The Link Between Volunteering and Happiness Levels in the ElderlyFor many seniors, the act of volunteering at a local mission or community outreach center is simply a chance to give back to those less fortunate than themselves. However, based upon the results of a recent study, seniors might also want to consider the little known correlation between altruism, helping, volunteering, and happiness levels that result as an added bonus to their commitment to serve.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio conducted a longitudinal study in which they followed a group of 585 community living seniors over the course of three years. During the study, the research participants’ psychosocial well-being outcomes were measured in two waves; this included life satisfaction, positive effects, negative effects, and depressive symptoms. The results of the study – though expected – was nevertheless important in regards to quantifying the positive outcomes of certain behaviors in the elderly population. Subsequently, evidence emerged that overwhelming supported the link between seniors exhibiting higher traits of altruism, informal helping, and volunteering and happiness levels.
This research is great news for national and community service and can act as even more of an incentive for seniors to get involved in organizations such as The Borgen Project for the long term benefits of increased volunteering and happiness levels. Simply stated, by giving a little of their time and/or financial resources whenever possible, retired seniors can help win the war on global poverty.
Brian Turner

Source: Journal of Aging and Health
Photo: New York State Senate

Human Development Report Has Good News

After the longest time of a Northern-dominated global economy, the Global South seems to be catching up. This year’s United Nations Development Program’s annual report has some incredible news: lots of livelihoods have improved and are continuing to move in the right direction in terms of development. The Human Development Report suggests that 40 countries are doing better economically and socially. According to The Yemen Times, these improving nations aren’t solely the “economic tigers” of the world, such as China, and Brazil; they also include Turkey, Mexico, South Africa and several more.

The good news is that countries that were once considered “backward” are rising up to the plate, demanding that their voices be heard. Such a shift in global development and human well-being tips the scale for the dominating countries, mainly the United States, member nations of the European Union, and Japan, which have always set and controlled policies.

The UNDP collected measurements of income, literacy levels, gender rights, and longevity to form this year’s rankings, and the results evinced sustainable success and growth: “a fifth of the nations surveyed – all in the developing world – did better than expected.” Although sub-Saharan African countries did not do so well as to be included in this “rise of the South” phenomena, and there is clearly much more to be done, this year’s results are evidence that much good is being generated nonetheless. There is hope that more work will continue to result in greater improvements.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Yemen Times
Photo: Static

A Peace of Pizza in Africa
When most of us grab a quick slice of pizza, we don’t think twice about it. For the villagers of Fada N’Gourma, however, a slice of pizza in Africa means so much more than satisfying hunger or a late-night craving.

Claudio Vanni, from the Italian foundation “Heart Melts”, has established 3 pizzeria-bakeries in the small West African country of Burkina Faso. Workers from Heart Melts construct the restaurants, bring in all the technical resources and machinery, and train the employees, who are mostly youth coming in from the villages. The average pizzeria brings in about 20,000 euros in revenue which is used to fund other investments, including a carpentry school nearby.

These pizzerias have provided an ample source of job training and have helped modernize the small village in this uniquely peaceful country. While thousands of Malians flee to refugee camps in the northern region in Burkina Faso, the rest of the country is slowly bringing itself up on its feet and out of poverty.

Burkina Faso lies between Ghana, Niger, and Mali; countries that are of no shortage of civil strife. For those living in Burkina Faso, they experience a much different reality of religious freedom, with over 62 different ethnic groups living together in relative peace.

Projects such as Vanni’s pizzeria will not only help create jobs and a sense of self for the villagers but more importantly, will ensure that Burkina Faso remains a peaceful nation despite its struggling neighbors. “If this country explodes with ethnic and religious hatred like in Mali, Niger, Uganda…all of Western Africa will be ablaze,” says Monsignor Andre Cristiani, founder of the Shalom Movement. M. Cristiani found that when outside agencies and efforts are brought in such as Heart Melts, it gives Africans a change to ‘learn and do’ and not simply ‘take’.

Months after the conference “L’Africa sviluppa l’Africa” (“Africa Developing Africa”), this pizzeria is yet again another illustration of the age-old proverb “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”. The Shalom Movement prides itself on the belief that Africa has all the internal power and passion it needs to bring itself out of poverty.

With ventures like “Heart Melts”, a world of opportunities is created; not just for job training, but also for community growth, self-purpose, and peace.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: World Crunch

UN Refuses to Compensate Haitian Cholera Victims
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there is no evidence that anyone in Haiti had ever gotten cholera before 2010. However, since the outbreak began that year, almost half a million Haitians have gotten the disease, and nearly 8,000 have been killed by it.

Cholera is a horrible disease with a surprisingly simple treatment. Victims suffer from extreme diarrhea, but if they are constantly supplied with oral re-hydration in order to replace lost water and electrolytes, they will almost always survive. Unfortunately, poor infrastructure and a lack of water sanitation systems has resulted in many Haitians not getting the treatment they need.

As a result of these deaths, the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti has filed a claim against the UN, stating that evidence demonstrates that the UN was responsible for the outbreak in the first place. Allegedly, UN troops from Nepal were carrying the disease as they were sent to Haiti to assist after the 2010 Earthquake.

On Thursday, February 21, 2013, the UN rejected the Institute’s claim on the basis of diplomatic immunity. Although there are many efforts at the international level to eradicate the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the U.N.’s official decision states that “the claims are ‘not receivable’ because they concern ‘a review of political and policy matters.'” As the UN refuses to compensate Haitian cholera victims, thousands more may suffer until enough money can be raised to implement Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s plan for eradicating cholera in the region.

Jake Simon

Source: U.S. News
Photo: The Guardian

Gaming That Benefits the Global Poor

This is truly unique – a virtual trivia game that benefits the global poor. With every participant’s correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to a collective pool of food aid. Five correct answers means that 50 grains are donated, and so on. The more you play, the more rice can be donated to help reduce global hunger.

Freerice.com is a non-profit website that is owned and operated by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). All food aid resulting from the gaming is delivered through this UN agency. The entire project is made possible through sponsors who advertise on the site, and it is their money that is actually being used to buy the rice.

The mission of Freerice.com is two-fold:

  • Provide education to everyone for free
  • Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free

The questions themselves serve as the educational element of the site. Players can choose the category of questions they want from math, science, or even test preparation for the SATs. Questions get harder as as the game continues, forcing players to research the answers.

The website has tracked its progress, noted by grains of rice donated, since it started in 2007. 2008 was its first full year, and the site donated a total of 12,255,121,230 grains. To date, the total is 98,290,121,816 grains – feeding millions of people. WFP averages that about 400 grams of rice are needed to feed one person for a day (two meals). There are about 48 grains of rice in a gram, so by answering 40 questions correctly, a player can have the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped another person eat for a whole day.

As the game is played, and correct answers are given, a small bowel pictured on the screen fills with rice, which fills progressively to match the progress of the player. This serves to illustrate the importance of the project, and the player’s involvement in it. Best players and top group participation and impact are also posted on the site.

There is no register or sign-in for the game, and no need to do anything other than play the game with no strings attached. Freerice.com does have over a million registered gamers who are literally helping feed the world. Perhaps even greater than the immediate benefits of alleviating hunger is the residual impact of enabling people to fully function and be productive once their extreme hunger is no longer an issue.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Freerice.com

 

New Proposals for Development in Haiti
In an ambitious goal to help other nations help themselves and possibly shift the paradigm of foreign aid forever, Canadian aid worker Hugh Locke has started a forestry program aimed at fostering a sense of independence in the Haitian citizenry. Lock, critical of the current state of NGO and government involvement in projects, is employing his aptly titled “exit strategy aid” to change the scope of development in Haiti.

The country of Haiti, still emerging from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy and previous natural disasters, has had no shortage of challenges involving their crippled infrastructure and forecasted food shortages. However, Lock, armed with his forestry background, noticed that the Caribbean nation was lacking key ecological resources and decided to embark upon a re-forestation program dependent upon native farmers to encourage development in Haiti. When questioned about the efficacy of such a program, Lock remarked: “A road that is built by donor money using foreign contractors is never going to be fully a part of the national transportation system,” before clarifying that such a project, because of its foreign ownership, would need foreign aid to maintain it, which is neither sustainable nor helpful to empowering local projects.

Lock, along with his Haitian counterpart Timote Georges, were able to bring together a group of farmers in a forestry cooperative whose primary goal is both the growth and sales of trees. The Haitian forests, a natural resource that once afforded certain energy and topsoil advantages, has since been stripped from much of the countryside, devastating crop and charcoal production levels.
Subsequently, by having farmers plant trees, Lock hopes to encourage greater internal participation in the development of Haiti. Thus, by establishing a strong ecological and agricultural foundation, the people of Haiti can look forward to a much brighter, more independent future for years to come.
– Brian Turner

Source: World News
Photo: Trees for the Future

2013: The International Year of QuinoaThe year 2013 has been titled “The International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has named Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, the Special Ambassador for the International Year of Quinoa. So, why is that important?

Quinoa is a semi-cereal, not quite a grain, that is mostly grown in Peru and Bolivia. If you have any “foodie” friends or know any hip cooks, you will probably have heard a lot about quinoa. In fact, the factor of “hipness” may have had a huge part in increasing the popularity of the food, as well as the fact that it has astonishing nutritional value. The UN’s declaration of 2013 being the International Year of Quinoa is part of an effort to further increase the food’s popularity. The real reason that quinoa is being pushed as a popular food is that quinoa is extraordinarily hardy, and is a great source of amino-acids. It is one of the most durable foods on Earth. Quinoa is able to thrive even in semi-arid deserts and the high Altiplano.

Quinoa is now being planted more and more in other harsh climates that span countries like Chad and Niger. While most of the world’s quinoa still comes from Peru and Bolivia, it is gaining ground in other countries. The heightened popularity of the food has increased the average crop value and provided higher income to farmers and local business owners alike. Hopefully, the popular attention that quinoa is receiving will help consumers make the choice to join in and celebrate the International Year of Quinoa.

Kevin Sullivan

Source: United Nationsl

US AIDS Efforts Have Surpassed GoalsOn the 10th anniversary of the American President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a new study released by a panel at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) shows that PEPFAR efforts have surpassed goals which were initially proposed to provide medical care for those who are HIV positive and suffer from AIDS. The PEPFAR program also includes prevention measures in communities affected by the disease.

Initiated in 2003 under President George W. Bush, PEPFAR’s initial goal was to provide medical care for 12 million people and to provide 6 million people with HIV antiretroviral treatments. Today, around 5 million people have received the medication through PEPFAR, and the program is providing care to over 15 million people – well surpassing the original goal. At least 4.5 million of those receiving support are children. The care of children was a high priority when the program was initiated, as many children have become orphans because of the AIDS epidemic. The report states that PEPFAR has “provided unprecedented support” for these children since it began.

A decade ago, PEPFAR began with $15 billion in funding from the U.S. government – the largest project in history aimed at tackling a single health issue. Today, funds dedicated to AIDS relief amount to over $37 billion, with an additional $7 billion donated to help eradicate tuberculosis and malaria.

The IOM report went on to praise the U.S. for its role in drastically scaling back the number of people worldwide affected by the disease. The Obama Administration has also vowed to continue support for AIDS relief, announcing plans for an “AIDS-free generation” by putting a heavy emphasis on prevention. The study also takes the stance that prevention is a crucial component to continue exceeding goals and that “long-term success in keeping disease at bay will depend on countries making a transition,” where the mindset of healthcare systems shifts from that of an aid recipient to a medical institution that cultivates proper treatment and prevention methods.

Christina Kindlon

Source: All Africa

Smog From China is Crossing BordersSmog in China is an ongoing issue. China’s ongoing process of industrialization has resulted in extreme amounts of pollution in many of its cities. Because of the national dependence on particularly dirty fossil fuels, millions of citizens wear surgical masks when venturing outside because the air is just too dirty to breathe safely.

Until recently, the problem has been largely confined to China itself. Those afraid of global climate change, however, have been calling attention to the issue for years. Now, smog from China is crossing borders and affecting its Japanese neighbors. This presents another challenge to test Chinese-Japanese already strained relations.

Associate Professor Toshihiko Takemura of Kyushu University, who studies pollution for the University, explained that in Kyushu, “the level of air pollution has been detectable in everyday lives since a few years ago.”

China is notorious for quashing public dissent on sensitive issues like government shortcomings. However, in recent weeks, there have been uncanny amounts of focus put on environmental shortcomings by both state television and party officials.

Hopefully, the new Chinese Premier will work hard to drastically reduce China’s levels of pollution, bettering the health of the country’s citizens while improving relations with China’s estranged neighbor.

Jake Simon

Source: news.com.au
Photo: Japan Times


Malnutrition is not necessarily about not having enough to eat, but rather not having the right minerals and vitamins in what you eat. This World Food Program (WFP) video says everything you need to know about malnutrition – in two minutes.

The cycle of malnutrition starts in the womb, malnourished mothers give birth to children with health problems who grow up to be adults with health problems, then raising the next generation, and so on. The goal of the WFP is not just to treat malnutrition, but to also help it from happening in the first place. WFP realizes that it costs half as much to help a child under two, than it does to wait until the child is older and in need of greater assistance.

In raw figures, WFP indicates it would cost $3.6 billion to provide the special foods needed to treat all the moderately malnourished infants and toddlers in the world. Seemingly a large sum of money, but it is less than half of the $10 billion that Europeans spend on ice cream annually. Thus, the amount needed to treat malnourished is attainable.

Relatively, the fight against malnutrition is not that daunting; the world has the ability and the means, “the challenge is to do it.”

– Mary Purcell

Source: Youtube