Ever thought about making a career out of helping others? In “Walk in Their Shoes,” out this month, Jim Ziolkowski—founder of the nonprofit buildOn, which runs afterschool programs across the country and takes inner-city kids on school-building trips around the world—describes how he turned a passion for serving people into a successful charitable organization. Even if you haven’t got the bandwith to start your own nonprofit, there are lots of ways you can get involved and make a change. We’ve put together a list of organizations committed to conserving the environment, stamping out hunger, curbing poverty and more, paired with books full of insights on the issues. Check them out and learn how to help the causes that matter to you.
Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, is one of the foremost voices on the developing world. In “The End of Poverty,” he cites the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals as the best course of action for helping some of the world’s poorest economies.
Where you can help: Millennium Promise
2. 40 Chances
Feeding the hungry
When 83-year-old billionaire investor Warren Buffett announced in 2006 that he wanted to leave most of his enormous fortune to be put towards philanthropic causes—and wanted his son to help manage that spending–lifelong farmer Howard Buffett faced a tall order. With his dad’s words in mind, the younger Buffett set a bold goal: Commit $3 billion over the next 40 years to end hunger. In his new book, “40 Chances”—which includes a foreword by his father–he argues that we all have about 40 productive adult years to make a positive impact.
Where you can help: 40 Chances
Extending medical care
When he met Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti in 1994, Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Kidder was immediately struck by Farmer’s drive. In 1987, Farmer cofounded the nonprofit Partners in Health (PIH), which dispatches doctors to areas in need to forge relationships with local aid workers and improve medical care. In his award-winning book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,”Kidder tells Farmer’s life story and delves into his work.
Where you can help: Partners in Health
Fueling poor areas with microloans
Economist Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in microlending: giving small sums of startup money to aspiring entrepreneurs too poor to apply for traditional loans. He describes how Grameen, his microlending bank, was born, and shares his ideas for curbing poverty in the future in “Banker to the Poor.”
Where you can help: The Grameen Foundation
Caring for children impacted by AIDS
In the 1990s, following the sudden death of her daughter, Ethiopian widow Haregewoin Teferra began opening her doors to children in need. Orphaned by AIDS or suffering from the disease themselves, hundreds of local youths came to stay with her. National Book award winner Melissa Faye Greene offers a portrait of Teferra’s life–and Africa’s AIDS epidemic at large—in her moving book, “There is No Me Without You.”
Where you can help: Concern Worldwide
6. Half the Sky
Helping women and girls advance
In his New York Times column, Pulitzer Prize-winner Nicholas Kristof has made a practice of raising awareness about human rights abuses and voicing the plights of the world’s underserved. He teamed up with his wife, fellow Pulitzer winner Sheryl WuDunn, to write “Half the Sky,” their manifesto on empowering women and girls worldwide through education.
Where you can help: The Half the Sky Movement
Saving our oceans
Scientist Carl Safina recalls his lifelong passion for the sea and all its creatures in “Song for the Blue Ocean.” From overfishing and global warming to pollution and erosion, Safina identifies the many challenges facing ocean conservationists while beautifully describing his own adventures along coasts across the globe.
Where you can help: The Blue Ocean Institute
Conservationist Daphne Sheldrick and anthropologist Jane Goodalldedicated their lives to working with animals: Sheldrick saved countless elephants in her native Kenya, while British-born Goodall became the world’s top expert on chimpanzees. Sheldrick recalled her life’s work and her relationship with her husband, Tsavo National Park warden David Sheldrick, in her memoir, “Love, Life and Elephants.” For more on Goodall’s work, check out her classic book, “In the Shadow of Man.”