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A Day of Service – Ideas to Help the World

There seems to be SO much going on in our world right now. Hurricane season in the east, Fire season in the West, an ongoing pandemic, conflict and refugees all over the world. Sometimes it feels like too much. It seems overwhelming to know how to help, or where to even start.

There’s no way one person can fix it all, but I loved this thought I recently read from L. R. Knost:

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits for the light that is you.”

As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 I love that we honor that tragic day with a Day of Service. All over the United States tomorrow there will be service projects to help your local community. 

If you are looking for places and ways to donate close to where you live for this day or any time of year, check out websites such as Just Serve, Idealist, or Create the Good and put in your zip code to see lists of possible opportunities in your own community.

And of course, opportunities to serve and help our local or global community are never restricted to certain days or places.

I know that we quilters have some of the best and most generous hearts. The tricky part is knowing where our efforts or resources will have the most impact. We want to reach out and share – particularly our quilts (which are also our love language), but that might not always be the biggest need.

Opportunities to sew for charityI have a Sew Goodness list here of causes that are always in need of charity sewing or handmade, donated goods

I also have a whole post on best practices about sewing for and donating to charity (particularly after a natural disaster) here. Most important: 

  • Pace yourself – you don’t have to do it all

  • Donate to a reputable charity and make sure they actually need the items you want to give

  • Work with an established charity organization following a major natural disaster or large-scale tragedy

  • Best practices for donating finished goods, money, or time

The good thing about being makers and creators is that using our hands and talents to create handmade items from our hearts, is helpful and healing for both the giver and the receiver.

But at the same time, a little research will give us the best results for our efforts as well as fill the most critical needs for those in need of help.

Here are a few ideas inspired by current causes:

Relief from Natural Disasters

If you are looking to support relief from fires in the west (particularly California), check out the My California Home quilt pattern here and donate proceeds to California Wildlife Relief.

If anyone knows of specific ways to support cleanup efforts from Hurricane Ida in both the gulf and New York, or the recent earthquake in Haiti, please feel free to share in the comments.

How to Help Refugees

As the refugee crisis has been forefront in our news lately, I thought I’d also share some things I’ve learned first hand over the past few years about refugees as well as trusted organizations that need assistance and put resources to the best use. 

The Afghan refugee crisis has been front and center in the news lately as hundreds of thousands of our American allies have been dramatically and tragically evacuated – with many still waiting for that opportunity. But they are not the only ones. Our planet currently has 84 million people classified as refugees – people typically defined as individuals who have been forcibly displaced from their native country because of violence or religious or cultural persecution. For the most part, these are people who didn’t want to leave their homeland, but had no choice. There’s lots more details to read about the definition of refugee here.

I am so lucky to have an amazing friend named Amy (another Amy!)  who has taught me SO much about working with refugees and given me lots of opportunities to interact with and become friends with refugees in our local community.

This Amy was born and grew up internationally while her Dad served in the foreign service. Her own family sponsored her father’s Cambodian translator’s family as refugees to the US during the Cambodian genocide over 30 years ago. Since that time Amy has volunteered as a mentor for local refugees, including a single mother + 5 children from Somalia.

In the 2000’s Amy’s husband was deployed to Afghanistan for a year where he became very good friends with his Afghani interpreter, A (name kept private). A has stayed in their home here in the US multiple times and was granted US citizenship, but chose to return to Afghanistan and raise his family and support his country. Until two weeks ago. He and his family were some of the of the lucky ones who were able to escape because of their US connections, but not after some harrowing close calls and devastation at what has become of their country.

This week I was able to meet A and his wife and hear them share their experience. I was impressed by how poised and articulate this couple is. Well-educated (both of them speak 4-5 languages) and well-established in their home country – they are now starting over here. To meet them reminded me that we are more alike than different. And yet they are facing a crisis. It was humbling.

Where to Start:

In a crisis such as the one we’ve watched unfold internationally, it’s hard to even know where to begin to help. Start by working with reputable, established organizations. The International Rescue Committee is a reliable, well-established and experienced organization in helping refugees globally.

How to support refugees in your local community

These photos are from a few years ago – these beautiful and children are Somali or Ethiopian.

If you live near a host city find the organizations that provide services for these resettled families and individuals. The host country typically provides support for a limited amount of time (90 days here in the US) and it is other organizations that then step in to fill vital needs such as securing housing, job training, language education, and all other resources and support on learning how to make a new home in a totally foreign country. Think basics like: how to shop at a grocery store, or navigate the bus system, or register children for school (or how to blow bubbles if you’ve never seen anything like them before 😊). 

In my state/community (Utah) that would be Catholic Community Services.

Click here to find resources in your own local community throughout the US. If they are on this page, they have been thoroughly vetted and likely need immediate help supporting Afghan refugees. 

Refugees coming from other countries often only arrive with the clothes on their backs. Their biggest need is the basic – think diapers, kitchen tables, cleaning supplies, backpacks for school, etc. Often refugee-aid organizations have a list of most-needed items – sometimes an Amazon Wish List. Check with these organizations directly before you make any in-kind donations. 

Before you give money to any organization, research it’s status and track record as well as it’s costs and where the money received is actually spent.

A spoke of the many people who are now in hiding from the Taliban and the poverty of internally displaced Afghans who are searching for safety. A said money sent now to Afghanistan would be used fraudulently because of the unstable situation, so don’t do that. If he learns of a trustworthy organization working in the country he will pass it on. 

Refugees need friends

Other refugees I have had experience with: my adorable neighbor Xiong Li and her beautiful daughters and their families. (You can read more about her here and here.)

Xiong Li’s story is very similar to what evacuated Afghans are experience – only she had to get herself and her family out of danger on their own. Xiong Li lived in a Thai refugee camp with her own small children before being relocated to the United States in the 1980’s. Her husband helped rescue and hide American pilots who had been shot down over Vietnam and Laos in the 1970’s. As a result he and their family were hunted and tortured by the Laotian military. Their family had a harrowing escape across Laos and the Mekong river with bullets flying over their heads, before being rescued and given refuge in a camp in Thailand and eventually asylum in the US. 

Stack of Flannel Blankets for Charity

Xiong Li is one of my kindred-spirit friends who also loves to sew. In 2020 she made 100’s of flannel receiving blankets to be donated locally to women’s shelters and the Navajo reservation.

I think of how this woman has made an impact on my life – helping me better appreciate life itself and what awesome children and grandchildren she has produced who are hardworking American citizens now. (If you watched Suni Lee win the gold medal in the Women’s Gymnastics All-Around competition, you got to see another example of a strong Hmong-American community.)

A few years ago we were involved with a sub-for-santa for refugee families in our community. Through that experience we met the most wonderful Bhutanese family who have become really wonderful friends. They are also hard-working and generous. (And they make and share with us the best food! You can read some of our experiences with them here.)

I love the diversity of experience and culture that refugees bring to a community. They need help to assimilate when they arrive but they also bring perspective and gratitude for many of the things I take for granted.

Organizations making a difference

Dolls of Hope – I have loved sewing stuffed bears for and working with Dolls of Hope for years. They have grown and partner with many relief organizations on the ground both here in the US and all over the world – the toys that are donated get directly into the hands of children who need them.

Lifting Hands International helps in refugee camps all over the world. They are experienced in not only providing supplies, but also  education and emotional support as well as practical long-term solutions such as providing a family with two goats that can be an ongoing source of nutrition (milk) and income. Right now they are doing their annual fundraiser Gather for Goats. I love this cause. Immediate, practical and sustainable long-term help.

Quilt Fundraiser for Charity

I am currently selling a lot of the sample quilts I’ve made over the years to raise money to donate to some of these organizations. (I will be added more over the weekend.)

Quilts for Sale (fundrasier) are listed in my Shop

I will be donating the proceeds to Gather for Goats, Catholic Community Services, and Hurricane Ida clean-up efforts through LDS Charities. (If you buy a quilt and prefer a donation to a different organization, I’m happy to make that donation instead!)

As I mentioned: I’ve also put together a list of a variety of other charities here that are always in need of handmade donations or this post will take you to a list of organizations that are in need of fabric donations.

If you know of other tried and true organizations that are making a difference in the world, please feel free to share them in the comments. ❤ 

Thank you for all of the good YOU are contributing to the world. This community continues to inspire me.

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Dawn J Reid
    September 11, 2021 at 12:01 am

    A wonderful article, Amy!

  • Reply
    Sue
    September 11, 2021 at 9:55 am

    Amy, you want to edit the third paragraph in your post. When you transcribed the quote, you accidentally changed it and not in a good way. ☺

    • Reply
      Amy
      September 11, 2021 at 10:31 am

      Oh my goodness – thank you for catching that! *facepalm* Thanks for looking out for me, Sue! ❤

  • Reply
    Jocelyn
    September 11, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    THANK YOU Amy for this wonderful post. It is sometimes so hard to find a way to donate. A few years ago, there was an organization that took in so much they ended up throwing quilts away.(sorry I can’t remember which one it was). Which has made me hesitate to make something not knowing if it is a good cause. Thanks for the lists.

  • Reply
    Robby H.
    September 13, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    I always appreciate these posts. Such a timely and gentle reminder that we can most help by giving what is needed where it is needed instead of what we want, no matter how well intentioned.

  • Reply
    Nancy McCaffrey
    September 19, 2021 at 6:06 am

    Every year I sew and accumulate items to pack in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, which is run around the world through Samaritan’s Purse. Almost every town in the US has a church that collects the boxes in November. They are then literally shipped/flown around the world to children. It’s a wonderful program that gives you joy knowing you’re helping bring smiles and items of need to children everywhere, even though you don’t personally see them receive them.
    I also have sewn many quilts to donate to Project Linus, quilts collected locally to you that are given to children in local hospitals that become their forever blanket.

    • Reply
      Amy
      September 19, 2021 at 9:54 am

      Excellent! I love, love, love this. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Reply
    Sandra Slimak
    September 19, 2021 at 11:04 am

    All of us quilters have leftover fabric after a quilting project. Some leftovers are scraps but often times we have yardage. I turn my leftover yardage into sundresses for Little Dresses for Africa. They are quick and easy to make. I used to ship my finished dresses to Nancy’s Notions who participated in this charity. Sadly, Missouri Star Quilt Company took over Nancy’s Notions and decided to drop participation in the Little Dresses for Africa project. Who does this!!! Now I ship my finished dresses directly to Little Dresses for Africa. They have a website, if you’re interested.

    • Reply
      Amy
      September 19, 2021 at 9:01 pm

      I really love Little Dresses for Africa. Such an inspiring organization. I have sewn dresses for them as well – and I have a pile of pillowcases I’ve saved to make more. Thank you for the reminder!

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