Humanist Global Charity: Doing Good Without God
By Robert Bernstein
Hank Pellissier attended UCSB in the early 1970s after growing up in a conservative Christian household. His UCSB education caused him to question his faith and he came to realize he was a humanist.
Over the years he has been involved with a range of humanist, transhumanist, atheist, educational and humanitarian causes.
Pellissier now lives in the Bay Area. He gave a talk May 15 to the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara about his work and organization.
His Brighter Brains Institute evolved into the Humanist Global Charity (HGC) which now provides about $100,000 a year for humanitarian aid projects.
Here Pellissier kindly shared his slides showing the work of HGC.
"We work toward a world with humanist values, that respects science, secular education, sustainability, kindness, peace & democracy."
Stephen Pinker and Daniel Dennett are among the prominent Board members of HGC:
Ugandan Bwambale Robert Musubaho is a primary partner in HGC. An orphan himself, he has founded humanist schools and orphanages in Uganda. Here he is is with Pellissier:
How did that start? In 2014 Pellissier saw some Christians online taunting atheists by saying, "Have you ever heard of an atheist orphanage?" He suggested to Musubaho that they start such an atheist orphanage. So, they opened the first one in 2015! Here some of the girls at that first atheist orphanage posed for a photo.
In Uganda and other parts of Africa the biggest religious threat is witchcraft. Belief in these traditional religions causes ongoing atrocities. One example was throwing albino people into volcanoes in Cameroon. It also causes children to be kidnapped and murdered for their body parts.
Africa is also home to many armed conflicts that rarely make the news in the US.
Humanism has really taken off in Uganda with about ten Humanist schools. People know what it is.
There are also 16 Humanist clinics providing free medicine.
Pellissier took a moment to tell of his transhumanist interest. "Transhumanists want to live forever and are willing to become robots to do it." Alcor is a company that freezes their clients' heads in hope of extended life in the future.
Pellissier got Alcor to donate money so that Ugandans can at least live to 60! Pellissier is considered old there!
I will add that transhumanism is also about transcending the limits of human intelligence to super-human intelligence. Some think that this is a path to a more sustainable and rewarding future. I consider myself one.
Back to more immediate work of Pellissier and HGC!
Sanitary pads are hugely valuable and HGC distributes them in Africa, India and Nepal They allow girls to stay in school which otherwise is not possible. HGC has experimented with different designs and sources. Perhaps the best right now are AFRIPads made in Uganda. They can be washed and reused. These girls and young women show off the packaged pads.
Many countries in Africa are notoriously homophobic, with homosexuality a crime in several countries. HGC has partnered with LGBT organizations such as this lesbian organization.
Pellissier lives in Piedmont in the Bay Area. He got the local high school physics class to donate solar powered phone chargers they made in class!
I was curious why Uganda has so many orphans. 10-15% of children in western Uganda are orphans. There are a number of reasons. Western Uganda is on the border with Congo. There are as many as dozens of militias there run by warlords or bandits. They enter Uganda to rape, kill and steal.
Also, Uganda has national parks to protect endangered animals. Some of the orphans' fathers were killed for poaching these animals.
Pellissier went on to describe an impressive list of other HGC projects and shared photos of them.
One project allows orphan boys to recycle used tires into sandals.
Another is the Eco-Briquette project. This uses recycled materials to be turned into briquettes for cooking rather than cutting trees.
Another project has created a carpentry workshop for orphan boys.
The Humanist Orphan Center in Kenya works with the Center for Inquiry. The latter bought them a popsicle machine so they can make popsicles for their own enjoyment and to sell for a profit.
As mentioned earlier, albinos suffer a lot of loneliness and ostracism. HGC bought them art supplies at an albino orphanage.
HGC has also invested in a Cricket Farm. The crickets are ground up and used as a protein supplement. A similar project is being launched by others in the US, but high labor costs in the US require automation to make it profitable. In Uganda this is not a problem!
HGC spends a lot of time finding new kinds of projects so that their funding sponsors don't get bored! Obviously, the best projects are those that can become self-sustaining.
Pellissier is a trained mediator and he is proud of the Humanist Peace Service Center in Maseno, Kenya.
Nigeria is perhaps the most interesting, volatile and dangerous place that HGC works. They have to be very careful, if not outright sneaky! They use the term "critical thinking" to avoid even saying "Humanism".
The north of Nigeria is mostly Muslim and is where the terrorist organization Boko Haram is based. Approximately 85% of Boko Haram is made up of boys who were abandoned by parents in Islamic centers because they could not afford to raise them.
It is a vicious circle as these young terrorists kill fathers and create more orphans. Millions of children in northern Nigeria have been abandoned to be raised with only a fundamentalist Islamic education.
He showed this group photo in Nigeria. At far left is Humanist activist Mubarak Bala who is being held in prison for his Humanist work.
Pellissier showed a photo of the World Internet Peace Cafe, started by a 24 year old man in Nigeria. Another HGC project there is an ice cream factory staffed by widows.
Pellissier went on to talk about HGC staff member Dan Beaton's work in Ghana. A person can accuse their neighbor (generally an elderly widow) of witchcraft. The accused is forced to leave and go to a "witch camp" and the accuser often gets to take over the accused person's house.
In the Philippines HGC works with HAPI, the Humanist Alliance Philippines International. One of the most effective uses of money there is for deworming medicine.
Pellissier talked of an indigenous tribe in the Philippines called the Aeta. They had been hunter-gatherers, but this practice is not allowed now. So, HGC is helping them learn agriculture and giving them fruit trees to plant.
HGC also buys rice in bulk in the Philippines and gives it to single mothers in a Manila suburb. They make a 30% profit selling it which can be self-sustaining.
Pellissier talked of a battered women shelter project in Myanmar which is difficult to support now with major conflicts in that country.
India is huge and complicated religiously. He said there are not many Humanists in India. He found one in northern India who started a Rationalist Library and another Humanist who has a podcast. "Rationalist" is the term for Humanist there.
HGC also helps an oppressed minority in India that is related to the Roma (Gypsies) of Europe.
He talked of the Adivasi tribal people who are considered lower than the Untouchables. HGC helps the millions of people who live on the sidewalks or in the Mumbai slums.
Nepal gained more support from HGC this past year, primarily for gas and kerosene to have heat and for sanitary pads. Nepal also has a caste system and a recent Maoist revolution.
HGC bought $300 vegetable carts in Katmandu so single mothers in Nepal could sell their vegetables.
HGC is working in Europe now, too! With the Roma in Kosovo, Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania. HGC buys milk goats for $120 and geese for $25 that provide eggs.
Pakistan has been a difficult challenge for HGC. They have few Humanist contacts there. More contacts disappear there than in any other country.
Someone asked if they work in the US. He said they tried to work in Appalachia. But they could not find a single secular humanist! It is very Christian!
Someone else asked if HGC promotes family planning. He said they tried to distribute condoms for a while. But they were just sold by the recipients instead of being used.
HGC has also done projects in Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda, Haiti, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Alaska, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Morocco.
Please visit https://humanistglobal.charity/ to learn more about the work of Humanist Global Charity (HGC) and to donate to their work.