Cryptocurrency in Bulgaria

In the years following the fall of the Eastern Bloc, Bulgaria still struggles in comparison with the rest of Europe. As of 2016, the government of Bulgaria reported that an estimated 23.4 percent of its population lived below the poverty line, while as of 2017 the unemployed constituted around 6.2 percent of the population. Bulgaria also happens to have the lowest annual salary, minimum wage and average pension amount in Europe, while also suffering high rates of outmigration, governmental corruption and overall mortality. Though these problems may appear overwhelming, the use of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria provides a means by which steps may be taken to mitigate these issues.

Fundamentals of Cryptocurrency

As a medium of exchange, cryptocurrency by its very nature expedites humanitarian aid to distressed regions. This is because it sidesteps the need for a financial institution as an intermediary between grantor and recipient, thus providing a means of direct payment for potentially large amounts. The realities of governmental and organizational corruption and incompetence that hinder international aid may be entirely evaded, resulting in more effective and efficient aid conveyance even to the most turbulent locations.

Furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of adults, mostly residing in the developing world, face impediments to the formation of a financial identity that may appear nearly insurmountable. However, cryptocurrency provides an alternative means by which people without easy access to financial institutions or who lack sufficient capital to open a bank account may establish a financial identity and improve their chances of escaping poverty. Moreover, despite the market volatility of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria and throughout the world, it provides a fairly stable alternative compared to entrusting one’s assets in banks and other financial institutions. Savings stored as cryptocurrency are less likely to be subject to the vicissitudes of inflation, corrupt governments and asset appropriation.

How an NGO Uses Cryptocurrency in Bulgaria

The BitHope Foundation, an NGO established by Vladislav Dramaliev, provides a global crowdfunding platform for humanitarian initiatives. As the first charitable platform of its kind established on the basis of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria, it seeks to facilitate NGOs and individuals alike in their fundraising efforts. This organization hopes to incentivize businesses that accept cryptocurrency to invest in these causes, which will further bolster the public impression and acceptance of cryptocurrency as a legitimate medium of exchange.

Many crowdfunding campaigns hosted through the BitHope Foundation’s website are considered to be humanitarian successes in Bulgaria. For instance, the “Support Burgas Municipality After the Floods” campaign raised €1,749 in cryptocurrency or approximately $1,925, in response to floods that damaged parts of Burgas municipality, a region of Bulgaria on the Black Sea coast. These charitable contributions went toward the purchase of household needs including refrigerators and microwave ovens for those affected by the floods.

Specific Campaigns by BitHope

  • “Every Child Deserves A Holiday” aimed to raise charitable funds for families living below the poverty line, raising €588 or approximately $647, in cryptocurrency.
  • The “Support Positive and Character Education” campaign, which raised the equivalent of €786 (approximately $865), sought funding for programs designed to inspire children and parents to persist with schooling regardless of what predicaments may arise.
  • The “Sports Charity League” campaign enabled the funding of sports competitions for children and adolescents, after raising a cryptocurrency total of €1,522 or $1,674.
  • The 2017 funding campaign “Preeclampsia? I want to know” raised €1,132 ($1,373) for the acquisition of biomedical tests for use in screening pregnant women without charge for the potentially serious medical condition preeclampsia.
  • Also in 2017, a campaign called “Hope for Mental Health” accrued €358 ($434) in funds to assist mentally disabled children and adults in obtaining health care.

BitHope in the Present

These successes emerged in spite of numerous impediments standing in the way of using cryptocurrency in Bulgaria. Besides a global decline in the total market cap of cryptocurrency from $604 billion to $131 billion in 2018, the Bulgarian government persists throughout 2019 in its refusal to allow cryptocurrency-based organizations to open a bank account for the storage of cryptocurrency. Although this complicates the withdrawal of funds, the cryptocurrency conversion process, accounting, tax payments and payments to internet service providers, such difficulties have made the BitHope Foundation more resilient in its fight to address humanitarian issues in Bulgaria.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Technology and PhilanthropyThe ongoing technological revolution is redefining how global political, social and economic development happens. Currently, around 50 percent of the world is online. According to “Digital Spillover” research conducted by Huawei and Oxford Economics, the digital economy was worth $11.5 trillion in 2016, or 15.5 percent of global gross domestic product. This could grow to nearly 25 percent of global GDP by 2025. This not only transforms today’s business landscape but also the business of doing good deeds. Here are three ways that the relationship between technology and philanthropy is already evolving.

  1. Direct Access to Donors Through Social Media
    Technology can be used to nurture closer links between donors and nonprofits. According to Giving USA, individuals, corporations, foundations and estates donated $410 billion to charities in 2017. This represents less than 3 percent of the United States’ GDP. Working to change this number through fundraising technology is social media platform Facebook. In November 2018, three years of launching its fundraising technology, Facebook reported that donations have broken $1 billion. No Kid Hungry, a U.S.-based child-hunger charity, reported raising $5 million from over 200,000 donors through Facebook fundraisers. Other social media platforms, like GoFundMe, have also made it easier for individuals to connect with causes they feel passionate about. Houses for Refugees is a notable beneficiary of such advancements, receiving over $2 million in donations through crowdfunding and online campaigning.
  2. Unmediated Engagement With People in Need
    Although many people in the world are not yet able to access the necessary technology, the internet is helping connect NGOs and their clientele more efficiently. This will change how NGOs are able to operate in cases of natural or financial disasters, as well as create new and innovative ways in which organizations can make a difference. Mobile cash transfers are becoming a popular way of transferring money to those in remote areas of the world. For example, in 2017, because of difficulties in establishing cash liquidity in Zimbabwe, the U.K. government partnered with CARE International, a major humanitarian organization that is fighting poverty in 92 countries worldwide. This partnership provided small monthly cash payments by mobile phone or SIM cards to over 72,000 families, enabling them to continue buying basic foodstuffs and utilities. Technology can also be used to develop help build communities from the inside, by reducing long-standing tensions between communities. One example of a technology company hoping to change lives by connecting people is Tech2Peace, a joint Palestinian-Israeli startup designed to train youth in technical skills such as website building, while also encouraging intercultural dialogue and conflict resolution sessions.
  3. Better Analytics to Improve Efficiency
    Technology companies are helping nonprofits streamline their systems of data collection and analytics. New technological developments are changing how companies can exercise “Corporate Social Responsibility,” or CSR, an ethical business strategy designed to maximize a company’s positive social influence. For example, Microsoft is currently partnered with the Virginia-based charity Operation Smile, which provides children with the free surgical repair for cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. Operation Smile has a number of programs including operating international medical missions, running care facilities, conducting research on the causes of cleft lip and providing education to improve community treatment worldwide. One area where Microsoft assists Operation Smile is by developing customized solutions that allow the organization to analyze real-time patient outcomes and feedback, sharing simultaneously this data with volunteers around the globe. This cuts downtime spent by individual surgeons for patient evaluations and allows Operation Smile to perform more operations.

Technology and philanthropy are intricately connected. Advancement in technology has improved the relationship between donors and charities, charities and beneficiaries, and streamlined all the processes that define these relationships. As the technological revolution finds new ways to change the world, it will also find new ways to help those in need.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Google Images

Wastewater in India
India is not only one of the most populated countries in the world, but it is also one of the poorest. In addition to poverty, India is grappling with a lack of access to clean water and increasing pollution. This not only takes a toll on households but also affects industrial and agricultural demands. Urban runoff is an issue when domestic waste and untreated water go into storm drains, polluting lakes and rivers. Approximately only 30 percent of the wastewater in India is cleaned and filtered.

The U.S. Agency for International Development teamed up with a nongovernmental organization, Agra Municipal Corporation, to formulate a treatment plan to clean the wastewater in India.

What is Being Done?

North of the Taj Mahal runs the Yamuna River, one of the most polluted waterways in India. Agra, the city through which the river runs, is a slum community. As of 2009, this community has had no access to sanitation facilities, disposal systems or waste collection. At least 85 percent of the residents in Agra have resorted to open defecation that ultimately pollutes the Yamuna River, where residents collect drinking water. This lack of sanitation has left the community vulnerable to diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.

USAID-supported NGO Center for Urban and Regional Excellence decided to reverse the state of Agra and come up with a treatment plan. In 2011, they built a wastewater treatment plant to clean the water, leading to healthier community members. Instead of chemicals, the treatment plant uses natural methods to sanitize the water. Moreover, they designed the plant to be low-maintenance, thus keeping it cost-efficient. After filtering and sanitizing the water, it flows back into the community for residents to collect.

As of 2017, the Agra Municipal Corporation, who initially teamed up with USAID, took over operating the plant. And they made it their mission to continue working to improve the lives of the residents.

The Progress

The Center for Urban and Regional Excellence’s transformation of Agra influenced the government to also act. As a result, the government planned to cleanse the entire country by the end of 2019. On Oct. 2, 2014, the Prime Minister of India declared the Swachh Bharat Mission. At the time, only 38.7 percent of the country was clean—less than half. As of 2019, India’s government reported 98.9 percent of the country is now clean. Since the mission began, they built 9,023,034,753 household toilets and established

  • 5,054,745 open defecation-free villages,
  • 4,468 open defecation-free villages in Namami Gange,
  • 613 open defecation-free districts, and
  • 29 open defecation-free states.

Less than 2 percent away from meeting their goal, India has made big improvements to better the lives of its citizens by providing clean water for domestic and industrial purposes.

Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

Nicaraguans with Disabilities

After seven years in Granada, Nicaragua, this January, the Cafe de las Sonrisas set up shop in the capital city of Managua. Also known as the “Cafe of Smiles, ” the little restaurant was a popular tourist destination in Granada, partly because of its atmosphere but also its unique staff of Nicaraguans with disabilities. Customers sat down to lunch in a large, airy room with hammocks hanging from the ceiling—courtesy of the hammock factory next door.

The menu presents simple Nicaraguan meals in Spanish and sign language. Posters on the walls also display some words in sign language customers might need to know: hello, goodbye, yes, no and thank you. Aside from an interesting lesson in linguistics, these posters provide a means of communicating with the cafe’s staff, all of whom are deaf and/or mute. That’s where the Cafe de las Sonrisas gets its name, according to the owner. In the absence of the spoken word, the main language of the restaurant is sign language and smiles.

Founding the Tio Antonio Social Center

The cafe—the first cafe in the Americas to employ only people who deaf and/or mute—is the brainchild of Antonio Prieto Brunel, also known as Tio Antonio. A native of Spain, Brunel moved to Nicaragua 13 years ago. After seeing the predicament of people who are deaf in Nicaragua, Brunel set out to make a difference.

As a result, he built the Tio Antonio Social Center, a nongovernmental organization that provides employment for people with disabilities. The Social Center also consists of a hammock shop, which employs young people with various disabilities. Meanwhile, the other half of the Social Center is the Cafe de las Sonrisas.

Living with Disabilities in Nicaragua

For people like the hammock makers and cafe staff, such opportunities are hard to come by. Nicaragua has always been a difficult place for people with disabilities. As recently as the 2000s, people with disabilities were treated as less than human, both by society and their families. Many were hidden from the public by their families for the majority of their lives. And, the abuse of people with disabilities was swept under the rug. In some cases, people with physical or intellectual disabilities were even kept in cages. While such abuses are almost unheard of now, there are stories of people with disabilities being kept in cages from less than 20 years ago.

To make matters worse, Nicaraguans with disabilities lacked access to any sort of public support system. Such a system would allow them to adapt to society or advocate for themselves. Instead, in the 1980s, the first schools for people who are deaf in Nicaragua were built. Before that, many Nicaraguans who are deaf lived in isolation. This was not only due to societal stigma but also the lack of community. In fact, Nicaraguan Sign Language was not developed until the schools began bringing children who are deaf together.

Improving Circumstances in Nicaragua

Since then, social progress for people with disabilities in Nicaragua has been slow but steady. While the government has built “special schools” for children with disabilities, these schools are chronically underfunded and understaffed. In addition, youth with disabilities frequently lack social support from their families. Seventy percent of children with disabilities in Nicaragua grow up without their fathers. Frequently, the birth of a child with disabilities results in the father abandoning the family. In addition, due to the stigma surrounding disability, 90 percent of Nicaraguans with disabilities are unemployed.

Without employment, many adults with disabilities are forced to depend on their families for most of their lives. Those without families, or without family members willing to support a relative with disabilities, often end up on the streets.

Employing Nicaraguans with Disabilities

Thanks to the hammock factory and the cafe, Brunel’s employees have been able to avoid such fate. Along with providing employment, the Tio Antonio Social Center prepares its workers for other jobs by teaching them career skills. Ultimately, its goal is to allow the Nicaraguan youth with disabilities to have the freedom that older generations with disabilities were denied. Equipped with gainful employment and career skills, Brunel’s employees have the opportunity to support themselves, which means that they can avoid being dependent on their families like many Nicaraguans with disabilities.

Plus, the Cafe de las Sonrisas is aiding the deaf community of Nicaragua in more ways than one. By having customers communicate with their waiters in Nicaraguan Sign Language, the cafe helps spread knowledge of NSL among the general public. Furthermore, all of the staff members being deaf and/or mute, in a business as public as the cafe, allows them to be visible to society in a way that most Nicaraguans with disabilities are not.

By allowing this visibility, the Cafe de las Sonrisas helps to combat stereotypes about Nicaraguans with disabilities. In a country where they are often ignored or mistreated and where it is nearly impossible to get a job and support themselves, the staff of the Cafe de las Sonrisas provides living proof that people with disabilities are capable of supporting themselves and contributing to society.

Keira Charles
Photo: connact global

five NGOs are petitioning the government to end the war in Yemen
The war in Yemen between Houthi rebels and the Saudi led coalition has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite the dire situation, there is reason to hope. On November 26, five NGOs petitioned the U.S. Government to call an end to the war. Two days later, the U.S. Government announced it would add an additional $24 million to USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. On December 13, the Senate voted to end the United States support of the Saudi coalition. These are the five NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen.

Since 2015, there have been more than 16,000 civilians casualties, 22.2 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of aid and eight million are at risk of famine. The war has led to a host of other problems as well, including a cholera outbreak and a lack of access to clean water. Many organizations are trying to stop the conflict in Yemen. These are 5 nonprofit organizations working hard to protect the people of Yemen.

These are the 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): The International Rescue Committee, headed by David Miliband, a former U.K. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, is focused on humanitarian relief operations in war-affected areas. Right now it operates in more than 40 countries, and its refugee resettlement program operates in 28 U.S. cities. The IRC has been providing aid to Yemen since 2012, working to protect women and children as well as provide access to healthcare and education.
  2. Oxfam: Oxfam is a global organization working in more than 90 countries to end poverty. Led by Abby Maxman, the former Deputy Secretary General of CARE International, Oxfam believes in identifying and changing the root causes of poverty rather than just sending material aid. Through fighting and eliminating injustice, Oxfam feels that poverty can finally be eliminated. The organization has been working in Yemen since 2015 to prevent diseases by providing sanitation, hygiene assistance and clean water to those affected by the war.
  3. CARE: CARE is active in 93 countries around the globe working to combat social injustice and poverty. The organization is headed by Michelle Nunn, who previously ran the organization Points of Light and had been a candidate for the U.S. Senate. CARE current goal is to reach 200 million of the world’s most vulnerable people by 2020. CARE has been working in Yemen since 1992 and is currently providing food, water and sanitation to one million Yemenis people each month.
  4. Save the Children: Save the Children is an organization that works in the U.S. and around the world to provide for underprivileged children. It is headed by Carolyn Miles, who has been with the organization since 1998. Save the Children is active in 120 countries worldwide promoting nutrition, health and education programs. Save the Children is doing just that in Yemen by treating almost 100,000 Yemenis children for malnutrition through mobile health clinics.
  5. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC): The Norwegian Refugee Council started its relief efforts after World War II and continues its mission to this day. The organization is active in 32 countries across the world to provide clean water, education, camp management, legal aid, food assistance and shelter to refugees. The Norwegian Refugee Council is headed by Jan Egeland, who has been with the organization since 2013 and was appointed in 2015 by the U.N. as special envoy to Syria. In 2017, the NRC has provided food for more than 300,000 Yemenis and shelter to more than 50,000.

These 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen are all fighting for a better world for the world’s poor. Through their work, they were able to spur the government into action. Since the petition, millions of dollars have been added to the aid package for Yemen, and the U.S. has voted to end its military involvement in the conflict.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents MadagascarThe perpetual stereotype that surrounds Madagascar is that its population consists of very few people, an enormous number of animals and an increasing rate of poverty. In fact, the first page of a ‘Google Image’ search of Madagascar provides half a dozen photos of people and dozens of photos of lemurs and other animals. The ways the media misrepresents Madagascar creates a skewed image of this African country as a place populated mostly by animals and an increasing rate of poverty.

Pivot

Several organizations advocate for the population of Madagascar. One such organization, Pivot, has created a district in Madagascar called the Ifanadiana District, which focuses on providing health care benefits for Malagasy people. Its population is now 200,000.

The organization aims to transform Madagascar’s health system through rights-based care delivery, strengthened public systems and a new era of science guided by the needs of the poor. Before this organization was located in the Ifanadiana District, one in seven children died before age five. Patients also had to find and pay for all medicines and supplies before treatment.

However, there was a 19 percent decrease of under-five mortality after Pivot intervened. Pivot has built hospitals and provided vaccines and health care to enlighten the people of this impoverished country. Pivot has made an extraordinary difference to the country of Madagascar and will continue to do so until it’s health system has been completely transformed.

Halt Poverty

Halt Poverty is another organization working to reduce poverty in Madagascar. The group’s current crowdfunding campaign is to support the building of a provision of safe water in vulnerable households surrounding areas of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar. The endeavor will only cost $2,945 to serve 200 people safe water, or $14.98 per person.

Halt Poverty uses adventure tourism to advocate for the support of poverty reduction in Madagascar. By exploring the natural landscapes and villages of this country, people are able to see the nation as it truly is. These tourists will support the local economy, protect the environment, respect the local culture and participate in poverty reduction.

These programs offer a deeper cultural insight than the one offered by tourism. Over the course of the trip, tourists will get a deeper intercultural understanding of Madagascar and gain exposure to volunteer opportunities that reduce poverty.

Reality of Madagascar

The media misrepresents Madagascar by portraying the nation as an impoverished country lacking in aid from poverty-reduction organizations, but this is not the reality. Although Madagascar experiences immense poverty, the poverty rate has actually decreased in the past couple of years.

In fact, the poverty rate decreased from 77.6 percent to 72 percent between 2012 and 2018. The World Bank reported that the Malagasy economy has been gradually improving ever since the return to legal order in 2014. Since 2016, the economic growth rate in the nation exceeded 4 percent. With trends such as these, one can see that Madagascar is improving in terms of its economy and poverty at a fairly quick rate.

On the Horizon

Although Madagascar is misrepresented in the media, there is, in fact, a great deal being done to give Malagasy people a better life. However, the misrepresentation of this country in the media has caused its issues to remain predominantly unknown.

The combined efforts of organizations like Pivot and Halt Poverty suggest improvements in tourism, health systems, poverty reduction and ultimately, a brighter future for Madagascar, are on the horizon.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Pixabay

The Black MambasThis August, the Black Mambas, a nonprofit anti-poaching unit in South Africa, won the Eco-Warrior Silver Award for its work combating poaching. This is one of many awards it has earned since its establishment in 2003. Not only is this organization making impressive strides to reduce poaching, it is also addressing South Africa’s unequal social climate. The Black Mambas is comprised solely of women and is the first all-female anti-poaching faction in the world.

In South Africa, poverty disproportionately impacts women. Over 13 million people in South Africa live below the poverty line, and most of these individuals are women. In female-headed households, the incidence of poverty increased to 50 percent, while increasing only 33 percent in male-headed households. Women own only one percent of land in South Africa.

The Black Mambas unit presents a unique employment opportunity for South African women. The job is a skilled position, requiring extensive training, which is not often offered to female workers. Balule Nature Reserve, where the Black Mambas operate, is located in Limpopo, one of South Africa’s most impoverished provinces. In Limpopo, even the minimum wage salary given to the 32 Black Mambas, many of whom are mothers, allows them to afford housing and schooling for their children.

The achievements of the Black Mambas unit has made it a source of pride in South Africa. The organization has accomplished significant anti-poaching milestones. This year, only eight rhino kills have been reported within the Black Mambas’ territory, though roughly 3.5 rhinos are poached each day throughout South Africa. Overall, poaching activities have decreased by 76 percent since the Black Mambas came on the scene.

The Black Mambas unit is additionally viewed as a successful public works project that has not only given women a source of employment, but also a voice in their communities. The women teach the importance of their anti-poaching efforts in schools through the Bush Babies Environmental Education Program. They have become role models for young South African girls.

Even beyond the work of the Black Mambas, advances in womens’ status are being made throughout South Africa. In 2014, over 40 percent of South Africa’s cabinet and parliament positions were headed by women. A 2010 census found that more than half of South African women contribute to their country’s GDP. Fifty-six percent of the HIV-infected population in South Africa is female, but between 2010 and 2011, the mother to child transmission rate decreased to 2.7 percent.

While improvements are being made, more can be done to assuage the disparate poverty status of women in South Africa. The Black Mambas is just one group bettering the lives of South African women, while also exhibiting how improvement for women can culminate in improvement for an entire nation.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

In a world where social media makes it easier than ever to know exactly what your friends and family, not to mention complete strangers, are doing, it should not be a luxury to know where your loved ones are. However, the very same world is also witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.

The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that there are currently 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. But those people are more than just a number. Every one of those individuals is someone’s mother, father, son or daughter. And each of them deserves to know where their family is.

After being uprooted from their homes and shuffled back and forth between camps all over the world, refugees know all too well how easy it can be to become separated from your family. Reuniting displaced refugees can be a daunting task. Many of these people do not have regular access to phones or the Internet, let alone official documents of identification.

But the Internet can be a powerful tool. Refugees United, or REFUNITE (RU), is a new kind of platform working to connect family members escaping disasters, persecutions or conflicts who have ended up in different parts of the world, sometimes completely alone. Founded in 2006 by two Danish brothers, Christopher and David Mikkelsen, REFUNITE aims to be a sort of “Google for refugee search.”

In the past, most United Nations agencies have tended to rely on the International Committee of the Red Cross, the global network of Red Cross organizations. However, due to privacy reasons the Red Cross and the United Nations are restricted from looking at one another’s databases, leading to a lot of inefficiencies.

While the Red Cross system has helped tremendously in reuniting displaced refugees with their families, the system requires individuals to apply for help from a third party to conduct the searches. The staff of national Red Cross societies does most of the tracing by responding to requests from other countries. However, without a global database, people looking for family members are forced to guess which countries to search.

“We didn’t want to be the kind of NGO that is a third party providing help to refugees,” RU founder David Mikkelsen said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to take control of their situations and help themselves – and give NGOs another tool to help.”

RU went live in May 2010. The first words of the registration page read: “We do NOT recommend the service of Refugees United to people at risk of being traced by potential persecutors.” Once a username and password are established, a profile is created. The site stresses anonymity, reminding people “Everyone can see the information in your profile. Use nicknames, initials or information only known by your family.”

Users then input the last known location of family members as well as exclusive information that only loved ones would know, such as birthmarks or favorite foods. These steps can be left blank if desired, and the database can be searched without registering an account. But as a search platform, RU’s success depended on the power of networks: in order to be effective, REFUNITE needed to attract as many users as possible.

As of October 2017, over 750,000 refugees are registered on the platform, making it the largest missing refugee database. Today, REFUNITE operates across 17 countries with 16 technology and mobile carriers with access to around 370 million mobile subscribers. Now, United Nations organizations and refugee groups work with REFUNITE, such as the International Rescue Committee, as well as Facebook.

Getting the word out about REFUNITE is still the biggest challenge in reuniting displaced refugees. However, with the web platform available in 12 languages and text services in five, the organization is making its way to becoming accessible to refugees who speak hundreds of languages across the world.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

Patricia Arquette and Mohammad Ashour Conferred 2017 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian AwardActor, writer and activist, Patricia Arquette, received a 2017 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award on September 23, 2017. Arquette received the Lifetime Achievement award.

Arquette created the charity, GiveLove, a U.S. based skill-training non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the instruction and promotion of Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) and compost sanitation. Arquette founded GiveLove to assist after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurred approximately 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

GiveLove works in emergency and development contexts to introduce low-cost, decentralized sanitation systems based on container-based sanitation and human manure composting approaches. Specializing in dry toilets, known as, “compost toilets,” GiveLove’s industrial partners operate in areas with high demand and dry areas to provide safe options for latrines dug in challenging environments.

GiveLove has implemented training programs in Haiti, Nicaragua, Colombia, Uganda, Kenya, India and the United States. The charity partners with NGOs, local community associations, schools, youth groups, universities and governments. GiveLove provides technical skills training, program design and support, staff training, monitoring and evaluation and design consultancy. GiveLove also instructs local organizations to advance sanitation in high-risk communities. Arquette’s company trains licensed sanitation builders, as well as district technicians, to apply and manage projects.

The Center bestowed a second 2017 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award upon Mohammad Ashour.

During his acceptance speech for the Conviction Principle Award, Ashour promoted universal healthcare and condemned racism. Ashour’s enterprise, Aspire, operates in Ghana and the United States.

Aspire raises food-grade crickets on a commercial scale and actively works to normalize the consumption of insects in the western world. Ashour’s company, based in Austin, Texas, created a massive farm to raise crickets used to make mainstream snacks. The Center honored Ashour with the 2017 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for pursuing his goal to produce a high-grade source of protein, while also reducing the carbon and land footprint that stems from farming cattle. Crickets are a healthy source of protein and offset the harmful effects that come from the reliance on beef production.

At the onset, employees fed the crickets. However, this system proved inefficient and ineffective, as humans work during daylight hours and crickets are nocturnal. Aspire subsequently incorporated a robotic system that provides the ideal amount of food to the crickets. These adjustments to the cricket’s diet created a better product.

Inside Aspire’s newest building, a robot feeds millions of crickets 24 hours a day. This facility is a 25,000-square-foot research and development center. Aspire plans to duplicate this technology on an additional farm that is 10 times the size of the present plant. It’s a scale that Ashour believes will propel crickets as a mainstream food in the United States. For an insect’s diet to meet its sustainable promise of supplying protein without the carbon and land footprint of beef, Aspire must increase production, making cricket protein widely available and affordable. Mohammad Ashour believes Aspire’s endeavor will make that possible.

According to The Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, the 2017 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award honored and extolled the valuable contributions of people from around the world.

Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

PATH: A Global Health InnovatorFour of the U.N.‘s sustainable development goals in some way deal directly with health issues, whether they are concerned with decreasing world hunger or improving maternity health. Many of these goals have been addressed in a significant way, with improvements in health made across the board. However, there are still limitations on surveying health innovation effectiveness, as well as accessing and administering new technology.

Despite these issues, there are several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working toward bridging the gap between technology and innovation where these services are needed the most. PATH and its partner organization, Innovation Countdown, are doing just that.

Path is a global health innovator that has inspired and pioneered global health solutions. PATH has built its vision on accelerating technology availability by arming its team with entrepreneurial insight, scientific proficiency and public health knowledge, in order to produce measurable outcomes across many sectors in the healthcare industry. PATH was founded on the idea that healthcare should be available to everyone – especially women and children – and most importantly, where it is the least accessible. PATH believes that the antiquated notion of “population control” is not the solution to extreme poverty issues, but instead the solution lies in providing a more wholesome life that will in turn empower millions of people to take control of their lives and health conditions. The trickle-down, beginning with adequate health, has the potential to stabilize populations and churn out productive members of society.

Innovation Countdown, led by PATH, is a nonprofit dedicated to providing a platform for global health innovation, providing data resources and technology resource information. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Innovation Countdown brings together different donors and investors in order to raise awareness of technologies and make them more accessible to areas that are difficult to reach or have minimal resources.

The work of PATH, along with Innovation Countdown, brings hope for all people – no matter of their socioeconomic status – to be able to access and reap the benefits of necessary global healthcare innovations.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr