Virtual Reality Is Fighting Global PovertyVirtual reality technology is such a recent phenomenon that we have only just tapped into its potential. This technology has been used to expand the capabilities of film and video games, to train soldiers and surgeons, to assist space missions and to aid patients in physical and mental therapy. Non-governmental organizations have found another use for it; now virtual reality is fighting global poverty.

One of the first major forays into using virtual reality to fight global poverty when the U.N. showed a film called “Clouds Over Sidra” which puts the viewer in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. The viewer is given a tour by a twelve-year-old girl named Sidra, who explains what her life is like at the camp.

The U.N. has shown this film and others through virtual reality headsets to potential donors at humanitarian fundraising events. These films have seemingly become a hit. At a March humanitarian pledging conference where donors viewed “Clouds Over Sidra,” $3.8 billion was donated to aiding Syrian refugees, well beyond the conference’s goal of $2.3 billion. In New Zealand, one out of six people who saw the film chose to donate, which was twice the normal donation rate.

A major reason why virtual reality is fighting global poverty so effectively is its ability to elicit empathy from viewers. In a 2013 experiment from Stanford University and the University of Georgia, two groups did a color-matching exercise in virtual reality, where one group pretended to be colorblind and the other group was forced into colorblindness through a filter. The study found that the second group spent twice as much time helping colorblind people than the first group. Similar experiments found that people who saw 65-year-old virtual avatars of themselves were more likely to save for retirement, and people who cut down a tree in a simulator used fewer napkins than people who read a description of what happens when a tree is cut down.

The intense, empathetic reactions to VR films have not been lost on VR film producers such as Robert Holzer, CEO of Matter Unlimited. “I’ve never experienced such a visceral reaction to any form of media,” says Holzer. “People are left with something closer to what a memory is, versus what they are left with when it is something that they just watched, and that to me is the wild difference of VR.”

The apparent success of virtual reality has caused other global development nonprofits, such as Amnesty International and Trickle Up, to invest in virtual reality films. It seems that virtual reality isn’t just for video games; it also has the potential to be a significant driver of development funding.

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

Fireless Cooker
In many developing countries, a lack of resources is the main reason why families struggle to survive. In Kenya, firewood for fuel is a huge burden to find and cut every day. Thus, the international NGO Practical Action created a solution to fight the issue of fuel: the fireless cooker.

A fireless cooker is an electricity-free and fuel-free device that helps families save time so they don’t have to sacrifice work to collect firewood.

Practical Action describes the purpose of the cooker as using “stored heat to cook food over a long period.” In a way, a fireless cooker is a simpler version of a crock-pot. It continues to cook the food after it is taken off of a heat source and keeps it warm for a long time, without wasting fuel.

To make one of these ingenious fuel-saving cookers is quite simple. Materials needed to operate the device include old clothing or banana leaves for insulation, rough cloth, heat-resistant polythene, two cushions (made from cloth stuffed with old clothes) and a basket big enough for cooking. Practical Action wanted to make it easy for families to use, so they chose materials that should be readily available in the communities in Kenya.

The first step in the creation process is to line the desired basket with old clothes or banana leaves. Then, a rough cloth is placed on top of the insulation materials to keep them in place. Next, the polythene is laid on top of the rough fabric to cover it like a bowl. The homemade cushions are then attached to both ends of the basket to store the heat inside.

The impact of this fireless cooker on the families and communities that use it are immense.  Practical Action stated that it can reduce fuel use by 40 percent, “preserving scarce food and saving people hours of precious time.”  One local of Kenya who is reaping the benefits of Practical Action’s invention said, “I am glad to know how to make a fireless cooker. It is going to be of great help to me since I’ll be preparing enough food before going to work on the farm.”

Not only is the fireless cooker environmentally friendly, but also it saves the stay-at-home mothers the tedious and arduous work of cutting and picking firewood every day. Now, the mothers in these households can focus on their children’s education and wellbeing of the family.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

Brazilian Slums rio de janeiro facts
In 2016, the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro drew massive media attention to Brazil. While the majority of the media focus centered on the games themselves, concerns grew about Brazil’s dangerous climate, particularly in regard to the country’s slums. Below are facts about Brazilian slums.

Top Facts about Slums in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil

  1. The common term for a Brazilian slum is a favela. The name originated out of wartime, as soldiers during Brazil’s civil war sought temporary refuge on hills filled with favela plants.
  2. Favelas grew as migration increased. Since proper housing was too expensive for many immigrants, they turned to the poor, yet cheap, conditions favelas provided on the outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
  3. Approximately six percent of Brazil’s population lives in favelas. Today, there are about 1,000 favelas in Rio and 1,600 in São Paulo.
  4. The typical favela has poor infrastructure, leading to difficulties in electricity and plumbing.
  5.  Disease is also rampant within favelas, as there is no standard for sanitation. Health risks may stem from overcrowding, pollution and a lack of waste disposal systems. Life expectancy within favelas is approximately 48 years, while the national average is 68.
  6. Poor living conditions within favelas often breed crime. Drug trafficking is common, with most members being young male teenagers, who are four-fifths more likely to die before age 21, Joe Griffin of The Guardian reports.
  7. Gangs not only initiate wars amongst each other in Brazilian slums, but against police. There have been frequent shootouts between gangs and police, especially during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio when the state government was forced to employ numerous police pacification units (UPPs).
  8. Although UPPs originally heightened safety when initially introduced in 2008, they have recently been the center of much controversy, as civilian deaths have increased as a result of police misconduct.
  9. Despite these poor conditions, life in favelas is beginning to improve. NGOs, such as Community in Action, are focused on sustainable community development within these Brazilian slums.
  10. Many houses now have access to new technologies, such as television and the Internet. In addition, small businesses are making progress within their communities, most recently in the area of tourism.

Although progress appears underway, the Brazilian government must take more secure action to ensure that conditions within these Brazilian slums improve further.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Ethos WaterWith more than 1 billion people around the world lacking access to safe drinking water,  Ethos Water founder Peter Thum is using proceeds from his bottled water sales to provide clean water to areas in need.

Ethos Water began in 2001 with the goal of helping children get clean water. Thum, the man behind the mission, founded the company after a business trip to South Africa where he saw the lack of clean water in many communities. Thum became consumed by the idea of creating a bottled water company that gave back to those in need of clean water; he then quit his job to pursue his plan.

Thum’s old classmate, Jonathan Greenblatt joined Thum in late 2002 to help create Ethos. Together they launched their bottled water company in August of 2003 and formed an organization called Ethos Water Fund to invest funds from their business into safe water programs.

With every bottle that gets sold, Ethos donates five cents (ten cents in Canada) to the Ethos Water Fund, in order to give clean drinking water to those who need it. Not only does Ethos donate money for clean drinking water, but it also raises awareness about the lack of clean drinking water in other countries.

In 2005 Ethos partnered with Starbucks in hopes to sell more water. Currently, a little over $12.3 million has been raised to give clean water to individuals who otherwise would not have it, according to Starbucks. That money will help over 500,000 people around the world.

In 2008 Ethos Water Fund and Starbucks Foundation decided to give two NGOs, CARE and Project Concern International, each $1 million over the period of three years from the Ethos Water Fund. These NGOs used that money to help support water, sanitation and hygiene education programs in water-stressed African communities, according to Starbucks. Collectively the expected benefits were estimated to help 54,000 people get access to clean water that previously did not have access.

CARE and Project Concern International were chosen to obtain these grants due to their emphasis on sustainability. Also, due to their agreement to not only provide access to clean water for villages but also to empower local residents to become part of the long-term solution.

CARE introduced sanitation and hygiene practices in Rwanda’s Musanze District while Project Concern International decided to focus their efforts on implementing low-cost, easy-to-maintain technologies in Tanzania’s Babati District.

These NGO’s were only able to do these fantastic acts of service through Ethos Water Fund. Howard Schultz, CEO, president and chairman of Starbucks, said “When our customers choose to buy Ethos water, they’re improving the lives of people who lack vital resources.”

In 2014 grants were made out to six NGOs in Tanzania ($750,000), Indonesia ($750,000), Colombia ($1.1 million), Guatemala ($480,000) and Nicaragua ($300,000). These grants have helped these countries gain clean water access and sanitation and hygiene education programs.

The effect Ethos water has had around the world is incredible, one single man’s idea which ended up helping thousands.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: YouTube

Global Philanthropy

A recent article published in the Minnesota Star Tribune shed light on Minnesota’s philanthropic efforts. The article revealed that the state’s top 100 nonprofits had donated over $24 million to global philanthropies in 2012.

Scott Jackson, president of Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Global Impact, names the Twin Cities as one of the four or five largest concentrations of philanthropic dollars in the United States. This is a result of the hundreds of nonprofits operating for the cause of foreign aid.

This comes as no surprise to Minnesotans, as they routinely rank among the top states in volunteerism, civic engagement, corporate giving, educational attainment, per capita international adoption and peace corps volunteers. Minnesota is, as Jackson puts it, “an amazing stronghold of people concerned about the world.”

There are hundreds to choose from, but these three nonprofits exemplify Minnesota’s commitment to global philanthropy by not only giving money but also providing training and service to create sustainable solutions to poverty.

Children’s HeartLink

Based in Minneapolis, Children’s HeartLink works in partnership with pediatric cardiac programs in underserved regions of the world to promote sustainable cardiac care for children with heart disease.

The nonprofit has programs partnering with 13 hospitals in six countries on three continents, all working for the purpose of ensuring that children have access to quality care for the treatment of heart disease.

Children’s HeartLink began in 1969 by sending volunteer teams abroad to perform cardiac surgery but has evolved over the years to provide training in areas of need, empowering the people to take care of themselves.

Tractors for Africa

In December 2014 Louis Ricard, Mark York and Maurice Hurst created Tractors for Africa. This Wayzata-based organization just delivered their first tractor to a co-op of farmers in Burkina Faso. Tractors for Africa was born as a result of York’s experience working with farmers in West Africa. He recalls the agricultural technology in the region as being equivalent to that of the United States 150 years ago.

In the U.S., there are plenty of tractors in working condition, collecting dust for the simple reason that they are too small to meet the needs of today’s large farms. Ricard, York and Hurst strive to find and acquire these tractors and send them to Burkina Faso where they can be put to good use rather than rusting in a junkyard.

With the help of donations, Tractors for Africa finds and restores tractors and other farm equipment. Then, they ship the machinery to a co-op of farmers in Burkina Faso and spend two months training the farmers to use their new equipment.

American Refugee Committee

The American Refugee Committee, or ARC, is an international organization aimed at providing humanitarian aid and training in refugee communities. Over the past 35 years, they have tended to millions of beneficiaries in 11 countries, providing shelter, clean water and sanitation, healthcare, skills training, education, protection and any other support necessary for refugees and displaced peoples to start anew. Clearly, they serve as a stellar example of global philanthropy.

ARC strives to help people survive crisis and conflict by rebuilding lives of dignity, health, security and self-sufficiency. “They are committed to delivering programs that ensure measurable quality and a lasting impact,” and are praised for their efficiency in providing aid; 92 cents of every dollar donated went to help victims of conflict and natural disaster in 2015.

These organizations, along with hundreds of others based in Minnesota, share a collective goal of providing help and hope to those who need it most in their own communities and in communities all over the world. A strong volunteer spirit and desire to serve help to make Minnesota a leader in global philanthropy.

Aaron Parr

Photo: Pixabay

HealthHygiene-related illnesses cause more than 1.8 million deaths worldwide and the Global Soap Project (GSP) is taking a stand to reduce this number by taking advantage of the 2.6 million bars of soap are thrown away in hotels daily.

Founder Derreck Kayongo was inspired to provide hope to refugees around the world with his own experience as a refugee when he fled a civil war in Uganda for the U.S. at age ten.” Ask any refugee anywhere in the world, they’ll tell you that they lose dignity right off the bat,”  Kayongo stated in a passionate talk hosted by Keppler Speakers.

Since its inception in 2009, GSP has been improving the lives of people in 32 countries by distributing clean soap and educating communities on hygiene. The life-saving organization targets victims of disaster, refugees, the homeless and mothers and children living in extreme poverty. The goal? Making an impact on global health.

The Global Soap Project has implemented educational programs providing access to information otherwise unattainable, such as how and when to use soap and its importance to sanitation, hygiene and long-term health. The GSP and its partner, Clean the World, collects unused soap from hundreds of hotels that have united with the organization.

Then, GSP recycles and redistributes them, with help from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Partners in Health and CARE.

The organization has created a micro-loan program that offers financial and training support to local, small-scale soap makers. To support this initiative, hotels send boxes of unused soap to GSP, where they are recycled, inspected and given to NGO’s for shipment to affiliations in impoverished areas.

NGO’s are not charged for the provided soap. After distribution, NGO partners relay reports of successful dispersion and educational programs. In Kenya, the Global Soap Project has had a sizable impact. The organization distributed soap to more than 300 families in Lindi, located within one of the largest slums in Africa. GSP also allocated soap to 1,320 students in Kenya.

https://youtu.be/htSyaFAGY4U

According to the GSP, a head teacher from a receiving school, commented on the organization’s success and expressed gratefulness. He stated, “Most of my kids know how to use soap after toilet, after eating, after playing, after classes, and you will find them with soap in their hands and in school compound. So thank you HHRD and GSP for this so unique gift, because it has brought a big impact in our school.”

Within the international community, world health has been a topic of concern. The World Bank has worked with organizations such as WHO and UNICEF gathering the most recent information about hygiene in developing and impoverished areas.

According to the World Bank, hygiene and hand washing have an immense impact on the quality of health and the ability to avoid deadly sicknesses like diarrhea and pneumonia. With over 4 billion cases of diarrhea per year, about 1.6 million of those are found in children under the age of five.

The GSP’s ideals are solidified by the World Bank, as it is suggested that, “public health promotion and education strategies are needed to change behaviors.” School health programs are imperative in ensuring that students have sanitation standards that can be translated into community principals.

The organization promotes involvement by accepting donations and volunteers and makes it easy for hotels to contribute. It has grown exponentially, expanding as a global leader in health promotion and implementation and continues to serve around the world. “Our soap doesn’t just mean health,” Kayongo says, “it means hope.”

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

 

Task Force for Global Health

Beginning in 1984 as the Task Force for Child Survival, the Task Force for Global Health started as a leading secretariat for various international health organizations such as UNICEF, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Bank. The Task Force worked alongside these global health organizations to design and improve effective child and family wellness, healthcare and survival strategies.

Thirty years later, the Task Force for Global Health has grown into a global nonprofit organization for public health. According to Forbes Magazine, the Task Force is the fourth largest nonprofit in the U.S. Headquartered in Decatur, Georgia, and under the leadership of public health expert Dr. Mark Rosenberg since 1999, the organization stands as the biggest nonprofit in Georgia since its expansion in 2013.

The Task Force focuses on three major areas: improving the efficiency of public health systems and field epidemiology, providing accessible treatment of immunizations and vaccines and eradicating neglected tropical diseases.

However, despite the Task Force’s incredible reputation and longstanding credentials, it remains largely unknown to a majority of the world. In an interview conducted by Georgia Center for Nonprofits’ (GCN) quarterly magazine, Georgia Nonprofit NOW, Rosenberg explains that keeping the Task Force under wraps was not only an intentional but effective strategy.

Rosenberg told GCN, “From the beginning, we have always tried to build coalitions, but it’s not always easy to get organizations to work together. If you want a partnership to work, our founder Bill Foege taught us, you’ve got to shine the light on your partners, and not on yourselves. We focus attention on our partners, and as a result, we are not well known in Georgia.”

The Task Force’s decision to maintain a low-key profile has resulted in high effectivity, not only as a major collaborator to some of the world’s most well-known nonprofit organizations but also as a large scale mobilizer towards peace and health care reform.

The Task Force for Global Health has managed to cover an incredible amount of ground in improving healthcare and offering accessible vaccinations and treatments to approximately 495 million people in 149 countries. The organization provides support and professional level healthcare training programs in 43 countries around the world, which results in widespread, efficient and accessible health care globally. Having formed strong partnerships with private and public healthcare providers and programs worldwide, the Task Force for Global Health has and continues to succeed in bringing about incredible reform and is changing the lives of millions of people every day.

Jenna Salisbury

Young Entrepreneurs

The future of poverty and hunger alleviation may rest in the hands of today’s youth. Young entrepreneurs embarking into the business world have immense power in aiding those in need. Creative thinkers and digital-savvy youth have unique skills and ideas that may give them an advantage in giving back.

In an article recently published by The Huffington Post, it was found that many of the world’s hunger-aiding programs were inspired or founded by the youth of today. Young entrepreneurs are starting programs such as “The Future Isn’t Hungry” and “3B Brae’s Brown Bags” to counter national poverty in the United States, with many working to expand internationally.

Three young entrepreneurs, Jake Harriman, Beth Schmidt and Leila Janah, have already made their mark in the fight against poverty. While Harriman’s NGO works to end world hunger, Schmidt’s organization is reducing poverty by helping people living in poverty have better access to college. Janah’s company works with American companies to crowdsource staff from developing countries, providing countless people with jobs to lift them out of poverty.

All three of these entrepreneurs recognized a call for action and drastically changed their lives to help give everyone a fighting chance. These are just a few of today’s young entrepreneurs using their skills to combat poverty and hunger.

In a report published by the Overseas Development Institute, it was stated that teaming young entrepreneurs with volunteers between the ages of 18 and 25 can combat unemployment around the world. Volunteering abroad can help young business owners acquire new skills and knowledge to better understand the developing world. In turn, volunteers working with business people can help them gain a better understanding of business tactics that they can apply to the volunteer work they do internationally.

The study uncovered a positive correlation between young entrepreneurs volunteering or working abroad and the development of skills necessary to end poverty. Volunteers and entrepreneurs worked in countries, such as Tanzania and Nicaragua, where their skills and businesses were put to the test. In the end, both the entrepreneurs and the citizens of these countries benefited in the study.

The initiative to increase the number of entrepreneurs working to give back has already begun and is continuing to grow. In Africa alone, multiple NGOs are working to unleash the continent’s untapped potential through educational, microfinance and health nonprofits. And many of these are run by or work with young entrepreneurs. Jake Harriman’s goal, along with the world’s young business people who are following in his footsteps, is to alleviate poverty by 2030.

Julia Hettiger

Photo:  Flickr

Poverty_business_finance

Cashpor Micro Credit is a non-profit assisting those who live in impoverished communities in India. The organization uses microfinance techniques and loans to help women build a life for themselves and their families in addition to earning enough money to repay the loans provided to them by Cashpor Micro Credit.

Cashpor Micro Credit

Founded in Varanasi, India in 1996, the organization works in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, India. In addition to microloan assistance, Cashpor Micro Credit also provides scholarships for college education, financial training, health education and insurance programs.

Their mission is to reach all impoverished women throughout the BIMARU states in India, which include the cities of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and guide them in lifting themselves and their families, out of poverty.

Astronomic Growth

As of 2014, Cashpor Micro Credit had 864,551 women actively borrowing loans from them, according to Mix Market statistics. Their gross loan portfolio, which comprises all outstanding client loans, reached 147.4 million, with the average loan per borrower averaging 170 dollars. This has allowed them to maintain a 40 percent business growth over the past few years.

In total, Cashpor Micro Credit has 341 branches in and around the BIMARU states. Cashpor Micro Credit is known for its efficient business model, the way in which it manages its finances and assets and the fact that Cashpor Micro Credit shares this knowledge with its clients to ensure a proactive use of their loans.

Three Main Programs

Its credit plus activities are divided into three major programs. This program assists members through scholarships, health education and a community health facilitator program.

The scholarships allow members to send their children to college, thus distancing them from the poverty line.

Cashpor’s health education teaches overall health to their clients. During their regular business meetings, community leaders are required to engage in 15 minute discussions about health, including how to best fight illnesses in children.

The community health facilitator program is designed to provide clients with a health mentor, who will give health intermediary services. The program designates 80 women, who are trained in health and assigned to 300 Cashpor clients. The program is run in each district Cashpor operates in.

Improving Quality of Life

Cashpor Micro Credit continues to assist those in India struggling to get out of poverty and will continue until the quality of life in India becomes sustainable, abundant and efficient.

Julia N. Hettiger

Photo: Flickr