Over the last few months I have come across two causes that I think are worth supporting.
The first is Map Action ( http://www.mapaction.org/ ). This organisation is based in the UK, and provides first response mapping in disaster situations. This may sound a trifle odd, but think about it: if the midden hits the windmill in a big way, you need to know where the most manure is, in order to start organise sorting it out. You also need to know what is needed to clean up the manure. So the maps that get made are relevant to the situation, answering questions like “Is there a first aid post in this area?”, “Which areas have clean water?”, and “Where are communication lines cut?” which are of immense importance when organising a relief effort.
The people on the ground are all volunteers, and drop everything at short notice to go and provide vital initial mapping services. Once other relief services, such as the Red Cross or MSF, become more established, Map Action hand over to them.
Now, partly because I love maps, I think that this is fantastic. It utilises modern software, a diverse group of people and makes a hell of a difference, right where and when it is needed.
Qhubeka / World Bicycle Relief
World Bicycle Relief ( http://www.worldbicyclerelief.org/ ) are the guys behind the Buffalo Bikes. These are robust, high quality bicycles designed for commuting in rural areas. The bike includes a built-in stand, fenders, a luggage rack. They are single-speed, so there are no gears to go wrong. They are fairly heavy, but that is because of the solid construction.
WBR work through a number of partners throughout Africa (mostly, although they have done some work in SE Asia as well), and claim to have distributed over 170 000 since 2005. That is a massive number of people whose lives have been improved by allowing people to carry more, and travel further and quicker.
Working in the Mkhanyakude Local Municipality recently, I saw quite a lot of these, provided through the Qhubeka Project ( http://qhubeka.org/ ). I can only imagine how much better life gets if you have access to something like this and you live in the middle of nowhere. Imagine being able to sleep for another half-an-hour every morning because you do not have to take as long to get to school. This can only be a good thing. And, of course, cycling is fun, even with two wheels.
This is a much longer term effect and thinking than Map Action. It is looking forward, changing things for the better rather than reacting.
Have a look at both of these. I think both are great causes, and could do with whatever tiny signal boost this blog can provide.