dr. Denis Mukwege, long-term Fistula Foundation partner.
Fistula Foundation - Dr. Mukwege

Dr. Denis Mukwege, one of Fistula Foundation's longest-term partners, received the European Parliament's highest human rights honor —the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought— in recognition of his life's work. As founder of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dr. Mukwege works every day, at great personal risk, to heal women who have been raped and injured in the long-running civil war there. Dr. Mukwege has been a beacon of hope in a sea of carnage and despair and we are delighted that he received this well-deserved recognition. We hope all Fistula Foundation donors will take pride in knowing that your donations help support Dr. Mukwege and other courageous and dedicated people like him.

Images courtesy of Fistula Foundation

Seva and Focusing Philanthropy
A "match" made in eyecare heaven
Seva patients waiting to remove bandages.
Seva Patients waiting to remove bandages

Last month, Seva Foundation and Focusing Philanthropy launched the 4,400 Eyes Matching Campaign with an ambitious goal to raise enough funding to enable 4,400 people who are blind because of cataracts to see again. On October 9th, World Sight Day, Focusing Philanthropy reported that the campaign greatly exceeded all initial goals, raising $330,000, enough to perform 6,600 sight-restoring surgeries.

These procedures will be provided free of charge to needy patients from October 2014 through February 2015. The 15-minute cataract operations are delivered by Seva's eye care teams in remote and underserved communities across 11 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Tanzania, and Tibet.

Image courtesy of Seva Foundation

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative
Protecting millions of children and still scaling
SCI's Alan Fenwick meets Professor Mohamad Kardaman in Khartoum.
SCI's Alan Fenwick meets Professor Mohamad Kardaman, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Khartoum, Republic of Sudan

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative has been very busy over the past two months coordinating school-based efforts to administer pills for intestinal parasites, maintaining programme momentum in existing countries while dramatically expanding into new ones:

  • SCI staff member Dr. Sarah Nogaro visited Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is waiting for a shipment of praziquantel to arrive so that the first treatments of 1 million children can be delivered before the end of 2014.
  • SCI director Professor Alan Fenwick visited Sudan, where over 11 million donated praziquantel have been shipped to arrive in November. SCI has committed funds and technical assistance to Sudan to expand mapping of schistosomiasis and intestinal worms in several new districts to support a meeting of district health officers, to encourage sentinel site data collection, and finally to support the delivery of the donated praziquantel to treat over 4 million school aged children.
  • SCI staff member Dr Peter Jourdan visited Madagascar to assist with planning for treatment of 1 million children on the island and to make plans for expanded coverage in 2015.
  • Dr. Michael French has now settled into Ethiopia with his family so that he can provide technical assistance to the NTD coordinator, Dr. Oumer Shafi, as he plans for the international conference there in December 2014, and of course expanded treatments.

And as if that weren't enough, planning continues for the next Mass Drug Administrations in the established SCI-supported countries: Tanzania, Zanzibar, Malawi, Cote D'Ivoire, Zambia, Niger and Uganda.

Sadly the Ebola situation has halted any NTD work in Liberia and all at SCI wish a speedy control of Ebola transmission in all the countries affected.

Venmo links U.S. customers to extreme poor in Nepal

Since September, Possible, a nonprofit healthcare organization working in some of the world's most impossible places, has been a featured partner in Venmo, a money transmission app only available in the U.S. When users cash out, they can choose to donate $4 to provide life-changing medical treatment for a Possible patient. It's amazing how a U.S.-only app can connect users to some of the world's poorest people, demonstrating the power of mobile giving to create connections across the world.

Fred Hollows Foundation
Google Impact Award winner, by popular demand!
MARVIN device for blindness screening.

The Fred Hollows Foundation is proud to announce that they won the popular vote of Australia's first Google Impact Challenge! Thank you to everyone who voted for them.

The challenge invited Australian not-for-profits to pitch a project aimed at tackling some of the world's biggest social challenges through modern technology. The Foundation won the award for developing a low-cost mobile camera to detect and prevent blindness caused by diabetes called MARVIN.

The screening device instantly diagnoses for the onset of blindness caused by diabetes, a disease expected to affect 592 million people worldwide in the next 20 years. MARVIN uses high-quality photos of the back of the eye to check for damage caused by diabetes, and provides on the spot assessment and diagnosis. It is easy to operate and can be used by a health worker with no training.

Other finalists included an online game that inspires young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to learn maths and science, and an app which connects homeless people to social welfare services. Each of the four finalists received $500,000 from Google to help make their idea come to life or further develop their idea.

Ruth Hollows, one of Fred and Gabi's daughters, notes, "My father worked his entire life against the injustice of avoidable blindness. The Fred Hollows Foundation continues his work, and with new Australian technology like MARVIN we can keep Fred's dream alive."

Team Picks
Post an UNSelfie, share a video, and more ways to help effective charities during Giving Season!

The #UNSelfie movement is making it more socially acceptable than ever before to share your support for your favorite charities. We've got new resources you can use to share your story.

Jon Behar
Director of Philanthropy Education

The Life You Can Save is spearheading an UNSelfie campaign for the November/December Giving Season to help raise awareness and funds for effective charities like those we recommend.

We encourage you to take your own UNSelfies, and use them to share your own story. Use one of our template signs or make your own to support your favorite effective charity!

If you want your UnSelfie to have maximum impact, consider these tips when sharing it on social media:

  • Use the "#unselfie" hashtag
  • Tag The Life You Can Save and/or your favorite charity in your post or tweet (our Twitter handle is @Lifeyoucansave)
  • Include a request that people share or retweet your Unselfie (e.g. "Please retweet") to make it significantly more likely that they'll do so.
Can $10 make a difference?

Watch what happens when we gave $10 to strangers in the townships surrounding Cape Town, South Africa. If a picture paints a thousand words, these ninety seconds speak volumes about the life-altering impact that even small donations can have for those in extreme poverty.

Amy Schwimmer
Director of Operations

There's something profoundly wrong with the way we Westerners think about Ebola. Neglected tropical diseases that primarily affect those living in the world's poorest regions are global concerns–but unfortunately these health issues rarely get media attention or research money until they affect the relatively affluent. This is evidenced by both recent Google search trends and by the fact that American individual charity giving for Ebola relief is essentially nonexistent.

Rhema Hokama
Managing Editor

5 minutes with Peter Singer

There's a lot of truth within these five minutes with Peter Singer!

Robin Raven
Social Media Manager

Half The Sky DVD

This PBS documentary, inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, HALF THE SKY, is now available for streaming for $3 on Google Play. Viewers travel around the world with Kristof as he documents the work of grassroots social entrepreneurs struggling to lift their communities out of extreme poverty.

Laura Gamse
Media and Outreach Director

Supporter Story
Will MacAskill

Will MacAskill

Our highlighted supporter this month is Oxford-educated philosopher Will MacAskill, whose journey from effective altruism skeptic to co-founder of Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours began in a very unlikely place.

It began in a graveyard. In May 2009, I first met Toby Ord – in the gardens of St Edmund Hall, Oxford, which double as a place for burying the dead. I'd read Peter Singer's work, and was terribly concerned by the problem of extreme poverty, and was looking for someone who was really taking these ideas and putting them into practice. But I'd found that though almost all my philosophical colleagues agreed that Singer's arguments were correct, no-one was really living by them. I'd read on Toby's website that he was giving 'the required amount', but I was very sceptical about whether he really was.

In that conversation ("getting a coffee" that lasted for 5 hours), though, he told me about his pledge to give everything he earned above £20 000 per year to the charities that do the most good, and blew my mind.

I remember I expressed visible shock when he first told me. Feeling a bit taken aback, and entirely misunderstanding my reaction, he earnestly explained that the £20,000 figure for living expenses was a "high bar", and that really he spent much less than this – living on £11,000, saving £2,000, and donating the rest. However, he explained, he wanted to make sure he didn't publicly commit to a lower expense figure so he had some breathing space in case he faced any personal emergencies. But otherwise he would have committed to donating even more.

It was at that point that I knew I was dealing with something new.

"Isn't most aid ineffective?" I asked. "How do you know if it does any good?" He went on to explain at length the different metrics for evaluating charity cost-effectiveness, how you can use research from health economics to find out which charities are really having a massive impact. He told me that by donating to the very most cost-effective charities, you can save a life for mere thousands of dollars. It turned out that he'd spent several years researching this question. "Hundreds of lives are on the line," he told me. "So it's important to get it right."

"How did you choose the £20 000 figure?" He acknowledged that it was a little arbitrary. But he thought that it was better to have some fixed amount that he lived on, rather than have to decide every financial transaction on its own merits. He used to agonise over which type of cereal to buy every time he went to the supermarket – is this something that's worth the extra expense? – and he thought it would be better for his motivation in the long run just to make one commitment and stick with it.

"What about your wife? She's a doctor, right? So will she be paying the bills?" I really thought I'd got him at this point – easy for him if he's got a high-earning spouse to live off. But then he explained politely that she was doing the same thing – giving everything above £25,000. After that, I stopped trying to be critical and just accepted his story. He had it all thought out. I started to reflect on whether I could do the same, and what my worries about doing so were, so I asked one last question.

"Don't you feel like a sucker?"

"No," he replied. "Actually I think it's people who aren't doing this that are the suckers – many people care about global poverty, and want to help, and they're just not living up to their own values. I used to have a niggling feeling of guilt in the back of my mind – that I should be doing something, even though I wasn't. But I don't have that anymore. I'm much happier now."

From then on, I was on board, and eagerly got involved in helping to set up Giving What We Can, and did quite a lot of the original cost-effectiveness research. Later, I cofounded 80,000 Hours and the Centre for Effective Altruism.

I now give 10% of my PhD stipend, have pledged to give everything I earn above £20,000, and want to dedicate my life to doing whatever does the most good.

This Month in Giving
5th November

"$10 in Your Pocket?" Video Release

Take a look at 90 meaningful seconds and share with your networks to help The Life You Can Save have a ripple effect in showing others what their donations can mean to those who happened to be born into extreme poverty.

10th November

World Science Day

World Science Day for Peace and Development highlights the important role of science in society. The 2014 theme is promoting Quality Science Education: ensuring a sustainable future for all. The highlight will be the launch of the UNESCO World Library of Science, a free online science resource for a global community of users.

19th November

World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day is a UN-recognized day of action aiming to break the taboo around toilets and raise global awareness of the daily struggle for proper sanitation that a staggering 2.5 billion people face: one in three people on this globe do not have access to a toilet! Watch the vimeo about the marvelous "Mr. Toilet" to learn more, and tweet #worldtoiletday, #WeCantwait

25th November

International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women

Violence against women continues to be a global pandemic. Up to 70 percent of women experience violence in their lifetime. This year, the U.N. Secretary General's UNITE Campaign is extending Orange Day to 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, starting November 25— International Day to End Violence Against Women, through December 10—Human Rights Day.

2nd December

Giving Tuesday

"We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back." ( Started in the U.S., Giving Tuesday is now an international celebration of generosity kicking off the holiday "Giving Season". Individuals, families, businesses, organizations and communities promote the belief that everyone, whether a large or small donor, has a role in helping solve challenges at a local and global level.

2nd December

The Life You Can Save's updated list of Recommended Charities

To coincide with Giving Tuesday, The Life You Can Save will announce our updated list of Recommended Charities for 2015, while continuing our UNSelfie campaign to spread the culture of effective giving.

Highlights from Our Blog

What happens when 35 consultants play a Giving Game?

TGG Group was originally named "The Greatest Good" because our co-founders, including Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt, thought that behavioral science and data analytics could be used to help non-profits increase their social impact. Given our roots in philanthropy, we were very excited about this opportunity to not only give but also to inspire our co-workers to give more, and more effectively.

TGG also was drawn to Giving Games because they align closely with our three foundational competencies: behavioral science, data analysis, and experimentation. Giving Games are designed to help correct a common bias that behavioral economists call the "availability heuristic."...

Read More

Hands-on learning: a high school teacher funds a class Giving Game

Peter Singer has loomed large in my life. As a high school history teacher, philosophy and psychology have informed my worldviews about other cultures and time periods. No other philosopher has done more to prick my conscience, inspiring me to become a better person, and as a result a better teacher, than Peter Singer.

For the past six years, my 12th grade AP World History students have been introduced to Singer through his 1974 article "All Animals are Equal" in the framework of the growth of natural rights since the Enlightenment...

Read More

Packing your values into 128 square feet

In a trend that has clearly been growing since the 1980s, the average size of new American homes reached a record high of 2,598 square feet in 2013. The median size trails this number somewhat, but has followed a similar trajectory, suggesting that these numbers are not merely a reflection of the 1%'s extravagance.

Our houses have been getting bigger while our families are getting smaller. Per person, we are taking up more space. Some might claim that this is an encouraging trend, showing an increase in living standards. A more cynical view holds that this data characterizes an evermore materialistic society which spends money only in competition with others, but leaves everyone worse off in the race...

Read More

Give Brighter Eyes and Brighter Life (all for $50)

My Linh was born with cataracts in both her eyes and by 2nd grade, her sight was fading. Her mother, Loan, could hear her daughter crying at night. Tears ran down Loan's cheeks as she talked about her daughter trying to study, and being unable to go outside and play with her friends. "When I see that my daughter cannot keep up at school... but I can't do anything for her," she said, "I am so sad."

My Linh and her family live in a remote village in southern Vietnam. In 3rd grade, My Linh got a new teacher who didn't know about her eye problems. The teacher rearranged the children's desks and My Linh, a tall girl for her age, was seated at the back. From there, she couldn't even see the blackboard...

Read More
Closing Thoughts from the Executive Director
Charlie Bresler - Director of The Life You Can Save

Doing one's share to help alleviate the effects of global poverty has many rewards, but also many challenges. For me, one of these challenges is being public about my own participation in the movement to fight global poverty. I have wondered, at times, whether others perceive my passion for effective poverty relief work as self-serving, or even boastful.

Does our modesty make us ineffective?

I'm sure that many of you have felt similarly inhibited at times. Our reluctance to talk about our participation is a completely understandable psychological and behavioral response within our cultural norms. Unfortunately, this culturally sanctioned reluctance to speak up can hinder our collective awareness about the need for effective poverty relief. In short, our reluctance to "boast" actually impedes the reduction of premature death and unnecessary suffering among those living in extreme poverty that we could be helping promote.

Although this goes counter to our ingrained sense of social modesty, I contend that being public about giving one's time or money to reduce extreme poverty need not be boastful at all. Perceiving such sharing as bragging or boasting is really a function of how we feel about our involvement – it is a matter of our personal attitude, and the resultant tone of our communication to others.

If we start with the assumption that we have an ethical obligation to share our relative good fortune – both our time and money – then talking about our efforts to fight extreme poverty isn't prideful or boastful. Instead, we should view our outspokenness about global poverty as a part of our personal responsibility to the world's neediest people. If we do not talk about our own commitment to fighting global poverty, then we are seriously damaging our potential effectiveness by not reaching out to others who can help increase our impact. Moreover, we miss our chance to enable our own family members, friends, and neighbors to influence an even wider circle of passionate, committed, and likeminded people.

All this makes perfect sense, but the fact is that despite the clear value of discussing our philanthropy, most of us continue to feel embarrassed about speaking up about our giving–and in particular, about giving money.

5 ways to be public about your giving

My wife Diana and I have been working to overcome our reluctance to talk openly about our giving. Here are some ways we have tried to overcome our reticence:

  • We're honest about our giving. Diana and I remind ourselves that we could be doing so much more than we are doing, and being public about our shortcomings has helped us feel comfortable when we talk about what we are doing. As a result, I believe that our family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances do not perceive our public support for The Life You Can Save as either boastful or self-righteous. They hear us when we say we are hoping to do more in the future.
  • We strive to emulate the generous work and spirit of others. Diana and I admire many role models in our community who are vocal about their giving of both time and money. We admire these people greatly and do not perceive them as bragging or self-absorbed when they speak about their commitments to give. In fact, as a group, they are actually quite humble. These people include Peter Singer and the teams at The Life You Can Save, Giving What We Can, and the Centre for Effective Altruism. Holly Morgan, the former Executive Director of The Life You Can Save, has been particularly inspiring — a wonderful person who shares her giving openly yet quietly at the same time.
  • We've found community. Becoming part of a community, or building one, that does not shy away from openly discussing effective philanthropy and one's own giving, is a great way to feel more comfortable being public. I know this has been particularly helpful to Diana, who is excessively modest!
  • We remind ourselves about our commitment. Diana and I strive to constantly remind ourselves of why, and for whom, we're working to fight extreme poverty. For example, we post images of people or organizations that we're working to support in prominent places to remind ourselves about our commitments in our day-to-day life.
  • We imagine a better world for all of us. Finally, I believe that having a concept of perfection in one's life is important, something that we can all passionately work toward in our fight against global poverty. This concept can be secular or religious. We all must be very humble in the face of perfection–another reminder that we have nothing to be boastful about!

9 ways to start a "Giving" conversation

I hope this sharing about the ways Diana and I have worked to increase our commitment to being public will encourage you to not feel bashful or embarrassed about talking to your own family, friends, and co-workers about your commitments to effective giving. Here are a few tips on you can start a discussion about combating extreme poverty:

  • Share an Unselfie on social media, where people expect you to discuss the things you care about.
  • Stay informed. Share specific blog posts, articles, or newsletters that you find particularly interesting on Facebook or via email. Subscribe to The Life You Can Save's blog in your newsfeed to stay inspired by like-minded altruists.
  • Know the facts. Learn and talk about the devastating effects of extreme poverty and what can be done about it. You can start by browsing the The Life You Can Save's Extreme Poverty Report, A Call to Action and Outreach Packet.
  • Spend less. Discuss ways you are trying to cut back your personal consumption in order to have more money to give away without significantly compromising your savings for yourself or your family.
  • Stay connected. Social media is an obvious way to make your own participation more transparent to your community! "Like" The Life You Can Save's Facebook page to connect with our online community of givers!
  • Find a community. Join or start a group dedicated to fighting extreme poverty. Or reach out to an effective charity. Many of our recommended charities appreciate the time and help of volunteers.
  • Host a Giving Game. Organize a Giving Game for family, friends, or colleagues. Check out our blog and resources pages for examples of successful Giving Games and tips on how to design one yourself.
  • Make the holidays about giving. Thanksgiving is a great time to share one's gratitude, as well as to discuss how we can help the world's poorest people. This year, as we give thanks for what we have, let's remember those who live with far less than we do.
  • Take our pledge. Share the websites of The Life You Can Save and our recommended charities with your family and friends. Discuss your decision to take our pledge.

What helps you to feel more comfortable being open about your philanthropy? Please share your experiences with us! We're excited to hear about creative ways you choose to spread the word about the fight against extreme poverty.

Good living and good giving,

The Life You Can Save is a 501(c)(3) - an official non-profit registered with the United States Internal Revenue Service. Donations to The Life You Can Save are tax-deductible to individuals filing taxes in the U.S.

The Life You Can Save, 10540 NE Morning Lane, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, USA
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