Half of the settlers who disembarked from the Mayflower in 1620 died in the harsh, unbearable winter that met them in Plymouth. Unprepared and under fire from the elements, the colony was unlikely to survive another year.
Then came Squanto.
A Patuxet Indian whose tribe had been wiped out by Old World diseases brought to the New, Squanto taught the unseasoned settlers how to plant maize, draw syrup from maple trees and fertilize crops. Without his charity, the Plymouth Colony would have perished.
Armed with lessons from Squanto, the colonists survived another winter and reaped a bountiful harvest, which they shared with the local Native American tribes in a three-day feast widely recognized as America’s first Thanksgiving.
Like Squanto, the following organizations empower communities by offering a hand up, not a hand out.
For an authentic Thanksgiving, folks can either don a loincloth and dine outside in the nippy New England air, or join one of these Squanto-esque orgs and support sustainable futures for tomorrow’s great societies.
21st Century Squanto: Kickstart
Mission: Kickstart supports economic growth and employment in the developing world by providing entrepreneurs and NGOs with affordable tools to start sustainable farms and businesses. In return, the projects generate jobs, income, and futures where none existed before.
Kickstart's most popular product is the Super MoneyMaker water pump, a low-cost device that can carry water from hard-to-reach sources to fields and gardens for irrigation. To date, the nonprofit and its line of products have kick-started 101,400 new businesses which moved half a million people out of poverty in Africa.
How to Give Thanks: For every dollar donated to Kickstart, the four-star rated charity can make $15 for its farmers. A $300 donation can take a family out poverty forever. To get in on the biz, take a look at Kickstart's action page.
21st Century Squanto: Heifer International
Mission: Livestock is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only do animals supply renewable food and income through eggs, milk, wool, and draft power, but cows, chickens, and goats beget more cows, chickens, and goats, which means an entire village can benefit from just a few living gifts.
By providing livestock to impoverished families, Heifer International offers long-term development rather than short-term relief to the planet’s stricken masses. To pay back their living loan, recipients are required to pass along one or more of their animal’s offspring to another family in need.
How to Give Thanks: Provide a family with a range of meaningful animals, from honey bees to water buffalo, through Heifer's gift catalog. If animals aren't your thing, you can help fund a project that's already shaping an entire community.
21st Century Squanto: Tostan
Mission: Founded in 1991 by Molly Melching, Tostan empowers communities in Africa to do everything from improving literacy rates and adopting solar technology to forgoing the brutal tradition of female genital cutting.
The organization’s commitment to bring about change through education, rather than force-fed values, is the key to its success. Tostan’s holistic approach transforms communities from the ground up, seeding sustainable development and respect for human rights for generations to come.
How to Give Thanks: Tostan has a number of ways to get involved, from volunteering in Africa to interning in D.C. On its "free ways to give" page, Squantos-in-training can earn the org a referral fee by following links to Amazon.com from Tostan's website.
21st Century Squanto: WeOwnTV
Mission: Headquartered in San Francisco, WeOwnTv teaches young adults in war-ravaged Sierra Leone how to document their life stories in video diaries, citizen journalism, narrative films, and music videos.
Each of the filmmakers—orphans, former child soldiers, teen prostitutes, and victims of war—has spirit, hope, and a voice, but it took the innovative nonprofit's help to find it. By expressing their struggles through art, the students begin a healing process that reconciles battle scars with positive futures.
How to Give Thanks: Spielberg-inspired Squantos can donate cash or equipment to Sierra Leone's cinephiles.
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