In case you're interested in supporting some of the organizations we at Sogo Snacks hold dear to our hearts, below is a list of some fantastic groups doing great work. Click on each heading to learn more about what they do and how you can get involved. Watch for opportunities via Sogo Snacks' email list, blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts where you can help further these missions simply by purchasing the snacks your already love. SoGo...Snack Well, Do Good.
In 2002, as a 22 year old Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa, I had the pleasure of meeting Mali Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and Fulbright Scholar, Scott Lacy. Over the years I’ve followed the development of his non-profit serving Mali by building schools, operating adult literacy programs, bolstering local food production through cereal banks and supporting community health work. This is a great organization to get involved with if you're interested in being part of positive change in Mali, West Africa.
As cliche as it sounds, my time in the Peace Corps really was the "toughest job I ever loved." As many volunteers discover, however, I felt I was changed and benefited more than any change or help I brought to the good people of Tene, Mali (Here is a map with descriptions and photos of what my life was like in this small, rural village of 4,000 people). Even so, I believe the Peace Corps is an incredibly valuable organization with many, many good things happening to both host country nationals and US citizens because of it.
Sadly, the Peace Corps has permanently pulled out of Mali due to security issues since 2012, however, programs in many other countries continue the work first started by John F. Kennedy in the 60's. If you want to ensure your charity giving is going directly to the neediest of the needy, I can't think of a better way than through a donation to Peace Corps Volunteer projects.
I was first introduced to micro-lending with my main project in the Peace Corps. Three Malians, Moustapha, Hawa and Fatumata, and myself started a village savings bank and named it Tene Deme Tene, Tene Helping Tene. The concept was simple and a little back words, but it worked well. Each day, Moustapha would travel around the village to different business and homes to collect a tan ($.05), duru ($.10), mugan ($.20), or biduru ($.50) from members. After 31 days, members could either withdraw what they saved, minus 1 days worth as a fee for the bank, or continue to build on their savings. Deposits for the group were made in a bank 3 kilometers away, via scooter by Hawa. Something I'll aways remember is woman that saved a duru per day for 2 months totaling $6.00. When I handed her the withdrawal she danced and sang with joy! That was a sum she wasn't use to seeing all at once. The entire purpose of this project was to provide infrastructure and opportunities for folks to save so they could one day take out an "advance on savings" (loan) and be able to pay it back.
The point being, micro-lending really is important to development. What opportunities would you have missed if affordable credit wasn't available. A college education? A house? A car? Business capital? Kiva increases access to capital to the most vulnerable communities. It partners up with local and regional nonprofits to distribute and vet loans. It uses volunteers to tranlate the profiles. You don't even make a donation, you provide small amounts of capital, as little as $25 per loan, as a crowd lender.
We've created a Kiva Team page, https://www.kiva.org/team/sogosnacks, where once you set up an account you can make loans and file them under our team to track our cumulative impact. Click here to learn more about Team Sogo Snacks.
Since I was 18 years old, nearly every year I have taken a 5-night canoe trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) with three of my childhood friends. Located on the border of Northern Minnesota and Canada, over 2000 lakes create a canoe-transport only trip where you travel by pristine water by day and sleep next to it at night. It's you, the fire, friends and nature.
Recently, mining development has threatened the BWCAW, Minnesota's only National Park. I believe strongly that it's a place where extreme caution is necessary in order to preserve it for generations to come. If you haven't been there and like the outdoors, SoGo. If you need help with the journey, talk to my friend, Jason Zabortsky, at http://elyoutfittingcompany.com.