Adam Madison, The Triplicate

One of the most popular charities in America is World Vision, a faith-based organization that generally picks up donors in this area through local churches.

For example, I support a little girl in Chad. We "correspond" in French. World Vision operates everywhere in the world, including in the United States, wherever it is deemed children are in danger.

Washington, D.C., is a good town for people-watchers. Many of those employed there are actually migrants from other nations, mostly impoverished ones, I expect.

There was the cheerful young man from Niger. Married here, he and his wife have a new baby girl. Money is tight, he said, but someday he hopes to be able to visit his family back in Niger. An expert at threading his way through rush-hour traffic, he ventured, in halting English, to complain about rude drivers on the local freeways.

Then there was a dignified, tall, slim gentleman I took for a Chinese. Turned out he was Vietnamese and had been a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. In this country to stay, he said his 94-year-old mother still lives in "Saigon" (he stressed the word), and that she was still active. My second mistake - I took this 6-plus foot tall man to be about 40. He was a proud 60 and counting.

At Dulles International Airport while waiting for my outbound flight to San Francisco, an attractive young lady and I got to visiting. She was outbound, also - to Burundi, to visit her family, which she did once a year. An aspiring writer, she wants to do a book about her homeland.

She enthusiastically thanked me for the "most generous" gifts the United States has given her impoverished land and asked if I knew about it. I didn't, but mentioned World Vision as a possibility. She had never heard of it. But World Vision is active in Niger and Burundi in cooperation with several other national and international groups with the same goals.

The 2009 edition of World Almanac has the latest statistics (2007) on charitable donations by Americans. We are still the world's most generous givers. During 2007 Americans gave of their own personal funds a whopping $252.7 billion to churches and welfare. They also gave $257.3 billion to schools at all levels and to educational projects.

World Vision is right up there at the top in the last figures I could find - several years back - among recipients. One reason is that for a modest sum anyone can lend a hand in support of individual causes, such as the fight against AIDS, cholera or malaria. The donor may also choose from among a slate of children who need help, to start supporting a child. All contacts between donor and recipient are closely supervised for your protection.

You can contact World Vision direct at World Vision, P.O. Box 70172, Tacoma, WA 98481 or contact a Del Norte County church for information.

Ann Terrill Garlick is a veteran, award-winning journalist and a native Californian. She spent nearly 23 years as one of the editors at the Orange County Register.