NGO SAIIn Venezuela, many challenges persist, mainly political instability and hyperinflation. These issues have hurt most Venezuelans, resulting in many other challenges. Extreme poverty is common, affecting three out of every four citizens, and if citizens aren’t in extreme poverty, they are on the brink. Many daily struggles Venezuelans face include inadequate health care infrastructure, limited food access and economic instability.

Many products are scarce in the country, including necessities like essential medicines, clean water and affordable food. Approximately 76% of Venezuela’s population lives on $1.90 per day. This economic climate has led an estimated 5 million citizens to relocate.

The South American Initiative (SAI), a non-governmental organization (NGO), is doing much groundwork for the Venezuelan community. SAI’s mission is to help assist the country’s Venezuela’s vulnerable, including mothers, orphans, children, seniors and even dogs.

Addressing Health Care Challenges

SAI’s commitment to the Venezuelan people is to provide adequate health care. Over the past three months, SAI has provided more than 800 citizens with medical care through their free clinics. The services include specialized care in gynecology and obstetrics, EKGs, ultrasounds, nutrition counseling, regular monthly checkups and medicines. SAI’s mission to help the community continues as they have partnered with five orphanages since 2022. The orphanages receive their health care services, too. 

Alleviating Hunger

Unfortunately, many Venezuelans have to deal with hunger, particularly orphans and children. The Venezuelan government’s funding for children and orphans is shrinking due to hyperinflation and reallocation of funds. The NGO SAI has taken the initiative from November 2022 to February 2023 to provide food deliveries to orphanages. In those three months, they delivered 9,850 meals to children in need nationwide. These meals provide the nutritional requirements and assortment to meet daily dietary needs. Like food, SAI has also provided essential medicines and vitamins to boost children’s health. SAI’s adaptability remains vital as they have had challenges from the lockdowns and rising prices to deliver the meals. However, SAI has continued doing meal deliveries despite roadblocks.

Compassion for Canines

SAI’s mission extends not only to humans but also to animals’ lives. In the first quarter of this year, the organization distributed over 4,000 pounds of dog food at their SAI A&G Sanctuary, with an additional 1,000 pounds provided to neighboring shelters. The SAI A&G Sanctuary, in partnership with allied shelters, is on a mission to rescue malnourished, sick and abandoned dogs from the streets of Venezuela. These rescued dogs often arrive with parasites, malnutrition and other severe medical conditions. SAI provides many services for these dogs, such as food, clean water, vaccinations, spaying/neutering and medications. 

Venezuela is a country that needs hope, and the South American Initiative (SAI) provides it. Their commitment to alleviating the suffering of Venezuelans, both human and animal, offers relief for the population.

– Ariana Wauer
Photo: Unsplash

Moroccan EarthquakeIn a devastating event, the Marrakesh-Safi region was struck by a powerful earthquake on September 8, registering a magnitude between 6.8 and 6.9, with a depth of 11.5 miles. This disaster had far-reaching consequences as its path was left a wake of devastation.

The Earthquake and Its Consequences

The earthquake’s epicenter emerged amidst the High Atlas mountain range, 72 miles southwest of Marrakech, Morocco. This region had remained untouched by such a magnitude of an earthquake event for many years.

The human toll was staggering, with a death toll surpassing 2,900 and over 5,000 individuals suffering injuries. Al Haouz province took the brunt, witnessing approximately 60% of confirmed deaths. UNICEF reported that around 100,000 children were directly affected by the earthquake’s aftermath.

Within 20 minutes of the initial quake, an aftershock measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale worsened the distress and inflicted additional damage throughout the region.

The infrastructure bore the brunt of this seismic activity, as the quake tore at thousands of buildings and homes. Families were displaced and exposed to the harsh temperatures at night due to the time of year. Furthermore, the Moroccan earthquake wreaked havoc on educational institutions, medical facilities and schools, exacerbating the injured and displaced Moroccans.

Beyond the borders, neighboring countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Algeria felt tremors, the far-reaching impact of this catastrophe. The global community rallied in solidarity, offering aid and assistance to the earthquake’s victims and their families.


Notably, NGO JOOD, renowned for its continuous efforts in aiding the homeless and the less fortunate since 2015, stepped up. With a dedicated volunteer force of 5,000 individuals, JOOD had already aided the lives of over 60,000 people in Morocco before the earthquake.

In a heartening display of support, Youssef Bennani, an art collector specializing in renewable energy, took a proactive role. He orchestrated a special art auction in September 2023 to raise funds for the Moroccan earthquake victims. Recognizing the financial challenges often faced by NGOs, Bennani, alongside numerous Moroccan artists, generously contributed their artwork to this noble cause. The artists funneled every cent earned from the auction directly toward aiding the earthquake victims through JOOD.

While the earthquake inflicted severe suffering on the Marrakesh-Safi region, leading to loss of life, widespread injuries, and extensive infrastructure damage, the response from local and international communities has been beyond fruitful. Initiatives like Youssef Bennani’s art auction are beacons of hope for those affected.

Earthquake relief has been united in the region as many other NGOs and programs have had creative forms of raising awareness and funds. JOOD has served the Moroccan community for almost ten years and continues to do so in Morocco’s time of need.

– Ariana Wauer
Photo: Flickr

Ukrainian Refugees in SlovakiaAmid the Ukrainian war displacing millions of civilians, Slovakian NGO members are lining the border and providing necessary care to those left with nothing. Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia can find support from local NGO volunteers, smoothing their transition from war into an entirely new society.

As of May 2023, there are 5.1 million people displaced within Ukraine, and the U.N. recognizes 6.2 million Ukrainian refugees globally. War exacerbates human struggle — heartache and loss run rampant through Ukraine and surrounding states as people fight to survive; yet, one NGO based out of Slovakia continues to provide hope and healing. 

Background on Mareena’s Work

Mareena is an NGO and UNICEF partner that works to make Slovakia a welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds. Acceptance of diversity is (like in most countries) a looming issue in Slovakian society, and Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia are increasingly facing the consequences. 

Over half of Slovakian people view the influx of Ukrainian refugees as burdening Slovakian economics — a view Mareena wants to change. Public opinion surveys report that support for refugee help has slowly decreased as economic struggle continues globally. Yet, Mareena members are banding together to provide a better integration process for people migrating into Slovakia — specifically Ukrainian refugees. They aim to foster an environment that betters locals’ and immigrants’ health and well-being as collaboratively as possible.

More Challenges for Refugees in Slovakia

Of the million Ukrainians that have arrived at the Slovakian border seeking asylum, 100,000 have applied for refugee status in Slovakia. It is a slow process to bring about systemic change that will revitalize positive public opinion. However, NGO Mareena’s front-line action still makes a tangible impact on protecting the people. 

Refugees arriving at the border of another country can often face inhumane treatment, and NGOs like Mareena drive most of the kindness and support on the Slovakian border. Mareena partners with international organizations like UNICEF to advocate long-term help for Ukraine while working first-hand with the people needing immediate help. The Mareena volunteers — many of them women — offer safety and survival resources to refugees at the border, providing a safe and welcoming space amid hardship. 

The U.S. Embassy in Slovakia recognized the women banding together on the border during International Women’s Day, commending their bravery in providing medical assistance and helpful survival information to the refugees. Their recognition noted that one of the Mareena volunteers, Katarina, expressed to the U.S. Embassy in Slovakia that helping people in general, and especially in acculturating into Slovakia, is how she feels “helpful, fulfilled and useful.” 

Final Thoughts

War persists until humanity is stripped from the area. Those caught in the struggle are more often civilians than otherwise, and Mareena recognizes this challenge. With support from volunteers, some international partnerships and donations, Mareena can help provide educational, psychosocial and social inclusion support for Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia. 

Because of Mareena, there is a ray of hope for Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia who have to rebuild their lives from scratch.

– Eden Ambrovich
Photo: Pixabay

After a military takeover on February 1, 2021, Myanmar was thrown into a position that undid years of reforms and growth throughout the nation. The military in Myanmar overtook the democratically-elected governing body after its political party did poorly in an election held months earlier. The takeover exacerbated poverty and sparked a humanitarian crisis in Myanmar in 2022, with 40% of the country’s population living below the national poverty line. The conflicts are also expected to leave 2.7 million people in Myanmar displaced by the end of 2023.

In order to improve the struggling economy and humanitarian crisis, many global organizations and international partners have developed plans and initiatives to provide support for addressing poverty in Myanmar.

Difficulties in providing aid

In May 2023, Myanmar was hit by the powerful storm Cyclone Mocha, exacerbating the plight of the country’s most vulnerable populations. Unfortunately, restrictions imposed by the military have hindered the delivery of support to these affected groups. By June 2023, the U.N. had already sounded the alarm, suggesting that the military’s actions might be in violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws, as they seem to intentionally obstruct aid efforts.

As the country remains mired in conflict and devastation, recent estimates from the U.N. reveal that the military has been responsible for the destruction of around 60,000 civilian structures since the onset of the military takeover. Adding to the tragedy, the military’s actions have resulted in the deaths of at least 3,452 people and the imprisonment of over 20,000 individuals between the start of the takeover and April 2023.

Disturbingly, the U.N. issues a stern warning that if the impediments to humanitarian aid persist—blocking essentials like food, water and shelter—it could give rise to further war crimes, including instances of starvation and collective punishment.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

Despite the challenges, the United Nations Refugee Agency increased its presence throughout Myanmar in 2022. During the year, the UNHCR helped 325,200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return back to their place of origin in the Rakhine region of the country.

Additionally, the UNHCR provided in-kind support to 500,000 IDPs, shelter support to 100,000 and cash assistance to 51,500. The organization worked to bring this much-needed assistance with the help of partnerships with NGOs, civil societies and faith-based organizations.

The UNHCR also collaborated with other nearby nations such as Indonesia, to provide a safe place for refugees leaving Myanmar to find aid. In 2022, Indonesia accepted more than 700 refugees into the Aceh province.

In 2022, Bangladesh collaborated extensively with the UNHCR to modify refugee education programs to suit refugees from Myanmar. These educational initiatives have benefited more than 40,000 children who relocated to Bangladesh following the military takeover in Myanmar. Given that education is a well-established route out of poverty, ensuring the continuity of education for displaced individuals becomes paramount.

In 2023, UNHCR continued to work closely alongside Bangladesh to continue supporting more than 900,000 Myanmar refugees living in the country. UNHCR will provide production kits to support livelihood creation and skills building for 72,000 households and will continue increasing Myanmar education to an additional 12,280 pre-primary children.

Looking Ahead

Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis continues to persist. Thousands in the country remain displaced and live below the poverty line. However, organizations like the UN Refugee Agency have paired with partners to continue addressing poverty in Myanmar.

Tristan Weisenbach

Photo: Flickr

Nonprofit Organizations That Empower WomenThere are numerous international nonprofit organizations empowering women and girls around the world that are doing great work. They all focus on women and girls living in severe poverty who are experiencing barriers to their social and economic well-being. About 70% of all people living in poverty are women and girls. Cultural beliefs may restrict women’s access to basic education and other resources, which leads to profound economic inequality, financial illiteracy and financial dependency. Women around the world are also susceptible to experiencing high rates of sexual and gender-based violence including intimate partner or domestic violence. These experiences and the denial of basic rights contribute to the disempowerment of women. Here is some information about three nonprofit organizations that empower women and girls across the globe.

Women for Women International

Women for Women International serves poor and socially marginalized women in 14 conflict-affected countries. Some of these are Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Nigeria, Iraq and Rwanda. The organization’s broad goal is to support female survivors of war and conflict.

Women for Women International provides a 12-month program that invests in women’s skills and community rebuilding. The year-long program uses a “Gendered Graduation Approach,” which combines elements such as social protection, livelihood development and financial access.

Women for Women International is also empowering women by providing them with educational resources that they would otherwise not have exposure to. The program teaches new topics every two weeks, and these not only include traditional education like numeracy and literacy but also subjects that teach the value of women’s work, such as gender equality, women’s solidarity and networking, leadership, advocacy and health and wellness just to name a few. Educating women in financial literacy is also an essential pillar of the organization’s work. The program provides each participant with $10 per month over the course of 12 months; these cash transfers give women the important opportunity to be responsible for their own money. Upon graduating from the program, “79% more women reported being involved in household decisions about having more children, and 56% more reported being involved in financial decisions.”

Participants also report that their daily income more than doubled upon completion of the program, averaging $2 compared to $0.80 at the beginning of the year. Women for Women International also notes that the average savings for the women who participated increased from $13 to $88 by the end of the program.

The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF)

The Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF) is empowering women and girls of the Maasai community in Kenya. It works in Kajiado County, “where two-thirds of Kenya’s Maasai population lives” and “only 48% of Maasai girls are enrolled in school.” Only 5% of those who are enrolled in school make it to the secondary level. Maasai girls living in poverty tend to drop out due to financial constraints and detrimental cultural norms such as early/child marriage or the belief that girls do not need to receive an education. The Maasi Girls Education Fund’s broad goals are “to increase enrollment of Maasai girls in Kenya, reduce the dropout rate and support every student until they have the knowledge and skills to enter the workforce in Kenya.”

The organization directly helps Massai girls by providing scholarships from primary school all the way through the university level. It has a network of volunteers who locate young Maasai girls that may not be able to obtain an education otherwise, obtain their parent’s permission and helps them enroll in boarding school.

Providing girls with the opportunity to attend boarding schools removes the physical and cultural barriers that contribute to girls’ low educational attainment. It can also eliminate physical barriers that girls may have to attend school, such as long walks. Boarding schools also provide girls with the space to pursue their education without impeding cultural pressures like early marriage. Educational opportunities for women and girls also result in improved literacy, health and economic independence metrics.

The organization also provides life skills workshops dedicated to educating the Maasai community (girls, boys, mothers, chiefs and elders) about HIV, female genital mutilation and “the social structure that makes girls vulnerable to teen pregnancy.” The program demonstrates to the community the economic value and other benefits of educating girls. The aim is to instill an acceptance of girls’ education within the community. Since 2000, the organization has helped more than 250 Maasai girls receive primary to post-secondary education.

Women’s Global Empowerment Fund

Founded in 2007, the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund is helping those in northern Uganda living in poverty through its programs that have political, social and economic focuses. Its programs provide women in poor and rural areas with microcredit services, leadership development, health initiatives and basic business and literacy education. The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund partners with local on-the-ground organizations so that the communities and cultures inform the programs.

The organization’s Credit Plus program has helped provide thousands of loans to women who “would normally not have access to traditional banking and lending institutions.” This supports women’s economic empowerment by promoting small-scale entrepreneurship. Additional programs include a healthy periods initiative, a literacy program, agricultural loans and training, leadership development programs and other training initiatives. Its programs provide women in “post-conflict northern Uganda” with space for activism.

The literacy program provides participants with materials such as books and pens, and the program includes classes over the course of six months. The organization has claimed that as of 2016, more than 1,400 women have participated in its literacy program.

Each of these nonprofit organizations uplifting women emphasizes the importance of education in the pursuit of women’s social empowerment and economic independence. The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund states that “It is through information and education that self-esteem and empowerment are facilitated, enabling women to stand up and lead themselves out of the vicious cycle of poverty that is often presented before them.”

– Ashley Kim
Photo: Flickr

Tijuana’s Poor
Casas de Luz is an organization based in Solana Beach, California. It builds homes and community centers primarily in Tijuana, Mexico through the help of volunteers and donations. Volunteers stay overnight in the Mexican city during their two-day build period helping Tijuana’s poor. Building teams drive around in caravans to ensure they are safe.

Poverty in Tijuana

Tijuana is a city in the state of Baja California, Mexico. As of 2020, it had a population of around 2 million. There are an estimated 100,000 homeless people in Tijuana. Around 22% of the population live in moderate poverty and 1.84% live in extreme poverty. Around 3.3% of the population lacks access to water. These statistics give way to organizations like Casas de Luz to lend a helping hand to Tijuana’s poorer residents.

Although crime rates in Tijuana have decreased over the past five years, the city remains somewhat dangerous. It scores 72.22 on the crime index and 27.78 on the safety index. Ensuring that Tijuana’s poor have a home to sleep in at night leaves fewer people susceptible to criminals.

Casas de Luz’s Process

The only things volunteers need to do to be part of a building trip are signing a liability form, paying a builder fee and packing for the weekend. All the necessary building tools will be available on sight. The organization encourages volunteers to bring donations of furniture and any other household items for the family whose house they will be constructing.

Every week, volunteers cross the Mexican border and head to Tijuana, driving in a caravan. Drivers have to purchase Mexican liability insurance for the weekend. They first meet at the building site, where the foundation of the house already exists. Master carpenters guide and lead volunteers throughout the entire process. The family who will live in the house typically helps in construction. Children typically work on painting the walls before the builders put them up. The goal for the first day of construction is to have the roof attached in case of rain. As a personal touch, builders write well wishes hidden inside of a house’s walls.

When the building team finishes work for the day, they all drive to either Casa Hogar de los Niños, an orphanage that is empty during the weekends, or Faro de Luz, Casas de Luz’s community center. Casa Hogar has a security system and always has a security guard on duty. At Faro de Luz, a security guard will watch the cars the whole night.

People interested in building for Casas de Luz can sign up at their website. A $50 builder fee is necessary and covers any vital essentials throughout the weekend (including two lunches, a dinner and a breakfast).

Casas de Luz Achievements

Since Kathy Faller, Gersom Ayala and Amada Ayala founded Casas de Luz in 2005, the social justice action program has built more than 150 homes throughout San Diego County and Tijuana. They have also aided in constructing two community centers in Mexico, Faro de Luz (Lighthouse) and Peña de Horeb (Horeb’s Rock). Additionally, Casas de Luz has transferred and administers more than 900 truckloads of donations.

Faro de Luz serves as a church in addition to being a community center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, children have gone to Faro de Luz and attended classes through the community center’s TV. Casas de Luz’s Feed the Future program takes $5 donations that provide one week’s worth of lunches for one child.

At Peña de Horeb, another community center and church, children are eligible to receive breakfast five days a week, work on their homework after school and access food and water before their classes start. In 2013, builders added a kitchen and dining area to the center. In 2016, construction began on a two-story building containing four classrooms and a church with the help of Lazarian world homes.

Thanks to the number of donations Casas de Luz receives, Gerson and Amada Ayala no longer fund it solely. Communities have grown able to sustain themselves and Tijuana’s poor have significantly benefited from the program.

– Sophie Buibas
Photo: Flickr

NGOs in Turkey
Turkey has the largest refugee population in the world, hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and about 320,000 refugees from other countries. With mass amounts of people migrating to Turkey, there are several complications that must be accounted for, one being the issue of accessible education for those entering the country. Listed below are three NGOs in Turkey that have been helping refugees and local students access educational resources.

Darussafaka Society

Five young male scholars founded the Darussafaka Society in 1863 with the aim of providing quality education and resources to those in need. The Darussafaka Society provides scholarships and academic opportunities to children in need of financial aid or children who have lost a parent. Each year, 120 students receive opportunities from the Darussafaka Society. Its aim is to present equality of opportunity in education to its students, even though its students do not come from financially stable households. Darussafaka alumni have found successful careers in both the public and private sectors in Turkey. Many others have taken the opportunity to study and work abroad. As the Darussafaka Society boasts more than 155 years of experience, it is currently working to provide online learning options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including international programs, through a virtual format.

Turkish Educational Foundation

The Turkish Educational Foundation (TEF) is one of the oldest educational philanthropic NGOs in Turkey, as it has been in service for about 51 years. Unique to the other NGOs, TEF is based in Berkeley, CA, allowing it to have more international connections and resources than foundations solely based in Turkey. TEF’s primary objective is to provide accessible education to those in need regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Each year, TEF supports 1,000 Turkish students with their programs. It offers several unique programs for international volunteers including a Youth Group which works to fundraise and communicate their message, and an English Learning Program where students can learn from English-speaking volunteers from around the world. TEF is currently working with its Youth Group to maintain the program’s success throughout the COVID-19 pandemic via virtual fundraisers and events.

The Imece Initiative

The Imece Initiative, one of the most prominent NGOs in Turkey, has been working since 2014 to provide education services specifically to Syrian refugees in Turkey. One of the Imece Initiative’s primary beliefs is that education should not undergo distribution based on a child’s ethnic background, but that education should be accessible to everyone. “We wanted to create a community free of political and religious considerations,” stated founder Ali Güray Yalvaçlı. “To give the opportunity for anyone, regardless of their background, to contribute with their skills and time to help those in need.” One of its most notable projects is The Solar Age Project, which supports women refugees in Turkey by teaching them life skills that help them in finding employment once they undergo establishment in the country.

With organizations like these, it is easy to see that there are lots of opportunities for both refugee and native students in Turkey to receive the best education possible. Though it can be easy to lose oneself in the negative effects of poverty in the world, organizations like the ones introduced above provide hope for a better future of education for all.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in Vietnam
Like in many emerging economies around the world, women in Vietnam form the majority of the working poor, often earning less than men and having fewer high-income opportunities. In Vietnam, many disparities between men and women result from gender-based discrimination and the social acceptance of inequity. These can manifest in educational discrimination and pay discrimination.

Without equal resources and support, young girls lack the necessary skills and acceptance for their futures to move beyond vulnerable positions or “invisible” jobs such as homeworking and street vending. However, many organizations are working to promote equity for women in Vietnam, whether through government lobbying or independent support. Here are three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam.

The Asia Foundation

Working throughout the continent, The Asia Foundation has worked in Vietnam specifically for more than 25 years, partnering with local NGOs and governments to improve women’s livelihoods. This organization seeks to strengthen and improve women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and autonomy. It has advocated for more inclusive political atmospheres and worked to expand women’s rights. To expand women’s economic opportunities, it partnered with the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council to increase women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises.

With funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Asia Foundation facilitated a mobile banking platform aimed toward low-income populations in Vietnam. In 2017, The Asia Foundation provided 333 girls with secondary schooling scholarships, school supplies, books, uniforms and bicycles. Through its expansive and integrated approach to empowering women in Vietnam, The Asia Foundation provides the tools necessary to help create an equitable future for women and girls.

Women’s Empowerment and Voice (WEAV)

This organization is unique among the three as it consists of Vietnamese Americans, including general members and leadership. Members’ work focuses on the improvement and inclusion of impoverished girls and women in a complete education. By providing the opportunities necessary to complete a college education, WEAV enables the potential for higher-paying careers and a wider variety of employment options.

In Vietnam, “[o]nly boys can expect to be educated at the primary and secondary levels,” according to the organization.” As a result, this organization funds scholarships for girls needing financial support to stay in school. Women’s Empowerment and Voice supports more than 100 women attending four different colleges in the Mekong Delta. Since WEAV launched in 2011, it had its first college graduate in 2015.

Additionally, it continues to increase the number of scholarships with each passing year. Its dedication to uplifting women in poverty or in financial need supports women and their families, lifting overwhelming economic burdens. WEAV provides futures by breaking down barriers of discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages to empower women in Vietnam, allowing bright minds to shine.


In covering a wide variety of circumstances, CARE’s programs in Vietnam work to enhance women’s economic growth and prevent gender-based violence, including workplace sexual assault. Since its work in Vietnam began in 1989, eliminating gender-based discrimination and mapping strategies to eliminate poverty have helped underprivileged communities. A recent program that CARE formed called “Ignite” seeks to boost women-led entrepreneurship in Vietnam, placing these businesses at the forefront of their fields.

Despite the growth in women-owned businesses, numbers remain low and often unseen. Ignite hopes to improve visibility and support entrepreneurs in maintaining businesses. The program seeks to accelerate the growth of 50,000 enterprises and positively impact at least 340,000 entrepreneurs, of which at least 70% would be women. In order to stand against social norms disassociating women from business, CARE provides access to resources and support organizations ready to assist women, allowing for more equitable opportunities both within and outside of the workplace.

Looking Forward

Despite Vietnam’s economic growth and development over recent decades, social norms and financial inequality leave women with fewer opportunities and lower incomes than men. However, these three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam lay the groundwork for effective positive change.

With their support, women can hold more political autonomy and economic power, while other organizations and programs focus on alleviating financial burdens on families to allow girls a comprehensive education. As the Australian government partnered with The Asia Foundation, the United States and other economic powers have the opportunity to reflect such a partnership and increase funding toward poverty elimination and gender equity worldwide.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

health care in the drc

While the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is abundant with natural resources and a thriving ecosystem, decades of armed violence have left the nation impoverished. Currently, health care in the DRC suffers from understaffing and underfunding concerns. Moreover, it is only readily available in certain regions of the country. To better understand this issue, here are four facts about health care in the Congo.

  1. Health care exists in a pyramid structure. The DRC government, aided by several NGOs, funds and controls the public health care system in a four-level model. The first level of health care in the DRC is community health centers. These are open for basic treatment and utilizes nurses for care. The next level contains centers where general physicians practice. The third level pertains to regional hospitals, where citizens can receive more specialized treatment. The fourth and highest level is university hospitals. At all levels, appointments are needed to see physicians, and as they also only see clients on certain days of the week, wait times can be long. This prompts patients who require specialist treatment to often see community nurses instead. In addition, USAID currently provides health care services to more than 12 million people in almost 2,000 facilities.
  2. The country lacks health care workers. Health care in the DRC is limited. Statistically, there are only 0.28 doctors and 1.19 nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people. Furthermore, access to health care in the Congo’s rural regions is extremely low due to the remote state of many villages. The northern rural areas of the DRC hold less than 3.0% of the nation’s physicians while Brazzaville, the capital and the most heavily populated city, holds 66% of all physicians. This is despite the fact that the capital only holds 37% of the Congolese population.
  3. Health care funding in the DRC, though low, steadily rises. The government of the DRC has made noticeable progress in increasing funds for health care. Between 2016 and 2018, the proportion of the national budget dedicated to health care increased from 7% to 8.5%. While this increase in funding is life-changing for many, it still pales in comparison to the budgets of many other countries. The U.S. currently allocates 17.7% of its GDP toward health care. The DRC, however, is on an upward trajectory. It seeks to reach a target of 10% allocation of the national budget for health care by 2022.
  4. The DRC’s vaccination rates are improving. In 2018, the government of the DRC implemented The Emergency Plan for the Revitalization of Immunization. The plan aimed to vaccinate more than 200,000 children for life-threatening diseases in a year and a half. While the outbreak of COVID-19 in the nation has been a major setback to the plan, the Mashako Plan, as it is referred to, was responsible for a 50% rise in vaccinations since 2018. This rise occurred in “vulnerable areas” and brings countless more children immunity for potentially deadly diseases.

Despite a lack of health care workers and resources, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is making steady improvements to its health care system. Efforts to make vaccinations a priority and allocate more of the country’s budget to health care each year already yield results. Organizations such as USAID aid these improvements. The combination of NGOs and the government’s new emphasis on health care provide an optimistic outlook for the future of health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Caroline Bersch

Photo: Unsplash

Integrating Technology
In 2010, Toshi Nakamura and Ewa Wojkowska created Kopernik, an NGO dedicated to providing proper living standards by integrating technology within rural villages. Toshi and Ewa were former UN workers who researched tribes existing within Thailand, Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. The organization currently has four divisions that coordinate donations, financial consulting and technology. Each section is divided between locations in New York, Indonesia and Japan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kopernik continued its pre-planned projects for tribes in financial distress. This shows how lucrative and dedicated the organization has become.

Partnerships and Projects

Kopernik realizes that changing the world requires collaboration, and proudly announces partnerships whenever a new project undergoes initiation. In March 2020, Kopernik and the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), collaborated to introduce Cirebon, Indonesia to digital resources. A businesswoman named Kurian, who owns a 12-person furniture manufacturing business in Cirebon, received help from Kopernik and MAMPU to reach more lucrative digital markets and develop her online marketing skills; Kurian was able to double her profits and reach markets as far as Mexico. MAMPU and Kopernik have historically helped many women-owned micro-businesses develop, despite poverty-stricken circumstances. Kopernik’s Indonesia headquarters runs a Wonder Woman program that empowers female entrepreneurs to learn about business strategies and cleantech resources. The organization trains local women on the technical use of solar panels, mobile phone chargers and biomass stoves that are a low price.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI)

In February 2021, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) partnered with the ecstatic Kopernik. They collaborated on the development of “the Waste for Water: Creating A Community-Led Water Desalination Business to Provide Clean Drinking Water to Coastal Villages in Indonesia” project. In 2016, Kopernik flirted with a similar idea by selling the Carocell 3000 water purifier. It tested the experiment within Likotuden, East Flores. The purifier was able to produce 10 liters of freshwater per day, and safely distilled seawater, groundwater and overall contaminated/polluted liquids from local reservoirs. However, the project showed that 10 liters were not enough to provide for the community.

The two NGOs decided to start their project of integrating technology in the coastal villages within Nusa Penida, Bali and partnered with Wujudkan. They wanted to create a community-operated desalination plant that produced up to 3,000 liters daily. The last part of the project is an information campaign that shared guidelines for safe drinking water, water purification and the importance of preserving and sustaining water management.


Kopernik’s biggest achievement has been integrating solar technology in Indonesia’s “last mile.” By the end of 2020, Kopernik fostered funding support from the Abu Dhabi government to provide 3,600 solar lanterns and 1,000 mobile charging solar lanterns to the southeastern of Borneo. D.Light, a U.S.-based technology company that sells products for as low as $7, develops the solar lanterns. It also develops solar systems that people can purchase through micropayments.

Kopernik also paired with Greenlight Planet, which offers 6kW solar system installation to people in Sumba for $3.60 per month for a three-year period; Sumba Sustainable Solutions (3S) is a company that partnered with Kopernik to enact similar strategies and resources for solar solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumba faced a financial hit from the decreasing tourism industry. 3S devised solutions for boosting revenue in Sumba’s agriculture section. 3S provided a solar-powered corn and rice mill to help farmers create higher sales prices within the crop market. Also, 3S founder Sarah Hobgen claimed that “[instead] of grinding corn manually with stones or pounding rice in a wooden tube, we lend them the mills for just IDR 500, or $0.03 per kilogram.” Both Kopernik and 3S have received international prizes for their support.

Agricultural Work

In September 2020, Kopernik initiated the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) program in Papua. The program intended to teach agricultural regulations through interactive modules, videos and field practices. This GAP program helped farmers in Papua develop enhanced skills in farm production and post-production. It taught safe techniques to harvest food and agriculture products while including economic, social and environmental sustainability. GAP had farmers focus on the production of cacao, a plant used to make chocolate and cacao butter, by focusing attention on proper plant drying techniques. Kopernik introduced the idea for a solar dryer, which the organization has been blueprinting since 2016.

Kopernik and Papua farmers finalized the dryer within a remote village called Berab. Building a solar dryer involves ventilation and space between the cacao plant. In previous designs, racks were 12.5 cm apart. However, the on-site production showed that 30 cm enabled more ventilation and space for farmers to stir the beans. Due to limited resources, UV plastics replaced the polycarbonate feature, which captures solar light transmission, to capture the right amount of light energy. Additionally, instead of using iron for the framing, the farmers insisted on wood because of familiarity with the resource. Despite the challenges, the farmers finished construction within five days. The device cut the drying process from five days to three.

The Future of Kopernik

Kopernik continues to develop innovative projects, bring together lucrative business partners and work toward integrating technology. The year 2021 is seeing more digital solutions within the company as support for ending poverty increases for Kopernik.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr