Effective altruismHow can we do the most good in the world? This is the guiding question of a new philosophical and moral movement called “effective altruism” (EA). Effective altruism, a concept coined by philosopher Peter Singer, is an attempt to use common sense and research to determine how each person can maximize his or her positive impact.

What is Effective Altruism?

The basic idea is simple. There are many things a person can do to improve the world. An individual can donate to charities, volunteer or support positive government action. Effective altruists, however, believe that it is not just a matter of doing good wherever it is most convenient. Take charities, for example. Some causes achieve their goals more efficiently than others. Donating $10,000 to an emergency surgery fund might save one life. But, donating that same money to a group that, for instance, teaches impoverished children how to read, could have a vastly greater effect. One of the issues effective altruists care the most about is global poverty.

Global Poverty: A High-Priority Cause

Addressing poverty is one of the most cost-effective and reliable ways to reduce suffering. Unlike some other issues, global poverty is a problem with proven solutions. Over the past 40 years, extreme poverty rates have dropped from 42% to less than 10%. With such a successful track record, it is easy to imagine that future efforts to reduce poverty will continue to pay off.

Looking at the measures taken on the ground, it is not difficult to see how a little money can have a big impact in solving global poverty. Parasitic diseases, for instance, are a huge drain on wealth and stability in large parts of the developing world, but they can be cured with a pill that costs less than a dollar. Mosquito nets are just as affordable, with the ability to protect more than half a million potential malaria victims a year.

Prioritizing Maximum Impact

According to effective altruism, it is not enough to devote time or money to a cause that generally has a good track record. An individual must look at exactly where their money is going. Even poverty-reducing measures have significant differences in efficiency and results. For example, a recent study compared the cost-benefit ratios of sustainable livelihoods graduation programs, livelihood development programs and cash transfers. Although graduation programs tend to cost more, they have far greater long-term success in lifting people out of poverty.

People are becoming far more conscientious of the causes and charities to which they choose to devote their time and money. Effective altruism is emerging in this environment. GiveWell, an effective altruism organization, analyzes the progress reports of well-known charities and conducts independent investigations into their effectiveness.

GiveWell is not afraid of courting controversy either. GiveWell recommends that individuals stop giving to some of the most well-known poverty reduction charities. According to GiveWell, these organizations lack transparency, show unimpressive results or already have more funds than they can effectively use. In the spirit of effective altruism, GiveWell instead recommends a list of alternate organizations that can fulfill similar goals far more efficiently.

Considering Effective Altruism

Effective altruism, as well as philosophically-related organizations like GiveWell, are not without critics. Some, particularly those involved with more traditional models of charity and activism, argue that effective altruism puts too many limits on an individual’s ability to donate however they choose. But, such criticisms notwithstanding, effective altruism offers a fresh perspective on how to approach pressing issues like global poverty.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Wikimedia

Mesut Özil’s Charity WorkMesut Özil is one of the world’s wealthiest soccer players. In addition, Mesut Özil’s charity work has related strongly to his athletic efforts. He previously played for Arenal London and recently joined the Turkish club Fenerbahce Istanbul. Arsenal London declared a 12.5% pay cut for its players and manager Mikel Arteta due to the pandemic. However, Özil rejected this cut. As a result, he created discrepancies between him and the club and Özil no longer underwent selection for games. While Özil received some criticism from online communities, many fans continued to support him because he donates significantly to charities.

Özil Recognizes His Privileged Position

Mesut Özil was born in Germany as the fourth child of Turkish immigrants. Özil’s family struggled financially throughout his entire childhood and his mother had to take on several different cleaning jobs to make ends meet. As a result, Özil recognized his incredibly privileged position as a successful soccer player. He is extremely compassionate toward impoverished communities. Thus, Özil has been giving back to those who desperately need aid.

Supporting Impoverished Communities

Özil’s salary at Arsenal London was an estimated $25 million a year in 2013. Thus, the 12.5% cut would have decreased his salary by about $3.2 million a year. Additionally, the club and its billionaire owner Stan Kroenke would gain his loss. Furthermore, Özil and other players were doubtful that their pay cuts would actually aid staff members. Özil stated that he was even willing to give up more of his salary if the club could prove it was necessary. In the end, he decided to increase his charity work instead.

Mesut Özil’s Charity Work

Özil’s refusal to accept the pay cut placed him in the center of media attention in 2020. However, many have known him for his incredibly generous nature for a long time. For example, Özil donated his prize money of $329,000 after winning the World Cup in 2014. He donated to the BigShoe project and financed vital surgeries for 23 children in Brazil. Additionally, Özil and his wife donated to 16 refugee camps in Turkey and Syria after their wedding. Their contribution provided food to about 100,000 people. Furthermore, the couple funded important surgeries for about 1,000 children around the world.

The Way Özil Spent the Money he Refused to Give Up

Özil donated money to support people in need all across the globe after rejecting Arsenal’s pay cut. Homeless shelters and schools in North London received nutritious food in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, he increased his financial contributions to the BigShoe project to provide children with much-needed surgeries. He also donated $111,542 to the Turkish Red Crescent in May 2020. The money went toward feeding families in Turkey and Syria during Ramadan. Mesut Özil’s charity work also introduced a new range of footwear and donated all of the money that the footwear earned. It granted children in Italy access to digital education materials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fans and the media continue to criticize Özil’s refusal of the pay cut. Many consider the money he donated to impoverished communities to be more important than giving it back to Arsenal. However, Özil’s charity work has had an undeniable positive impact on many people’s lives.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

Awareness Around Global Poverty Helps
Raising awareness is a key strategy of ending global poverty. Raising awareness around global poverty helps bring people together who share the goal of eliminating global poverty. There are several factors to consider when channeling awareness. Public interest and celebrity involvement can play a factor in successful events involving raising awareness.

Social Media

Social media is an effective method many nonprofits use to help raise awareness about global poverty. A U.S. study revealed that 47% of those surveyed were able to learn about important causes such as global poverty via social media. Moreover, it showed that 15% gained an awareness of issues relating to ending poverty through social media. Additionally, social media compelled 56% of its consumers to contribute to missions relating to global poverty eradication. The study showed that 59% of people who engaged with a post donated money, while about 53% acted by volunteering, 52% donated items such as clothing or food, 43% became involved in an event for the cause and about 40% purchased a product that supported the cause monetarily.

More than half of all Facebook users have said that they support a charity or cause pertaining to ending global poverty so that their friends can see their support. Also, those engaging in fundraising efforts have seen results up to 10 times greater when incorporating Twitter. While the numbers show how effective using social media to raise awareness can be, it is important that nonprofits strategically approach issues and carefully consider target audiences.

International Focus Days

Days like Giving Tuesday are often effective in raising awareness and donations pertaining to global issues. Donations on Giving Tuesday have grown by more than $360 million from 2012 to 2018. Facebook and PayPal match millions of dollars in donations in honor of the day.

The United Nations raised awareness on the issues of global poverty by marking October 17, 2020, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It used the day to raise awareness of how those living in poverty suffer and what others can do to make a differente. The U.N. used #Endpoverty to raise awareness and educate the public about global poverty. The U.N. recognizes and promotes many international focus days throughout the year which raises awareness on issues that those living in extreme poverty face. These international focus days include World Tuberculosis Day and World Refugee Day.

The Make Poverty History Campaign

The involvement of celebrities in various initiatives often attracts attention, aiding in raising awareness about global poverty. In 2005, the world stood together for the Make Poverty History campaign, a global campaign with the aim of addressing major issues that those living in extreme poverty face. More than 40 celebrities endorsed the event and rallied their fans’ support. Among those celebrities were Pink, Nelson Mandela, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Celebrities held rallies and performed concerts to help raise awareness. Their endorsements initiated action.

Informing World Leaders

The efforts focused on bringing the issues of poverty to the attention of world leaders. The objective was to encourage them to take action. In the 10 years following the Make Poverty History campaign, aid to Africa increased by more than 60%. In fact, European aid to impoverished countries increased by 48%. This aid led to 36 targeted countries wiping out more than $90 billion in debt for their citizens, HIV cases dropping by 33% in targeted parts of Africa, malaria reducing deaths by more than 50% in Africa and polio reducing cases to less than 500 globally by 2013. Additionally, more than 30 million African children started school, whereas poverty previously affected their enrollment.

How Awareness Around Global Poverty Helps

While there is evidence that shows the effectiveness of raising awareness, there are those that argue the effectiveness. In an article entitled “Stop Raising Awareness Already” by Ann Christiano and Annie Niemand, the writers caution about the dangers of raising awareness and that it can have the opposite of the desired effect causing people to disregard the message if it does not receive proper execution and result in action. While proper execution of raising awareness is crucial to action, no action can occur without awareness.

Again, raising awareness around global poverty helps bring communities together to help create change on issues. Awareness can bring enthusiasm to people and help them feel inspired to create change or act. While awareness alone cannot end global poverty, it is a crucial and effective first step.

– Carolyn Lyrenmann
Photo: Flickr

Lentil as AnythingRecently, The Borgen Project spoke with Emilie Elzvik. She is a 21-year-old student at Northeastern University and former volunteer at Lentil as Anything. Elzvik never imagined herself serving gourmet vegan meals to a table filled with backpackers, refugees and homeless people in Newtown, Australia. But Lentil as Anything changed everything for her.

The Company

Lentil as Anything embodies a rare business model. The menu does not have any set prices. Everyone is welcome to “pay as they feel,” either through a financial donation or volunteering their skills. The founder, Shanaka Fernando, was born in Sri Lanka before becoming a restauranteur and world traveler. In 2000, Fernando began the first Lentil as Anything in St. Kilda to provide a space for local communities to come together and share a meal “disregarding any existing economic and social barriers.”

At the time, Fernando’s concept was a wild idea. Twenty years later, and it has become a booming success. The restaurant chain now claims four restaurants around Australia. Additionally, Lentil as Anything provides over 1000 free meals a week to those people most in need.

Elzvik’s Story

Elzvik began working for Lentil as Anything when she was studying abroad for a semester. “It’s like every hippie’s dream cafe, except customers are not just wealthy teenagers. They are from various socio-economic backgrounds. Some live on the street outside. Some are just traveling through.”

Elzvik points out that many of the volunteers were once customers themselves. “When they can’t pay, they offer their time,” said Elzvik. Lentil as Anything provides just as many employment opportunities as they do meals. Elzvik comments, “I think many people come to volunteer because it gives them a sense of purpose.”

According to Elzvik, there is no such thing as a boring day at Lentil as Anything. “It is no gloomy soup kitchen,” she states. Spices like nutmeg and cinnamon waft through the kitchen. Volunteers twist lemons and grate ginger. Servers dance around the floor, jotting orders down on their notepad. It is always noisy inside; laughter bounces across the walls. On some late nights, there is yoga or an open-mic night in the upstairs space.

So how exactly does this seemingly utopian cafe operate?

Sustainable Food Sourcing

Elvzik recalls that the kitchen being full of “bruised apples” and “funky looking eggplants” that would get thrown out by most restaurants or stores. “Lentil as Anything takes them and turns them into something beautiful,” says Elzvik.

The Department of Agriculture in Australia reports that food waste costs the economy around $20 billion each year. That amounts to about 300kg per person or one in five bags of groceries.

To stock their kitchen, Lentil as Anything takes in the unwanted leftovers from nearby stores. The chain stands by it’s all-vegan menu. The diet is both inclusive and nutrient rich. Elzvik mentions that many visitors would not be able to afford something as “dense and hearty” as a Lentil as Anything meal. Fast food is typically the most affordable option and Lentil as Anything aims to change that.

Volunteership

The restaurant relies heavily on volunteer servers and cooks, like Elzvik.  CNBC reports that around 60% of new restaurants fail within the first year. By a restaurant’s fifth year, that rate jumps
to 80%.

Lentil as Anything is not an exception. The restaurant can’t stay afloat on its own. The Daily Telegraph reports that “it costs Lentil as Anything up to $23,000 a week to keep their doors open – and customer contributions do not come close to covering costs.”

Before coming to Lentil as Anything, Elzvik had no prior customer service experience. She says that volunteering at the restaurant requires no experience at all. Volunteers attend an orientation and receive the necessary training. “What you learn at Lentil can be applied to any future job, especially working with people in a busy environment,” states Elzvik.

Location Matters

Restaurants like Lentil as Anything might not work anywhere. “You need the perfect equilibrium,” claims Elzvik. She explains that in order for this business model to work there has to be enough people donating above the requirement to cover those who cannot afford it.

One of Lentil as Anything’s strategic locations is Newton in Sydney. Newtown is a diverse neighborhood, socially and economically. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that 67% of the Newtown population works full time, 24% part-time and only about 10% identify as unemployed for away from work.

Looking forward

Like many businesses, the pandemic hit Lentil as Anything deeply. On September 25, the restaurant reached out to their social media followers and asked for help to keep Lentil alive.

Lentil as Anything is facing its most significant financial challenge to date. The restaurant is working to raise $300,000 by the end of October. If they don’t reach their goal, they may face closing their doors forever. Donations can be made through their GoFundMe campaign.

The restaurant’s motto is that everyone deserves a seat at the table. Hopefully, Lentil as Anything can serve as a successful business model for many restaurants around the world to address food insecurities.

Miska Salemann
Photo: Unsplash

Child Poverty in China
‘Ice boy’ brought pity and awe when he first appeared in a viral photo back in January 2018 with his hair completely frozen and his cheeks intensely red, having walked an hour to school in freezing temperatures. The viral photo was just a glimpse into child poverty in China, a major ongoing issue. Wang Fuman, then 8, lived in extreme poverty with his sister, father, uncle and grandmother in the Yunnan province for his entire life. One can see an inside look at their dilapidated hut in an interview with the South China Morning Post, showing barely any furniture, a leaking roof during precipitation and limited supplies of food.

Where Fuman is Today

Fuman, now 10, is currently living in a new home thanks to the efforts of foreigners sending cash donations, heating items and much-needed supplies to the struggling family. One particular family involved in this effort is his new American friends from California. Carolyn Miller and her family took action to help the family after hearing about its news. They have since frequently connected with Fuman and his family through phone calls and belated birthday presents, promoting cross-cultural relations and understanding in the process.

However, the inevitable truth still remains: there are 96 million more ‘Ice Boys,’ girls and adults living in poverty in China according to the UNICEF PPP $3.20 data, and most of them lie in the western half.

Child Poverty in Eastern Versus Western China

The eastern half is where the vast majority of people reside as it bears more habitable conditions. The western half juxtaposes this as its population is scattered throughout the many inhospitable mountains and desert areas. This results in the majority of child poverty in China being located in the western half while the eastern half is home to financial hubs like Shanghai, Shengzhen and Guangzhou.

Mass Migration

For people like Fuman who live in the Yunnan Province and for the other people who live in remote areas in provinces of the western half, a lack of opportunity causes mass migration from small villages where former rural villagers come into cities in droves. Many of these remote, small villages end up losing millions of people, leaving the villages as shells of their former selves. According to CNBC, in 2000, China had 3.7 million villages based on research by Tianjin University. That number dropped to 2.6 million, a loss of about 300 villages a day, by 2010. Usually, only one to three families remain in these small villages. In some cases, the villages become completely deserted. This leaves the villages with immense labor deficits, which impacts those without the means to migrate, just like in Fuman’s case. These villages that once comprised of numerous jobs like teachers, construction workers, retail workers and others are all gone, leaving those who stayed behind to resort to subsistence farming as their only means of survival. This is why children like Fuman have to travel long distances and often in harsh, icy cold conditions just to go to school, which was what sparked Fuman’s ‘Ice Boy’ viral photo in the first place.

Despite these facts, Fuman and others remain optimistic about the steady progress that is occurring. People like Miller and her family do a great service to make life easier for families like Fuman’s. Raising awareness is integral to extending help to more people like Fuman, as it brings an increase in attention to child poverty in China. People are noticing more and more children in extreme poverty through similar viral posts and videos, attracting an increase in donations and aid for children in those circumstances. Fuman’s story shows that simply donating cash relief aid and basic supplies can indeed make a difference for child poverty in China.

– Justin Chan
Photo: Flickr

KPOP
BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys, is a Korean boy band consisting of 7 members. Their style of music, popularly known as KPOP, or Korean Pop music has taken off. Debuting in 2013, BTS immediately gained a faithful and dedicated fanbase that they call ARMY. As BTS grew in popularity, their acts of charity became more frequent. With their popularity and influence,  ARMY soon followed in the KPOP group’s philanthropic footsteps.

Hope Delivery Food Bank

In South Korea, nearly 50% of the elderly population is living in poverty. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that in 2015, 45.7% of South Koreans over the age of 65 lived in poverty. There is also a large number of children lacking necessities. Poverty and Social Exclusion reported that 13.5% of children in South Korea are living in poverty. To combat these numbers and give back to the community, BTS teamed up with Hope Delivery — a program under Love Food Bank that works to help the elderly and children in poverty by delivering food for them.

Jimin’s Busan School Donation

In April 2019, it was revealed that Jimin, a member of BTS, made a large donation to Busan’s office of education. Notably, the donation of 100 million won equates to about $84,000. Jimin has also made other generous donations. For example, he also donated to his alma mater, Busan High School of Arts, in February 2020. With his donation, he was able to provide 1,200 students with new desks and chairs.

Jin’s UNICEF Honors Club

In 2019, it was announced by UNICEF Korea that Jin became a member of UNICEF Honors Club. Jin had become a member by donating more than 100 million won. He had begun secretly donating in May 2018 and revealed he became a member of the UNICEF Honors Club to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

Suga’s Hope Bridge Korea Disaster Relief Association

To fight the spread of COVID-19, Suga decided to donate 100 million won to the Hope Bridge Korea Disaster Relief Association. Suga initiated this donation after the cancellation of BTS’s tour, Map of the Soul. Many fans and would-be concert goers drew inspiration from Suga’s donation and followed suit. The outpour of donations from ARMY accumulated about 400 million won over a weekend in March 2020. Fans’ total donation amount may be much higher since not every donation went under BTS or ARMY.

J-Hope’s ChildFund Korea’s Green Noble Club

During August 2020, it was revealed that J-Hope, a member of ChildFund Korea’s Green Noble Club, donated 100 million won. The donation helped vulnerable children, especially those who are facing financial insecurities due to COVID-19. McKinsey & Company conducted a report revolving around the financial impact of COVID-19 on Asian countries. When focusing on the decrease in income in households, the report reveals that South Koreans have great concern. With this level of concern, J-Hope’s donation is likely to alleviate the stress among households.

ARMY Singapore Foodbank Charity

In honor of BTS’s 6th anniversary, fans have come together to do acts of charity. A Twitter handle by the name @btsborahaeteam had revealed on March 6, 2019, that a donation project has been formed. The purpose of the donation was to raise funds through Food Bank SG and distribute it to different charities and food kitchens in Singapore. On June 7, 2019, the fundraiser came to an end and more than $2,000 was raised. With the money raised, people put together 136 bundles of food and distributed it in Bedok North. In the name of KPOP and BTS, ARMY has come together and made a significant, financial impact.

Ashleigh Jimenez
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Guatemala
September 1, 2020, brought joy to citizens of Guatemala City as nearby schools finally received a long-awaited donation from the company, Amazon. Through coordinated efforts with Guatemala Minister of Education Claudia Ruíz Casasola, Amazon donated cooking supplies which will be dispersed among 500 schools surrounding Guatemala City. These schools are located in the Dry Corridor, an area that has suffered from food insecurity due to dramatic flooding followed by months of drought. Amazon’s donation to these 500 schools will perhaps assist 100,000 students currently battling food insecurity in Guatemala.

Amazon’s Partnership with the World Food Program (WFP) USA

Amazon is a partner of the World Food Program USA (WFP), an organization dedicated to fighting global hunger and famine. The organization has had quite a year, providing meals for 138 million people. They even raised $1 million in 10 days for those suffering the results of the explosion in Beirut. This partnership has allowed WFP to continue its efforts in supporting the Guatemalan government’s school feeding program while combating global hunger as a whole.

Amazon’s Partnership with the United Parcel Service (UPS)

This donation was long-awaited, as Amazon delivered the initial shipment back in February of 2020. Concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and international shipping delayed the distribution of the donation until now. Therefore, making this a moment of excitement and gratitude. However, the shipment of this donation was made possible through the generosity of the United Parcel Service (UPS). UPS covered the cost of the shipment of Amazon’s donation to the schools in Guatemala, contributing to the support of the WFP as it navigates the global challenges of the pandemic. The donations expect utilization in January when many public schools plan on welcoming back students.

The outcomes of this donation are plentiful, as food insecurity is a major threat to the children in Guatemala. This year’s cropping season produced Guatemala’s worst crop yield in 35 years due to excessive drought. Moreover, Guatemala faces the highest level of malnutrition in Latin America. As a result, many school-aged children face stunted growth and the pandemic contributed to a total of 1.2 million citizens, already in need of food assistance.

Through the generosity of Amazon and UPS, items such as bowls, blenders and pans will arrive in schools to prepare breakfasts and lunches for students facing food insecurity. By battling food insecurity  in Guatemala and malnutrition in schools, the government can work to make sure students are receiving their necessary nutrient intakes. In parallel, this does not place financial stress on families to provide daily meals for their children.

Mission Guatemala

The Guatemalan government’s school feeding program, in addition to other initiatives, such as Mission Guatemala, has the goal of ending any deaths relating to hunger across the country. Large organizations like the WFP, along with major businesses like Amazon and UPS have the potential to assist in the fight against global hunger in countries like Guatemala. Amazon and UPS have set a positive example with this donation. In this way, they bring awareness to the food crisis that exists in countries outside of the U.S. Due to the companies’ global influence, other major brands may follow suit. Potentially, making donations and partnering with organizations that work to assist others.

The WFP USA also accepts donations and the opportunity to begin fundraising through their website. Advocacy is essential, and any individual contribution can assist those battling hunger, as seen by the generosity of both Amazon and UPS.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Online Charitable Donation PlatformThe AmazonSmile Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization created by Amazon to administer the AmazonSmile program. This program allows customers to enjoy the same Amazon online shopping experience as the traditional Amazon online shopping platform, but now with the option of donating 0.5% of eligible purchases to various charitable organizations. The AmazonSmile program charges no additional cost to either the charitable organization or the customer. The new foundation from Amazon or rather, the online, charitable donation platform, represents a positive, philanthropic step forward for the company. This initiative has the potential to reach millions of Amazon users and hopefully, even more of the world’s poor will benefit.

How it Works

Signing up for AmazonSmile is a highly intuitive process for customers. It is available on any web browser under the URL: smile.amazon.com and it can even be activated from the Amazon shopping application. One of the program’s main features is that customers can choose the specific nonprofit to which they want to donate. Moreover, the online, charitable donation platform offers more than 1 million charitable organizations to choose from.

The charities included in the program must pass an approval process to guarantee that the customers’ donations only fund reputable organizations. Organizations hold valid registry and remain in solid standing with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) (also known as a registered nonprofit). Only then are charitable organizations eligible to register on AmazonSmile. Additionally, foundations must be public and located in either the U.S. or Washington D.C.

Yet, after all of this information, an important question remains — why are some Amazon customers hesitant to use this program when shopping?

The Problems with AmazonSmile

Enabling AmazonSmile seems like a simple way to help others. However, the program has already received some criticism. Since the donation is only 0.5% of a customer’s eligible purchase order, a customer would have to spend $5,000 on Amazon to donate just $25 to the organization of their choice. When taking a closer look at consumer spending, it is clear that this purchase-to-donation ratio is not necessarily skewed in favor of Amazon’s online charitable donation platform (and thus, the charities). For example, in 2018 Amazon Prime members only spent an average of $1,400 on purchase orders. Moreover, the purchase order value (on average) for consumers who were not Amazon Prime members was even less, at $600.

In 2015, the AmazonSmile Foundation donated just less than $13 million to charitable organizations. Although this figure undoubtedly represents a substantial amount of money, the fact remains that the company’s contribution was still less than 0.5% of Amazon’s total retail sales for that same year. The program donated about 0.00012% of Amazon’s total retail sales in 2015. Given Amazon’s extreme level of success, many people criticize the program for its minuscule donations (in proportion to the company’s total retail sales).

A Silver Lining

Regardless of its flaws, the AmazonSmile Foundation holds the potential to provide a simple way to substantially give back to charitable organizations. For those who want to make small contributions, often — transitioning to AmazonSmile is an effective way to accomplish philanthropic, retail goals while making a positive impact in the fight against world poverty.

Danielle Wallman
Photo: Google Images

Poverty eradication in ItalyMany programs are working toward innovations in poverty eradication in Italy. These programs include an income program instated by the government, a fuel poverty program partnership between two companies and charities that provide assistance to the needy. Here are four facts about innovations in poverty eradication in Italy:

4 Facts About Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Italy

  1. Italy’s welfare program: In 2019, Italy introduced a €7 billion income welfare program to help reduce poverty. As of 2018, 5.1 million people in Italy lived in poverty. This program targets those people, as well as Italian citizens, EU citizens and legal residents living in Italy for 10 years or more. Households whose annual income is equal to or below €9,360 are eligible. Those eligible receive €780 a month, which can help pay for essentials such as grocery, rent and utilities. In the program, individuals who are able-bodied are also required to sign up for job placement and training programs. Employers who hire individuals taking part in the program receive financial incentives.
  2. Reducing fuel poverty: Fuel poverty is present in Italy, but so are programs to help tackle it. Fuel poverty is defined by the European Energy Poverty Observatory as “the inability to keep the home adequately warm at an affordable cost.” This affects more than 3.9 million Italians per year. A U.K.-based company called PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partnered with an international organization, Ashoka, to reduce low-income families living in fuel poverty in Italy. The project relies on social innovators and entrepreneurs to find novel methods of tackling fuel poverty and reducing it in Italy.
  3. Food stamps: Italian programs for food assistance are giving out free meals and food stamps. Particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, many Italians are facing unemployment, and about one million are in need of food assistance. Programs such as the Ronda della Solidarieta charity, which offers free dinners twice a week in Rome to those in need, and the Nona Roma association, which drops off boxes filled with food necessities to low-income Roman families, are helping reduce the amount of people who go hungry. In 2020, the prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, delegated €400 million for food stamps.
  4. Charities: Charities for the homeless and low-income are attempting to provide resources such as food and health items to those in need. The COVID-19 crisis can be especially difficult for homeless Italians, as closed restaurants and bars provide less access for them to wash their hands. Similarly, it can be difficult to obtain food while social distancing, and homeless people are sometimes stopped by the police for not abiding by quarantine laws. The Community for St. Egidio is a charity that keeps their soup kitchen open, and they distribute 2,500 meals per week. They are also seeking donations for face masks, hand sanitizers and food. 

There is still a long way to go in eradicating poverty in Italy, and COVID-19 may worsen the plight of low-income families in Italy. However, it is still important to note these programs as they help families in need and create innovations in poverty eradication in Italy.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

Tzedakah
“Tzedakah” (pronounced suh-dack-uh) is the Hebrew word for “righteousness” or “justice.” The word relates to “tzaddik,” the name for a righteous Chasidic spiritual leader. Both words come from the Hebrew root word “tzedek,” meaning justice. Tzedakah is an ethical obligation that the Torah mandates, also known as a “mitzvah,” or law. Many Jews give tzedakah before Shabbat (the sabbath) and festivals (such as Purim and Shavuot). Its intention is to show the Jewish people’s determination to improve the world.

What Does it Mean to Do Tzedakah?

Though many Jews typically perform tzedakah by giving money, many Jews do volunteer work to pay their dues. Examples include volunteering at a soup kitchen, participating as a school field trip chaperone or visiting the elderly or sick. The Jewish sages of the Mishnah taught that every Jew has something to contribute, whether it be money, time or attention.

Jews who give money for tzedakah usually give it to organizations that help the poor, Jewish institutions and charities, humanitarian causes or Torah schools. The Shulchan Aruch (a legal code in Orthodox Judaism) gives some guidelines as to where donated money should go to first. For example, a Jew with a struggling family member should give money to them before they give it to an organization outside the family. Similarly, local charities and organizations take priority over ones that are farther away.

Many Jews give tzedakah in multiples of 18 because the Hebrew word “chai” (pronounced hai), meaning “life,” has a numerical value of 18. For example, one may give $18 to a Torah school or $360 to a local Jewish organization. Alternatively, they may volunteer at a school field trip for 540 minutes (9 hours).

The Pushke (Tzedakah Box)

Before the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples in 586 BC and 70 AD respectively, there was a designated chamber where people could deposit donation money in a box. Poor people would then enter the temple in a respectful manner and receive the money that people had left for them. The tradition of a tzedakah box persists in many Jewish homes today. Only now, instead of poor people entering strangers’ homes and taking the money themselves, Jews simply go to the charities they wish to support and drop off money there.

Jewish Charities Associated with Tzedakah

The following organizations are specifically Jewish or Israel-focused. Not all Jews donate to these charities, and there are many who donate to organizations that have nothing to do with Judaism. They also commonly give donations to schools, synagogues and halfway houses.

  • ALEH (founded in 2003) is an organization that has an association with Aleh Negev in Israel, a village that gives rehabilitation, medical care and education to disabled Israelis.
  • Yad Sarah in New York primarily gives home and healthcare services to the elderly and the disabled.
  • The LIBI Fund (founded in 1980) combines a body of donations to helps fund Israeli Defense Forces.
  • American Friends of Magen David Adom (founded in 1940) helps American Jews donate to Israel’s national emergency medical service.
  • Regional Bikur Cholim (founded in 2013) is a nonprofit organization from New York that gives food and care packages to people in need.
  • Yad Eliezer (founded in 1980) distributes care packages and food stamps to people living in poverty.

While not comprehensive, this list helps illustrate the many organizations that help Jews engage in tzedakah. Through these charitable contributions, Jewish people have the power to make significant progress in the fight against poverty in their communities and around the world.

Kia Wallace
Photo: Flickr