A Positive Message: Top 20 Sustainable Aid Organizations

By: Michelle Johannesson

While much of the news is troubling and sometimes even bleak, there are truckloads of  people doing great things in the world. We want to change the conversation and put  emphasis on the positive stories that will lift your spirits and inspire. An impressive number of people dedicate their lives to bringing about positive sustainable change — and it’s making a difference!

Matt Damon — Water.org

Water.org is an organization co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White. This organization works beyond basic monetary donations and seeks to deliver real solutions to issues concerning safe water and sanitation around the world. In addition to delivering proven water and sanitation solutions, Water.org has also created innovative crisis strategies like Water Credit, a program that facilitates small loans for communities in need of water and sanitation resources. Water.org continues to address issues of clean water and sanitation by finding solutions that deliver sustainable and long-term results.

Goldie Hawn — The Hawn Foundation and MindUP Program

In 2003, long time children’s advocate Goldie Hawn founded the Hawn Foundation with the vision to rectify issues of childhood stress and anxiety. The Hawn Foundation recognizes that increases in school violence and youth depression may be correlated with the lack of skills and resources available to today’s youth. Central to The Hawn Foundation is the MindUp Program, a curriculum-based program that exposes children to the practice of mindfulness and teaches students to increase their self-control, empathy, resilience and focus. The MindUP program is now offered in schools and after school programs and The Hawn Foundation is working to have the program expand its reach to health care providers and hospitals.

Harrison Ford — Conservation International

Conservation International is an organization on a mission to combat the depletion of Earth’s natural resources by inspiring people to take personal interest in environmental conservation. Harrison Ford is the Vice Chair of the organization and contributes to the organization’s goal to protect humanity through environmental issues. In its 27 years of operation, Conservation International has successfully protected an area of land and sea 3x the size of Germany, while also contributing over $1.25 billion to conservation partners in 70 countries. Conservation International advances its mission by conducting scientific research, informing policy, and working with communities that live near Earth’s most valuable natural resources.

Gary Sinise – The Sinise Foundation

Actor Gary Sinese was an avid advocate for American service members for over 30 years before founding The Sinese Foundation. The Foundation works to help support soldiers by boosting morale and assisting solders through their road to recovery from physical and mental traumas. Most noteworthy are the custom homes developed by The Sinise Foundation to ease daily challenges experienced by more than 50 000 veterans living with poly-trauma. Since its establishment, The Sinese Foundation has stayed true to its mission to serve and honour the nation’s defenders, veterans and first responders.

Robert Redford —  The Redford Center

While many environmental organizations choose to focus on the hopeless state of pollution, resource depletion and over development, The Redford Center chooses to spread a positive message. Founded by Robert Redford and son Jamie Redford, The Redford Center uses film to enlighten audiences and inspire change. The Redford Center believes in sharing positive stories about innovation to instigate engagement and increase society’s awareness about environmental issues. To date, The Redford Center has released powerful documentaries including Fighting Goliath, a documentary about the Texas coal wars, and a documentary called Watershed, a film highlighting the story of the Colorado River.

Ashley Judd — PSI

PSI is an organization that works to increase the health and survival of communities in developing countries through reproductive education and by marketing affordable products and services. On a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, PSI ambassador Ashley Judd was shocked to find that women living in small villages in the Congo had not heard of family planning. Women in this community were instead living with the physical and financial strain of birthing multiple unplanned pregnancies. PSI’s framework is structured around applying context specific solutions that improve reproductive health and family planning in communities that need it most. PSI is on a mission to add years of healthy life to the lives of mothers and their children and the organization has proved to deliver sustainable aid to suffering communities.

Kristin Davis — UNHCR

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees. Kristin Davis, ambassador for UNCR, has been involved in supporting the organization since 2014. In 2015, Davis visited Haut-Uele District of the Democratic Republic of Congo and met with the families and women that had been violently displaced by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that had occupied the area years before. Davis was able to witness the empowerment instilled in these refugee communities after aid was provided by UNHCR. UNHCR continues to provide water, food, medicine, safety and shelter to refugees in over 125 countries around the world.

Max Scherzer — Polaris

Over 20.9 million victims of the human trafficking industry are denied their basic freedoms. Unfortunately, human trafficking often goes without the attention commonly received by other world or environmental issues. Polaris is an organization that is dedicated to ending human trafficking by raising public awareness, strengthening legislature, and providing support and protection to victims. MLB star Max Scherzer and wife Erica are influential Polaris ambassadors and have helped increase awareness, advocate for stricter laws governing human trafficking, and connect victims with services through the National Human Trafficking Center Hotline. Max and Erica have committed to work with the entire Polaris team to strengthen the safety net for survivors of human trafficking.

Glenn Close — Bring Change 2 Mind

Bring Change 2 Mind works to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. Founded in 2012 by Glenn Close and her family, the organization was established to encourage conversation and inspire people to have the courage to speak up about their experience with mental illness. Bring Change 2 Mind focuses their efforts on public service announcements and on the support of anti-stigma programs in high schools and colleges. By encouraging more stories to be added to the dialogue, Bring Change 2 Mind hopes to continue breaking down the walls of assumption, shame and guilt that currently surround the concept of mental illness.

Mark Ruffalo — The Solutions Project

Clean energy can be a reality for all. The Solutions Project is a non-profit organization on a mission to transition the world’s energy to clean, renewable energy sources. One of the campaigns launched by The Solutions Project, the 100% Project, works to spread awareness and inspiration through various events and services. The 100% Project makes it easy and inexpensive for consumers to switch to clean and renewable sources of energy. The Solutions Project focuses on engaging new people in the movement, celebrating progress and change, and advancing new policies that raise the bar and increase the scale of change.

President Clinton — The Clinton Foundation

After leaving the Whitehouse, Bill Clinton sought to continue pursuing positive social change. The Clinton Foundation, an operating foundation, allocates 87% of its spending directly to the programs it supports. For 15 years, it has worked on the ground to improve and save lives around the world. Moreover, the impact of The Clinton Foundation is extremely widespread, covering issues like climate change, economic development, girls and women, global health, and health and wellness. The Clinton Foundation stays true to the maxim, “Everyone deserves a chance to succeed,” and the organization continually inspires people to contribute to important causes both near and far.

Robin Wright — Raise Hope for Congo

Since 1996, over 8.4 million people have died from war related causes in the Congo. Although the Congo wars officially ended in 2003, violence continues as militias fight for control of trade minerals in the area, which has forced over 2 million people to live as refugees in displacement camps. Robin Wright, a strong advocate for the helping protect vulnerable communities in the Congo, travelled with Rise Hope to eastern Congo to ensure that the stories of former child soldiers and survivors of violence were heard. Raise Hope effectively raises awareness and rallies groups of activists to advocate for human rights for all Congolese people.  

Richard Branson — Virgin Unite

Founded in 2004 by Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Unite is a not-for-profit organization that provides lasting and sustainable impact to a wide range of causes. Refusing to limit their focus to one project, Virgin Unite tackles issues like drug policies, gay rights, and environmental issues. Furthermore, Virgin Unite works to build partnerships with government, communities and businesses to drive social change and unite voices and leaders. For example, in Horizon’s April 2012 issue Virgin Unite was featured for their collaboration with Wild Aid and ambassador Bo Derek in their efforts to combat the polar bear crisis. Branson and the Virgin Unite team continue to tackle the most pressing global issues by uniting the right people and the right resources to effectively initiate change.

Prince William — Tusk Trust

The Tusk Trust is an influential organization that has operated for over 25 years and has been at the forefront of movements to initiate fundraising, conservation, environmental education and community development in many areas in Africa. In fact, Tusk Trust supports over 60 different field projects in 19 African countries! Tusk Trust works to help alleviate poverty through sustainable education and development while also protecting threatened species like elephants. Tusk Trust royal patrons Prince William and Princess Kate have strongly advocated for conservation alongside the Tusk Trust projects and have worked with the organization to end the illegal trade and slaughter of wildlife. The Prince and Princess continue to work tirelessly along with Tusk Trust to dissolve threats to African wildlife by linking the livelihoods of local people to the benefits of protecting wildlife.

Nelly Furtado — MetoWE

MetoWe is a social enterprise founded by Craig and Marc Kielburger that provides consumers with the ability to buy products that make a positive social impact. The We Charity has made a huge impact in improving education around the world. We Charity has built more than 1000 schools and has empowered over 200 000 children through education. Nelly Furtado shares MetoWe’s passion for empowerment and education and she is a fierce advocate for girls’ education. Furtado donated $500,000 to build an all-girls school in rural Kenya and travelled to Kenya herself to participate in the opening of the school she had funded. MetoWe continues to collaborate with influential celebrities and continues to inspire people to change the world through everyday consumer purchases. 

Katy Perry — Unicef

Unicef is arguably one of the best known philanthropic organizations, with the mission to ensure that all children’s needs are met. Unicef tirelessly works to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations by tackling malnutrition, advocating for education, and instilling youth with the power to take charge of their own lives. Unicef also teams up with influential celebrities like Katy Perry, who travelled to Madagascar to bring attention to the country’s immense poverty and the dire state of children living there. Children in countries like Madagascar are especially susceptible to exploitation because more than three out of four children live in extreme poverty. On a mission to ensure a brighter future for all children, Unicef effectively works with government and social agencies on the ground to tackle the most pressing issues affecting children.

Jimmy Carter — Habitat For Humanity

Many children have their fondest memories inside their childhood home. Unfortunately, there are more than 1.6 million families living in substandard housing in Canada. Habitat for Humanity is an innovative organization that tackles the issues of cyclical poverty by providing dignified, safe and affordable homes for families in need. The homes are assembled using volunteer labour and donated appliances and materials. In 1984, former U.S President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn got involved with the organization by launching the Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP) in New York City. The project has become an annual event, taking place in a new city every year.  In honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the JCWP will be brought to the Greater Toronto Area, where Habitat for Humanity and the Carters will hope to build 150 new homes for families in need!

Prince Harry — The Invictus Games

Founded by Prince Harry in 2014, The Invictus Games is an inventive organization that uses sports to promote recovery and support the rehabilitation of injured, sick and wounded service men and women, both veterans and serving. After serving in the British Army for 10 years, Prince Harry recognized the severe mental and physical trauma incurred by national service men and women. The Invictus Games provides participants with the opportunity to participate in wheelchair basketball, indoor rowing, and sitting volleyball, with the spirit of crossing the finish line together. In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the 2017 Invictus Games are scheduled to be held in Toronto, Ontario, giving Canada the special opportunity to honour and support its wounded and ill soldiers.

Courtney Cox —  OmniPeace

OMNI Peace foundation is influential in rectifying poverty in Africa. OMNI peace uses the funding from the sales of t-shirts and merchandise and donations to continue providing nutritional, safety, and educational support to communities in Africa. Celebrity ambassadors like Courtney Cox also play a massive role in raising awareness and effectively promoting OmniPeace campaigns. Cox has been a vital part of OmniPeace and she has supported the launch of all campaigns for schools and social action. Education is arguably one of the most powerful gifts given to communities in Africa by OmniPeace. In 2015, with the help of Courtney Cox, OmniPeace launched Rwanda Rocks, a campaign that raised money for schools through the sale of bracelets. The campaign was a huge success, resulting in the development of OmniPeace’s 8th school and the 1st music school built by the organization. This school provides children the opportunity to develop their education while also exploring the art of musical expression.

Jeff Bridges —  No Kid Hungry

No Kid Hungry focuses on storytelling to raise awareness and change issues of child hunger. The organization works to connect children at risk of hunger to healthy food where they live, learn and play! Jeff Bridges is a national spokesperson for the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign, but his contributions have been far greater than the typical spokesperson. Bridges’ authentic commitment to the campaign has influenced thousands of people to join him and No Kid Hungry to ensure that children have the basic fundamentals to succeed. Bridges has also carried the campaign’s message to politicians, news media and corporate leaders to ensure that the message is far reaching and powerful. The No Kid Hungry team continues to spread their message to increase the strength of their movement to provide more children with healthy nutrition.