The Investment Scientist

Making Charitable Donations

Posted on: November 12, 2011

My second child was born with a minor deformity in his nose. He looks like he has a cleft nostril.

When I first saw that, my heart sank like a rock. I began to imagine that if he grew up like that, the ridicule and rejection he would have to endure. I also worried that it might be a symptom of a major sickness. What about his nose, mouth, and brain? Are they normal?

Suddenly, I could empathize with parents who had a cleft lip baby. I knew how they felt, except that their emotions are probably 100 times more intense than mine.

As soon as I went home, I began to Google about cleft. I learned that every year, there are 165,000 children born with clefts worldwide. In the developing world, being born with a cleft is truly a curse. In many places, children born with clefts are killed or abandoned after birth. When they are not, they struggle to breath, to eat, and to speak. They carry an unspeakable shame and endure the rejection of the society as they grow up.

They deserve a second chance in life, and I am sure many of them will grow up to be productive citizens of the world. Personally, I know three very accomplished people with repaired cleft lips: a NIH scientist, a nationally recognized author, and a CEO of a medical equipment company. I decided that fixing cleft lips is a cause I want to support. I took the following actions:

1. I found out that Smile Train is the biggest nonprofit providing free surgeries to children with cleft lips in 75 countries. It was founded by Charles Wang, the founder and former CEO of Computer Associates, at one time the third largest software company in theUS, behind Microsoft and Oracle.

2. I went to to check its rating and reviews. A few reviewers questioned its executive compensation and its advertisement expenditure. I had some concern as well, so I perused its audited financial report as well its as annual form 990 IRS filing. I was satisfied with my finding.

3. Smile Train states that $250 could fix a cleft lip. I set up a perpetual automatic bank payment of $21 a month and, viola, I am feeling really happy that I will change a kid’s life for the better every year for as long as I live.

Martin Seligman, father of positive psychology, says the highest level of happiness is striving for meaning in life that is larger than oneself. I just did it in a small way. You can do it too, with very little monetary cost.

We are truly blessed. Here in theUSmy son will have the best medical care in the world. Five days into his life, he had already been seen by a pediatric specialist and a geneticist. So far, all diagnoses are positive. We will bring him to the best pediatric facial plastic surgeon at the National Children’s Hospital as well. I am debating with my wife which superstar’s nose we want to get for our son.

Get my white paper: The Informed Investor: 5 Key Concepts for Financial Success.

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Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.


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