I know that I am not exactly the same as every other duck in the pond, and I know that the charge I get, personally, from volunteering might occur as a drag for someone else. No harm in that on either end, but I am also always on the lookout for ways to make a difference in a passive, non-energy-draining way. A way to give that doesn’t take extra effort, extra time, or extra dollars.

Well, here’s one of those. Auto Giving. When you shop at Amazon, and a gazillion of us do, try logging in a little differently next time. Type in: smile.amazon.com, and you will go to Amazon’s simple, automatic way to support your favorite charity. With no extra cost or effort to you, the shopper, Amazon will donate a portion of all your eligible purchases (most of them) to your chosen non-profit. The page auto-loads with some big, national, well-known charities (Red Cross, Wounded Warriors, etc), but if there is a smaller organization that inspires you, you can choose your own charity, and if they are in the registry, they will be your delegated recipient of the donations that don’t cost you a dime. You only need choose your charity once, next time you come back to shop via smile.amazon.com, it will be there unless you change it.

If you kind of don’t care one way or the other, but still like the idea of since-I’m-shopping-anyway-I-might-as-well-help-somebody…I have a personal recommendation. When you go to smile.amazon.com and can choose your charity, consider AARBF (The Alisa Ann Ruch California Burn Foundation). This foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of burn-injured children and adults with direct services, care, education, and prevention. One of the largest programs of many that happen throughout the state (but you don’t need to live in California to support!) and throughout the year, is Champ Camp, a week-long summer camp for burn survivors ages 5-16. I am leaving tomorrow morning to be a counselor for these kids that have genuinely changed my life.

From the AARBF “Burn Bulletin”:

For many children, summer is a joyous time of the year in which swimming pool parties, trips to the beach and backyard barbeques are essentials for the season. But for thousands of burn-injured children, summer can be an uncomfortable time of the year due to sensitivity to sunlight exposure, susceptibility to skin sun damage, painful dryness and itchiness of the skin, difficulties regulating body temperature and anxiety and fear of unwanted stares.

The healing process for most burn survivors includes skin grafts, physical therapy, long-term doctors’ care, special diets, daily dressing changes, pressure garments and, in some cases, prosthetics and/or wheelchairs. But in addition to the physical healing, burn survivors must adapt to their physical limitations; work through and heal from their mental and emotional scars; regain their self-esteem; assimilate back into society; and overcome their feelings of isolation with support from others facing the same issues.

Burn camps answer the questions asked after the doctors save the life of someone with a burn injury: How do you get a burn survivor back into society? How do you get their peers and others to accept their new appearance and abilities? How do you get people not to stare, not to make fun of them?

The work really matters, and if your Amazon shopping can help get one more kid to camp or into other important programs, I hope you’ll consider it.

See you after camp!

-MONKEY (that’s my camp name)

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF.org) and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (mentorartists.org). Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at www.ChangeByDoing.com. As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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