Books For Africa Teams Up With The Peace CorpsBy pairing with the Peace Corps and other nonprofits, Books for Africa has become the world’s largest shipper of donated books to the African continent. With its headquarters based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Books for Africa has shipped nearly 27 million books to 48 countries in the past 25 years.

In countries where few classrooms have suitable resources, Books for Africa ship libraries of new scholarly and leisurely texts as well as new law and human rights texts. Classrooms in countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa are filled with avid learners whose parents have sacrificed greatly to provide them with an education but often lack adequate supplies.

While many classrooms have adequate textbooks to constitute as reading material, noted on project organizer, the establishment of reading centers such as libraries indulge the hope that “Ethiopian children and their families will be able to experience the joys of reading and literacy activities directly.”

– Pete Grapentien

Source Huffington Post

Extreme Poverty in Brazil Almost Gone
Last Tuesday, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff increased the monthly stipend of people living below the poverty line to 70 reals or roughly $35 a month. Through its Bolsa Familia or Family Grant program, Rousseff’s administration has successfully managed to improve living conditions and lift 36 million people out of extreme poverty in Brazil. President Rousseff claims that “soon there will be no Brazilians steeped in extreme poverty.”

Founded by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2003, the monthly stipend program has provided financial assistance to people living in extreme poverty in Brazil, allowing for access to proper education, healthcare and the like. More than 48 million Brazilians, a quarter of the population, are registered to these social programs, costing the government 24 billion reals a year. This increased monthly stipend will affect 2.5 million people and will cost 800 million reals. Currently, there are 700,000 families still living in extreme poverty in Brazil that are not yet registered with government social programs. Rousseff’s administration will work to seek out these families.

The monthly stipend increase will come into effect on March 18. Also, Rousseff has added stipends for children and adolescents, farmers engaging in conservation practices, and people beginning technical training. The government is also now focusing on improved access to public services, extending school hours and availability to electricity, water, sewers and basic housing. Rousseff is expected to run for re-election in 2014 and her success against extreme poverty would work immensely towards her advantage.

Her new slogan for her fight against extreme poverty is: “The end of poverty is just beginning.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Guardian

Preventing A Haitian Food Crisis
Last year, Haiti experienced “the perfect storm for a genuine food crisis.” From April to August, a severe drought had hit, preventing a good harvest and causing up to 60% losses in overall food production. Increasing global food prices made it difficult for those still recovering from the 2010 earthquake to buy basic food supplies.

And then Hurricane Isaac hit in August followed by Hurricane Sandy in October and extreme flooding in the north in November. In 2011, around 800,000 or 8% of the Haitian population were suffering from chronic malnutrition. Now, that number has nearly doubled at 1.52 million and we are on the verge of an emerging Haitian food crisis.

The people of Haiti have been thrown into a difficult situation, having to work with high living costs and surviving on one meal a day. Key to speeding up this recovery and preventing a Haitian food crisis is ensuring that farmers are able to sell their produce.

As of yet, government and private businesses are slow in their response to assist the agricultural sector. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the Haitian government have appealed for $74 million to help the country’s agricultural sector. As of December, less than 5% of that amount had been received.

One solution would be to have a seed bank allowing for farmers to sell their seeds while making them available to others that would need them. Another idea would be to properly utilize water as a resource by constructing dams for irrigation and electricity. Investment in seed banks and water management are just a few ideas that could help prevent an oncoming Haitian food crisis. Medium and long-term solutions making use of resources already at hand are what is necessary for a sustainable Haiti.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Guardian

UAE's Donations Help Americans in NeedWhile at first glance the United Arab Emirates and Missouri may not have a lot in common, but their ties are now actually quite strong. This is due to the massive tornado that swept across the small town of Joplin in 2011.

Since 2008, the UAE has had increasing involvement in assisting American cities across the United States. When UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef al Otaiba, came to office in 2008, he immediately set a goal to change the average American’s perception of his home country. Tainted by a 2006 dispute over the UAE’s interest in taking control of American ports, a survey showed that while 30% of Americans had a negative opinion about the UAE, 70% of them did not have an opinion at all. “We had a responsibility to educate Americans about who we are,” Mr. al Otaiba stated. In this way, supporting and funding the US in a natural disaster situation demonstrates compassion and positive relations.

After the tornado destroyed Joplin, basic institutions were in need of immediate assistance. In a two-part gift, the UAE government donated $1 million to Joplin High School to help buy expensive educational resources they had not previously been able to afford: 2,200 laptops and software for the students. Despite some backlash from locals, the school board realized it could not turn down this offer, even if there was a backlash from residents who labeled the donation as “Islamic blood money”.

Around the same time, the UAE donated $5 million to rebuild Joplin’s Mercy Hospital and help start its first neonatal intensive care unit. This large donation provided the hospital with 12 beds for mothers in need of a NICU after childbirth.

The donations to Joplin were not out of the ordinary, however. Over the years money has been donated by the UAE government and through private donations directly to help maintain other hospitals such as Johns Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. Money has been collected for the Baltimore Food Bank as well as the New York Police Foundation. In addition, soccer fields from Miami to Los Angeles have popped up thanks to more generous donations from the Arab country in hopes of providing low-income communities a fun and safe area for sports and recreation.

It is important to see the steps the ambassador has taken to help out people in need and to prove his country’s loyalty and desire to maintain a positive relationship with the United States. Some people may be shocked that the United States would take, let alone need these donations, but no country and no person is above aid. Poverty and disaster affect any citizen of any country. The race, religion, or nationality behind the hand reaching out to help does not matter and it is important for the world to recognize that as global citizens, it is our duty to be there for one another.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: The Washington Post
Photo: flickr

Developing Africa Through Social EnterpriseIn 2007, 22 young Africans, emerging leaders in the community, business, and government sectors, were selected to participate in the Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship Programme in Johannesburg. Implemented by the African Leadership Institute, the objective of the yearlong program was to develop the next generation of leaders in Africa.

Gbenga Sesan of Lagos, one of the 22 Tutu Fellows, was inspired to launch an employment and training program aimed at helping his fellow Nigerians secure full-time jobs. His project works to provide IT, entrepreneurial and communication skills to unemployed but highly-skilled Nigerians. Since Sesan completed the fellowship program in 2007, he has been able to help 13,000 Nigerians find work in a country where 90% of graduates are unable to find full-time employment.

Another Tutu Fellow, Tracey Webster, had left her banking career in London to found a charity that would care for forgotten children. By the time she left the charity to run the Branson’s Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa, 22,000 children were being fed, clothed and educated. Webster now works with the government and through micro-entrepreneurship to create jobs and make it easier for young South Africans to start their own ventures.

In the fellowship program, Webster was taught that leadership was “understanding what needs to change for our dreams to come true, and then influencing the right people and working in partnership to get the job done.”

Established in 2003, the African Leadership Institute was founded on the importance of good leadership and governance and focused on nurturing leadership talents in high potential Africans. The course places much focus on social entrepreneurship, ethical business, and the importance of business as a force for social change. One of the core teachings of the program is the philosophy of “ubuntu,” which Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains means “interconnectedness.” Tutu says that at the center of “ubuntu” is the idea that “you are connected and what you do affects the whole world.”

At the core of the fellowship program are a social enterprise and the objective of finding internal solutions and a more sustainable Africa that can develop itself free from foreign aid and philanthropy.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Guardian

Last Sunday, February 10th, Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India and second richest in Asia, interviewed with Fareed Zakaria in the first television interview he’d given in almost a decade. Ambani is Chairman and CEO of India’s largest company, Reliance Industries, which focuses on petrochemicals, refining, and oil & gas. In the interview, he comments on his views regarding the state of the global economy.

Ambani is optimistic that an economic recovery is set to emerge in the US, citing increasing independence from foreign imports of energy which he predicts will come in “the next five or seven years.” The cause of this recovery is a fundamental transformation in the energy scene taking place in the US. The shift to “non-conventional energy in shale oil and gas,” he says, is not just of great benefit to the US, but across the world as well.

Regarding the economic growth in India, Ambani is “bullish,” commenting that economic growth in India is “the aspirations of a billion people. And ours is a country where all the billion count.” He calls it a “bottom-up story,” noting that the country will adjust with how the rest of the international community performs but that India is on a “long-term growth trajectory.”

When questioned on the problem of inequality in India, Ambani stated that it was a problem not specific to India but present all across the world. He went on to say that businesses have an obligation to alleviate this inequality by investing in ordinary Indians. Reliance, he says, has created wealth for India through the opportunities that were provided to them by their country. This, he says, is “the process of creating wealth.”

“Income comes from opportunity… Once you create opportunity, wealth comes.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: CNN

UK Ends Aid to IndiaWhen it comes to foreign aid, most news stories focus on one country starting to give to another, not ending their giving. Usually, one country makes a financial commitment to a developing country, hoping that there will be growth, and they follow through with their promise.

However, the UK recently announced that it would stop providing foreign aid to India in the year 2015. What will this mean for India? What could it signify for the greater developing world?

India has been growing at a pretty astounding rate over the past few years. India boasted extraordinary economic growth rates of 8.2% and 9.6% in 2009 and 2010 respectively, leading the world’s developing countries. India’s success has been incredible. The world’s second most populated country has been experiencing an economic boom that any other country would be envious of. The United Kingdom has been granting foreign aid to India to encourage such growth for the last 50 years. The UK has now decided to cut out its foreign aid to India beginning in 2015.

The UK’s aid makes up about 15% of the total incoming foreign aid that India receives. This statistic has caused some to seriously worry about how other donor countries will react to this motion. Could cutting aid to the most successful developing countries become a trend?

While India is indeed one of the most rapidly advancing nations in the developing world, the country is still home to more than 1.2 billion people. Many of them represent the working poor and the impoverished and have yet to see the benefits of their country’s rapid growth. It is important that other donor countries and charitable organizations continue to invest in India as the country goes through its growing pains and aspires to more widespread prosperity.

Organizations like Oxfam are working to make sure that donors remain committed to their programs in India and other successful developing countries. Simply because the UK will no longer send foreign aid to India, it does not mean that all other donor countries will follow suit. At the same time, we should keep considering the case for foreign aid to the most successful countries in the developing world. These are economies that are growing with astounding speed and to stop giving to these countries now could lead to a serious shortfall in their future development.

This sort of growth does not occur without any collateral damage. In the end, the importance of seeing foreign aid programs through to the end is absolutely paramount.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Digital Jouranl, World Bank
Photo: Disaboom

Women Entrepreneurs: The Answer to Poverty?Last week, President Barack Obama highlighted the charge to the American public to assist in the eradication of extreme global poverty. When the world’s poor rise out of poverty and live better, the world is positively affected and inequality is decreased. The United States benefits both economically and in terms of security when more people escape poverty.

Where then should the US apply its funds to attain this ultimate goal of eliminating poverty?

One area is entrepreneurship. There has been widespread micro-success in small-scale businesses in Liberia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The access and pursuit of consistent incomes for families allow for poverty alleviation. The increase in incomes allows for greater economic opportunity via safer and healthier living conditions, as well as better access to education.

Funding the endeavors of entrepreneurship in developing countries is a critical part of this answer. The large scale US corporations of Coca Cola, Dell, Exxon Mobil, and Goldman Sachs are alongside governmental leaders in the push for small-scale entrepreneur funding. Furthermore, the growing focus on women’s entrepreneurial capabilities and access to self-improvement are crucial for development. These large corporations aid in the training of more women entrepreneurs.

The Cherie Blair Foundation is a non-governmental organization that focuses on providing personal aid to women. They encourage the participation of more women in local markets and technology processes.

The largest challenges to women entering the entrepreneur field are the “access to finances, markets, and skills-building and networks.” Therefore, the fight to involve women and create a more fluid environment for women participation is crucial to fighting such a large part of global poverty.

Nigeria and Ghana are good examples, where recently more women than men are starting businesses. Sub-Saharan Africa is not far behind.

The strides being taken to put women in pertinent roles of small businesses and markets are helping combat global poverty. Yet, there is much to be done and the US is fully capable of helping women, men, and children across the globe to attain greater access to resources.

Evan Walker

Source: Huffington Post
Photo: CSMonitor

Solving the Global Food Crisis as President
A new online game entitled “President for a Day” allows people to tackle the heavy topic of the global food crisis and come up with their own solution. The game addresses four key issues: climate change, biofuels, agricultural development, and foreign aid. President for a Day was launched on February 19th by an anti-poverty organization called ActionAid USA. The mission of ActionAid USA is to eradicate global poverty by working with impoverished and marginalized people and “bringing their perspectives to bear on U.S. policies that affect global countries.”

The game is very simple. Four questions are asked and can be answered by picking one of multiple options. Each question addresses one of the four key issues. Each person, playing the role of president, must decide the action he or she would take in a situation where they are shaping the direction of policy. Should local farmers affected by climate change be supported through private investment or public funding? Should the current mandate dealing with corn ethanol subsidies be kept?

After answering the four questions, which offer further information on the subjects if desired, the results of the game are offered. This is the most impressive part of the whole game as the interplay between the key issues can be seen; each answer for one issue affects all of the other issues as well.

The opening page of the game states, in bold red font, that “your decisions will make the headlines” and this is precisely what happens. Results come in the form of the front page of a newspaper four years from the time of the game showing how each person, as president, has influenced or affected global poverty. This shows how U.S. policies affect people globally, highlighting the importance of taking in the needs of everyone and seeing the affects of one nation’s actions on the entire international community before making decisions and passing laws.

U.S. policy does not just affect the United States.

A single decision made by the United States – to scrap the corn ethanol mandate or to allow private investments to support farmers affected by climate control, for example – can be seriously detrimental to the future of many countries outside of the United States.

Be president for a day and see what you would do to combat the global food crisis at http://www.presidentforaday.com

– Angela Hooks

Sources: President for a Day, ActionAid USA, MNN
Photo: President for a Day

The Armstrong Trial Building New Schools?The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged $25 million in an effort to repair and rebuild schools in Pakistan, mostly in provinces that have been affected by military involvement and severe flooding. USAID is working with the local Provincial Disaster Management Authority to rebuild school buildings that serve to educate children and often act as community gathering places.

USAID had previously given about $85 million to rebuild schools and irrigation systems in some provinces. The money also served to rebuild 122 schools. This means that for every $1 million, the equivalent of 1.4 schools is rebuilt. Even with the positive turnout of new schools being built quickly, a bigger donation could make an even greater difference. But given the economy these days, where could that money come from?

The international giving of the United States is a point of pride for many and it really does cause the rest of the world to see the country in a more positive light. What better way to fund a great tradition than to reclaim funds from the recent scandal?

The U.S. government is filing a suit against Lance Armstrong and the U.S. cycling team for $30 million. The federal government and the U.S. Postal Service were the primary sponsors of the now-disgraced superstar and now, they want their money back. The Armstrong trial has been picking up a lot of buzzes, from his confession on Oprah to an episode of South Park dedicated to his popular Livestrong bracelets. An additional $30 million would more than double USAID’s ability to rebuild schools; maybe this is an opportunity for the greatest team in U.S. cycling history to try to recoup from their fall from grace.

Kevin Sullivan

Sources: TheHill.com, The Express Tribune
Photo: Hollywood.com