Information and stories about nonprofit organizations and NGOs

Nonprofits in Lebanon
On August 4, 2020, life in the Lebanese city of Beirut a city with a larger population than Houston changed forever. Two explosions at a port containing ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, sent shock waves that could be felt as far as 100 miles away. More than 150 people have died and thousands more hospitalized, in need of recovery from various injuries. In response to this recent disaster, nonprofits in Lebanon have launched initiatives to provide critical assistance.

Implications of the Beirut Explosions

Since the explosion — many have gone and remain missing, COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed and the Prime Minister has resigned. Life for Lebanon’s 2 million residents has seen a drastic, negative shift — due to these tragic and catastrophic events.

However, the global community has rushed to Lebanon’s aid. On August 9, 2020, a United Nations-backed virtual conference with participants from Britain, Qatar, the U.S., the E.U., China and the World Bank pledged nearly $300 million in assistance to Lebanon. Here are three nonprofits in Lebanon that are providing aid to those in great need.

3 Nonprofits in Lebanon Providing Assistance

  1. Embrace Lebanon: Embrace Lebanon is an NGO that raises awareness of mental health and challenges the negative stigma surrounding mental health advocacy in Lebanon. The organization established Lebanon’s first National Emotional Support and Suicide Prevention Helpline. This helpline organizes campaigns and collects donations to help improve life for the citizens of Lebanon. Last November, after a period of social and economic instability, the helpline number around the country, at a record rate. Embrace Lebanon received an average of 150 calls per day, as opposed to the previous average of seven calls per day. After such a horrific event colored by death, displacement and loss — mental health support will remain an important service in Lebanon.
  2. Beit El Baraka: Beit El Baraka aims to uplift the citizens of Lebanon by providing low-cost housing, a free supermarket and affordable medical attention to the retired community. The explosions that rocked the city of Beirut left homes uninhabitable — displacing more than 300,000 people and making housing an extreme necessity. In response to the crisis, Beit El Baraka is distributing boxed lunches to people in need and pledges on social media to immediately begin repairing houses. Since its establishment in 2018, Beit El Baraka has refurbished 55 homes, paid 349 bills and given medical attention to 356 patients.
  3. Impact Lebanon: Impact Lebanon is a disaster relief organization with a mission to pursue helpful initiatives in the most efficient way possible. After the explosions, the group launched a fundraiser to assist victims. Impressively, the organization reached its first fundraising goal within minutes. A statement regarding the explosion detailed Impact Lebanon’s commitment to transparency and anti-corruption, as well as outlining how the money would be allocated to different NGOs’ fights to provide relief to those most in need.

Grateful for Hope

After the disastrous explosion, hope has become a scarce commodity. Although seemingly unattainable, support from around the world and aid from nonprofits in Lebanon are making hope much more accessible, one initiative at a time.

Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty Eradication in HaitiHaiti has experienced a long history of natural disasters and extreme poverty. Despite these challenges, Haiti could eventually thrive through technology and innovation. Technology and innovations in poverty eradication in Haiti have set the stage for new products and ideas, but expertise and transformation have also allowed the country to improve on assets that already exist.

Foreign Direct Investment

Digicel, a communications and entertainment company headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica, set up its mobile phone venture in Haiti in 2005. Until its arrival, operators Comcel-Voilà (now Voilà) and Haïtel controlled the mobile phone market. When Digicel entered the Haiti market, its economic impact was almost immediate. Within two years, Digicel contributed to more than 15% of the Haitian Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Meanwhile, paired with its two competitors, the contribution of all three was more than 25% of the GDP.

During the years 2005-2009, Digicel invested more than $250 million in Haiti’s economy which led to more than 60,000 jobs. Not only had Digicel poured into Haiti’s bottom line with job creation, in a market with two telecom competitors, but it was also able to account for almost 30% of tax revenue. The company has definitely been working on poverty eradication in Haiti.

In 2012, Digicel acquired Voilà, which substantially increased its market share penetration and helped maintain its presence. All of this occurred despite the fact that Haiti had experienced a major earthquake that displaced 5 million people and killed 250,000 people in 2010 on top of the devastation of Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy that occurred in 2012. Those setbacks have not derailed Digicel as of 2020. The company is still strong as it continues to provide innovations in poverty eradication in Haiti by keeping the country connected.

Education: Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Many have proven and echoed that children are the future and that they need to have exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to keep pace with the future innovative job market. Haiti’s challenge is that it lacks some capabilities and resources as an underdeveloped country.

Enter the NGO, Pennies for Haiti. This NGO’s long-term goal is to end Haiti’s series of poverty by providing sustenance and educating the country’s children. Meanwhile, its short-term objective is to equip Haiti’s children through education as a means to help them rise above their current situation. While Pennies for Haiti has several ongoing projects that serve 200 people a year, two of the projects focus on education.

The first is Haiti STEM Alliance, which is open to both boys and girls. The second is STEM 4 Girls, which places emphasis on girls. While both of these projects pour their energies into helping each participant achieve higher education and realize the vast employment opportunities in STEM, the difference is that STEM 4 Girls delves into personal growth and the benefits of higher learning. Pennies for Haiti hopes to instill in young women how STEM jobs can open the door to economic freedom.

In addition, the organization visualizes engaging an abundance of youth in the STEM industry as it will create more opportunities for technology and automation careers in Haiti. Pennies for Haiti is counting on the success of both of these programs with a focus on poverty eradication in Haiti and to boost Haiti’s image to the world and make them attractive to those companies who are looking to subcontract jobs as well as showing that they are a leader in gender equality and STEM careers.

Entrepreneurs

People may not know Haiti as a startup oasis, but over 75% of its residents operate some type of business to supplement their income. As a result, it is evident that Haiti is full of citizens who have demonstrated they can build, operate and sustain their own companies. Their startups range from fresh markets to tech platforms, and these enterprises are redefining the Haiti business culture.

One citizen, Christine Souffrant Ntim, who founded the Haiti Tech Summit (2017), has firsthand experience. She answered her entrepreneurial call as a youngster by helping her grandmother and mother sell goods in the streets of Haiti.

The Haiti Tech Summit brings together entrepreneurs, stakeholders, superstars and visionaries to address humanity’s extreme difficulties via tech and entrepreneurship. It has generated tangible results in its short existence such as helping an Airbnb sign a five-year multiple year contract with Haiti’s governmental branch that specializes in culture, tourism and the arts. Also, Facebook launched Haiti’s initial globally recognized grassroots pioneer group in 2017.

The Haiti Tech Summit’s success is based on the Ecosystem Map methodology, a vigorous arrangement of unified organizations that rely on each other for shared survival. As the Summit gains more energy and notoriety across the globe, Ntim’s focus is for the association to become the world’s next major tech innovation hub by 2030.

Poverty eradication in Haiti has made positive headway as it continues to rebuild its community and successfully learn how to navigate a technology-driven society. It has the existing tools to help bridge the gap with the main ingredient, being themselves. With the assistance of foreign aid, continued support of educational equality, especially among girls and entrepreneurs mobilizing the next generation, Haiti should be ready to move into the future with momentum.

Kim L. Patterson
Photo: Pixabay

Civil Rights Issues in Cuba
For years, Cubans have experienced severe restrictions in their ability to exercise freedom of speech. While they do not have the same First Amendment liberties as in the United States, Cubans are fiercely fighting for their rights to expression, speech and access to online opinion articles. Change is steadily emerging for Cubans, but the process has been slow. Here are three civil rights issues in Cuba.

3 Civil Rights Issues in Cuba

  1. Freedom of Expression. Cuba has restricted freedom of expression through the media for years. The Cuban government has heavy control over the content media outlets can broadcast, as well as the information citizens can view. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Cuba has the “most restricted climate for the press in the Americas.” Journalists and bloggers routinely write about Cuba without restriction, but the Cuban government has the power to block these websites and other channels from their citizens: websites like 14ymedio, Tremenda Nota, Cibercuba, Diario de Cuba and Cubanet have experienced censorship, according to World Report 2020. The situation is difficult to change due to high internet use costs. When a mere 600 MB of space costs $7, private providers struggle to afford the platforms needed to express their uncensored content.
  2. Freedom of Movement. In Cuba, citizens cannot move freely from one residence to another. They do not have permission to move to a new apartment or house, nor can they change their place of employment. Because private employers are extremely limited in the number of workers they contract, the country experienced unprecedented unemployment numbers in 2019 with 617,974 “self-employed” Cubans. One action that could help secure the freedom of movement for many Cubans is repealing Decree-Law No. 366, which limits non-agricultural cooperatives. Eliminating this legislation would lift restrictions on where Cubans can work and live.
  3. Due Process. Cubans lack the freedom to protest due to legal regulations. Consequences for minor offenses like public disorder, disrespect for authority and aggression stop people from protesting freely. When police forces can use these loose definitions of illegal activity to arrest protesters, freedom of expression and speech suffer. Measures like repealing Law 88 aim to eradicate false policing and reliance on regulations that “criminalize individuals who demonstrate ‘pre-criminal social dangerousness’ (as defined by the state) even before committing an actual crime,” according to The Heritage Foundation. In essence, this action would reduce protections for unfair legal enforcement of state censorship and ultimately provide Cubans a much-needed avenue for freedom of expression through protest.

Involving NGOs

Acknowledging Cuban citizens’ need for support in securing their civil liberties, United States organizations have begun to intervene. For example, The Global Rules of Law & Liberty Legal Defense Fund (GLA) in Alexandria, Virginia is a legal defense fund assisting citizens who cannot afford legal guidance. The GLA had total revenue of $92,400 in 2018, enabling this NGO to provide legal resources like local councils and political information to communities within multiple Latin American countries including Cuba. By enhancing resources for Cuba’s legal system and due process, actions from groups like the GLA could become significant in helping Cubans secure freedom of expression. 

The GLA has helped Cuban journalists like Roberto de Jesus Quiñones Haces, who is serving a one-year sentence for charges of “resistance” and “disobedience,” according to the global liberty alliance. He was arrested for reporting the prosecution of Pastors Rigal and Exposito, who were homeschooling their children in Guantanamo. The GLA recognized this arrest as persecution of the press and agreed to support Quiñones, increasing national awareness of his unjust prosecution by filing a Request for Precautionary Measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and publishing a video documenting his story. Since the beginning of his jail time in September 2019, Quiñones and the immorality of persecuting the press have gained widespread attention in both the United States and Cuban legal systems.

Another United States NGO advocating for civil rights in Cuba is Plantados until Freedom and Democracy in Cuba in Miami, Florida. By providing aid to Cubans imprisoned for expressing support for democracy, this organization aims to support freedom and democracy in an environment where these fundamental liberties are largely ignored.

The Future of Civil Rights in Cuba

Thoroughly addressing these three civil rights issues in Cuba could help Cubans finally gain freedoms that democratic nations around the world enjoy. As several United States NGOs have demonstrated, actions like simply sharing news and advocating for change have the potential to encourage progress. In doing so, Cuba has the power to become a model for other developing countries in the fight for civil liberties.

– Grant Ritchey
Photo: Flickr

Sea Sponge FarmingZanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, enjoys high financial capacity due to its successful tourist industry, fishing and seaweed production. However, many of Zanzibar’s coastal communities still suffer from acute poverty and local industries are under threat from environmental degradation. One nonprofit, Marine Cultures, aims to solve these issues by introducing sea sponge farming to households in Zanzibar.

The Benefits of Sea Sponge Farming

Sea sponge farming offers a more economically sustainable option than the traditional seaweed farming industry. Farming seaweed for the production of carrageenan, a common thickener in foods, has long been a staple industry for the employment of Zanzibari women. However, the industry is in decline, as seaweed is susceptible to pests and diseases. Additionally, the global market price for seaweed is now low and more labor-intensive farming is rewarded with comparatively minimal income. As a consequence, many single women struggle to make a living from farming seaweed.

Farming sea sponges, however, offer higher monetary returns for a lower-maintenance product. Unlike seaweed, pearl farming, or traditional fishing, sea sponge farming is less time consuming and allows farmers the time and opportunity to pursue other economic activities. Marine Cultures introduced the first sponge farm to coastal Zanzibar in 2009. Since then, the organization installs up to four new sponge farms a year and each farm generates enough income to feed 2-3 families of approximately ten people. The organization specifically targets single, unemployed women, granting them a one-year training period before turning over the farm. This strategy allows the recipient to independently establish and operate their business.

Giving Back To The Ecosystem

Zanzibar’s coastal ecosystems, although essential to the island’s wellbeing, are under pressure from a variety of factors. Overfishing, invasive species, unregulated tourism, dumping of human waste, overpopulation and rising water temperatures are just some of those.

However, sea sponge farms answer the call to establish sustainable forms of using natural resources extracted from the local ecosystem. As the market price of sea sponges remains high, sea sponge farming offers a financially viable alternative to traditional fishing, reducing overfishing and easing some pressure off of the coastal ecosystem. Additionally, sponges are filter-feeders, which means that in addition to saving farmers money on feed costs, they also act as a biofilter that filters out particles in the water.

In this way, sea sponges can help act as a buffer against pollution and encourage the health of local coral reefs. Marine Culture’s sponge farms have even been shown to improve local stocks of species on certain occasions.

Future Perspectives

Looking to the future, sea sponges pose a promising new industry to Zanzibar and beyond. Those women who have begun operating their own sea sponge farms through Marine Cultures report increased income for lower amounts of labor than they experienced harvesting seaweed. All the while, these farms pose long-term career opportunities, as farmers learn the skills not only of sea sponge farming but of marine biology, entrepreneurship and commerce.

By the end of this year, a twelfth sea sponge farm is on track to become independent. Marine Cultures hopes that by 2022, they will be able to remove themselves completely from the local industry and turn over all sponge farms to a local organization that will train future farmers without oversight from Marine Cultures.

– Alexandra Black 
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisisOf all households in Venezuela, 35% depend on financial support from family members working overseas. According to local economic researcher Asdrúbal Oliveros, remittances to Venezuela will suffer a heavy blow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe effect on the global economy. With an estimated $2 billion decrease in remittances, the health of millions of Venezuelans is in serious danger due to the combined effects of COVID-19 and the Venezuelan Crisis.

The World Bank believes the pandemic will cause a 20% decrease in global remittances, the biggest drop in recent years. With 90% of citizens in Venezuela living in poverty, the drastic fall in remittances and oil prices spell trouble for countless people. Furthermore, the unprepared Venezuelan healthcare system has struggled to control the pandemic.

Despite numerous U.N. groups imploring for money-transfer businesses to make international transfers cheaper, Venezuela’s foreign exchange policy and volatile economic system are difficult to reform. “Venezuelan remitters” are instead left using unnecessarily complex methods to send money back home.

The Venezuelan Government Under Nicolás Maduro

In 2019, the Venezuelan government politicized humanitarian aid when it vilified the U.S. government’s foreign aid as the beginning stage of a U.S. invasion. However, the government has finally acknowledged the long-denied humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro has accepted the deliverance of aid after negotiations with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Subsequently, the United Nations declared it was increasing its efforts to aid Venezuela.

Despite the progress made, politics continue to negatively affect potential aid. According to Miguel Pizarro, a U.N. Representative, the political influence leaves many without fundamental necessities. Pizarro explains, “If you demonstrate and raise your voice and go to the streets, you do not have food, medicine, water or domestic gas.” Pizarro continues, “Eighty percent of Venezuelan households are supplied with gas by the state. If you become active in the political arena, they take away that right.”

Sharp declines in oil value, numerous embargoes globally and negligent economic policy largely caused the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. Since 2014, the nation’s GDP has fallen by 88%, with overall inflation rates in the millions. A 2019 paper published by economic researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research attributed medicine, food and general supply deficits in 2018 to the deaths of at least 40,000. According to findings from the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Life, a scarcity in medicine puts over 300,000 Venezuelans in peril.

Dr. Julio Castro, director of Doctors for Health in Venezuela, says “People don’t have money to live. I think it’s probably a worst-case scenario for people in Venezuela.” Despite recent increases in aid and medicine from U.N. operations and the IFRC, the Venezuelan struggle persists.

Venezuelan Healthcare Amid COVID-19

Most of the Venezuelan population can only afford to receive aid from public hospitals. These public hospitals often experience persistent deficits in necessary supplies. A study conducted by Doctors for Health indicated that 60% of public facilities frequently face power outages and water shortages.

In response to this, the Venezuelan government authorized $20 million in healthcare aid, which will be administered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a territorial agency of the World Health Organization. They will use the capital to develop COVID-19 testing and to obtain personal protective equipment (Ex: masks, gloves, etc).

According to Luis Francisco Cabezas of local healthcare nonprofit Convite, a recent study identified a worrisome struggle. Data indicated that roughly six in 10 people had reported trouble obtaining medication for chronic illnesses. The problem has only worsened since the pandemic.

Local Nonprofits Redirect Efforts Toward Venezuelan Crisis

Numerous nonprofits in the country have responded to COVID-19 and the ongoing Venezuelan crisis by shifting their efforts. A director for Caritas, a Catholic charity, says the ongoing economic disaster compelled his organization to prioritize humanitarian work over its original mission of civil rights advocacy.

Similarly, Robert Patiño leads a nonprofit civil rights group, Mi Convive, which shifted to humanitarian work in 2016. Since its inception, the organization has directed its efforts to child nutrition. Through the group Alimenta La Solidaridad, Mi Convive has opened over 50 community kitchens in Venezuela, feeding over 4,000 kids weekly.

Although the efforts by Venezuelan nonprofits have aided thousands, it is not enough. COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisis need to be in worldwide focus until the government can reliably provide for its citizens. The work of numerous good samaritans can only reach so many people, and their work is constantly hindered by “Chavistas,” a group of Venezuelans who are loyal to President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Mi Convive’s Robert Patiño claims the radicals have been known to go as far as withholding food boxes from areas where the nonprofit is trying to begin new programs. The humanitarian emergency in Venezuela must be appropriately addressed, for the livelihood of millions of people are at stake.

Carlos Williams
Photo: Flickr

Beirut Explosion
Though there is still uncertainty about the massive explosion that occurred on August 4, 2020, near the port of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, there are some facts and predictions about the health outcomes that it has and will cause. NGOs mobilized humanitarian aid teams immediately after the tragedy in an effort to provide aid. The recent explosion could impact much of the population’s health, considering the mass amounts of ammonium nitrate and other toxins in the air, the falling infrastructure and destroyed hospitals, an increasing lack of access to healthcare and the rising demand for emergency response teams. The following four points are a few of the health outcomes and predictions regarding the Beirut explosion, as well as what organizations on the ground are doing to help those the explosion impacted the most.

4 Facts About How the Beirut Explosion Could Impact Health

  1. The toxins in the air could result in detrimental health impacts for much of the population. The Beirut explosion has a link to the storage of about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. As a result, when the explosion occurred, it released multiple toxins into the air. The ammonia in the air is a corrosive gas that may cause cell damage, resulting in a burning feeling in a person’s eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. Furthermore, it can cause lung damage, blindness and death. Additionally, the nitrogen oxides in the air are especially dangerous for those with respiratory issues. These toxins are also dangerous to newborns and pregnant women, and could likely cause premature death. The Lebanese Red Cross called for an immediate dispatch of all members in order to help those the explosion impacted. To date, millions of people around the world have donated to this organization.
  2. The explosion resulted in many casualties and some are still unknown. As of August 5, 2020, the death toll from the explosion was around 135, with many people still missing. There were over 5,000 people injured and four hospitals damaged in the blast. These numbers will likely increase in the coming weeks due to the impact of the blast. Additionally, at least 300,000 homes experienced damage and became uninhabitable, with estimates of around a quarter-million people now homeless, leading to further issues in health outcomes and disparities within the population. However, many volunteers, NGOs and the Lebanese Red Cross have set up base camps near the scene of the explosion and have been offering food, shelter and collecting donations and medical supplies to those who lost their homes. There have been other groups that have set up shelter for those who were homeless previous to the explosion and for those who have lost their homes due to the tragedy.
  3. COVID-19 cases are likely to increase. Due to the number of injured people, as well as the ever-increasing amount of hospital patients from the toxins in the air, there is a possibility that swarms of incoming patients will overwhelm hospitals. Additionally, because the Beirut explosion destroyed four hospitals, the loss of personal protection equipment supplies will likely impact the number of coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. According to the WHO, the tragedy reduced the number of hospital beds by 500-600. Due to the strained healthcare system from COVID-19, many organizations have set up camps and clinics near the scene for those who need medical assistance.
  4. The blast could trigger PTSD, depression and health status deterioration. A 2003 study of survivors of a church explosion in Lebanon found that one year after the explosion, 39% of victims had PTSD, 51% were depressed and 45% reported a deterioration in their health status. These percentages were significantly higher than those who did not experience the explosion. Currently, there are many groups on the ground that are working to support survivors of this explosion through medical assistance, offering shelter and food and giving financial support. The Lebanese Red Cross is working to meet emotional support needs and has trained team members who are providing crisis counseling to the community.

Beirut has a population of nearly 2.5 million people, all of whom may be at risk of detrimental health outcomes from the explosion. When considering the impacts of the toxins in the air, destroyed housing and other vital infrastructure and mental health impacts from the Beirut explosion, it is critical for experts to account for and properly assess present and future health outcomes in order to aid the affected civilians. The most reliable and effective place to donate is through the Lebanese Red Cross. Thirty teams mobilized to work on the ground in Beirut; they worked on rescuing and searching for the wounded, and treating them on-site and/or transporting them to hospitals. Additionally, Lebanese Red Cross teams have provided emergency shelter for thousands of families, with goals to shelter over 10,000 families in the coming months, as well as offer food, water, hygiene kits and PPE to families.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Wikipedia

NGOs in Vietnam Vietnam has made significant progress in reducing poverty. Since 2002, more than 45 million people have risen above the poverty line. Today, only 6% of the population lives in poverty. However, 86% of those people are ethnic minorities, meaning there is room for improvement. Here are three NGOs in Vietnam that are continuing to improve life.

Oxfam

In 2014, Oxfam launched its Even It Up campaign to reduce global income inequality. In Vietnam, they identified that only around 200 people own 12% of the country’s wealth. The wealth of the richest person in Vietnam could lift 1.3 million Vietnamese out of poverty. Unfortunately, this consolidation of wealth has risen as the poverty rate has fallen.

Solving income inequality is key to fighting poverty, as Oxfam stated in a 2017 report: “high levels of inequality reduce social mobility, leaving the poorest more likely to remain poor for generations.” Oxfam tackles this issue by advocating for governance reforms, such as tax and wage reform, and support for socially disadvantaged peoples. Their past successes helped over 400,000 rural women and minorities and migrant workers.

SNV

SNV is an NGO based in the Netherlands. They focus on promoting “premium quality” in agriculture, energy, and WASH (sanitation). The NGO in Vietnam worked with the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative to assist Vietnamese pangasius farmers in using sustainable farming practices. Pangasius, a relative of the U.S. catfish, makes up a substantial portion of Vietnam’s exports. SNV  wanted to help address concerns about the environmental quality of pangasius operations. SNV worked with the IDH, members of the seafood industry and the government of Vietnam to help pangasius operations achieve Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification. Between 2011 and 2013, SNV helped farmers produce over 50,000 metric tons of pangasius. They also ensured co-financing for 35 operations.

In 2016, SNV partnered with NGOs CARE and Oxfam to implement the Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement (WEAVE) project. It aims to reduce gender inequality among ethnic minorities in Northwest Vietnam. In the Lao Cai and Bac Kan provinces, WEAVE is helping women who participate in the banana, pork, and cinnamon industries. In the Nam Det commune in the Lao Cai province, more than 1,300 hectares of cinnamon are now USDA-certified organic. This is over 70% of the acreage in the commune. This certification will not only support sustainable agriculture, but it will also increase jobs in the cinnamon industry, especially for women.

Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund

The Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund operates only in Vietnam. They focus on education and the transportation necessary for it. For example, they provide bikes and helmets to girls to help them attend school. As of 2019, they have provided more than 1,700 bikes and repaired more than 1,400. Rock-Paper-Scissors also ensures schools can offer music and art education classes. “Music and art provide a way for kids to leave the daily struggle of grinding poverty,” fund founder, Sara Stevens Narone, stated. In 2019, Rock-Paper-Scissors reached 87% with weekly art classes, 25 students with thrice a week music lessons and 150 minority students with a summer art camp.

These NGOs and others in Vietnam have helped improve quality of life. As COVID-19 has dampened the global economy, Vietnam still expects moderate growth rates of 3-4% in the next year. But this is three points lower than pre-COVID-19 expectations. This means much more can and should be done to combat poverty.

– Jonathan Helton
Photo: Wikimedia

Programs in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a country located in the West Indies where it occupies much of the eastern region of Hispaniola. As of 2020, the nation’s capital Santo Domingo had a population of 2.2 million with the entire country having a population of nearly 11 million people. Poverty has also victimized the Dominican Republic for generations. In fact, the Human Development Index (HDI) has ranked the nation 88 out of 177 countries around the world. With poverty still a widespread issue, more than 20 percent currently resides in shanty cabins. The majority of the Dominican Republic’s citizens have no access to clean drinking water, basic sanitation needs or fluid electricity. Despite these ongoing problems, a major decrease in poverty occurred, reducing from 54.70 percent in 1989 to 19.90 percent in 2016. Poverty relief through nonprofit organizations and education programs in the Dominican Republic has allowed for these results.

Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring

In 1995, a group of students from Dartmouth College traveled to the Dominican Republic. They volunteered at public schools in the small town of Cabarete for one semester. Spearheaded by Donald Rabinovich, his project DREAM, or Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring, became a rapid-fire success as the project began rebuilding the town’s local schools. DREAM focused on rebuilding classrooms, computer labs and libraries, as well as renovating bathrooms. The project soon evolved and planned new programs to offer children opportunities to further improve the Dominican Republic.

DREAM offers innovative education programs by adopting the Montessori learning system for its students to advance their learning ability. The system adopts self-directed activity where students decide how they learn and at what pace through experiential learning. The DREAM program boasted a 93 percent attendance rate for more than 450 students while 3-year olds developed better linguistic, socio-economic, kinesthetic and cognitive skills. Parents participated in weekly meetings to help foster their children’s education through the Montessori system at home.

Food for the Poor

Another of the many programs in the Dominican Republic that are improving living quality is Food for the Poor. The organization has helped alleviate poverty and provide fresh food and clean water to the Dominican Republic since 2000. One way it provides aid is by teaching dozens of families how to plant, grow and harvest fruits and vegetables through its greenhouse projects. On September 12, 2013, the city of Pedro Santana, located near the border east of Haiti, witnessed the building of its eighth greenhouse. This, along with the other seven, helps to increase food security and production in the Dominican Republic. The Church of the Nativity in Virginia provided funding for this project through its Operation Starfish program.

Operation Starfish

Operation Starfish began in 1998 with the aim of allowing families to engage in spiritual reflection and giving back to the less fortunate. The program encourages each family to donate at least 50 cents per day to aid the poor. Father Dick Martin came up with Operation Starfish to help others assist the poor at a minimal level while making a big difference. One year during Lent, more than 2,500 families donated 50 cents per day during the 40 days of Lent, resulting in the collection of over $67,000. This was more money than Fr. Martin initially predicted.

Community Development Projects

The Dominican Republic built almost 3,000 homes through its Community Development Projects. Additionally, the program also helped rebuild schools, clinics and community centers. Moreover, it assisted in building women’s human rights programs that teach independence, self-care and vocational training.

The greenhouse facility in Pedro Santana provides large stocks of produce thanks to efficient farming. The location, operated by local farmers, has performed beyond its expectations. A portion of profits from vegetable sales goes towards the greenhouses in the seven additional locations. Food for the Poor helped create a drip irrigation system that a water reservoir and underground supply lines feed.

With the progress that the Dominican Republic has made through education, mentoring and community rebuilding, the process of downsizing poverty and restoring its youth with innovative methods of developing skills and knowledge is improving the nation. These ways of poverty relief from nonprofits and pedagogical programs have been key factors in giving the Dominican Republic a fighting chance in becoming a future contributor to others in need itself.

– Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

The Saroja Foundation“I lost my brother due to paralysis when I was in 5th grade.” These are the words of Sachin Negi, a twenty-year-old college student in India. Currently, 385 million children live in extreme poverty and 25,000 of them die each day due to an illness similar to the one contracted by Negi’s brother. Although Negi was born in a middle-class family, he grew up seeing impoverished people wandering the streets or the sidewalks lining his house. He caught a glimpse of his brother’s pain in the difficulties of these people. They were begging, roaming the streets and scavenging for food. He could not bear it. That’s why he started the Saroja Foundation.

The Saroja Foundation

Sachin Negi spoke with The Borgen Project in early February 2020. Negi established a nonprofit organization named the Saroja Foundation, titled in the honor of his mother. She was a hard-working housewife who has guided Negi in every phase of his life. While many acknowledge that poverty cannot be eradicated completely with a single action, the organization aims to take steps to diminish it bit by bit. Specifically, the foundation visits underdeveloped neighborhoods to distribute textbooks to young children who cannot afford to go to school, helping them recognize their potential.

Though its main objective is to empower the poor with education, the organization also plans to use funds to develop programs at local colleges and other schools in Delhi. It hopes to raise awareness of extreme poverty in the community and beyond. According to the board members, combatting poverty starts with changing the mindset of others and identifying poverty as a crucial issue.

What is at the Crux of Poverty?

“The problem is that the poor and the rich do not help each other. Then, what ends up happening is that the poor stay poor, and the rich stay rich. That is it. Everyone says that they want to help, but they want to show it more than actually do it.” – Sachin Negi

Another reason for poverty and hunger is unemployment, according to Negi. When people are born poor and lack access to education, their background is not competitive enough for jobs. Consequently, they can only operate small businesses such as tea stalls or food corners. Circumstances like these are why 10 percent of the world’s population still lives on less than $1.90 a day in 2020.

Founding the Foundation

Throughout the process of establishing the new foundation in a society where such initiatives are rarely supported, Negi is grateful to receive immense support from his family. Negi’s father noted in the interview, “our youngest son passed away at the tender age of 6 months because of weakness. That, coupled with the death of his other 17-year-old brother, has shaken Negi and developed his passion to help the poverty-stricken. In addition to studying from books, he is always trying to give out books to those people who do not have them.”

Furthermore, his best friend, nineteen-year-old Chetna Rana, serves as the Social Media Manager of the foundation. “She has done more for me than anyone has. She stood by me when my brothers died and helped me set up this foundation when I had almost no one by my side. Chetna was always there to spread the knowledge of our foundation in our respective colleges,” said Negi.

Poverty Through a Different Pair of Eyes

Rana’s approach to the poverty crisis is slightly different. Though she has no specific family background that inspires her to create the foundation, Rana visited several indigent communities to deliver soap during college. She provided sanitation to thousands of children and adults. In her interview with The Borgen Project, she identified that the primary issue rests in the education system.

“Everyone focuses on bookish knowledge and memorization. There is so much of an emphasis on numbers that practical knowledge is never implemented in the curriculum. Usually, the person who reads the book the most scores the highest in the class.” – Chetna Rana

Due to this, students entering the workforce in developing nations are often not cognizant of the impact their actions have on the surrounding environment. As for the poor, there are limited opportunities to obtain such “bookish knowledge” and, thus, a successful career. Talents, such as singing, dancing and digital marketing, are often discouraged, obliging children as young as 4-5 year-olds to work in factories to get one meal a day.

Funding the Future

To help young people realize their passions, the foundation also plans on hosting and organizing several career education programs. However, as a recently-formed organization, the Saroja Foundation is experiencing difficulty in securing funds. All founders are still students, and it costs around 10,000 to 12,000 rupees just to propose to register with the Indian government. Funds are so limited that even creating an official website is not possible. “Many people have the mentality that advocating against poverty is a waste of time. There is only one question on everyone’s minds: “Where is our money going?”

As Negi progresses in his degree in computer science, he hopes that the foundation will receive more donations. The Saroja Foundation intends on creating software that could raise awareness about poverty. It also distributes books to underdeveloped schools and collects old shoes for cobblers who can then repair them for reuse. Negi’s dream is to collaborate with Food Panda, a company that processes online food orders from customers and sends them to partner restaurants for delivery.

“Though I love the service. The issue lies in the fact that if a customer cancels an order after its processing, the food may have already been prepared. Because it is not given to the customer, it just goes into the trash. I want to develop a system to give this unconsumed food to those who cannot afford it,” said Negi.

Anyone Can Make an Impact

The Saroja Foundation would love to interact with other nonprofit organizations both regionally in India and internationally to engage more people toward the cause. Efforts will not be ceasing anytime soon. Interested organizations, as well as individuals, may visit Saroja Foundation’s webpage here. The organization is also active on Instagram and Twitter @sarojafoundation18. As Negi expresses, “The internal happiness I receive as a result of running this foundation cannot be underscored enough. It is the reason why I am here today.”

Gaytri Vasal
Photo: Flickr

Education in Syrian Tent Cities
2020 marks the 10th year of the ongoing conflict in Syria. A war that began with the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, the Syrian Civil War has accounted for over 400,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 12 million people. Amidst this conflict, NGOs are working to expand children’s access to education in Syrian tent cities.

The Crisis in Syria

Fighting between Bashar Al-Assad’s authoritarian regime and Syrian separatist groups increased the prevalence of terrorist organizations. Groups, including ISIS, are using this ongoing conflict to strengthen their power in the region. Caught in the crossfire are innocent civilians. Pushed out of their homes, they have been forced to find refuge elsewhere. Thousands of Syrian refugees are now located in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

According to World Vision, a nonprofit dedicated to lifting children out of poverty, over half of Syrian refugees are children. Bombings limit children’s access to education and healthcare, and the devastation is tearing families apart. Consequently, refugees are relying on resources within refugee camps, also known as “tent cities.”

Problems in Syrian Tent Cities

Syrian tent cities are loose constructions of temporary shelters made from the limited resources refugees can find, including boxes, bed sheets, blankets and plastics. With minimal safety precautions, resources and sanitation practices, tent cities are insecure and put refugees at risk.

Additionally, high levels of displacement exacerbate the financial plight of families, especially for children. UNICEF reports that 85 percent of children are living below the poverty line. According to the World Bank, Syrian children have low levels of enrollment and are especially at risk of succumbing to the numerous pressures involved with poverty. However, local NGOs are working to provide quality education in Syrian tent cities.

NGOs Support Education in Syrian Tent Cities

Many NGOs are continuing to expand throughout Syria and neighboring regions to provide educational assistance to children in tent cities.

  1. Nowell’s Mission: In 2014, Nowell Sukkar established Nowell’s Mission, a nonprofit that raises money to provide education to Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and Jordan. Sukkar and volunteers travel to Syrian refugee camps, providing basic education to children, including training in literacy.
  2. Children on the Edge: Another NGO, Children on the Edge, was established in 2000 by UNESCO to work with traumatized children and youth post-conflict in Timor-Leste. In 2004, when Children on the Edge became an independently registered charity, they expanded their support to include a wide range of children’s advocacy work across the world. These projects include building refugee education camps in Lebanon, the country with the largest Syrian refugee population per capita. These education camps have served over 300 children, providing education to children in their own dialect. Subjects include math, science, history, geography and English.
  3. Karam: Karam, the Arabic word for generous, is the name of one NGO, created in 2007. Their mission is to provide support to people across the globe, through education, employment and leadership training. One of their initiatives, operating out of Turkey, raises funds to rebuild schools and to provide Syrian children with opportunities in higher education.

While these are just a few NGOs helping support and rebuild education for Syrian refugee children, they represent the diverse ways children’s education can be improved. Whether it’s funding teachers, building schools or providing access to higher-education opportunities, initiatives to improve education in Syrian tent cities are helping children rebuild after tragedy.

 

With new global humanitarian problems emerging every day, it’s easy to forget the children impacted by sustained crises – like the one in Syria – who are now facing the long-term effects of insufferable war. By raising awareness, we can change the lives of Syrian children and provide them with the education they deserve.

– Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr