Something meaningful to end our year

What an incredible year! I have so much gratitude for it! I hope you had a great year, too, and I hope you also feel mighty grateful for your good fortune.

Let’s make a deal: 

Let’s not muck up our awesome sense of gratitude with meaningless gift cards.

Let’s do something just as easy as buying a gift card, but will spread good will on Earth instead of the American corporatocracy taking your money and squashing your good intentions of sharing and giving at Christmas.

These three nonprofits helped me learn, grow, and smile. They all offer something relevant, meaningful, and hopeful for our year-end lists.

1. Project Elea

I’m grateful our American passports let us easily find a place to live in just about any country. Not everyone is that lucky.

My husband Tedly and I volunteered with Project Elea, an organization that helps refugees who would love the ability to travel, live, or visit anywhere like we do. But unfortunately, the hatred, politics, and bombs of the world’s superpowers leave these people living in limbo.

So many people have fled outright war and persecution in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. Or they were driven from home because of climate change droughts, food shortages, or geopolitical instability. The lucky ones end up in Camp Eleonas in Athens, Greece.

Two girls walk between temporary refugee homes at Camp Eleonas in Athens, Greece. Photo courtesy: Project Elea.

The camp is comprised of metal trailers with basic plumbing that are temporary homes for refugees seeking asylum. The asylum and appeals processes can take years. And so refugees in the camp have a lot of free time. And this is where Project Elea steps in.

Project Elea and its volunteers offer education and other resources while the refugees wait, such as:

People repair or make clothing during “Sewing Club” at Camp Eleonas in Athens, Greece.
Photo Courtesy: Project Elea
  • Language classes (English, German, Greek, Arabic, and more) for adults and children
  • Sewing club and bicycle repair shop
  • A program that gives residents tools and materials to build things like shelves or benches
  • Women’s hour for socializing
  • “Little School” for children of pre-school age
  • Yoga for men and for women
  • Skateboarding and other sports and games for kids
  • Resume workshops
  • Homework and conversation practice

Those are just some examples – that list is not exhaustive of programs or classes offered by Project Elea.

Volunteers and coordinators also organize special events like international dance parties and treasure hunts for the kids; they set up outings like beach and museum trips.

None of these activities change the horrors these refugees have lived — horrors we cannot imagine happening in our own lives. Let me assure my American friends reading this from the safety of their well-privileged homes: these refugees are real people. They have invited me into their temporary homes; they have offered me food and friendship, and I have listened to their stories.

Some refugees make delicious meals from their home countries – and some of those recipes are in a new cookbook, Recipes Welcome.

Photo courtesy: Project Elea

If you need to get someone a gift, consider Project Elea’s new cookbook.

‘Recipes Welcome’ is very special, so much more than a cookbook; it’s a glimmer of light amidst the darkness and trauma of the refugee crisis.

It tells a story of unity, of people coming together, through the medium of delicious food, prepared with care and love.

Martin Labron-Johnson, The Conduit, London, Michelin Star Chef

Book sale money all goes to Project Elea. Whatever program or class material your donation might be used for, it would help out someone who feels unwanted by the world.

And isn’t that the real spirit of the season — to share with and love others?

I love the title of the book: Recipes Welcome. If only Refugees were welcome, too. I miss the camp and everyone there; I think of them often.

A direct link to buy Recipes Welcome on Amazon is here. Find out more about Project Elea here.

2. Kiva

An organization called Kiva loans disadvantaged people money to stock their business, buy medicine, install home plumbing, and more, so that they might raise their standards of living.

Kiva provides loans to people who do not otherwise have access to funding.

I wrote a bit more about this last year, but here’s the gist: your gift card recipient picks out the borrower. When the borrower pays back the loan, your gift card recipient can make another loan to another person in need.

That sure sounds like a widening circle of good will on Earth, doesn’t it?

You can give as little as $25 in a meaningful gift card. My mother-in-law gifted me my first digital card back in 2015, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Visit Kiva here to give a gift that really “keeps on giving.”

3. Cancer Commons

I’m grateful my breast cancer tumor wasn’t larger. Even though I caught it early, I still needed a bilateral mastectomy and adjuvant treatment.

An organization called Cancer Commons helped determine my treatment – even though it’s based in California and I was in Zagreb, Croatia. Cancer Commons is a nonprofit that gives online second opinions for free. Isn’t that fantastic?

If you are looking to make a straight donation, this organization is a wonderful option.

It was founded by Marty Tenenbaum, the famous computer scientist and entrepreneur, who also is a cancer survivor. The chief scientist at Cancer Commons is Emma Shtivelman – and she is tops in my book. She reviewed my “medically interesting” case, and gave me her opinion on treatment. She also took the time to make suggestions on my other blog – the one I hope might help more women with breast cancer like mine. (That site is

When Cancer Commons asked me to be interviewed for its “Super Patient” series, I was honored, and I’m hopeful my story might help at least one person.

Spread the word about Cancer Commons. It might really help someone you care about. And, if you want to spread your good fortune this year, consider a donation to this nonprofit.

This would be a great way to help people sick from cancer, wouldn’t you agree?

  Visit the Cancer Commons website here

I hope you will join me in spreading peace and good will on Earth with one of these easy, meaningful ways this year.

We had so many fortunate choices this year. We were given so much. We have every reason to give back in some way that matters more than a corporation’s bottom line.

I hope we all are grateful for how fortuitous we are, and I hope we open our hearts to help other people who are not as lucky.

Volunteers run Project Elea’s “Little School” program every week day at Camp Eleonas in Athens, Greece. Photo courtesy: Project Elea.




  1. Kiva donated to ✅ Cancer Commons donated to ✅ Cookbook ordered ✅ Thanks for the reminder to give to these worthwhile causes ❤️💚


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