In a world of Marie Kondo, less is more and moving in together can often mean decluttering for the couple. In South Asian weddings, many couples opt for the traditional cash route with a "No boxed gifts please" note on their website or in the invitation. Some couples choose to create a traditional wedding registry with gifts or experiences, but there is also a third option of giving back. In 2017, Poonam Kaushal and Nishkaam Mehta launched #MillionMealsForLove to help fight child hunger. Instead of throwing a lavish big fat Indian wedding, they asked their family and friends to donate to a cause both care deeply about. We've also seen couples donate to a charity close to their heart in lieu of giving wedding favors.
As inspiration, we wanted to share an incredible list of 18 non-profits in case you decide to ask your guests to donate to a charity in lieu of giving a gift or just want to give some thanks this holiday season. Thank you to the ladies of Little Brown Diary for their recommendations! Click on each of the non-profits below to learn more about each organization. If you see any non-profits you support not on here, feel free to view and edit here.
Children's Health and Education
- Asha for Education focuses on catalyzing socio-economic equality through basic education for children in India. The volunteer-run organization works on 200+ projects to support educational issues like pre-primary schooling to professional education in both urban cities and rural slums.
- CHANCE Foundation, based in Minnesota, empowers underprivileged children by providing resources for education, health, and life skills development. Every eighth child in large cities in India, under the age of 6, lives in a slum. Children in the slums are left without a sense of security, stability, and direction in life.
- Edu-GIRLS equips girls living in extreme poverty to achieve financial freedom through customized education, vocational training, and college scholarships. They support four schools in India and Pakistan. The schools have a 92% retention rate and 75% of their high school graduates are enrolled in vocational training and college.
- Ekal Vidyala's mission is to provide education to every child across rural India and Nepal with the aim to eradicate illiteracy and promote inclusion across society. They have developed over 100,000 one-teacher schools (known as Ekal Vidyala) and enrolled 2.8M students with almost a 50/50 split of boys and girls.
- India Youth Fund empowers youth through education and skills. They focus on helping students stay in school and work towards a brighter future.
- Pratham USA partners with governments, communities, parents, teachers, and volunteers to develop "innovative interventions to address gaps in the education system." Their mission is “every child in school and learning well.” They have 14 chapters across the US and work with 21 states in India to develop outcome-driven programs, build scalable low cost yet effective learning models, and advocate / inspire change and action.
Food, Water, and Nourishment
- SEHGAL Foundation works with rural communities to create sustainable programs for managing water resources, increasing agricultural productivity, and strengthening rural governance. SEHGAL Foundation’s grassroots programs focus on three of rural India’s most pressing and interrelated issues: water security, food security, and social justice.
- ShareTheMeal was started as an initiative by the United Nations' World Food Program. Each year, WFP reaches 86 million people with food assistance globally and is 100% voluntarily funded. Donations from ShareTheMeal go towards programs like resilience building, food assistance programs at schools, and emergency efforts.
- Our BISWAS enables women living in marginalized communities in India to tackle challenges of extreme poverty through nano finance. These women can use the funds to help their children go to school, pay for medicine, or even start a small business. Similar to microfinance, the concept is "women helping women" where women can take on another interest-free loan after paying off their loan or recirculate the funds to support other women.
- SAPNA NYC empowers low-income South Asian immigrant women by providing access to medical care, expanding economic opportunities, creating social networks, and building a collective voice for change.
Health and Mental Wellbeing
- International Medical Health Organization focused on developing and improving healthcare, education, and infrastructure for underserved and impoverished people globally. IHMO helps fill critical gaps in healthcare through extensive on the ground partnerships.
- Sankara Eye Foundation's goal is to eliminate blindness. 80% of their surgeries are dedicated to impoverished individuals, free of cost. India has the largest population of blind people, with over 45 million individuals visually impaired, out of which 12 million are blind. Every year, 1 million more people are declared blind. Fortunately, 80% of these people can be cured through surgery, but most lack the access and funds for surgery.
- SAIVA empowers older South Asians to integrate and interact with their local community through activities like volunteering, cooking classes, and healthcare education. They are helping create a local structure for seniors to stay engaged and thrive.
- Apna Ghar provides critical, comprehensive, and culturally relevant services to end gender violence in communities around the U.S. They focus on innovative and effective services for survivors and those who perpetrate harm; advocacy; and community outreach and accountability. Since 1990, they have helped 100,000 survivors and community members.
- Maitri helps South Asian families and individuals facing domestic abuse, emotional abuse, cultural alienation, or family conflict. They offer counseling, housing, legal advocacy, economic environment, and a dedicated helpline as well as community services programs.
- Daya empowers South Asian survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Houston and beyond.
- Womankind provides critical resources and deep cultural competency in 18+ languages to help all survivors "find refuge, recovery, and renewal from domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual violence." They provide everything from emergency housing, legal help, support community to economic assistance, and creative arts therapy.
- Sakhi for South Asian Women is a survivor-led movement for gender-justice, to honor the collective and inherent power of all survivors of violence. The organization is committed to serving survivors through a combination of efforts including direct services, advocacy, technical assistance, and community outreach.
As a closing thought, with the season of giving upon us, we hope you take some time to give back to the community. Monetary donations are always appreciated, but as Silvia Hartmann said, "the most precious thing I have to give is my time."
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