Latina-Powerhouses
For years entertainers have adopted a precious role in ridding away difficulties posed against those of the developing world. With such charitable responsibility, ten Latina powerhouses from an assortment of entertaining realms have quintessentially supported strategies that give back to many, albeit by endorsement or establishment of a personal foundation.

1) Cuban musician Gloria Estefan has been sincerely active in providing global health, especially helping those who suffer from paralysis-related illnesses. A paralysis-sufferer herself, the “Conga” songstress founded The Gloria Estefan Foundation in 1997 as a means to empower”the youth by financial support for good health, cultural development and education.

2) Mexican singer Thalía, known in American music markets for her Fat Joe-assisted “I Want You,” has been a charitable key in giving back to underprivileged women and children from Latin American countries. Her more familiar feat comes from participation as a spokeswoman and ambassador for global campaign March of Dimes, an initiative that educates and funds the developing Latin American world of hazardous premature births,

3) Puerto Rican-Cape Verdean hip-hop icon Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes not only served as a member of R&B trio TLC but has additionally held philanthropic ties with organizations alleviating AIDS, alongside giving back to international ones concerned with poverty. Lopes’ most profound advocate roles derived from her donative unit Lisa Lopes Foundation, an organization that provides shelter and necessities to developing Honduran sites.

4) Puerto Rican actress and choreographer Rosie Perez is undoubtedly synonymous with addressing health awareness statements, especially in concern to the discussion of HIV/AIDS. Expanding herself from an inner-city educator to a global spokesperson, the “In Loving Color” choreographer has been massively active in endorsing AIDS-related fundraisers and providing global education of the sexual disease by support of her role in the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), as appointed by President Barack Obama.

5) Honduran entertainer America Ferrera, best known for her televised title role as “Ugly Betty,” first explored her philanthropic skills when she participated with Aquafresh White Trays to provide immediate dental care to women in need. Since her “fresh mouth” spot, Ferrera has worked in conjunction with fellow celebrities in combating AIDS and cancer, and has more notably collaborated with programs like international “Save the Children” and Hispanic Heritage Foundation-associated “READ: Refugee Enrichment and Development” to enhance education for the impoverished; the former notably raising funds to build schools in Mali.

6) Mexican film starlet Salma Hayek has provided a passionate take on helping battered women of all ages around the world. Among her most high-profiled recognitions include her $75,000 donation to Mexican-operated charity units that minimize domestic hardships in northeastern regions of Mexico. Hayek has more notably co-founded CHIME for a Change and its Syrian-based initiative to improve lives like those hailing from the Middle East who have been displaced by brutal conflict.

7) Greatly known for her filming roles as Gail in “Sin City” and Chelsea Brown in the recent “Top Five,” Puerto Rican-Cuban actress Rosario Dawson has taken part in programs that enrich African lives for a socially- and domestically-healthy cause. From attending a 2005 United Nations conference to promote environmental preservation as a poverty eliminator, the “Men in Black II” co-star has been a frequent advocate for the global “V-Day campaign,” a movement that stops violence against women; moreover, Dawnson has launched several initiatives that embrace native Africans who specialize in fashion or design.

8) Renowned Mexican singer and former X-Factor judge Paulina Rubio has led a moderate philanthropic trail in shielding Latinos from sexual diseases like HIV/AIDS. Appointed as the then-newest “Madrina” for the Latino Commission on AIDS in 2007, the “Boys Will Be Boys” musician remains a vast component in initiating safe sex campaigns geared towards a Latino audience, not only from the Latino Commission, but also for accompanying international nonprofits like the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

9) Pop culturally known for her sexual-liberating role as Gabrielle of “Desperate Housewives,” Mexican starlet Eva Longoria has been regarded as among the top philanthropists, particularly for her vast achievements in giving back to a large number of communities. Longoria’s most known charitable causes generally include her involvement with Padres Contra El Cancer and Eva’s Heroes, the latter which improves developmentally challenged children. Further on, Longoria has provided global awareness with her Eva Longoria Fund (ELF), which supports children of any ethnic background who suffer from health-related problems.

10) Finally, the term humanitarian is not fully defined without the mentioning of famed Colombian singer Shakira, who has been featured as a spokeswoman for a number of foundations that give back in millions. The “Whenever, Wherever” artist’s very own organization, Barefoot Foundation, has created over five schools and implemented proper nutritional and educational access to over 30,000 native Colombian families since its launch in 2007.

With the help of these 10 gracious Latina “sheroes,” the developing world might just be a few steps closer in reaching the hopeful of everyone living stably, without financial or health concerns posing as deathly restraints.

– Jeff Varner

Sources: TreeHugger, BORGEN, esmas, PRNewswire 1, San Antonio Express-News, PRNewswire 2, Save the Children, USATODAY.com, California Community Foundation, Shape Magazine, TakePart, thuglifearmy.com, Los Angeles Times, VeroNews, BMI.com
Photo: Billboard

Digital_Revolution
Revolution. The word carries a tremendous amount of weight. From the Arab Spring to the American Revolution, from wars to ideas, countries rise and fall on the waves of revolutions. A new revolution is sweeping through Latin America: a digital revolution.

Latin America currently has about 232 million Internet users. This number is a sharp increase from the number of Internet users in 2005: 78.5 million. By 2017, Internet users could rise by 63 percent to 294 million.

In Mexico, Colima’s 600,000 residents have complete Internet access to all kinds of different state services and documents. The state has made health records electronic and crime reports can be filled out online, as well as filing documents for permits. To go along with this, Colima has hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots for those that do not have Internet at home.

Further to the south, Columbia and Peru are spreading broadband Internet to remote corners of the two countries. The Peruvian government is working to spread Wi-Fi to public buildings, including hospitals and schools in all of its 25 regions.

The Columbian government in Bogotá has subsidized the spread of fibre optic networks around the country to the point where nearly every town in the nation is connected. The government has also gotten rid of taxes on Smartphones, tablets and computers. Under-resourced families have been given vouchers for broadband access. In the last five years, Internet usage has increased from 16 percent to 50 percent.

The digital revolution is helping to improve education equality in Brazil. The state of Mato Grosso do Sul began a new free online program for high school students to help prepare them for a difficult national exam. Grades from the national exam dictate whether students can attend the federal universities. Students who used the service were 31 percent more likely to achieve grades high enough to enroll in the universities, and the system was so successful that 10 other states have implemented it.

Latin America is often cited as a relatively violent area of the world. Never fear, the digital revolution is helping to fix this too. Ecuador released a real-time data supplier for crime hotspots four years ago. Fast-forward to today and the homicide rate has been reduced by 48 percent, thanks to the system.

Tech start-ups have followed the digital revolution. Coupled with inspiration from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, new “technolatinas” are using the Internet in Latin America to create start-ups of their own. Some companies have used close ties with Silicon valley to register their companies in the U.S. Successful companies have the potential to bring outside investments, creating the potential for economic growth.

The spread of broadband Internet opens up “new frontiers for regional development. It can serve as a tool for reducing social and economic inequities.” However, it can also lead to more inequality. It can enable a select few to “hyper-develop,” leaving the rest in the dust. However, the risks outweigh the gains. With the potential for reduced crime, increased economic growth and a more equal education system it is little wonder the digital revolution is booming in Latin America.

Greg Baker

Sources: FT, Latin Post, ABCNews
Photo: Unitee

Pope Brings Strong Poverty Focus to Latin American Tour-TBP
Pope Francis has been entertaining a wide variety of topics on his current Latin American tour, but poverty has remained at the top of his list.

“Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farm workers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?” the Pope said in Spanish at a stop in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. “Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?”

The Pope’s focus on poverty rings especially true for many living in the countries he’s speaking in. In Ecuador, over 25% of the population lives below the poverty line; that number jumps all the way up to 60% in Bolivia.

According to the Vatican, the overarching theme of the Pope’s visits is to bring “the Church for the poor.” The Pope is reaching out to the poverty-stricken people and regions of his native South America.

“The human environment and the natural environment are degrading together, and we can’t adequately confront human and social degradation without paying attention to the underlying causes,” the Pope said at a stop in Quito, Ecuador. “In today’s world, among the most abandoned and abused poor, we find the most oppressed and damaged land.”

– Alexander Jones

Sources: Big News, CNN, Telesur
Photo: BBC

Family-Planning-Reduces-PovertyLatin America and the Caribbean provide valuable examples of how family planning can reduce poverty.

Family planning involves strategies to delay childbirth, space births over time and avoid unintended pregnancies. When women and men can control the size of their families, they are more likely to have the resources to support their children.

A recent report, “Family Planning in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Achievements of 50 Years,” shares many success stories of family planning research and programs in this region.

The current contraceptive prevalence rate in this region is 74%. This is one of the highest rates within the developing world. The rest of the world can learn from success in Latin America.

With the rise in contraception use, Latin America has seen an increase in educational participation, a decrease in the infant mortality rate and a more stable economic climate.

A few of the most effective strategies include the work of dynamic NGOs with new methods of family planning, financial and technical assistance from USAID, the development of local expertise, and availability and access to research data.

The family planning strategies developed from clinic-based efforts include direct delivery of contraceptives to community-based awareness efforts involving mass media.

The use of mass media to change cultural norms and attitudes proved to be an effective strategy. The use of radio and television helped increase awareness about family planning and strengthen support. Traditionally, families in the region had many children and did not use contraception. This put a strain on limited resources. For families to accept family planning methods, this required a change in belief about how families should be created and maintained.

In Mexico, popular singers, Tatiana and Johnny, recorded songs and produced music videos that supported responsible sex. For example, the song titled “Detente” or “Wait” in English, suggesting ideas to delay childbirths or wait to have sex.

While this region of the world has achieved great success and can serve as a model for areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, there is still work to be done. Adolescent fertility rates remain high, and young, rural women of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have access to family planning resources. There is a need for continued research and commitment to reach all people.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Carolina Population Center, Carolina Population Center 2
Photo: YouTube

Indigenous-People-In-Latin-America

As the world became increasingly globalized and populated, many companies struggled to keep up with the demand for their goods. When they came upon the abundance of resources and land that lay within the Amazon rainforest, those struggles seemed to melt away; however, this marked the beginning of many issues for the people living within this tropical wonderland.

The Amazon rainforest has one of the largest collections of plant and animal species in the entire world. There are countless organisms within its realm that have not even been discovered yet. However, many creatures, insects, flora and more will remain undiscovered and unknown to us because their habitats are being destroyed by large corporations clearing land for factories and plantations.

However, the flora and fauna are not the only ones in danger. Several of the indigenous tribes in the Amazon have lost their homes and sources of income and food. These individuals had learned to live off of the land sustainably and had carried on living this way for thousands of years, but are now left to find alternate methods of work and shelter with little to no time at all.

Since many of the indigenous people have gone most of their lives without a strong education, corporations are hiring them to work in the very factories for which their homes were destroyed. In these factories, workers receive meager wages and are forced to work in tough conditions; many report illnesses from the pesticides and chemicals used in the preparation of the goods that they are producing.

In most countries, the government could begin to take action against big companies coming in and destroying the environment. With the amazing profit that is being generated, however, it is no wonder that many Latin American governments are not taking the steps to prevent this movement. While this—working in factories located on land cleared in the Amazon rainforest—is the case for some, high concentrations of indigenous people can be found in urban areas. These individuals have come here to get work and perhaps to adapt themselves to a different way of life. Many of the indigenous people feel targeted as more and more laws are made to rip them from their land, forcing them into lives of submission. For many, this is not tolerable, and thus many guerrilla, anti-government militant factions gain support. However, some NGOs are ready to turn all of this around.

One NGO called Escuela Nueva is doing wonderful work to shift the focus of the classroom from the teachers to the students. This Colombian-based organization has expanded to include over 14 Latin American countries and strives to promote a new, innovative and interactive classroom style. This gives the children the feeling that they are in control of their own futures and provides them with a chance to rise up. Since 1993, several studies have shown that the techniques used in Escuela Nueva have raised grades and self-esteem, promoted gender equality and increased cooperation. This model has been recognized as one of the top education reforms in the world and has been implemented in several other developing countries.

It is hard to imagine a life without a home and without great promise of a future, but somewhere deep within the Amazon rainforest, hope is growing among a people who are not yet ready to give up.

– Sumita Tellakat

Sources: IR Online, IWGIA
Photo: Mexika Resistance

Taking Steps to Eliminate River Blindness
The Carter Center in Atlanta is working to make the eradication of river blindness a worldwide goal for the World Health Organization (WHO), as the WHO determines which diseases will appear on the world health agendas.

River blindness is caused by a parasite that is spread through the bites of black flies. The flies breed in and near fast flowing rivers, which is where the disease gets its name. The larvae of the parasite causes skin irritation, itching and a range of eye diseases, including blindness in the worst cases.

People in 36 countries are at risk for contracting river blindness. About 99% of the 17.7 million cases of larvae infection are from Africa. Nigeria is the most endemic country in Africa, with reportedly half of the world’s cases.

That is why Nigerian businessman Sir Emeka Offor gave the Carter Center $10 million to aid to eliminate river blindness in his home country. This is on top of the quarter million he donated several years back. This is a huge turning point in dealing with the disease.

The Carter Center has been working with the Nigerian Health Ministry for twenty years. The program uses community-based health education and administers the only drug that can treat river blindness, Mectizan. In fact, the company that makes Mectizan made a commitment to donate the drug until every case of river blindness is solved. The donation from Sir Offor means that the Carter Center can reach more people, especially those in difficult areas to reach. Coverage will increase, meaning that the Carter Center will be closer to reaching their goal of eliminating river blindness by 2020. In 2014, 7 million Nigerians were treated.

The Carter Center has already been successful in Latin America. Colombia was the first country to be declared free of river blindness in 2013, with Ecuador following  in 2014. Both Guatemala and Mexico are currently going through the verification process to be declared river blindness-free by the WHO. The only areas left to treat are hard-to-reach areas of the Amazon in Venezuela and Brazil.

If the Carter Center can prove with this latest donation that their program is successful in the most plagued country, Nigeria, on top of their success in Latin America, then the WHO will be more likely to join the movement and target river blindness as a disease to fight.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: AP News, Carter Center 1, Carter Center 2, Inside Philanthropy
Photo: GHIF

Organic_Farming
Over the past few years organic products have grown in popularity in mainstream America. It is now hip and cool to go organic. In the United States, the organic food industry is valued at about 27 billion dollars.

With the demand to have organic foods, some entrepreneurs have taken organic farming overseas to poverty stricken areas to provide the U.S. with many of our agricultural products. One such area is Latin America. The most common products imported from there are coffee, bananas and other fruits.

The majority of those who live in poverty in Latin America are the indigenous people. They tend to be the ones who own small farms and work the farms that produce the crops. Culturally and historically, these people have a close connection with their land, crops and the surrounding environment. Going organic is a agricultural practice they are willing to embrace because it maintains traditional methods.

By returning to the natural way to grow agriculture products, farms no longer pollute the environment with harsh chemicals and release excess carbon dioxide. Organic farming utilizes renewable sources of energy rather than fossil fuel dependent resources, for example. There is the hope that organic farming can help mitigate climate change effects that could possibly push people into poverty in the long run.

There is some doubt about how successful shifting to organic growing will be in helping raise people out of poverty. There is approximately a three-year window after switching methods  before prosperous results are seen. Many times small farmers have to take substantial loans to help pay. However, joining in on the organic campaign has proven to be very successful for Latin American organic farmers. One example is Mayorga Organics, which works with harvesting coffee beans.

Mayorga Organics works to develop opportunities for their farmers in this market. They give the resources needed to be successful, such as: education on organic markets, how to grow organic, advocacy for the protection of their farmers, as well as creating an environment of fair trade so that the farmers receive the full amount of money owed to them.

These organic corporations focus on the farmers and the their love of the land. They use sustainable and innovative methods that are increasing the yields of organic farming. With the help of these companies the small Latin American farmers can reach the organic markets. They have a source of income, one that they can live on without fear of slipping back into poverty.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: FAO, Mayorga Organics 1, Mayorga Organics 2, Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank,
Photo: Audley Travel

young_leaders_of_america
President Obama announces the launch of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, or YLAI—to foster business, social, technological, and entrepreneurial partnerships between youth in Latin America and the Caribbean and the United States—with the first round of participants beginning in 2016.

In a visit to Jamaica in April, President Obama has unveiled plans to increase opportunities for youth in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region through the YLAI fellowship, which allows young men and women from LAC countries that have vested interests in business, social entrepreneurship and technology development, to join with their counterparts in the United States. These partnerships will build the skills of the Western Hemisphere’s emerging youth population as well as providing them with opportunities that may not be available in their home countries.

ShareAmerica said, “The fellowship will develop the knowledge, skills, and networking capabilities of young leaders across the Western Hemisphere. Through the initiative, we will be able to significantly expand ties between the most promising entrepreneurs and civil society activists in Latin America and the Caribbean with their counterparts in the United States.”

According to The White House, the YLAI was designed particularly for the large youth population in the LAC region. Approximately 58 percent of the region’s population is under 35, and many LAC countries have a youth population of at least 70 percent. Unfortunately, many young people do not get to accomplish their dreams of becoming the next big entrepreneur or tech developer due to the prevalence of unemployment, limited access to jobs and education and poverty. These harsh realities often result in young people turning to illicit activities to produce income, which greatly reduces their chances of ever entering the workforce.

However, YLAI is working to address these issues by allowing a group of 250 ambitious young people to participate in a comprehensive program that will give them specialized training in their chosen field, either entrepreneurial or social/civil development. Similar to The Young Leaders of Africa Initiative launched in 2010, YLAI will also allow participants to connect to young people in the U.S with their same goals, and work to develop a stronger system of transnational ties.

The White House said, “The preponderance of the fellowships will take place at universities, incubators, and non-governmental organizations across the United States, while follow-on exchanges will send Americans to Latin America and the Caribbean to continue the collaboration. YLAI fellows will receive ongoing support through a continuum of networking, mentorship, and investment opportunities.”

YLAI fellows will begin their fellowships with a comprehensive six-week training as well as becoming fully immersed with a social or business organization that will provide mentoring and networking opportunities. The fellowship will conclude with a summit in Washington D.C, where participants will continue to build on the connections that they have made throughout the fellowship.

Seventy million dollars has been committed to the YLAI and a pilot program has already been launched that includes a total of 24 participants who were selected by U.S embassies. Though the status of participants is unknown, such programs as the YLAI demonstrate the growing need to invest in the youth population of the world, so that they may contribute to the emerging world market.

– Candice Hughes

Sources: Devex, Share America 1, Share America 2, White House,
Photo: Share America

 

 

Belo-Horizonte
Belo Horizonte, the third most populous metropolitan city in Brazil, is one of the most progressive actors in poverty reduction. Home to nearly 2.5 million, Belo Horizonte practices the Right to Food that perceives food as a human right rather than a commodity. Poverty rates have dropped dramatically in Belo Horizonte since policy makers enacted this act in 1993.

The Right to Food guarantees healthy and accessible food to all citizens in Belo Horizonte. Policy makers use systematic approach to effectively execute this law by implementing the following techniques:

  • Integrating logistics and supply chains of the food system
  • Tying local producers to consumers to reduce prices and increase food sovereignty
  • Utilizing government purchase to stimulate diversification of agricultural production and job creation
  • Implementing education about food security and good nutrition
  • Regulating markets on produce that guarantees the right to healthy, high-quality food

Certainly no policy goes without a financial cost—the Right to Food law calls for a 10 million dollar yearly budget. While seemingly large at first, this amounts to two percent of the overall budget of Belo Horizonte. Policy makers have established budgetary committees to foresee the maintenance of this budget in accordance with the economy. This novel distribution of funds has proven successful, largely due to the positive returns the Right to Food law has enabled in the job market.

The effects of the Right to Food law in Belo Horizonte are immeasurably positive for the future of poverty reduction. To ensure food distribution, Belo Horizonte implements affordable food stations that act as restaurants around the city. People of all walks of life, ranging from low-wage workers to businessmen, eat at these restaurants. This social integration eliminates the shame behind hunger and promotes a culture where everyone is deserving of food.

Poverty has reduced drastically in Belo Horizonte, Brazil since the Right to Food law passed in 1993. Benefits include:

  • Reduction of the child mortality rate by 60 percent
  • Reduction of child malnourishment under the age of 5 by 75 percent
  • Fruit and veg eatable intake increase by 25 percent

The Right to Food law is an award winning policy and serves as an inspirational example of how food redistribution saves lives. UNESCO named the Right to Food law, Best-Practice in 2003. The Right to Food law also received the Future Policy Award by the World Future Council in 2009.

Scholars regard Belo Horizonte as a progressive city in its utilization of existing resources. UN Special Rapporteur, Oliver de Schutter, reports: “I think we should use the example of Belo Horizonte as a lesson taught to us, food is not a commodity. It is a human right and it should be treated as such…”

Belo Horizonte did something the U.S. has yet to do, tackle poverty from a bottom-to-top approach. By recruiting the help of local farmers, Belo Horizonte helped the impoverished by teaching them ways to help themselves. Policy makers isolated the detrimental effects of competition in the market and eradicated them, thereby emphasizing the freedom in free markets.

The Right to Food serves as an example of the role democracy can play in helping the world’s poor.

– Tanya Kureishi

Sources: YES Magazine, FAO
Photo: Yes Magazine

How_Do_Remittances_Help_Poor_Communities
Immigrants come to work in the U.S. from around the world, particularly from Latin America and the Caribbean. A lot of foreign workers send money back to their families in their home countries and these remittances play an important role in alleviating poverty and helping poor communities develop.

The economies of developing countries in the western hemisphere are incredibly dependent on these remittance flows. Remittances to Haiti account for 25 percent of the country’s GDP. Remittances to Honduras account for nearly 20 percent and remittances to El Salvador account for more than 15 percent of GDP. Remittances to Guyana and Nicaragua also account for more than 15 percent of GDP.

These remittance flows serve as the primary source of income for many poor families in the region. They allow them to buy basic necessities such as food and clothing. Many families use the remittances to invest and better their lives. They use them to build a new house or to expand their business or start a new one. In many poor communities in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, the entire economy depends on these remittance flows. Remittances are used to finance all local investment and construction in many villages.

Around $60 billion worth of remittances are sent back to Latin America every year. More than one-fifth, around $12 billion, goes to Central America. This is four times more than the amount of development aid provided by the World Bank and foreign donors. It’s also three times more than the total amount of foreign direct investment in the region.

Since the economies of so many countries in the region depend so heavily on remittances, they are very intertwined with the U.S. economy. During the recession, the economic downturn spread through Central America, the Caribbean and parts of Mexico as remittance flows decreased. This had a major impact and resulted in several years of slow growth for many countries in Central America. Since the U.S. economy has recovered, remittance flows have increased and economies in the region have started growing again.

This highlights the importance that immigration plays in poverty reduction. These remittance flows create new jobs, infrastructure projects and opportunities for business expansion that are helping poor communities pull themselves out of poverty. This shows that a more open and structured immigration policy in the U.S. could potentially have a huge impact in the fight against global poverty.

– Matt Lesso 

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The World Bank, Americas Quarterly, Lonely Planet Guatemala
Photo: Flickr