Information and stories about nonprofit organizations and NGOs

.Project C.U.R.E.
Dr. James Jackson, an international economic consultant, went on a trip to Brazil. While there, he visited an empty, under-equipped clinic near Rio de Janeiro. Inspired to help under-resourced parts of the world, he came back to Colorado to create Project C.U.R.E (Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment). With a $50,000 donation from his friend, Dr. James Jackson founded his nonprofit in 1987. In just 30 days, he collected $250,000 worth of medical supplies — all in his garage. Now, his son, Dr. Douglas Jackson, runs Project C.U.R.E. as CEO and President. This article will explore how Project C.U.R.E. helps clinics worldwide by providing them with the necessary equipment.

Company Accomplishments

Project C.U.R.E. helps clinics and hospitals around the world by providing them with life-saving medical equipment and supplies. It has shipped 2,078 containers to 132 countries since June 2000. Since its inception over three decades ago, Project C.U.R.E. operations have expanded across the United States. Its distribution centers are located in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Nashville and Phoenix. Additionally, small collection centers span multiple states. The organization has projects in countries such as Mexico, Nigeria, Uganda, Myanmar and the Dominican Republic.

In 2019, Project C.U.R.E. sent 145 containers to 42 countries with the help of nearly 30,000 volunteers. Forty-two global locations received 322 C.U.R.E. kits, and 12,624 patients received treatment at C.U.R.E. clinics in 2019 alone. From 2017 to 2018, the nonprofit trained 584 medical professionals in six different countries. In most of the countries that the nonprofit has worked in, people earn under $5 per day. People in these communities are often unable to afford basic health care and have a lower standard of living.

Methodology

Project C.U.R.E. does not go into these communities at random. It goes into areas that have suffered natural disasters or other desperate situations only after receiving an invite. Once someone identifies a “want,” someone from the organization personally visits the hospital and meets with the doctors for an 18-page need assessment. This need assessment ensures that Project C.U.R.E. can formulate a customized plan that specifically meets the needs of that hospital. After that, Project C.U.R.E. picks items out from the warehouses and ships them in containers from the distribution centers straight to the hospital.

The nonprofit delivers two to three cargo containers of medical supplies every week. With just $25, one can sponsor a delivery of a box of supplies with a $500 value to any country that Project C.U.R.E. does work in.

Partnership with AmerisourceBergen

Project C.U.R.E. works with the AmerisourceBergen Foundation, an American drug wholesale company that specializes in pharmaceutical sourcing and distribution services. Through this partnership, Project C.U.R.E. is able to make a positive impact on developing countries and their communities through improving access and quality of health care. Together, the partnership has gathered donations of medical equipment from medical facilities in the Chester County area. Distribution centers received the supplies for packaging and will eventually send them out to clinics all around the world.

Current Aid

Due to the pandemic, Project C.U.R.E. has shifted its focus to local needs. It packs and delivers personal protective equipment and ventilators to hospitals.

Yet, its mission remains the same: providing medical equipment and supplies to offer relief and critical resources to under-resourced communities. Project C.U.R.E. helps clinics so that they are able to perform safe medical procedures and offer quality health care to those most vulnerable.

Mizuki Kai
Photo: Flickr

DouglaPrieta Works
In many cases of migration, dangers from gangs and community violence force people to leave their homes. Migrants also tend to flee because of economic challenges and persecution. A few women in Mexico who were part of these forced removals did not want to move to a new country. It was important for these women to stay where their families, cultures and traditions existed despite difficulties like finding sustainable jobs in Mexico. As a result, they decided to move to Agua Prieta, Mexico and become a part of the family at DouglaPrieta Works.

The Beginning

DouglaPrieta Work is a self-help organization that women founded to help the poor. Specifically, the founders had the dream of procuring the means to stay in their home country through the creation of a self-sufficiency co-op. To fund this, the women sell handmade goods such as reusable bags, earrings, winter accessories, dolls and more. They sell these beautiful crafts throughout Agua Prieta, neighboring cities and even in the United States. Their efforts all center back to the main goal of promoting “a mutual-aid ethic among community members, with the goal of economic self-sufficiency.”

How it Works

The first step in economic security is education. The women at DouglaPrieta Works understand this and all self-teach. They work together to learn how to sew, knit, craft, cook and read. The women utilize these skills to then sustain themselves, their families and the co-op. To further support themselves, the group incorporated a farm next to their co-op. They use the fruits and vegetables they grow for cooking. The women encourage sustainable food security through culturally-appropriate foods based on the needs of the people in their community. The group also built a woodshop to craft furniture for the community to maximize the benefits of their surrounding resources. The co-op does not exclude the children in all of this work either. Oftentimes, their children learn the skills along with them and work with each other in school.

Actions

In 2019, they led an initiative where people in their town could donate canned goods and receive a handmade reusable bag in return. This program allowed the women of DouglaPrieta Works able to donate hundreds of canned goods to those in need. Additionally, they were able to provide reusable bags to the community in order to encourage limited plastic bag use to better the environment.

DouglaPrieta Works often provides migrants working at its co-op with funds to help them and their families survive the journey of migration. There is a nearby migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, C.A.M.E, to house the travelers. While at the co-op, many migrants work in the woodshop at AguaPrieta Works in exchange for meals, funds and friendship.

Students and groups interested in learning about the U.S./Mexico border are welcome to join the women at DouglaPrieta Works for a meal, as the women provide stories and information about the border. The power of education and inclusivity is a core value at DouglaPrieta Works.

Helping Out

Overall, incredible work is occurring in the town of Agua Prieta, Mexico. These women are sustaining themselves to stay in the country they call home and they are providing food, resources and work for migrants. Their children are able to learn and grow together, as well as eat healthy, organic meals from the garden. To learn more about the co-op, visit its website.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Microfinancing Partners in Africa
Microfinancing Partners in Africa is a nonprofit that provides microfinance opportunities to people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its current programs vary in nature. Some examples include giving loans to subsistence farmers to purchase a cow, providing water filtration systems and educating students on microfinance.

Microfinance is an innovative approach to growing the economies of impoverished nations by giving its citizens access to small loans, usually under $200. It is a way for those in poverty to develop a stable income because they do not have access to traditional loans.

Historically, companies have used high-interest rates to take advantage of impoverished people seeking loans. However, agencies like Microfinancing Partners in Africa counter that practice. It offers options that often require recipients to take financial literacy courses and give them loans without requiring collateral. In this way, Microfinancing Partners in Africa works to actively combat poverty within Sub-Saharan Africa. Here are some of its success stories:

Jane Nalwadda

Jane Nalwadda is a woman from Uganda born with an obstetric fistula. Her condition left her unable to have a child with her husband who consequently left her after three years of marriage. The abandonment left Nalwadda without a reliable source of income. She fell into utter despair until a friend recommended the Kitovu hospital to her. There she would be eligible for a free fistula repair surgery program. Here is where Microfinancing Partners in Africa stepped in.

The nonprofit established the microfinance program The Piglet Project. The program helps women make money post-fistula repair by helping them raise and breed pigs, eventually creating a sustainable business. Jane was able to raise $29 with her first litter of pigs, which enabled her to build a better pen. She now has a steady means of making a living and can build a promising future.

Bujugo Village

Bujugo is a tiny village in Tunisia that has clean water accessibility problems. The village received seven water filters from Microfinancing Partners in Africa in 2019. Villagers then received training to use the filters and developed a time table to maximize the amount of village usage. Now, 49 families receive clean drinking water because of this microfinancing program.

Florence Mbaziira and Joseph Mbaziira

Florence and Joseph Mbaziira are an older couple from Uganda who works on a farm with mostly unproductive land. They tirelessly worked on their farm to support themselves and their four grandchildren. By 2014, the family was still living off a small income that came from selling the produce that they grew. Afterward, they turned to the Cow Project.

Microfinancing Partners in Africa created the Cow Project to support farmers through a “living loan.” The Mbaziiras took full advantage of the program and bought a cow for their land. Microfinancing Partners in Africa trained them to use the cow’s manure to increase crop yields. The couple now grows coffee, bananas and seasonal foods. Thanks to microfinancing, the Mbaziiras are able to support their family through their own farming business.

Saida Juma

Saida Juma is a divorced woman with two children living in Tanzania. Previously, she worked as a maid for $5 a month. However, her passions were elsewhere. She had the desire to start selling fish. Juma worked with Microfinancing Partners in Africa to obtain a microloan of $50. With the money, she was able to go into business for a local fisherman by selling fish. Her earnings are enough to support her children as well as send them to school. Her goal is for her children to be well-educated and take over her business when she retires. She also plans to take out another $100 loan soon to buy a fridge to store unsold fish.

All of these people were struggling to survive. Microfinancing Partners in Africa’s varied programs were able to help inspire and empower them to gain a livable income. Microfinancing Partners in Africa helped increase the quality of life for these people and many others, proving that microfinancing is an effective way of fighting poverty.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South Sudan
In 2011 South Sudan became the newest nation in the world. Gaining independence gave much celebration and hope for the future, yet South Sudan was created as a very undeveloped country. Nearly seven million people face the risk of starvation, which is 60% of the population in the country. In order to fight hunger in South Sudan, these organizations have come together to provide aid.

Rise Against Hunger

In parts of South Sudan such as Unity State and Jonglei, famine was officially declared in February of 2017. However, humanitarian organizations such as Rise Against Hunger fought to prevent worsening conditions. The national Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has reported that the extent of the famine has since diminished. One of the ways Rise Against Hunger fought against hunger in South Sudan is by supporting programs managed by Mothering Across Continents in Old Fangak. The programs focus on providing school meals for children, constructing sustainable food storage and stabilizing markets through the purchase of local foods. Through the efforts of this support, more than 1,300 school children have received aid at the Old Fangak community school.

Action Against Hunger

Factors such as poor living conditions, climate change, limited access to clean water and public services lead to many becoming undernourished. The team at Action Against Hunger works to make hunger in South Sudan a thing of the past. The team focuses on bringing programs to local communities that work to prevent underlying causes of hunger. Teams at Action Against Hunger worked on supplying 7,215 families with agriculture support. They also constructed 71 kilometers of roads that will allow more easy access to schools, markets and health services. With 91,000 people living near poor-quality roads, these new 71 kilometers of roads will give much-needed relief to the people in South Sudan.

World Food Programme

Since December of 2013 civil war has been causing havoc in South Sudan. It has caused widespread destruction and death, which tanked the economy and reduced crop production and imports. This has made it difficult for 1.47 million displaced people to secure enough food for the year. To combat the hunger in South Sudan, the World Food Programme has worked to provide food assistance in nearly every part of the country since 2011. The organization also makes sure to provide nutritious food and nutrition counseling to pregnant women and children. The World Food Programme also establishes secure farming grounds in areas that do not see conflict.

Organizations such as Rise Against Hunger, Action Against Hunger and the World Food Programme are able to help prevent hunger in South Sudan and give relief for the people who are put at the risk of starvation. With the help of organizations aimed towards preventing hunger, the people of South Sudan are able to make steady progress towards food security.

Ashleigh Jimenez
Photo: Flickr

The Value of Small Nonprofits: Maasai American Organization
Lea Pellet, one of the delegates at the 1996 United Nations Women’s Conference in China, was very interested when nonprofit success was discussed. “One of the issues that came forth there was the recognition that big organizations were doing phenomenal work throughout the world, but there were a lot of pieces that really could only be handled by small groups. A church to a church, a school to a school, a women’s group to another women’s group.” With that thought, the Maasai American Organization (MAO) was born. Starting with domestic needs and then transitioning to international aid in health and education, MAO has flipped the script regarding non-profits.

Founder of MAO

Lea Pellet is a Wisconsin native and holder of multiple sociology and social work degrees from the College of William and Mary, Hampton University, Norfolk State University and Old Dominion University. She has served as a chair of the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology at Christopher Newport University from 1970 to 2006 and has also spent time as an Anthropology Field School Coordinator. Pellet founded the Maasai American Organization in 2000 and since then, the non-profit has worked with countries around the world. The organization’s name however, comes from their focus on helping the Maasai people of Kenya.

Domestic to International Efforts

The Maasai American Organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit originally run through Christopher Newport University in Virginia. As the program grew, it began to focus on international interests; this began with a grant from the School of Public Health of Mexico. The budding  idea was to find indigenous groups with a handful of educated or skilled people within the community, like teachers and doctors. MAO would then pair these people with groups from the United States in a fashion that values person to person interaction and connection.

On a trip to Kenya with her husband, Pellet met a woman who was once part of a UN program. Pellet asked her to consider setting her sights on the Maasai people by providing them with both aid and education. Pellet went with a team into the most remote areas of the Maasai territory and encountered their incredible pieces of art. Later, it was sold to African American museums in the United States. From there, Pellet got serious about becoming an NGO (instead of remaining university-based) and renamed the organization the Maasai American Organization.

Maasai Communities of Kenya

MAO put 300 Maasai girls through primary and secondary school in a culture that has historically not approved of education for girls. The organization’s focus was on educating girls who would return to the Maasai Mara and help improve their communities. Many of these girls would become nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs and social workers. MAO also helped build 10 preschools in remote areas, allowing some of the 300 graduated girls to be hired there as teachers. Most of the children coming to school have never heard Kiswahili or English. The children are typically taught by teachers from the urban area who have never heard KiMaa, the Maasai language. To eradicate language barriers, MAO teaches teachers to begin in native languages and then bridge to national languages if possible.

Most Maasai women were walking more than two hours to gather water from polluted streams. As a result, MAO put additional focus on the community’s acquisition of clean water. The organization installed deep wells where feasible and taught water purification techniques if wells could not be dug. Those wells made it possible for women to plant crops and even raise small herds of goats. Consequently, these changes improved the nutrition and health of children. MAO also constructed and staffed three family clinics, providing health officials until the educated girls were ready to take over.

Mayan Communities of Guatemala

Alongside her focus on Kenyan communities, Pellet felt the need to bring her work to Guatemala. MAO focused on educating Mayan girls to help build and staff health clinics. It also focused on developing markets for indigenous craft products and teaching women how to operate group craft businesses. The organization has built and supported a preschool and have moved approximately 50 Mayan girls on to successful school careers. One of the most significant contributions has been moving 80-100 women into entrepreneurship as glass bead weavers and jewelry makers.

Pellet personally oversees the most recent projects in Guatemala. She makes yearly trips there with a team to implicate different initiatives and work with the education and healthcare projects there. Her efforts have halted with the pandemic. She hopes to resume in the future when it is safe to do so.

Advantages of Small-Scale Nonprofits

Small nonprofits can have an incredible impact when working with low-resource communities. Here are a few ways that small initiatives like the Maasai American Organization can differentiate themselves from larger organizations:

  • Unique message or incentive
  • Flexibility and innovation
  • Less red tape
  • Cost-effective
  • Personal presence
  • Community-driven
  • Proximity

There are many situations where personal interaction and one-on-one aid is more helpful than sending a dollar amount. Lea Pellet’s Maasai American Organization is a great example of a small nonprofit that has made a world of difference in the past, present and future of the Maasai and Mayan peoples.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in India Through SewingOver the last decade, empowering women in poor communities has become a focal point in India. That is because about 50.7 million people live in extreme poverty in India, yet, as of 2019, only 20.7% of women in India are part of the labor force. Moreover, the country has recently seen a drop in its GDP from 6.1% to 5% and is attempting to recover from its uncertain economy. As a result, one solution that many nonprofit organizations and the government have recognized is investing in the population that is living under the poverty line. Specifically, many groups are empowering women in India through sewing.

Today, being able to sew can be an acclaimed vocational skill. Over the past decade or so, embroidery has become an empowering tool for women in India, and a traditional craft. With this understanding, nonprofits have implemented many initiatives in India to empower women and help their families out of poverty.

Sewing the Seeds & Samugam Trust

Sewing the Seeds is a nonprofit organization that partnered with the NGO Samugam Trust to begin a women’s sewing initiative. The plan supports women in impoverished communities by creating economic stability using creativity and the traditional craft of stitching. Bruno Savio and Gayle created Sewing the Seeds to use sewing to empower women in India living in poverty.

Savio’s father opened the Samugam Trust in 1991 to support the educational training of the underprivileged, the rehabilitation of leprosy patients and those who are physically challenged. Bruno Savio has continued his father’s legacy as director of Samugam and partner of Sewing the Seeds. Gayle backpacked across India about 40 years ago. During her journey, she saw an opportunity to empower women in the country through vocational training.

Savio and Gayle recognized that more than 50% of women in India are illiterate, and only 29% of women in India are actively employed. Additionally, those who are employed are paid 46% less than men holding the same positions. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust realize that investing in women is smart economics and essential to reducing poverty. With this in mind, the initiative provides the training, financial assistance, materials and communal space to empower women while preserving local craft traditions.

Samugam Trust has supported the initiative since 2011, with the first collection of products introduced online in 2018. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust have supplied training and machines for 130 women. The importance of this initiative is to empower women in India in a way that is holistic and long term in its support.

Shakti.ism

Shakti.ism also supported empowering women in India through sewing by launching a sustainable livelihood project. The starting goal is to reach out to 10 tribal and disabled Indian women to provide vocational training. To successfully supply these resources Shakti.ism is partnering with Samugam Trust and Sewing the Seeds to empower impoverished women. Recently, they chose 10 women from diverse backgrounds including disabled mothers.

Shakti.ism continuously raises money to cover instruction fees, supplies, daily stipends for trainees and administrative costs such as quality control. Most products are crafted from repurposed saris (a traditional Indian woman’s dress) and are to be sold online. Shakti.ism is empowering women in India as a way to support families living in underprivileged rural areas of India, as well as decrease the wage disparity while increasing the trainees’ self-confidence and skills.

Usha Silai School

Included in the community-based initiative is Usha Silai (sewing) School. This initiative has reportedly set up over 15,000 sewing schools across India with the support of the Digital Empowerment Foundation NGO and Sikana. To further their reach and enhance their programs, Usha and Sikana co-created a video program to train illiterate women. The enhanced program has increased the initiative’s outreach while providing skills to gain a livelihood to women in rural India.

The Digital Empowerment Foundation supplies technological information for rural citizens to use to their advantage. For example, they supply internet-dependent tools that can provide access to training and create socioeconomic equality. Specifically, they provide internet and digital tools in rural community centers that partner with Usha Silai School.

Community-based initiatives that provide sewing empowerment for women in poverty have been essential for the growth of rural India. Sewing has become a highly desired vocational skill and is a powerful tool for those living in poverty. Recognizing the long term impact of vocational training, NGOs provide this solution-based approach across India to bring self-confidence and skills to women.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr

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