creativity, innovation and poverty
Mainstream thinking revolves around the idea that emerging nations need the industrialized world to bring innovation to them, since they lack the resources to innovate themselves. Silicon Valley and their cohort have proven themselves to be masters of advancing and solving first-world issues, but they do little to solve the very real problems that exist in the developing world. Their hearts lie in the right place, but, having grown up in a different world with a vastly different life, they tend to lack the knowledge to fully understand what will and won’t work.

The true innovators of our time are those who live within the borders of developing countries, as they are the ones who truly comprehend the complex relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty.

Creativity and Poverty

In an interview with Innovations Online, a technology and entrepreneurial digital magazine, Marcelo Giugale, a senior economic advisor at the World Bank, stated that “innovation is not the same as invention. Innovation is the actual application of an invention.”

According to Ken Burns, an Ashoka fellow in a similar interview with Innovations, the minds in first world countries often innovate for the sake of innovating. When people live in dire situations and are consistently faced with constrained resources, they may be driven to solve problems and create in ways that can fundamentally change their daily lives.

The creativity that comes from the people who live in extreme poverty has the potential to instate meaningful and large-scale change that can improve the lives of millions, and not just those in the middle and upper middle class seen in developed countries. The link between creativity, innovation and poverty is being acted upon within the minds of several talented individuals living in emerging countries.

Map Kibera and Insiders4Good

In 2009, young Kiberans of the Kibera division in Nairobi, Kenya, created Map Kibera, the first open and free digital map of their own community. Until then, it was just a blank spot on the map. The primary goal of Map Kibera was “to find a new solution to an old problem: the lack of participatory democracy in Kibera.” The platform aims to address the omission of Nairobi’s citizens from policy decisions, mass communications and city representation.

The site utilizes the digital age to allow the region’s inhabitants to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of data and information. They no longer must rely on the common methodologies of NGOs to learn the facts about HIV, gender, malaria, sanitation and other important health facts in their own community – they can now research the information themselves. Map Kibera has recently grown into a full interactive community project and has expanded to Mathare and Mukura.

Insiders4Good East Africa Fellowship is a training program that, in 2017, brought together 20 young entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania who had innovative business ideas that have the potential to improve their communities. The program consists of six months of technical and strategic mentorship from international and local leaders.

Mensa Healthcare and

Many of these young entrepreneurs utilized the cross-section between creativity, innovation and poverty to address and solve many critical local problems. Using artificial intelligence, Peter Aketch’s Mensa Healthcare provides actionable data to pharmaceutical companies, public health organizations and governmental agencies.

The necessity for such an innovation is vital due to the healthcare system’s lack of comprehensive and efficient digital record keeping. This innovation will decrease the possibility of misdiagnosis and allow for a more robust collection of public health data.

Eighty percent of graduates in Tanzania struggle to find jobs. This has led to an increase in crime, extremism, drug abuse, and violence. Edgar Mwampinge’s aims to help these youths by making it easier for start-ups and freelancers to succeed.

His goal is to make shared office space available by connecting these youths with business and office owners who wish to share their workspaces.

IV Drip Alert and Lyon Analytics

In Rwanda, Ange Uwambajimana’s IV Drip Alert enables nurses to more easily manage intravenous fluids through its wireless system. This creative innovation was in response to problems such as embolism which can occur if the medical observer forgets to change the IV at the right time.

And Kenya’s John Mugendi developed a breast cancer prediction system. He proposes that his Lyon Analytics will track the progression from onset to late stages.

2015 Website

2015 is a site that launched in the Middle East. It invites users to submit their own creations that help bring awareness to social issues such as poverty in the Arab region. The relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty is front and center on the site as it showcases images and videos of hunger, the vulnerable and of poverty.

This “movement,” as some have come to call it, was born out of a reaction to the promise made by the nearly 200 world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. They pledged to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2015; however, as of 2012, the number of people still living in extreme poverty checked in at 3 billion.

The creative mind brings wonderous elements to the world — whether that be in new technological advances in the medical field, social satire, digital communications or a site dedicated to awareness. As long as ambition and goodwill prevail, there will always be a relationship that exists between creativity, innovation and poverty. The 2015 slogan reads, “Art changes perceptions, perceptions change people, people change the world,” and its mantra could not be more right.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Flickr

the Media Misrepresents LebanonLebanon is a sovereign state that lies on the western coast of the Mediterranean sea. With over six million inhabitants, this small country shares a long border with Syria, a country that is currently facing a multi-year civil war that has been the cause of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and intense human suffering.

Due to Lebanon’s close proximity to Syria, it naturally has faced some conflict in recent years with the overflow of refugees and military conflict on Lebanese soil. The Syrian war has already rendered and continues to produce much devastation for Syrian people, mainly through a lack of human rights.  

Because of this, the media has associated countries in the surrounding area with this chaotic state. There has been a very distinct picture painted of Lebanon, characterized as unsafe and disorganized. However, everything the public is being told is not exactly true, and the way the media misrepresents Lebanon has a major impact on how we categorize and make assumptions about this beautiful, culturally-rich state.

The main implication behind the way the media misrepresents Lebanon is the fact that the media industry survives off public opinion, meaning that headlines and article content are often edited and revised to fit a style that will capture a reader’s attention. Due to this, it is not uncommon for the media to misrepresent situations and give inflated facts to attract more coverage. This is one of the biggest factors of how the media misrepresents Lebanon and, more specifically, the country’s stability.

While certain parts of Lebanon have faced overflow from the Syrian war–for instance, there have been minor security incidents that have occurred in smaller cities like Baalbek and Sidon–these incidents have been both sporadic and uncommon. The way in which the media covers these topics often paints Lebanon as an unsafe environment for travelers, which is not entirely true.

While there are places to avoid, such as the smaller cities that lie on the Lebanon-Syrian border, larger cities like Beirut have remained nearly untouched and are still safe for tourism. In fact, sources like the New York Times and ABC News have published pro-Beirut pieces that highlight the beauty of Beirut culture. Specifically, the New York Times article touched on the Beirut art scene and the various cultures weaved throughout the city’s architecture and cuisine.

In addition to Beirut, other Lebanese cities like Byblos and Zahlé have also been marked safe for tourism in recent years, with standard travel-safety procedures. The truth is that these Lebanese cities are very similar to any other major city; it is simply a large metropolitan area with general security issues like pickpocketing, scamming and robbery. These problems exist in all major cities throughout the globe.

However, when visiting Lebanon, it is important not to ignore the struggle the country faces with border safety and its ongoing rubbish crisis, in which large amounts of trash continue to cover the state’s shoreline. While tourism helps the Lebanese economy, it is vital that tourists do not contribute to the country’s main issues such as littering.

Although it faces a few security concerns, Lebanon is a beautiful country. Cities like Beirut, Byblos and Zahle have enriching cultures and histories alike, and it is important not to let the way the media misrepresents Lebanon take away from the nation’s true colors.

– Alexandra Dennis

Photo: Flickr

Technology to HelpTechnology is becoming more accessible around the world, but some developing countries still don’t have access to new technology. An initiative by the Dubai Future Accelerators, called Humanitarian Accelerators, is working on using technology to help the Arab world. By using new technology such as artificial intelligence, the Human Accelerators’ goal is to help social, cultural and environmental issues in Arab nations.

The Dubai Future Accelerators program started in 2016 by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. This program’s goal is to partner entrepreneurs with Dubai’s government in order to create solutions to global problems.

The Humanitarian Accelerators is part of this program and is partnered with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI). MBRGI is an organization that was started in 2015 with the goal of increasing ambitions of companies and communities to create a positive impact on challenges in the Middle Eastern world.

Today MBRGI is helping 130 million people in 116 different countries and operates more than 1,400 development programmes, including Humanitarian Accelerators.

With this partnership, the goal of Humanitarian Accelerators and MBRGI is to use technology to help create and implement solutions to improve lives of people in developing countries.

The initiative is looking to use technology for the betterment of education by providing e-learning tools. E-learning tools are a combination of technology that creates learning activities, such as computer games, that help students learn. These tools can also be a database system that provides training platforms for teachers and tracks grades, course content and student records.

The Humanitarian Accelerators initiative is also using technology to improve access to clean water. Further, it is developing platforms for businesses to give refugees opportunities to increase their skills, which is helping reduce poverty.

By utilizing technology, the Humanitarian Accelerators is helping developing countries with multiple issues that impact people globally, such as education, access to healthcare and poverty.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

Medical Anthropology Improves AidMedical anthropology, the study of health and healthcare in the context of specific cultures, exemplifies how the application of social sciences can improve policymaking. Medical anthropologists work within communities and observe health behaviors, which provides them with qualitative data that can inform healthcare-related aid. In this way, medical anthropology improves aid. Medical anthropologists have not only created aid organizations, such as Partners in Health, but also identified health issues in developing nations and discovered ways to make aid implementation more effective.

When Ebola began spreading rapidly throughout Liberia and Sierra Leone, knowing the cause of the disease was not enough to help aid organizations combat it. In 2014, the World Health Organization conducted medical anthropology-based research to pinpoint what was promoting the virulence of the disease. Among other data, the study found that the culture of burial in Liberia and Sierra Leone contributed significantly to the spread of Ebola.

WHO and other organizations’ attempts to quell Ebola include the cremation of the virus’ victims. However, the locals of Liberia and Sierra Leone view such a practice as an affront to their culture and traditions. In these regions, it is customary to have intimate contact with bodies during funeral ceremonies, including washing the corpse and even kissing it.

In order to eliminate the influence of regional funeral customs on Ebola transmission, WHO began promoting culturally compliant alternatives to burial rather than cremation. Funeral ceremonies performed for individuals who have died in war, which do not require a physical body, are now an encouraged alternative for the burial of Ebola victims. For the moment, Ebola outbreaks have been controlled. According to the CDC, over 25,000 cases of Ebola were recorded in West Africa between 2014 and 2016, while only 8 cases were reported from May 2017 to July 2017.

The Ebola crisis is not the only example of how medical anthropology improves aid and contributes to better global health. In 1997, researchers at the University of South Florida searched for cultural explanations for the shocking prevalence of dengue fever in the Dominican Republic. They discovered that, for a start, dengue education needed to be reformed.

In Dominican culture, women are in charge of collecting water for the household, so health organizations teach women how to clean water and prevent mosquitoes, the vectors of dengue fever, from breeding. However, men in Dominican communities control stored water, kept outside the home. The anthropologists discovered that men had not been taught how water sources and dengue were related, and thus left stored water sources uncovered, which allowed dengue-carrying mosquitoes to spawn.

The insight provided by medical anthropology allows aid organizations to implement healthcare reforms in culturally sensitive ways that are cohesive with local traditions, which in turn makes them more effective. Additionally, living within a culture, as many anthropologists do, helps them detect overlooked behaviors that may seriously impact health and healthcare initiatives.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

International AdoptionAngelina Jolie made international adoption trendy, but humanity’s capacity to love is never out of style.

International adoption is not simply a child coming to the United States; it is so much more. The adoption process is an exchange of cultures. The journey to a happy family is a grueling and emotionally painful two to three years. The prospective parents remain at the mercy of the birth parents, a foreign court system and lawyers. This lack of control can be hard to bear.

In order to understand international adoption, the transformation and eventual reformation of orphanages within the United States is imperative to grasp.

In the 19th century, orphanages became important in the United States due to the financial hardships and violence of the era. The Civil War claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and diseases many more, orphaning children throughout the country. Not only were orphans created due to the death of their parents, but also due to the financial inability of parents to support their children. As a result, hundreds of orphanages were established throughout the nation. Orphanages were responsible for providing children with shelter, food, clothing and education.

Eventually, it became common knowledge that children in orphanages were often abused or neglected. As a result, the United States shut down many of the orphanages found guilty of such crimes. The government shifted its focus to the foster care system in order to protect orphans from abuse.

Today, some improved and modern group homes exist for orphans. Despite the many news stories of horrific foster care situations, it is considered to be a better alternative than a group home. Nothing can replace a family.

Although the system in the United States is still lacking, institutions monitor children’s safety and health. Laws are in place to enforce good living conditions in both orphanages and foster care. But how does this system compare to international adoption? Why would someone adopt abroad?

When discussing the idea of international adoption, many critics respond by pointing out the thousands of children in need in the United States, but there is no right or wrong choice of where to adopt from. Each type of adoption is right; it simply depends on the prospective parents.

Another factor to consider is that governments in developing countries do not have the same standards and laws governing orphanages. These children often live in very dangerous situations caused by overcrowding, malnutrition and lack of healthcare. Foster care often does not exist and cultural norms make adoption very rare in foreign states.

Three examples highlight the conditions in some of the worst international orphanages: Nanning Orphanage, Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute and others in China in the 1990s, Ungerini Home for the Incurable in Romania and Mazanovsky Orphanage in Russia, 2013.

Orphanages like Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute specialized in the “holocaust” of female infants. Due to China’s one-child policy enacted in 1979, the proportion of female infants abandoned, aborted or murdered by their parents rose drastically. Those daughters who survived wound up in these orphanages, where they often died of neglect.

In Romania, Ungerini Home for the Incurable left children with significant illnesses for dead in “dying rooms”. Orphans suffered from malnutrition, lack of healthcare, abuse, neglect and often torture. One child suffering from polio was tied to a crib, causing him to develop deformities requiring thirteen reparative surgeries. Romania’s abuse was so significant that the Romanian government allowed the United States to investigate.

In Mazanovsky Orphanage, beatings were rampant. Throughout Russia, orphanages have maintained a strong reputation for abuse, overcrowding, malnutrition and neglect. The Russian government recently halted the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

One person can make a huge impact on the world, be it positive or negative. However, in order to become the best version of ourselves, love and nurturing are needed in our formidable years. When the world is chaotic, family is your only constant.

Love crosses all barriers. International adoption is a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak future of children suffering all over the world.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Thailand
Since 2004, 6,500 people have died as a result of cultural conflict in Thailand between Malay Muslims and Thai Buddhists in the ‘Deep South’ (Thailand’s three southernmost provinces). The culture clash stems partly from the majority Muslim area’s desire for autonomy, a hot topic in Thai politics. On numerous occasions, public schools have been targeted for attacks, leaving educators concerned about their students’ safety.

In the Deep South, four out of five individuals identify as Muslim, compared to Thailand’s overall 93 percent Buddhist population. Many of Thailand’s Muslims believe the country’s public education system, which is geared toward Buddhists, only serves to exacerbate the ongoing conflict. Although Malay Muslims’ first language is often not Thai, all public school classes are taught in it.

Professor Suwilai Premsrirat of Thailand’s Mahidol University has spent the past 10 years working to integrate the Patani-Malay language into public-school curriculum in the Deep South through a pilot program to deter cultural conflict in Thailand.

Although Premsrirat faces criticism from both sides for incorporating elements of the opposing group’s language, she believes the bilingual approach is the key to success. Primary school teacher Mrs. Hareena promoted the pilot program, saying “you can see [the students] are understanding better now.”

Hopefully Premsrirat’s initiative will also serve to reduce cross-cultural violence in the Deep South by promoting understanding and diversity. “We want to make it [clear] we respect [Patani-Malay language and culture],” Premsrirat said, speaking for the Thai public school system.

According to Asia Peacebuilding Initiatives, incorporating the Malay language into the public school system may discourage Muslim families from sending their children to private Muslim schools. More Malay children attending public schools will result in increased diversity and mingling between the two cultures. This in turn may help promote national unity and reduce cultural conflict in Thailand.

Asia Peacebuilding Initiatives is quick to point out, however, that while language integration is a major step, the ultimate goal is to shift educators’ perspectives on the importance of diversity in language and religion.

Because of the cultural conflict in Thailand, many Malay Muslims feel alienated by their native tongue. Hopefully, incorporating their language into Thailand’s public school curricula will provide Malay Muslims a sense of belonging and Thai Buddhists an opportunity for understanding.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

Teaching Abroad
Teaching abroad is an incredible opportunity to give back, and the experience can provide an individual with a multitude of unanticipated advantages. In addition to experiencing a different culture, teaching abroad can vastly improve one’s chances of finding a career in a variety of fields.

The majority of teaching abroad programs aim to teach English in impoverished regions around the world, so as to improve children’s education. Such skills/lessons are desperately needed because according to a reputable teaching abroad program, Sudan Volunteer Programme (SVP), numerous local teachers in these countries do not have the proper skill-sets to teach English, or the school does not have enough money to pay their teachers.

In such cases, volunteers are needed to help educate children and give them the proper skills and opportunities to attain a successful profession. This type of education proves tremendously impactful, as speaking English can significantly increase a child’s chance of professional success down the road.

According to the University of Toronto, teaching abroad can be equally advantageous for the teacher volunteer’s career opportunities. To teach abroad, the volunteer generally does not have to be a certified teacher or have any particular foreign language skills to serve for an organization.Many volunteers can be ‘hired’ with a bachelor’s degree in just about anything, an interest to learn about foreign cultures, a good attitude, a passion for education and seriousness about the job.

Having taught underprivileged children in a foreign country provides one with distinct cultural and teaching experience that can galvanize one’s career. Recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees who teach abroad are often hired full time into high standing positions that they may not have otherwise qualified for.

According to WorldTeach, an accredited teaching abroad program, numerous individuals go into academic careers, international development, educational or volunteer organizations, teachers, school administrators and in business and multi-national companies. Some have become leaders in the U.S. Congress, and one has even served as a U.S. Ambassador.

Though living in a foreign country for a summer or a year may seem daunting, the benefits that can come from the experience prove to be well worth any initial hesitation. From giving children a shot at a better future to becoming more culturally aware, teaching abroad is an incredible opportunity that will boost one’s personal growth and chance at professional success.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr

Today in Germany hundreds of thousands of refugees arrive each year, looking for asylum and safety. Many are from primarily Islamic nations.

The massive influx of people has strained local officials— finding adequate housing for everyone is a challenge.

Many cities have put massive amounts of refugees in old schools or re-purposed shipping containers. Often, the refugees are not welcome in their new neighborhoods due to religious tension. According to National Public Radio, “The western German city of Schwerte even proposed placing 21 refugees in a barracks on the grounds of a Nazi-era concentration camp.”

Berlin Residents Mareike Geiling and Jonas Kakoschke believe that refugees deserve a more humane treatment than mass, impersonal accommodations. This prompted them to create the organization Refugees Welcome— a website that matches refugees looking for asylum with people in Germany and Austria willing to open their homes to these people in need.

“We don’t like the idea of putting these people into one place where many, many people live,” explained Geiling to NPR.

“Many asylum-seekers have to stay there for years … doing nothing, because they are not allowed to do anything. They are not allowed to work, they are not allowed to have German classes sometimes and sometimes it’s not a city, it’s a village and there’s nothing to do and so you get depressed after years and stuff like this,” said Kakoschke.

Kakoschke and Geiling are a couple living in Berlin, and they were the first to open their doors to a refugee in need. The couple matched with a thirty-nine year old Muslim man from Mali, who had recently applied for asylum and is waiting for a working permit. For this reason, Kakoschke and Geiling raise money to cover their new roommates cost of rent and utilities.

NPR reports that the Malian man is afraid to give his name for safety reasons, but said “It surprised me a lot because … the people here don’t want to see people like us in their land.”

Before Kakoschke and Geiling opened their doors to him, the roommate was homeless. “Sometimes I’d take the bus from different sector to different sector at nighttime until, you know, 2:30” in the morning, he says. Then he’d “get out and sleep for 20 minutes and go back on the train again sometimes and go back in the mosque and pray there for 30 minutes and sleep there for one hour.”

Refugees Welcome has been very successful so far on a small scale. The website has matched 122 refugees to welcoming German and Austrian flatmates.

Refugees Welcome reports, “Through Refugees Welcome people have moved in to 80 homes in Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Darmstadt, Dortmund, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Konstanz, Leipzig, Marburg, Munich, Munster, Norderstedt, Offenburg and Wolfratshausen. Through Refugees Welcome Austria (our Austrian sister-organisation) people have moved in to 44 places in Eisenstadt, Knittelfeld, Salzburg and Vienna. The new flatmates are from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria and Tunisia.”

Margaret Anderson

Sources: NPR, Refugees-Welcome
Photo: thegaurdian

Acrobats of the RoadTraveling the world since 2005, Acrobats of the Road Juan Villarino and Laura Lazzarino have enacted their Educational Nomadic Project in communities all over South America, southern Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The project is dedicated to documenting and spreading world hospitality to help overcome social issues domestic to different regions.

Juan Villarino is a writer and photographer originally from Argentina who has spent the majority of his life traveling the world and writing about the people he has met. Laura is a nomad who spent much of her youth traveling solo through South America, Western Europe and southern Asia. The pair met while abroad, and after traveling for a few years, they decided to team up and start Acrobats of the Road.

For each community the group impacts, Villarino self-publishes a book to inform readers about the importance of hospitality and social justice in rural villages throughout the world. His most recent book, Hitchhiking in the Axis of Evil, was picked up for proper publication and will be distributed internationally. The book follows Villarino’s journey through Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan and his contributions to increasing social justice in communities affected by war.

Acrobats of the Road have traveled to over 60 countries, crossing more than 1,500 borders and travelling over 160,000 kilometers. Throughout their journeys, they have stayed in monasteries, hostels, campgrounds and with locals. These experiences have allowed them to encounter firsthand the generosity that inspired them to create Acrobats of the Road.

For their Educational Nomadic Project, Villarino compiles slideshows of photographs and the pair present lectures and workshops on a variety of topics including the intrinsic goodness of human beings, community involvement and cooperation. In collaboration with the People’s Health Movement, the pair travels with a projector to teach to these communities.

While travelling, the duo has received a lot of love and care from people of many races, religions and backgrounds, and the project focuses on giving back to those who have helped them along the way. The project was started in 2009 and has been used to spread empathy and care. Villarino’s photographs capture the everyday life, kindness and cultures of communities he has encountered while hitchhiking. Acrobats of the Road hopes that with this project, they can promote equality and happiness and show that the world can become a more harmonious place.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Blogspot, Mangomanjaro, Matador Network

Photo: Acrobatsoftheroad

Google Street View Depicts Mongolia - The Borgen Project
Since its launch in 2007, Google Street View, an extension of Google Maps, has provided users with realistic views of locations they might like to visit. People can actually navigate entire countries without leaving their homes thanks to these technologies, and the number of popular tourist destinations has greatly increased.

Google Street View actually used their Google Trekkers—15 fixed focus lenses with 360 degree panoramic shots every three meters—to capture incredibly important aspects of Mongolian culture. Nadaam, also known as the Three Games of Men, was going on in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar on July 11-13 this year as the Google Trekkers made their way through. They were joined by CNN who covered the story.

Nadaam is a type of Mongolian Olympics composed of archery, wrestling and horse racing. The horse racing event is particularly interesting because jockeys are generally ages five to thirteen, and are raised to ride horses even before they can walk. According to residents, the competition itself focuses more so on the skill of the horses and their compatibility with their riders rather than the rider’s command over the horses.

“So far, Google has captured breathtaking landscapes across five cities and six provinces including Ulaan baatar, Darkhan, Khenti, Dornogovi, and Selenge,” and they’ve been mapping the area since October 2014. Though falling copper prices and low investor confidence has placed Mongolia in financial difficulties, Google hopes to raise tourism profiles.

“At Khursgul Lake, the second largest freshwater lake in Asia, the team trekked across its frozen surface on a horse-drawn sled, providing breathtaking views of Mongolia’s landscape.”

Including its projects in Mongolia, Google Street View has also managed to capture remote islands, the Pyramids of Giza and the Amazon Jungle.

Anna Brailow

Sources: CNN, Sky
Photo: Discovery News