At 34 years old, many women would be trying to get an engagement ring, not give one away. But when Christina Ammon inherited a 3.21 ct diamond ring from her grandmother, she was inspired. The ring was appraised at $22,000.
She punched a few equations into a calculator: $22,000 could restore sight to 660 people in Bangladesh, send 133 Nepalese children to school, protect 220 acres of rainforest, or provide 220 micro-loans to women in the Congo.
"The question became: do I want a diamond ring, or a better world?"
For Ammon, it was a no-brainer. She set up an auction website, called With This Ring Project. The site features photos of the ring, stories of her grandmother, and profiles of the various projects that she would like the auction money support.
A frequent traveler and primary spectator of suffering and need in the developing world, she's been inspired by people who have dug in and made a commitment to the places they visit. She calls these good-natured travelers "vagabond philanthropists" and has seen their projects first-hand.
Among the projects she wants to fund is Quilts for Kids, a program where Nepalese women make and sell quilts to fund their childrens' school tuition. Also on the list are Himalyan Raptor Rescue, 100 Friends, Ethical Traveler, and the Sarswati Foundation. There are also some smaller initiatives, like sponsoring a villager from Mali to attend nursing school
Ammon received the ring on a winter morning, a few months after her grandmother passed away. It was accompanied by a small wedding band that she is keeping for sentimental purposes. But she feels good about her decision to part with the ring, if it can benefit compelling social and environmental causes.
Ammon says that her grandmother and she were very different people. Her grandmother wanted her to get an MBA and enter the corporate world. Ammon became an artist and a writer instead. But what they share in common is a love of travel and an impulse to contribute something to the world.
"My grandmother was a philanthropist in her own right, writing regular checks to the Salvation Army and UNICEF."
Ammon explains that the project feels like a leap-of-faith, a cathartic opportunity to do something meaningful for the world while exploring her own attitudes about commitment. "An engagement ring is the perfect metaphor," she explains, "both of global and personal commitment." She hopes that this auction will challenge people to think of creative ways to "engage the world."
She is amazed by the difference that a simple ring can bring about in lives of people and communities all around the world.
Ammon's motivation to bring smiles to suffering faces, and show them a new beginning is one path toward creating a world free of unfounded prejudice, discrimination and hatred.
Ammon will be traveling to Nepal over Christmas to volunteer with philanthropic projects. Her recognition of the tremendous need in the world is indeed inspiring. Go out and help her auction the ring!