Saturday, October 23, 2010

Women Making a Difference

Unite for Sight, an organization founded in 2000 to provide “high quality eye care for all,” was created by Jennifer Staple-Clark. The non-profit’s website celebrates having provided eye care services to 1 million people, performed over 36,800 sight-restoring surgeries and trained 7,450 fellows to help eliminate preventable blindness. The eye care is administered by local optometrists and ophthalmologists to patients in their own villages. Unite for Sight also supports eye clinics worldwide.

First Book, also a non-profit social enterprise, was founded in 1992 by Kyle Zimmer, who realized that the children she tutored at a soup kitchen had no books. Today, First Book lays claim to having delivered more than 70 million new books to children in need in communities across the US and Canada. It thus addresses “one of the most important factors affecting literacy — access to books”. Volunteer to distribute books to the needy by contacting First Book.

Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), founded by Elizabeth Scharpf, aims to “improve the quality of life for people in developing countries” via market-based means. A major project has been the development of a low-priced sanitary pad from natural raw materials for women in Africa and Asia. The idea is to help women start their own businesses making and locally distributing eco-friendly pads. Meanwhile, SHE is helping girls stay in school rather than staying home during menstruation because of the lack of sanitary facilities.
These women are not drops in the bucket. Every person they educate, every person they help can in turn help others and teach others to acquire the skills needed in their own villages and towns. Altruism is indeed contagious. Thanks to The New York Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof for pointing that out.