“We don’t have millions of dollars or celebrity status, but we do have a Vespa.”

With that simple notion, Tim and Ali Lowry began a 2,286- mile  summer adventure to raise awareness and funding for Hydromissions International, a water ministry that serves third-world countries.

The Lowrys’ mission – named, appropriately, 2 Wheels 4 Water – caught my eye, mostly because they took it upon themselves without prodding from anyone else. Their work was self-driven, and it was genuine.

Their mission: “Save gas. End thirst.”

Their plan:

  1. Use scooters, which cost about 14 cents less  per mile to drive than regular cars, to travel the Carolinas.
  2. Ask for donations/pledges in the amount of that 14-cents-a-mile difference.
  3. Accept any donations, whether they were more of less than the suggested amount.
  4. Pass the money to Hydromissions.
The Lowrys' route.

The Lowrys' route.

In  summer of 2008, the Lowrys carried out their trip, contacting sponsors, designing their route, sweating through a 90-degree heat wave, doing radio interviews, appearing in newspapers, and even passing 2 Wheels 4 Water cards off to toll booth operators to get the word out.

None of the money raised was pocketed or put toward gas.  Every bit of it went directly to Hydromissions, as promised.

Here’s more on how they did it.

End hunger. Fight world poverty. Give everyone a home.

We’re all familiar with these far-reaching global goals. Many of us, recognizing both their importance and nobility, do what we can to join such seemingly impossible fights.

But what about the less general (and therefore less-publicized) charities established to serve a more specific need? I’ve compiled a list of five unusual niche charities that, for donations or purchases of less than $100, promise to do quite a bit with what you give them.

1. Name: BoGo Light
Purpose: For every flashlight purchased from BoGo Light, one is given to a family in a developing area. This eliminates the danger and inconvenience of more rudimentary lighting methods like kerosene oil and candles. The site also claims that the lighting provided can make an exceptional difference for students in poor areas as education hours can be extended and homework/reading time at home can be well-lit.
Price to give: $39-49 per flashlight.

2. Name: Charity:Water (charitywater.org)
Purpose: $1 can give one person drinking water for a full year. Donations start at $20, which provides someone with 20 years of clean drinking water. Puts 100% of donations directly toward the project.
Price to give: $20.

3. Name: Modest Needs
Purpose: Lists requests by low-income families for help with paying for items like a new car seat or one month’s heating bill. Every donation made earns Modest Needs points on the site, which can then be directed to the family request of your choice (request list is available for your review). By signing up for donations on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, schedule, donations are doubled by a matching program. Requires registration for security of donations.
Price to give: Any amount, but most requests are over 100 points.

4. Name: One Acre At A Time
Purpose: According to the USDA Forest Service, nearly four acres of natural American forest is lost per minute.  This organization works to protect productive American forests in order to work toward sustainable living.
Price to give: $50 saves 200 square feet.

5. Name: Malaria No More
Purpose: According to this organization, roughly 3,000 children die each day from malaria. In addition to effective medical treatment and targeted spraying, mosquito nets are critical in fighting malaria infection. A single treated mosquito net can protect one child or more from malaria for up to five years.
Price to give: $10 buys one net.