A couple of weeks ago Wendy posted a number of ideas on how to save a life with your computer. It was a great idea and a great list of ways you can use your computer or the net to make a difference in someone's life. It inspired me to throw in my $0.02 worth on the topic, and mention some worthwhile Aussie ventures you can support online as well.
Click to help
Test your vocabulary and feed the world. For each word you get correct, the FreeRice site donates 10 grains of rice through the United Nations to fight world hunger. This site is a double bonus for word nerds, because the vocab game also has levels - so far I've reached level 41 out of a possible 50. They throw in the occasional foreign language word to mix it up too! The site is advertising supported, and donated rice is distributed by the United Nations World Food Program.
Ripple is an Australian-based online charity - currently in beta - which offers a search engine which donates its proceeds to one of four charities. It's advertising supported, and site users also have the option of viewing ads to be able to 'click to donate'. You can chose whether your click donates money to Oxfam, WaterAid, education charity Oaktree Foundation which is buildign schools in East Timor, or microcredit provider the Grameen Foundation.
Use your computer downtime to help
You're probably familiar with SETI @ home (http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/) - the global distributed computing project in which participants can donate their computer idle time to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence - yep, aliens. But did you know that there are several projects using similar technology which are helping people right here on earth?
Folding @ home (http://folding.stanford.edu/) is another large project, aimed at helping scientists understand protein folding, misfolding and related diseases. Using the computational power of the distributed network, scientists are performing simulations of protein folding and misfolding so they can better understand the development of diseases including Alzheimer's, BSE (mad cow disease), cancer and cystic fibrosis.
And another one I've recently found out about is World Community Grid, which tackles a variety of humanitarian projects using distributed computing. One project it's doing is climate modelling in Africa, so that measures designed to alleviate the adverse effects of climate change can be implemented. Another project is completing calculations to help identify promising drug leads to combat the dengue, hepatitis C, West Nile, and Yellow fever viruses.
If you're interesting in helping out any of these projects, simply visit their website, download the small app which is needed to hook your computer into the project, and you can donate your computer's idle time.
Use your computer to show up in person
If you'd like to donate some of your time and skills, Good Company is a really interesting Australian organisation which hooks up skilled volunteers with not-for-profit community groups who need specific tasks done. It's a really easy way to donate your professional skills by doing some pro bono work. All you need to do is browse the requests which have been posted under your chosen skill area (which can range from PR, marketing, graphic design, web design and so on). Typically the organisation requesting help gives a quote of the length of the project and time commitment they think will be required to complete it.
Donating blood to the Red Cross is a great way to help people who are in need - you could save a life! You can complete their online quiz to see if you are eligible to give blood here, and you can register online to give blood by filling out the form here. Or you could just call them on 13 14 95. And while you're at it, drag a friend or workmate along with you. :)
I'm sure there are plenty more worthwhile causes you can find or help online. If you have any favourites, please leave them in comments.
Thanks to Ellen and James for the reminder about Folding @ Home.