Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Giving by Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton’s recent book Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World brings together examples of how people are giving time, money, and skills to change the world for the better. Some of my favorite people and organizations are discussed — such as Kiva, Ashoka, ONE, ShoreBank, and Sustainable South Bronx — as well as many that I didn’t know about. It’s a bracing wake-up call for for those who think the country is mired in apathy. In addition to his own Clinton Foundation, Clinton devotes considerable space to the medical missionary work of Paul Farmer, whose book The Uses of Haiti I reviewed at length for Transition. There’s also a chapter on Heifer International, whose marketing I have admired for years. Heifer not only brings home the personal impact of even small gifts, but its attractively produced “magalogs” make giving a donation feel like shopping for a friend. It was good to read that their work is as effective as their marketing. Clinton discusses organizations that have given books for needy schoolchildren in Zimbabwe and Nepal, but doesn’t mention Books for Africa, which has been doing excellent work for years. When my mother visited me in Zimbabwe in 1990, she brought a suitcase of medical instruments of the sort that American hospitals use once and discard. I was pleased to see that an organization called Doc to Dock is now collecting and distributing them on a much wider basis.

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