While my recent work history belongs in my resume, I want to share my favorite charities list and NGOs with the world.
When young, charity and giving are seldom on the radar. Personally, I was a little too preoccupied with myself and my budding ego to realize the pleasure of it all. And then, as I became more aware of my connection to the world, I also started to understand how important that is. While at first generosity was spontaneous and directed mostly at those close to me, in time, as my social circle expanded and my knowledge of the world increased, I became aware of larger issues. My time became somehow more scarce and I had to start to think through my charitable endeavors.
At first, I thought that charity is best done anonymously. Then, it occurred to me that I might want to direct people who want to pay me to charities I support or consider important; additionally, those charities I consider worthy of my help would benefit from others' help, which justifies this page. The risk of being accused of conspicuous compassion is worth it, if causes close to my heart get greater exposure and more resources; besides, my resources are quite limited.
Like many in my generation who grew up with the Internet, I started listening to SomaFM's Groove Salad on the dawn of the new millennium. This radio station was great to stimulate creativity, even when coding, and muted ambient noise. I've had innumerable positive experiences on the background provided by them, so it was only natural to donate. I'm not the only one, as can be seen in this photo and many others. They have since expanded their offering to numerous other stations. (Soma is a ritual drink in the Vedic tradition and also appears in Huxley's Brave New World.)
I was one of those wide-eyed idealists who had thought, back in the '90s, when I registered my first consultancy in Canada, that the Internet will undoubtedly be a force for good and that will change the world for the better. I then witnessed in disbelief the encroachment on privacy and freedoms that went beyond what was happening IRL (in real life). The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was founded to fight against it and preserve those noble ideals long forgotten or ignored by most of us. They gave me stickers in exchange for my donations and I kept at least one such sticker on most of my smartphones and laptops.
I have used Wikipedia a lot and helped out by correcting a few glaring errors a few times; I even donated to the Wikimedia Foundation.
My most recently discovered charity is Against Malaria. They are an extremely efficient organization in helping Africans (the one continent where DDT didn't work its terrible "magic") escape this debilitating disease.
When my neighbours nearly rioted over a deeply unpopular and (according to a lawyer with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, racist) project, I helped organize our resistance in an organization we incorporated under the name of Sheppard West Neighbourhood Association (SWNA). As president, I even represented us in an application in front of the Ontario Municipal Board. We held numerous meetings and advocated for our neighbourhood.
NGOs on my radar screen where I would much rather volunteer my time (which, to me, is more valuable) rather than give my money are Habitat for Humanity, Amnesty International and Big Brothers. So far, unfortunately, this is still an unfulfilled desire. I am mentioning them because I think they do great work and if you are looking for inspiration, I recommend them.
Canada does not have an EFF, but the NGO most closely paralleling the American EFF is undoubtedly OpenMedia (W). I have donated to them and lent my support in other ways as well.
I volunteered with the University of Toronto Sexual Education Centre (UTSEC or SEC; this organization changes websites quite frequently: see F, T, org, I) while studying at U of T. I was lucky to be selected out of a large pool of applicants (5:1), went through a few weeks of training, then helped other students as a sex ed and relationship counselor.
I was one of the "founding members" of the Romanian Students Club at the University of Toronto and, after my first year as a regular member, I joined the executive in various positions held over a few years.
Tutoring - I volunteered as a peer tutor for maths in high-school.
Political - I donated to various parties and considered volunteering with a few campaigns. I even worked for Elections Canada, supervising an election booth (considering the demands of the job versus pay I think of it as mostly volunteering). I also worked for Elections Ontario.
Blood - I donated blood for the Canadian Blood Services (W) Blood Donor's Clinic at 67 College Street and it was an experience I think everyone should go through.
Food - Perhaps the most the most satisfying of my charitable endeavours, this one involved picking an elderly couple in the supermarket over the week-end and offering to pay for all their groceries. This idea came to me after having a not-so-great experience with ritual free offerings in my church in memory of my father (parastas/requiem).
Clubs: Investment, Rifle, Debating
Ars Nova is a theatre company that bestowed upon me the honor and privilege to serve the public as an actor in two productions, during a particularly difficult time in my life (my father's cancer diagnosis).
2022 update: I donated to Ukraine Red Cross and individual Ukrainians in memory of babushka.
For Canada in particular, you might want to check CRA's website to make sure it's a registered charity (for USA, IRS has a similar database, including EO returns).
Ratings are provided by several organizations. In Canada I am only aware of CharityIntelligence, while Humanitarian Coalition is made of 12 Canadian charities fighting world hunger and BBB allows for local search. In USA, we have Guidestar and CharityWatch (formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy) as well as GiveWell, CharityNavigator and The Life You Save.