One thing I’ve found over the years is that I love being involved in charitable and philanthropic efforts. It leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy, and I love knowing that I’ve contributed, even if in a totally miniscule way, to making the world a little bit better.
However, there’s one caveat on that: I’m picky about how I contribute. I know this makes me a horrible person, but here goes: soup kitchens creep me out (there’s something about me that attracts homeless alcoholic men like moths to a flame). Retirement homes give me the heebie-jeebies. I want to like them, but much like fish — which I also should like and want to like — I just really, spectacularly, viscerally dislike them. (See? Like I said, I’m a horrible person.)
In other charitable realms, I don’t have the reliable schedule needed for something like Big Brothers/Big Sisters or after-school tutoring. So, although I did a lot of volunteer tutoring in high school and loved every minute of it, my unpredictable schedule that rules out that option.
For a long time, I only knew what I don’t want to do and what I can’t do due to circumstance. Although the field had narrowed, I still struggled to find a way to make a difference in ways that are meaningful and genuinely in line with my personality and my interests.
Although it took me a while to figure out what causes I’m most passionate about (and I mainly felt really bad about the overwhelming urge to run screaming from anything involving soup kitchens or retirement homes), I gradually started to realize that my passion lies in women’s empowerment and human rights, especially in developing countries.
This has a bajillion different angles to it: securing education for young girls, creating economic opportunities for women, and ensuring adequate pre-natal and obstetric care for pregnant women are the most critical issues, but this plays out in other ways as well.
I started to look for was to get involved, and my first step was to become a Half the Sky Community Ambassador. (Side note: If you haven’t read Half the Sky or seen the documentary on PBS, it’s worth every moment and every cent. I can’t recommend them highly enough.)
I then found other ways to get involved — and one of the best things I’ve found is the Charity Miles app. The app tracks how long you run, bike, or walk, and then makes a donation to a sponsored organization. Check out the short video below for a full run-down (pun intended) of how it all works:
After discovering the app, I saw that there are phenomenal organizations that serve as sponsors. The one that most intrigued me was Every Mother Counts, a non-profit started by Christy Turlington that aims to end the hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth each year.
Fast fact: pregnancy is the number one cause of death for women ages 15-19 in the developing world.
For these young women, pregnancy and childbirth kill with even more ruthless frequency than the huge host of infectious diseases prevalent in the developing world. More than the endemic violence that so often sweeps through various corners of the globe. The act of having a baby — which should be a beautiful, joyful process — is often the cause of a violent, painful death for these women.
Every Mother Counts works to prevent those deaths, and I knew I wanted to put my workouts to work, so to speak, in order to help support them any way I can. I downloaded the Charity Miles app, laced up my shoes, and hit the road. I loved knowing that each mile was in honor of the many women who don’t have access to good prenatal care or emergency obstetric services — to say the least, it’s a powerful motivator.
So, if you’re looking for a way to combine your love of running, walking, or biking and a desire to do good for people in need, check out Charity Miles. Getting your sweat on while getting your philanthropy on is the best possible way to do two awesomely rewarding things at once.