It was in early April 1975 that the unthinkable happened: A U.S. jet transporting 243 Vietnamese orphans crashed in the jungle. With the American government sidelined by a lack of resources, one man, Robert Macauley, chartered a 747 to rescue the survivors by himself.
The children were flown to safety within two days’ time, and Macauley had earned the attention of a rather famous admirer: Pope John Paul II. The Pope requested Macauley’s assistance in raising funds to purchase medicines for his native Poland, and with the help of two close friends, he was able to raise $1.5 million worth of medicine and medical equipment. And thus, AmeriCares was born.
2. International Committee of the Red Cross
It was 1859, and Swiss businessman Jean Henri Dunant’s trip to France took a bitter turn when he came across the Battle of Solferino. Taken aback by the carnage before him, Dunant abandoned his journey and spent days organizing the locals to help treat and care for the 40,000 wounded soldiers.
Upon returning home, Dunant penned a book that detailed his experiences, and after sending copies to various political and social leaders, used it as a foundation to create one of the world’s most widely known humanitarian movements: The Red Cross.
3. Charity: Water
Back in 2004, Charity: Water founder Scott Harrison was living the high life. Kind of. An event promoter in New York City, Harrison was successful, but unhappy, and found himself suffering a sizable crisis of conscience.
Hungry for something more fulfilling, Harrison volunteered to serve aboard a floating hospital, where he took on duties as the ship’s photojournalist. Devastated by the poverty he documented, but inspired by the people he met along the way, Harrison returned home with the intent of providing clean, safe drinking water to whoever needed it.
4. Easter Seals
It was 1907 when Ohio businessman Edgar Allen lost his son in a streetcar accident. Devastated by his loss, and convinced that it could’ve been avoided with the proper medical care, Allen sold his business to start a fund-raising campaign in hopes of establishing a local hospital.
Allen soon discovered how children with disabilities were often hidden from public view, urging him to begin a grassroots campaign to collect donations for the rehabilitation of disabled youth everywhere. That organization adopted the seal of the lily — a symbol of rebirth — and has since grown into a cross-country nonprofit with more than 23,000 staff members and volunteers serving its cause.
5. Project C.U.R.E.
While working as an economic consultant in developing nations, Dr. James Jackson visited a small clinic on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Upon entering, he discovered how often patients were turned away due to lack of basic medical supplies and equipment.
Moved to action, Dr. Jackson returned to his home in Colorado, and upon recruiting a number of friends within the medical industry, raised approximately $250,000 worth of medical supplies in about 30 days’ time. This small gathering of friends laid the framework for what would soon become Project C.U.R.E., which now serves more than 130 countries around the world.
6. CARE USA
Founded at the end of the Second World War as a temporary relief effort, this humanitarian organization created care packages from surplus U.S. Army food parcels, and shipped them off to European families in need.
The surplus food parcels eventually ran dry, but the need for supplies only grew stronger, and the organization soon became a permanent supplier to people in need all over the globe.
7. Girls Inc.
The eve of the Industrial Revolution found a new working class cropping up: Young women, many of whom had moved from rural communities to big cities in search of employment in textile mills and factories. Few of these girls had any friends or families in their new environments, leading to an unfortunate epidemic of isolation.
Which led to the creation of Girls Inc., a safe haven where young working women could associate, socialize, and share a community with their peers. The organization has since grown tremendously and reached millions of girls across America.
The year was 1902, and Boston-based Rev. Edgar J. Helms had noticed an unfortunate trend of greediness amongst the wealthy of his beloved town. The Reverend made it his personal mission to collect discarded and unwanted clothes from the wealthy areas of the city, then redistributed them to the poor and in-need, training and hiring them to mend, repair, and share the used goods as needed.
Goodwill’s “a hand up, not a hand out” motto was born from the Reverend’s actions, and as of 2013, over 83 million donors have had a part in making the organization a widely successful and well-intentioned nonprofit organization with roots all across America and Canada.
9. The American Cancer Society
It was a single century ago that the very mention of cancer was considered a taboo subject — a certain death sentence better left unspoken. Physicians would sometimes refrain from informing their patients if the disease was found, and patients who’d been diagnosed would keep their ailment a secret from their friends and family.
15 of New York’s foremost physicians and business leaders set out to raise awareness of cancer and to steer society towards a better understanding of the disease. Countless doctors, nurses, and patients joined their cause, and the American Cancer Society has since worked relentlessly to save lives afflicted by cancer, and extend support to those whose lives have been impacted by the disease.
10. Doctors Without Borders
In the midst of the bloody Nigerian Civil War, the Nigerian military created a blockade around the nation’s newly independent nation of Biafra. From 1967 to 1970, France was the only major country to support the Biafrans, and the only others aware of the conditions and devastating damage that the blockade was causing.
This led to a number of French doctors volunteering with the Red Cross to work in hospitals and feeding centers in the besieged Biafra — one of which was Bernard Kouchner, future politician and co-founder of humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières, perhaps better known in the States as Doctors Without Borders.
For more than 23 million Americans, a food desert is not a mirage. It’s a daily reality in hundreds of communities that lack access to fresh, affordable, and nutritious food. Spread the word against food deserts by pledging your support to the Drink Good, Do Good Thunderclap with just the click of a button, and help raise awareness of the problem by making your voice heard across Facebook and Twitter.