I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where I don't really have to worry about any major financial or health issues. This allows me to direct some of time, energy, and finances to causes I care about. I always enjoy hearing what other folks are passionate about, so I figured I'll share some of mine. Perhaps that'll spark some interest in you, give you some new knowledge, or inspire you to share yours.
Education / Helping People Find Their Passions
In my opinion, having hobbies and passions are one of the keys to living an enjoyable life. Finding something you enjoy doing brings you this new energy and excitement that not only allows you to get through the monotony of life but also attracts other similar folks into your life. It's always a joy for me to witness someone doing something he or she loves. Whether it be cooking or playing sports or dancing or programming, excitement is contagious.
And one of the ways I try to help other people find their passions is via education, particularly STEM education. I volunteer for STEM events primarily because I work in a STEM field and because I think STEM careers are great financially and global impact-wise. At the worst, a STEM career will get you a stable job with decent income, which you can then use to pursue whatever else you like. Ideally, a STEM career will get you a great job, and you'll be doing some work that impacts a lot of people.
I used to organize outreach events for a student organization when I was in college. My big events were all-day events in which middle and high schoolers got a tiny taste of various aspects of programming and electrical engineering. The main goal of the event wasn't to give these students a bunch of hardcore lessons but to get them excited about these fields and provide them with just enough knowledge to pursue these fields themselves if they wished. For the students that attended, at the very least, they learned some new things that day, but for a few folks, they hopefully found something interesting that they'd like to further pursue.
Unfortunately, I haven't done too much lately besides one-off events, but I'm always open to opportunities.
Limiting our Environmental Footprint
As much as technology and human innovation have allowed us to live more comfortably and live longer, they've also caused quite a bit of destruction, especially to our environment. If we derive comfort from technology today at the expense of nature, we're being selfish because we're essentially leaving some problems for the future generations to fix. In a hundred years, what sorts of effects from climate change will someone have to deal with? In a hundred years, are pandas and beautiful reef ecosystems going to be available for people to enjoy? At this rate, probably no, and that's sad.
Luckily, there is hope. A good portion of human innovation is going towards minimizing and reducing our impact on the environment, but it's probably not happening as quickly as we're destroying the world. So we all must do our part to slow the destruction of the world.
The way I've been going about this is by being more aware in the way I consume things and actively choosing the option that has the least environmental impact. This means recognizing that last mile delivery and the associated packaging is wasteful and limiting my impulse Amazon purchases (or bundling them as much as possible). This means trying to choose products that have clean manufacturing practices throughout their supply chains. This means avoiding takeout because single-use containers and utensils feel so wasteful. This means attempting to find alternative usages for plastic/glass containers.
Of course, I'm far from perfect. I still have 3 12oz bags of coffee shipped to me every month. I still order takeout once in a while. I drive a 14 year old car which averages 21mpg. Not all of my actions are ideal for the environment, but I try when I can.
You should check out this cool YouTube channel, which shows you how you can actively live a great life while keeping the Earth clean.
Fundamental Human Rights/Freedoms
Most times, I feel so fortunate to be born in the United States, where I have a lot of freedoms that are not available to citizens of other countries. I can say what I want (freedom of speech), I can protest (freedom of assembly/speech), I can choose who I want to love. I have these freedoms that are essentially rights in the US. By being a US Citizen, I'm guaranteed these freedoms.
But this is not the case for those in some other countries. In some countries (e.g. China), protesting and speaking against the government is not allowed or comes with dire consequences. In some countries (e.g. Saudi Arabia), women have no choice in marriage and can't even travel or work freely without permission from a male. These rights that I've had the fortune of having my entire life are a great priviledge I have. I'm fortunate to be born into a country which recognizes this, and I wish everyone can have these rights.
I don't take these rights for granted though. These rights are the result of a history of people advocating and fighting for them, so we must do our part to maintain these rights.
If I'm being honest, I'm not extremely active here. I participate in local and national elections, inform myself of violations of human rights (not just in the US but globally), and I've had a monthly donation to the ACLU for a couple of years now. But that's pretty much the extent of my contributions. I definitely hope to improve this in the near future, especially in light of recent events.
Healthcare is a tricky topic in the United States. On one hand, we have the latest and greatest in medicine. On the other hand, it's not very accessible to everyone, as it is incredibly expensive and pretty much impossible to get without good health insurance.
Luckily for me, I have a great job and can afford to get healthcare if I happen to need it. Knowing that I can get treatment when I need and that the treatment won't wipe out my current and future savings brings me some stability and security to my life.
In some other countries, particularly third world countries, medical infrastructure is poor and treatments are incredibly expensive relative to a person's livelihood. For someone living in those countries, a minor injury, such as bone fracture, can pretty much ruin your life. You might not be able to perform your job and your condition will get worse, but you cannot do anything about it because you cannot afford the treatment.
Surprisingly, treatments in these particular countries are incredibly cheap relative to that in the United States. A little bit of money goes a long way in those countries. Some surgery that costs thousands of dollars in the US is probably like 200 dollars elsewhere. This is less than I spend on food a month, which is mind boggling to me. Funding a treatment that will allow someone to live a normal life again is money well spent to me. You can do the same with Watsi, which is a fantastic organization that aims to make healthcare accessible for everyone. They do a fantastic job with ensuring 100% of your donations go to a specific treatment and providing you with updates on that treatment. And if you fund someone for a treatment, and that person ends up not getting the treatment, they send you an email and allow you to allocate it to another treatment.
Fun fact: I wanted to work here after college, so I interviewed to be their 2nd engineer. Unfortunately, they wanted someone with a bit more experience, so I ended elsewhere. I've been donating monthly since late 2014 (before I started my full-time job)!
In any case, we now live in a world where:
- It's easier than ever to access and find information (aka via search engines)
- More people than ever have a voice and can be heard (aka via social media)
- We have more choice than ever in the products/goods we buy (aka via logistics/ecommerce)
As a result, it's easier than ever to have your actions reflect your beliefs/passions. Where/What you decide to spend your money on, what media you decide to consume, what you decide to say on social media. You have more opportunity than ever to shape the world around you.
So what are some things you care about?