Homeless Youth in CanadaThe plight of homeless youth in Canada is a recent issue in the public eye. The increased representation and awareness have garnered celebrity support, such as from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. The married couple has committed to donating $500,000 in total to the cause. Covenant House Vancouver and Toronto, foundations dedicated to opening their door to the homeless youth in Canada, are the lucky recipients.

The Issue

The first majority study done on homeless youth in Canada, “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey,” was conducted just four years ago in 2016. A recent study found that the youth make up around 20% of the entire homeless population in Canada.

These children often experience housing instability and child abuse prior to their homelessness experience. Once on the streets, children under 16 — around 40% of the homeless youth in Canada — struggle through increased adversity. Further, various forms of oppression often couple homelessness. A staggering number of these children identify as POC, LGBTQ+, and of many other marginalized groups.

However, organizations and philanthropists alike have stepped up to address this dire situation.

Covenant House

Covenant House is an international organization that provides support and aid for homeless youth in Canada. The organization’s mission statement is: “Covenant House launched a federation-wide initiative to design and implement a cutting-edge, data-informed strategy to help even more of our kids achieve meaningful, long-term outcomes.”

It especially focuses on offering services to members of the LGBTQ+ community, POC, and abuse victims. The organization provides more than just direct support for these young individuals. Covenant House commits to restructuring data processing regarding homeless youth, reviewing methods of information analysis and generation, and finding the best performance measurement strategies. The organization works toward short-term as well as long-term change.

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s Involvement

The serious issue of youth homelessness in Canada deeply struck Ryan Reynolds, a Canadian himself. In response, Reynolds and Blake Lively decided to donate $500,000 to the cause. The couple even matches donations up to $375,000 before the end of 2020 to encourage others to donate.

The choice of where the funds should go was a personal one. Reynolds has a long-time relationship with the Covenant House. The dedication they put into their work and the extensive impact they wield in the community inspired his “investment.”

In the interview done by Covenant House, he described the donation as an investment rather than a monetary donation into homeless youth in Canada. Reynolds stated, “The young people who pass through the doors of Covenant House more often than not have a story marked by extraordinary trauma. They are so much more than that trauma. They have so much to offer the world. Matching this gift is saying you believe in them. You believe in the power of compassion to transform the trajectory of a human being.”

The CEO of Covenant House Vancouver, Krista Thompson, expressed her gratitude for the donation and continued relationship with the couple. Thompson remarked, “Ryan and Blake truly understand that young people who are facing homelessness deserve unconditional love and absolute respect.” The money will be used to assist with youth experiencing homelessness and fund much of the research that is occurring to combat the issue of homelessness as a whole.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

“Every Last Child” Save the Children believes that children have the right to grow up healthy, educated and safe. Since its beginning in 1919, the organization has worked in more than 100 countries. In 2019 alone, the organization reached more than 144 million children globally. One of the organization’s campaigns, Every Last Child, has allowed Save the Children to increase its reach to especially vulnerable populations of children around the world.

The Start

Save the Children introduced the global campaign to the world on April 26, 2016. The campaign strives to reach children who do not have adequate access to health care, education and protection. It works to end preventable deaths among children. The specific goal is to avoid at least 600,000 preventable child deaths. Another facet of the campaign is aiding children in receiving a basic quality education. The quantified objective for this goal is to help 50 million more children gain access to education. A 15-year time frame, 2030, is the target date for these missions. So far, the campaign has helped 15 million of the world’s “excluded children” gain access to life-saving health care and quality education.

“Excluded Children”

Every Last Child focuses on “excluded children,” defined as children “not benefiting from recent global progress in social well-being, particularly in health and learning because of a toxic mix of poverty and discrimination.” The campaign did research to establish the extent of exclusion associated with certain groups of children. It found that persecution and discrimination based on beliefs impacted 400 million children with ethnic and religious backgrounds. Further, children with disabilities are four times more likely to experience physical and sexual violence and neglect when compared to their peers.

Three Guarantees

The campaign calls on leaders across the world to make three guarantees for all children. The first guarantee is the establishment of fair finance. The Every Last Child campaign describes this as “sustainable financing of and free access to essential services.” This includes escalating public investment in high-quality health and educational services to increase access for all children.

The second guarantee is to establish equal treatment by putting an end to discriminatory policies and norms. This is to help eliminate bias that negatively impacts minority groups.

The third guarantee is to increase the accountability of decision-makers by amplifying the voices of excluded groups in policymaking. This will ensure the allocation of community budgets positively impact excluded groups of children. These three promises help contribute to the mission of the Every Last Child campaign.

Tailored Strategies

The campaign customizes its efforts to fit each country’s needs. While many countries experience similar issues, not all of them are equal in the extent of assistance necessary. In order to reach these vulnerable populations of children, the issues the campaign addresses vary in each country.

For example, in Niger, the Every Last Child campaign advocates for the adoption of policies that outlaw early child marriage and support access to quality education. In Yemen, the campaign fights for the protection of children affected by conflict. In Kosovo, the campaign promotes access to quality services in the education and health industries for children, particularly those with disabilities.

The goal is to make these services and information about the services available to parents and families in the country to create greater access. Customizing its goals allows the Every Last Child campaign to focus on the most pressing issues affecting each country.

Since its beginning in 2016, Save the Children’s Every Last Child campaign has committed to put an end to the exclusion of vulnerable populations of children. Through its research and advocacy efforts, the organization has helped to address the need to increase access to life-saving health care and quality education for children worldwide to ensure that no child is left out of the advancements of the world.

Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Alimenta la SolidaridadVenezuela has a convoluted political, economic and social situation. The present humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has placed the country fourth for the largest food crisis in the world. The nonprofit organization Alimenta La Solidaridad (Feed Solidarity) chooses to tackle this issue head-on.

The Situation in Venezuela

According to the World Food Programme, one in every three Venezuelans requires food assistance. Venezuela’s deteriorating situation has decreased household access to food as well as the purchasing power of the people. In 2019, an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans suffered from food insecurity and approximately 9.3 million required immediate food assistance.

The current food dilemma is expected to worsen due to the current economic crisis. Already, the plight has increased childhood malnutrition and starvation. Children in Venezuela rarely obtain vital nutrients for proper growth and adequate cognitive development.

A Nonprofit to the Rescue

Alimenta La Solidaridad was determined to combat the rampant food insecurity in Venezuela. Since 2016, it has provided more than 7 million meals to Venezuelan children in need. The program started mainly in Distrito Capital, the capital’s state, but it has gradually expanded nationwide. It now operates in 14 additional states, has a total of 188 dining rooms across the national territory and gives food assistance to more than 14,000 children.

The nonprofit recognizes the necessity to contribute its part to society. Alimenta La Solidaridad aims to find sustainable solutions to the food-related challenges that plague many low-income Venezuelan families. This organization works exhaustively to soften the effect of the nutritional deficiencies that many children in this program endure.

How Alimenta La Solidaridad Works

Alimenta La Solidaridad operates through donors with the help of mothers and fathers from the communities. The nonprofit gathers people willing to share their homes to provide the space for community kitchens. Volunteers cook, organize the children, clean and manage the daily operations of this effort. The organization is “more than a plate of food.” When people with Alimenta La Solidaridad get together, they create a place of transformation. Sometimes, they create activities that turn into opportunities for the development and empowerment of children. Mothers in the program also receive growth opportunities.

Alimenta La Solidaridad provides training courses that will empower mothers. The new skills are then put right back into the organization. These mothers often end up taking on one of the most important roles within the organization. They do not only make the initiative possible but they also teach the children to grow in the values of co-responsibility, involvement and service.

Alimenta La Solidaridad aids the outside communities as well. The initiative contributes to the reduction of criminal indexes within the surrounding areas. Further, the organization promotes community organizations and volunteer work. The organization utilizes these avenues of aid as a way to fulfill its mission of providing daily meals to children suffering from food insecurity in Venezuela.

Hope for the Fight

Despite the dire reality in Venezuela, many organizations across the nation are trying to find ways to help. Alimenta La Solidaridad is the perfect example of an organization that managed to provide aid despite bleak circumstances. The nonprofit’s dedication and goodwill have led to a model based on responsibility and empowerment. This method boosts the sense of involvement and level of voluntary service within Venezuelan communities in need. Food insecurity has met its match with the hopeful spirit of the resilient Venezuelan people.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Flickr

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

Vlogbrothers’ Partners In Health
John Green and Hank Green, known as “the Vlogbrothers,” started a YouTube channel in 2007 called Brotherhood 2.0. It was a place for the two brothers to talk to each other through daily videos in hope of bonding. Over 10 years later, the Vlogbrothers have gained a 3-million-strong community based around learning and activism. The Green brothers also use their platform to put their own words into action. They host a Project For Awesome event each year that sends donations to charities are based on the number of viewers. Now, the Vlogbrothers’ Partners In Health partnership aims to increase access to maternal health care for women in Sierra Leone.

The Challenges in Sierra Leone

The situation in Sierra Leone has reached a crisis level. The country is in deep poverty with 60% of its citizens below the national poverty line. The beautiful terrain suffers from natural disasters and unpredictable weather patterns, which harms food production. The country struggles with health issues. There is limited access to even basic health care, a lack of clean drinking water and outbreaks of deadly diseases. A specific group that is suffering is mothers.

Sierra Leone is a deadly country for mothers to give birth. It has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world — over 300,000 mothers died from childbirth in 2015 alone. Sierra Leonean mothers die of easily preventable causes, such as hemorrhaging, lack of refrigeration for blood transfusions, unsanitary tools due to lack of clean water or lack of ambulances.

Green Brother’s Trip to Sierra Leone

In the video “The Only Psychiatric Hospital in Sierra Leone,” John Green discussed his journey to Sierra Leone’s only mental health hospital. This is a country with a population of over 7 million people. Green noted that there was no electricity, water or lighting within the hospital. The infrastructure was crumbling and the medicine cabinet had been close to empty for years. With the help of Partners In Health, a generator was able to provide the hospital with electricity, better infrastructure and hundreds of medicines for patients. Most patients that go into the psychiatric ward are now able to walk out and live healthy lives.

In 2019, John Green uploaded “Why We’re Donating 6,500,000.” In the video, he discussed the trip to Sierra Leone and told the story of a minimum wage health care worker called Ruth. Her job involves identifying women who are at high risk during pregnancy. While with Ruth, Green noticed her slip $2 in her patient’s pocket. She had wanted to make sure her child could eat that day. Green reminded his viewers that “It required far more sacrifice and compassion for Ruth to make that donation than it does for our [Hank and John’s] families to make this one.”

He went on to announce a Vlogbrothers’ Partners In Health five-year partnership. He outlined the plans to raise $25 million to supply health care facilities, workers and staff with adequate support. Green hopes that the Vlogbrothers’ Partners In Health work will decrease the odds of maternal death.

The Vlogbrothers Road to $25 million

Since 2007, the Vlogbrothers have hosted an annual Project For Awesome event. It is a 48-hour fundraising event where the money goes to “decreasing world suck.” The project has the potential to raise thousands of dollars toward the Vlogbrothers’ Partners In Health work. Additionally, its merch store gives over 90% of its proceeds to Partners In Health. The rest of the store’s profits goes toward paying artists and employees.

Still, the goal of $25 million comes across as impossible. However, John explained that “We’re already more than halfway there.” In addition to the Vlogbrothers’ Partners in Health $6.5 million donation, a group of donors offered to match up to $120,000 worth of donations each year. Green explains that to reach his target, the organization needs to raise a little over $1 million a year.

Partners In Health Creates Progress

Partners In Health has already begun important work. It employs over 450 Sierra Leonean citizens and provides food across the country. In 2019, it marked the third year in a row where no mother died from preventable pregnancy causes. Hospitals were able to have running electricity and water as well as establish a running ambulance. With more investment in health care, the numbers will only continue to improve. With focus, resources and dedication, Sierra Leone’s mothers have a better chance of surviving.

John Green noted in his video that the solution to maternal deaths is not a simple one. “It isn’t ambulances or clean water or electricity or more health care workers. It’s ambulances AND clean water AND electricity AND healthcare workers AND much more.” Green went on to say that “systemic issues demand systemic, long term solutions.” With the Vlogbrothers’ Partners in Health partnership, the future of Sierra Leone’s mothers looks brighter than ever. Anyone can help the cause by donating to the Vlogbrothers’ campaign or visiting its merch store.

Breanna Bonner
Photo: Flickr