One thing we have for sure, each one of us, small individuals in a gigantic society, can do much, much more than a few centuries ago, when even freedom of speech and mouvement was a luxury. Today, almost everything is possible, from organizing marches, send mails to the media, speak freely with friends and neighbors, shout to the world what we feel must be wrong. It is a rare occasion in our history. However, I have no desire to become a hero. I'm what Tolkien would call a hobbit and what Rowling would call a muggle. That is, I am just 'middle class' and no more than that. The ideas that I have are no more than average and everything but bold. But I think that, as long as no one has a better plan, it will have to do. At least, it's better than nothing. By the way, if you have a better plan, please say so, we are really eager to have a little more initiative around here!! :)
To give money in three steps!
1. Knowing what is really important to you (for instance, helping to relieve hunger, fight sickness, increase education, fighting discrimination and totalitarianism, protecting nature, etc). It can be either locally or globally, what is important is that you find it genuinely important.
2. Find an organization (big or small) that you sincerely think that is doing something positive in that area.
(The U2 site (www.u2.com) has a good place regarding humanitarian associations.
3. Open your wallet :) you can even become a full member of the organization (in Portugal it costs from 20 to 40 euros a year to be a member of Amnisty International).
Stay well informed on what is going on in the world.
The news on tv speak only about what 'catches' audiences. Since audiences today are mostly passive and not active, you would not expect to find any news that may become incentives for people to act (it would be against tv market interests). As long as the general frame of mind doesn't change we are going to have to swim against the tide. Namely, we will have to search for our own news, to find the data, the reasoning, the values, etc, that will, perhaps, became the future standards, but not in the short term. There are many things that, if we only knew them, would strike us to act. For instance, knowing that there is someone in prision for fighting for human rights may prompt us to write a letter, knowing that some child is dying for lack of proper aid may propmpt you to help personally and so forth. Information is at the basis of everything. What we miss is information, good channels to know what is happening beyond the golden walls in which we live. The same thing happened regarding ecology.
On the other hand there are things the newspapers will never tell you. I am thinking of the situation you have in your home, or your friends. Most of the times we make the biggest difference in affairs that are close to us. Being aware is the first and most fundamental step to being helpful.
Participate in a community also interested in changing the world. There is such a community online. Join NetAid.
Well, this is about it. I am absolutely sure that you have much better ideas, please spread the word, and if you think it might be helpful to include them here, please let me know through my e-mail.
"The best place to find an helping hand
is at the end of your arm."