For the first time in a very long while, we received a fairly sizable refund from Uncle Sam this year. (I wish the same could be said for our state return, but oh well...)
We paid bills, socked some cash into savings (still hoping to make that new home purchase this summer), and treated the kids to some extra junk food while traveling to California last weekend.
Most significantly though, we were able to throw some financial support behind two of my favorite organizations: Kiva and Plan USA.
My daughters are excited about our family's sponsorship of a boy named Henry in Uganda, and also about being part of a group of individual donors helping to fund a microloan to a cattle farming co-op (also in Uganda).
You know what they say about teaching a man to fish...
Here's the canned blurb from the Kiva website:
I wanted to let you know about Kiva (www.kiva.org), a non-profit that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur across the globe.
You choose who to lend to - whether a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a restaurateur in Cambodia, or a tailor in Iraq - and as they repay their loan, you get your money back. It’s a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone right now to lift themselves out of poverty.
...and the one from Plan USA:
Plan is a global partnership of caring people founded in 1937 to bring hope and help to the world’s poorest children.
Plan began as a child sponsorship organization. Today, we are one of the oldest and largest organizations of our kind—our grassroots, self-help programs assist more than 10 million children and their families in poor communities around the world.
We are proudly private, not for profit, and respectful of local religions and cultures—we have no agenda other than helping kids.
I love that both organizations emphasize self-sufficiency.
Perhaps more importantly, I love that both have a no-religious-strings-attached approach. I wholeheartedly applaud the wonderful works done across the globe by so many church-affiliated groups, but it's just not for me. I have a major problem with the concept of aid coming with religious conditions. Somehow it just doesn't sit right with me, any more than it would if I expected someone to become a Democrat or join my book club just because I helped them out of a sticky situation.
I know a whole lot of evangelicals who would argue that feeding the soul is more important than feeding the body, that salvation in the next life is more critical than saving a starving child in this one.
Who am I to say they're incorrect?
It's just not my thing.
I say feed the kid, build the clinic, teach the mom to read, help the goat farmer get an extra couple acres of grazing land...do something, strings or not.