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Philanthropy is a word many hear, but few truly understand.

While charities seek to ease the suffering of individuals caused by society’s many issues, philanthropy works on a much larger scale and strives to remove the root of the problem within society.

For instance, catching a fish and giving it to someone is charity, while teaching the person to fish would be philanthropy.

The two ideas are very different. And within most civilizations, the practice of philanthropy is so important that for more than 4,000 years written historical records have included stories of giving to the poor and unfortunate.

Even most religious texts include some mention of philanthropy. Here are five of the top philanthropic issues addressed today.

Delivering Clean Water

The most precious resource on the planet that most people take for granted is clean water.

Several non-profit companies are working to understand how to make clean drinking water from ocean, sea, or polluted water without scarring the earth with the leftover sludge and salt-laden spoil.

Philanthropists are also funding community wells in town centers in many remote areas to prevent women and children from walking miles each day to get water from streams that are often contaminated.

Other groups are working with individuals in developing nations to show them how to prevent aquatic contamination, and one innovative company has developed a device that filters drinking water to prevent waterborne diseases.

Providing Medical Care

Natural disasters are occurring at an alarming rate around the globe. With those disasters come broken bones, emotional issues, and threatened lives.

Whether it is within an air ambulance, charity shop, foreign hospital, or a tent out in the field, doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel can be found working close to the disaster site as they feverishly attempt to make a difference.

Along with an amazing group of volunteers, the medical staff can fly into an area with a myriad of medical supplies and begin work within as little as an hour after any life-threatening event occurs.

Without the financial support of philanthropists like Pam Baer, these doctors and nurses may not have been able to help.

Pam began her philanthropist work with hospitals when her son was saved from a life-threatening injury by a team of medical specialists. She has worked tirelessly on the boards of hospitals to help both charity and philanthropic work move forward in all areas of medical care, but especially in areas involving children.

Disaster Recovery

Nearly 700,000 disasters occur each year in the United States, and several million individuals are impacted.

That number can be multiplied many times when it comes to the number of disasters destroying cities and towns around the earth each year.

With help from philanthropists, disaster relief agencies work tirelessly to provide clean water, shelter, medical provisions, and food to the hard-hit areas.

First responders are not the only ones that impact the lives of others after a disaster. There are also educators, cleanup organizations, and childcare personnel that are part of the relief agency’s many important services.

One major disaster relief organization worked with over 13 million volunteers last year in over 187 countries to help prevent secondary problems such as water poisoning, starvation, and infections from impacting the disaster areas.

Cleaning the Oceans

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Across the world, many groups are fighting to save the world’s oceans from pollutants, chemicals, and global warming. While some organizations work to protect the ecosystem, others labor to save special or signification marine habitats or fisheries.

Thankful for the many volunteers that comb the beaches to help clean the sands of human-made debris, many of the various organizations strive to keep the garbage from entering the water.

With the help of money from philanthropists, other foundations monitor the coral reefs, the health of the algae blooms, and the number of swarms of small feeding fish such as minnows and sardines. Together these organizations work to keep the oceans healthy and clean.

Supporting the Community

One of the largest areas philanthropists often engage in is the effort to build a world where children can feel safe and grow in a nurturing community.

Programs that work to eradicated childhood homelessness are growing, and celebrities, businessmen, and volunteers are all joining to develop programs that strengthen families, educate children, promote activities, and teach self-worth.

Specialized organizations work to ensure children have enough to eat, while other programs provide clothing and toys to impoverished kids, and still, other groups work to build homes for underprivileged families.

Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year by philanthropists can be traced to research because the compassionate efforts of these patrons around the world are focused on working to make life a better place.

Whether the concentration is clean water, better health care, or safer communities for children, the earth is a much better place to live in because philanthropists care enough to give.