Success of Foreign Aid
Many misconceptions exist about the federal budget, but perhaps one of its least understood sections is the International Affairs Budget. While Americans, on average, estimate that the United States dedicates nearly 31% of its federal budget to foreign aid, the International Affairs Budget comprised only $57.8 billion of the $4.829-trillion federal budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which is less than 1.2%. Though the perception of money dedicated to international affairs is often inflated, the real success of foreign aid programs often fails to make headlines. The following three USAID programs have managed to make real progress in agricultural development, disaster relief and education, despite a small budget.

Feed the Future

Feed the Future is a USAID program that partners with countries to improve their agricultural sectors and fight hunger. In doing so, it demonstrates the success of foreign aid. The program operates by teaming up with nonprofits, businesses and individuals in order to make an immediate difference in partner countries. However, it also aims to make a long-term difference by empowering participating governments and private sectors to eventually become self-sufficient.

Though the organization works in nearly 12 partner countries, it was particularly active in Sierra Leone and Liberia after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015. When this disease threatened the stability of these countries, Feed the Future helped to stimulate the private sector by distributing cash transfers and hosting agricultural input fairs, where farmers could acquire discounted seeds. In total, more than 14,000 farmers received farming inputs and more than 97,000 households received cash transfers. Ultimately, this immediate action helped to stabilize prices and fight poverty during the crisis.

Currently, Feed the Future is helping Bangladesh endure the economic trials of COVD-19. Through Feed The Future’s partnerships, Bangladeshi citizens have not only adopted healthier diets but also become more self-sufficient in their production of food. For example, Prantojon Argo Enterprise, an agricultural cooperative receiving support from Feed the Future, has given farmers access to a formal milk market by training them and providing refrigeration to 60 small shops. With the support of this foreign aid, hundreds of farmers have been given financial security during the pandemic. And with Prantojon milk sold in 66 local retailers, customers in Bangladesh have been given access to a healthier diet, demonstrating the success of foreign aid.

Baliyo Ghar

Baliyo Ghar is a USAID partnership program with Nepal, designed to aid recovery efforts from a powerful 2015 earthquake. The natural disaster destroyed over a quarter of a million homes, most of which were constructed and inhabited by the rural poor. Although the earthquake itself was devastating, the extent of the destruction was intensified by the construction style of Nepali homes. As described by USAID, “construction workers’ and homeowners’ lack of awareness and training in earthquake-safe construction … as well as the absence of a national curricula, standards, guidelines and manuals for training individuals involved in housing construction” were all factors that left Nepali homes in a vulnerable position.

Focusing both on immediate and long-term recovery, the USAID-funded Baliyo Ghar project provides resources to help homeowners rebuild structurally sound homes and works with the Government of Nepal to improve standardized training materials given to masons and construction workers. Additionally, the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) has implemented USAID funds to train masons and engineers in earthquake-resistant methods and has prioritized establishing a formal test for mason certification.

The results of these activities illustrate the success of foreign aid: more than 75% of the project’s beneficiaries have rebuilt their homes. Additionally, because of USAID’s partnership with the government of Nepal and other organizations, such as NSET, over 90% of these homes in the project’s operational area were rebuilt in a seismically safe way. In total, USAID has helped hundreds of thousands of Nepalis avoid poverty by providing nearly $200 million in earthquake assistance, supporting NSET in training nearly 4,000 masons and establishing nine Reconstruction Resource Centers throughout Nepal.

Selective Integrated Reading Activity

As the country of Mali looks to lower poverty rates, boosting literacy is a main priority. According to USAID’s website, the Selective Integrated Reading Activity (SIRA) is designed to support the government of Mali in providing reading and teaching materials, improving reading skills, training teachers and school directors and supporting early grade reading outcomes. As measured in 2018, the adult literacy rate in Mali was a mere 35.47%. Partnering with the Education Development Center, the $51 million SIRA project looks to address this low rate and improve education in the country of Mali.

The program’s objectives focus on the education of first- and second-grade children, with a heavy emphasis on providing higher-quality resources to teachers. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the program is its emphasis on community support. By teaching students in their national language and hosting training sessions that instruct parents in continuing education at home, the program has been able to engage parents in their children’s early education. Overall, SIRA has trained over 7,000 teachers, reached more than 264,000 learners and offered coaching to nearly 4,000 school directors, demonstrating the success of foreign aid.

The programs funded by the International Affairs Budget are some of the most visible examples of the success of foreign aid. Whether it be increasing access to nutrition, rebuilding homes or improving literacy, the budget helps to sustain initiatives that play crucial roles in making a difference in communities across the globe.

Michael Messina
Photo: Flickr

Beauty brands making a differenceMakeup brands are generally known for their aesthetically pleasing cosmetics and the confidence they provide their consumers. However, what is less well known is that many makeup brands are actively creating initiatives to help those in need. Most recently, many of these companies have spearheaded relief efforts to ease the impacts of the global pandemic. Here are five popular beauty brands making a difference amidst COVID-19.

5 Beauty Brands Making a Difference during COVID-19

  1. Milk Makeup. Milk Makeup is one of the beauty brands making a difference during this time. It is a popular brand best known for its minimalist makeup products. However, the company has gained recent attention for its assistance with COVID-19 in New York. On April 10, the brand partnered with the Wu-Tang Clan to donate 100 % of its proceeds from that day to the New York City COVID-19 relief effort: the event raised a total of $106,000 in just 24 hours. Additionally, the brand donated $250,000 in beauty products to frontline workers.
  2. L’Oreal. In response to COVID-19, this international drugstore brand has implemented a new initiative called “L’Oreal for the Future.” The program plans to donate 100 million euros to help combat global climate change. L’Oreal will also donate 50 million euros to support vulnerable women living in societies severely impacted by economic deficiencies. Further, the brand donated 400,000 hygiene products and 400,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to frontline hospital and retail staff in Great Britain and Ireland.
  3. MAC. MAC is another one of the beauty brands making a difference during these difficult times. Since 1994, MAC Cosmetics has held an annual “Viva Glam Campaign.” In previous years, the money from this campaign was dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS; however, in light of 2020’s recent events, the campaign has shifted to target COVID-19. Through this campaign, the beauty company has committed to donating $10 million to 250 U.S. and international organizations working to help those impacted by COVID-19.
  4. Avon. This cosmetics brand has partnered with Feed the Children for the past 16 years. However, in response to COVID-19, Avon has significantly strengthened its support of this nonprofit organization. The company has donated more than $2 million in personal care products and over $40 million in necessities to impacted families across the country.
  5. Thrive Causemetics. Thrive Causemetics is another one of the beauty brands making a difference. It has created a $1 million initiative to aid COVID-19 relief efforts. As part of this commitment, the company donated $10,000 to the University of Washington Virology Lab to help expand access to COVID-19 testing. Additionally, Thrive Causemetics gave $350,000 to various other United States organizations diligently working to fight COVID-19 such as Meals on Wheels, Baby2Baby and Feeding America.

These beauty brands are prime examples of companies utilizing their influences and platforms to impact their communities for good. In the future, cosmetics companies will hopefully continue working beyond their products to improve the lives of their consumers.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Non-Profits and Natural Disaster ReliefNon-profit organizations place volunteers in remote, developing countries during natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. Non-profits extend the reach of companies and governments in saving lives. Here are 10 facts about non-profits and natural disaster relief in 2019 and 2020.

10 Facts About Non-Profits and Natural Disaster Relief

  1. Experience Mission is a Christian, non-profit mission. It offers one week or up to nine-month immersion mission trips. Chris Clum founded this non-profit organization in 2003 in order to aid and form relationships with residents of third world countries. Abbie Thiebaut, an EM mission trip leader, went to Dorado, Puerto Rico shortly before the start of 2019 when Hurricane Maria struck the island. Hundreds of volunteers showed up as well in the course of seven months, she reports.
  2. Hunger Corp is a non-profit organization that focuses on the Amazon, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria destroyed most of the island of Puerto Rico in 2018, and Hunger Corp has continued with relief efforts since then. Hunger Corp rebuilds homes for Puerto Rico’s citizens, shows farmers agricultural solutions and supports local social-aid projects like Experience Mission. Hunger Corp partners with Experience Mission as well, recruiting hundreds of volunteers.
  3. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (CIRFRC) in Damascus, Syria saved more than 200,000 men, women and children from storms in January of 2019. They pull people from under debris and snow, provide medical services and nurture victims until they are able to fully recover. Syria, a developing country, faces destruction from harsh winter weather, floods, sandstorms and cyclones. CIRFC, one of the few non-profits in Syria, arrives at the scene each time there is a crisis.
  4. REACT International base of operations is in Glendale, California. This organization plans to prepare people for hurricanes. REACT International is a communications-based organization. Two ways the company provides help are through instructions available online and volunteers who speak via radio to the public.
  5. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a nonprofit that encourages U.S. foreign policies to send help to developing countries. It also aims to create healthy change within developing nations to jumpstart their own independence. USAID has a section specifically for post-disaster care called the United States Foreign Disaster Assistance, or USOFDA. USOFDA has spent $100,000 on foreign assistance in the Philippines since January 12, 2020. The Taal Volcano in the Philippines erupted on Jan 12 and destroyed the surrounding area. USOFDA was there to give medical care to thousands of injured people. This organization is staying in the Philippines to support the Filipino government’s efforts to restore and rebuild its nation.
  6. World Vision is another nonprofit that includes disaster care in its program. World Vision is currently partnering with USAID to provide the Philippines with supplies including food, water, shelter, safety and clothes. The nonprofit has 37,000 staff members and volunteers working in at least 100 countries.
  7. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) “provides knowledge, funding, and technical assistance” to its partnerships with other NGOs like USOFDA. It focuses on preventing future natural disasters as well as teaching nations like the Philippines to recover after disasters.
  8. Global Giving is an online source that creates a network between regular citizens who want to donate, government agencies, companies and nonprofits. Headquartered in Washington D.C., the website GobalGiving.Org has been operational for 17 years, raising $390 million during that period. Global Giving’s Disaster Recovery Network has a long-term recovery fund to rebuild Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla, Oaxaca and Chiapas in Mexico after three earthquakes destroyed communities and homes there in 2017.
  9. Heart to Heart International’s (HHI) mission statement is to “strengthen communities through improving health access, providing humanitarian development and administering crisis relief worldwide.” HHI helped Mozambique after Cyclone Idai hit in 2019, sending a response team to work with its residents. It helped them evacuate and provided basic needs like food and water. The non-profit also sent Mozambique medicine through partner companies like FedEx and UPS.
  10. Direct Relief is a non-profit organization headquartered in Santa Barbara, California. On January 8 of this year, Direct Relief reported that there was only one casualty when an earthquake hit Puerto Rico despite the structures such as businesses and homes that were destroyed. Running water was no longer available. Direct Relief sent at least 10 teams to bring medical supplies and medical care to Puerto Rico.

Volcanos, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and more devastate the globe. These 10 facts about non-profits and natural disaster relief in 2019 and 2020 give a peek into the amount and kind of work that is often needed to rebuild many developing countries in nature’s aftermath. Evacuating cities, preventing future disasters, healing victims and providing food and shelter are relief efforts that become more effective when organizations work together. Non-profits and government agencies need to cooperate to save lives. Currently, the United States government spends only 1 percent of its budget to fund nonprofits. Its impact can increase exponentially if more funding is given to the U.S. foreign policy.

– Sofia Ponomareva

Photo: Pixbay