Information and stories on social activism.

beirut explosionOn Aug. 4th, 2020, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the port in Beirut, Lebanon. This disaster killed more than 180 people, injured over 5,000 and displaced more than 250,000 people. The Beirut explosion also led to more than $10 billion  in damage in the surrounding areas. After the deadly Beirut explosion, countless celebrities shared tributes. Many also donated or directed their followers to donate to various relief efforts. Here are 10 celebrities who helped Beirut after the August explosion.

10 Celebrities Who Helped After the Beirut Explosion

  1. George and Amal Clooney: The power couple donated $100,000 to three charities helping with relief efforts. These included the Lebanese Red Cross, Impact Lebanon and Baytna Baytak. The latter organization aimed to provide relief to Lebanese people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after the explosion, the group became more focused on finding shelter for people made homeless or dislocated. In an online statement referencing this organization, the Clooneys said, “We’re both deeply concerned for the people of Beirut and the devastation they’ve faced in the last few days. We will be donating to these charities $100,000 and hope that others will help in any way they can.”
  2. Madonna: The pop singer and two of her children, David Banda and Mercy James, hosted an art sale and donated the proceeds to Impact Lebanon. The organization works with the Lebanese Red Cross to provide aid to victims affected by the blast. Madonna and her family made tie-dye shirts and paintings to raise money, which the singer posted on Instagram.
  3. Rihanna: The singer and businesswoman took to Twitter to persuade her followers to donate to four charities helping with relief in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. These included Impact Lebanon, Save The Children, the Sadalsuud Foundation and Preemptive Love. Save The Children helps children and families displaced and injured by the disaster. Rihanna’s support for the Sadalsuud Foundation will help it foster community strength and growth through education and baking. Finally, Preemptive Love is a peacemaking and peacebuilding coalition designed to bring an end to violence and war and affect people affected by disasters.
  4. Bella Hadid: The model, whose father is from Lebanon, donated to 13 charities in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. These included the Lebanese Red Cross, Offre Joie, Impact Lebanon, Bank To School, Arc En Ciel, Bassma, Sesobel and Nusaned. Previously, Hadid has donated to Save The Children, Preemptive Love, UNICEF, International Medical Corps and the Lebanese Food Bank. She also directed her Instagram followers to donate, urging them toward local charities to help pinpoint community needs. Lastly, Hadid has vowed to continue donating.
  5. The Weeknd: The singer donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon, which supports the World Food Programme, the Lebanese Red Cross and the Children’s Cancer Centre Lebanon. The Weeknd’s donation comes after his manager, Wassim Slaiby, and Slaiby’s wife, Rima Fakih, led efforts for donations. On Instagram, Slaiby thanked The Weeknd for his donation. She also thanked Live Nation, including CEO Michael Rapino, for donating $50,000 to relief efforts.
  6. Rima Fahik and Wassim “Sal” Slaiby: The former Miss USA and her business manager husband, both from Lebanon, launched a campaign with Global Citizen to help in the aftermath of the Beirut Explosion. The fund supports Red Cross Lebanon, the United Nations World Food Programme and the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon. The couple kicked off the initiative by donating $250,000.
  7. Russell Crowe: The actor donated $5,000 to the destroyed restaurant Le Chef, which had resided in the Gemmayze neighborhood of Beirut since 1967. On his Twitter page, Crowe said he donated to this restaurant in honor of his late friend, Anthony Bordain. While Bordain was filming his show “No Reservations” in 2006, he visited the restaurant.
  8. Jose Andres: The World Central Kitchen founder and celebrity chef mobilized a team in Beirut and partnered with chef Kamal Mouzawak. Together, they gave out over 800 sandwiches and meals to healthcare workers, first responders and elderly citizens. The organization states that its efforts provided thousands of additional meals to those in need in Beirut. Lastly, it hoped to give people what they needed to stimulate the local economy once again.
  9. Mia Khalifa: The media personality, sports commentator and former adult actress auctioned the trademark glasses that she wore in her adult films to support Lebanon after the explosion. She donated all proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross. The bidding ended on Aug. 16, with the top bid at $100,000.
  10. Harry Styles: The former One Direction member donated to Impact Lebanon, directing his Twitter followers to do the same. He then tweeted out a link through the crowdfunding site JustGiving. Style’s fundraising effort has so far raised close to $8.1 million for people impacted by the disaster.

While the damage and casualties in Beirut were extensive, celebrities and figures from around the world came together to help after the Beirut explosion. Moreover, many of these celebrities are helping Beirut continue to come together for not only economic but also personal reasons.

– Bryan Boggiano
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

gap year programs fighting poverty in ecuadorRoughly the size of Colorado, Ecuador is a South American country rich in cultural and ethnic diversity. However, poverty in Ecuador is rampant, with 21 % of Ecuadorians living below the poverty line. Poverty also disproportionately affects Indigenous populations, who have less access to resources like clean water and healthcare. Fortunately, many gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador let students get involved in the cause while allowing them to experience Ecuadorian culture. Here are three gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador:

3 Gap Year Programs Fighting Poverty in Ecuador

  1. YanaPuma Foundation: The first of these gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador is the YanaPuma Foundation, an NGO established in 2006. Its main initiative is promoting Ecuador’s community development by focusing on six principles. These principles include sustainability, social justice, respect, freedom, transparency and professionalism. With YanaPuma, students can get involved in various initiatives, ranging from teaching English in the Andes to building natural infrastructure for the Shuar ethnic group in the Amazon. Another of YanaPuma’s ongoing projects is the “Edible Forest Restoration” project. This project aims to provide crops that provide economic and nutritional advantages to the Indigenous population of Tsa’chila. To further this initiative in 2019, the organization planted 2,500 saplings.
  2. United Planet: United Planet aims to create an interconnected global community by providing people the opportunity to immerse themselves in new cultures. Through its programs, participants work with children to enrich their education by tutoring them and teaching them English. Additionally, volunteers work with impoverished children in Ecuador to support human rights developmental programs that help disadvantaged, disabled and orphaned children. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has expanded its program to include the option to virtually volunteer in Ecuador.
  3. CIS Abroad: CIS Abroad provides students the opportunity to study abroad in many countries. Like United Planet, it aims to promote global awareness and help people become international citizens while bridging the gap between cultures. CIS Abroad currently has eight gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador. These programs allow students to serve in various ways, from teaching at-risk Ecuadorian children to creating a service project in a local Ecuadorian community in need. This program is a unique opportunity, because it connects participants to local organizations already working to have specific impacts on the community.

Firsthand Experience

Jeffery Fishman is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. Fishman took a gap year to live in Ecuador for eight months and help with poverty alleviation efforts there.

Fishman says, “While living in the Imbabura Province of Northern Ecuador as a Global Citizen Year fellow, I worked at Fundación Arupo, an Ibarra-based therapy center for children with special needs. Fundación Arupo is a unique therapy center in that it provides physical, speech, occupational, psychological and psycho-pedagogical therapy all in one location. In the mornings, I worked to organize monthly events for students in local school districts to teach them about special needs and to encourage an inclusive learning environment. In the afternoons, I helped out the therapists during therapy sessions with the children. Additionally, I lived with an Indigenous host family who introduced me to the Kichwa culture.”

Fishman explains that while living in San Vincent, an agrarian society, he saw poverty firsthand. He says, “Most community members were agrarian workers, who lived off the day-to-day income they earned through selling their crops at markets. As a result, salaries in the community were often unstable and variable depending on the season and product demand. Even so, the community was very tight-knit and was able to band together to help each other out when they fell upon hard times. In terms of infrastructure, the community faced frequent water shortages that could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.”

Poverty Alleviation and Cultural Immersion

While Fishman engaged in much rewarding anti-poverty work, he was also able to experience Ecuadorian culture. “My favorite Ecuadorian food was llapingachos, which are these fried potato pancakes cooked in achiote and are super crispy and delicious,” he says. “I loved conversations with my host family, where we shared aspects of our lives. Our nights together were filled with laughter and smiles until our cheeks were sore, and no matter how my day was going, I knew dinner would always cheer me up!”

Fishmans’ experience, along with these three gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador, highlight the enriching experience of volunteering abroad. Not only can students who take a gap year immerse themselves in a new culture, but they can also actively work to help fight poverty in Ecuador and elsewhere around the globe.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Activists Fighting World Poverty
Hunger is a prevalent issue that impacts children, families and individuals in countries across the globe. Despite the major scale of this issue, determined individuals can play major roles in providing food security to thousands. Sharing their ideas and resources on how to reduce hunger around the world, here are four activists fighting global poverty.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education activist. The Taliban shot her in the head in 2012 for publicly advocating an end to gender discrimination in education. Since then, she has become a U.N. Messenger of Peace, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the co-founder of the Malala Fund. Oftentimes, those in poverty cannot receive quality education which also limits social mobility. The Malala Fund is addressing world poverty by providing education to millions of girls. This organization created the Education Champion Network, which helps provide education to girls in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. The Malala Fund has partnered with Apple Inc. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as individuals such as Angelina Jolie, to help support the 130 million girls being denied an education around the world.

Ernesto Sirolli

Ernesto Sirolli is a leading activist on economic development for those in poverty. Born in Italy, Sirolli worked for an Italian NGO in Zambia. This NGO taught Zambian communities how to grow Italian vegetables. There was resistance to the NGO’s efforts and, as a result, the organization paid wages to the Zambian communities working with them. Before the communities could harvest the vegetables, Sirolli witnessed a group of hippos rise out of the river and devour their new agriculture. Only then did he understand the true threat of local resistance.

From this experience, Sirolli discovered the issues that arise from what he calls “dead aid” from many Western countries. He questioned whether the more than $2 trillion from Western countries dedicated to developing communities was being used in a non-patronizing way. He noticed that NGOs rarely worked with local entrepreneurs on an individual level.

Sirolli developed a philosophy of economic aid for those in poverty in which the primary principle is respect. He created the Sirolli Institute International Enterprise Facilitation Inc., a network that gives local entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop their own ideas and benefit their own communities. Sirolli offers local people privacy, confidentiality, dedicated service and other essential components of entrepreneurship.

Louise Fresco

Louise Fresco is a Dutch researcher and activist who advocates for smart agriculture as the key to fighting world hunger. In 2000, she became the assistant-director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and brought her ideas to an international scale. Fresco uses the evolution of bread as a metaphor to explain food’s role in the development of modern society.

Over time, bread has evolved from a staple to a cheap contributor to obesity. Additionally, Fresco discusses the large-scale production that has resulted in the mass destruction of landscapes. This negative association, combined with the negative environmental impacts of mass production, has created a counter-culture where people prefer to buy bread made from small-scale sellers. However, Fresco argues, buying from small-scale producers is a luxury solution for those who can afford it. People in poverty simply benefit from diverse, low-cost and safe bread.

Cheap bread symbolizes that food has become increasingly affordable. The human race currently has more available food than ever before, which allows people to focus on other activities. Humans have not had the luxury of ample food production until now when it has become so cheap compared to previous years. Fresco believes that to solve world hunger, countries must increase food production with subtle mechanization to avoid large-scale environmental destruction.

Melinda Gates

Along with her husband Bill, Melinda Gates is the co-founder of the world’s largest private charitable organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a $40 billion trust endowment that helps solve issues including global health, global development, global policy and global growth or opportunity.

Melinda Gates has used her position to focus on empowering women around the world. Specifically, Gates concentrates on family planning, maternal well-being and child health. She has spread awareness about “time poverty,” which is the idea that many women perform hours of unpaid work that can deprive them of their potential.

The Gates Foundation has donated to Mama Cash and Prospera, two prominent international women’s funds. Since 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has put upwards of $560 million toward women’s health.

Each of these activists fighting world poverty is taking a different approach to eradicating global hunger. However, the culmination of these efforts is making a major impact around the world, one person at a time.

– Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

Saudi women empowermentThe Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has struggled with issues regarding women’s rights for a long time. Saudi Arabia ranked 146 out of 153 in the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index. The country also did not allow women to drive until the government lifted the driving ban in 2018. In 2017, the country allowed women to apply for passports and allowed women above the age of 21 to travel independently without permission from male guardians. Saudi women even gained the right to vote and run for public office in 2015. Saudi Arabian women celebrate women’s empowerment due to the country’s recent progress toward gender equality.

Challenges Women Still Face

While Saudi Arabia is making progress, the country is not without its issues. The country still requires male guardians, usually fathers or brothers, to make decisions for Saudi women. To this day, the government also limits women when it comes to choosing whom to marry or initiating a divorce. This caused some Saudi women, such as Rahaf Alqunun, to flee because of the strict male guardianship system.

Additionally, several women’s rights activists, such as Loujain al-Hathloul, have been arrested by Saudi officials for encouraging Saudi women empowerment. Al-Hathloul posted videos of herself driving during the driving ban with her hair uncovered. She also ran for office but her name was never added to the official ballot.  Al-Hathloul was arrested in 2018 with 11 other activists on charges of promoting women’s rights and collaborating with foreign organizations and media. However, her trial was indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loosening Restrictions: Women Moving Forward

Saudi Arabia made the largest improvement globally in women’s rights at work, according to The World Bank. The strides are credited to greater freedom of movement for women and reforms for women at work. The country criminalized sexual harassment and established work protection to prohibit employers from firing pregnant women. Saudi Arabia also equalized the retirement age for both men and women at 60, which allows for more financial freedom. Finally, the country outlawed gender-based discrimination in financial services to increase female entrepreneurship.

These reforms were a part of the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the economy by promoting the private sector. The plan also includes increasing women’s labor force participation from 22% to 30%.

Street Style and Women’s Empowerment

Marriam Mossali, a Saudi entrepreneur, launched her second edition of “Under the Abaya: Street Style from Saudi Arabia” celebrating Saudi women empowerment on June 24. The book, a partnership with LUX Arabia and Niche Arabia, exposes the kingdom’s unknown fashion scene. The first edition introduced progressive Saudi women while this second edition exposed the challenges these women face.

All of the book’s proceeds go toward scholarships for women to pursue higher education. To Mossali, the book is a celebration of Saudi women empowerment because it allows women to share their own stories. The book has a forward by Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, the country’s first female ambassador to the U.S. Al-Saud told Arab News that the book tells stories and embodies the principle of women supporting women.

“Our participation in the #WomenSupportingWomen movement is much more than just a hashtag,” the book’s website says. “We believe in giving voice to these talented women in Saudi and the opportunity to pursue their aspirations.”

The first edition of the book fundraised enough to award five aspiring photographers a yearlong scholarship to Future Academy in Jeddah. The second edition aims to award women aspiring to pursue a Bachelor’s in fashion design.

Despite strides made in women’s empowerment, women in the kingdom still face many challenges. However, Saudi women continue to fight for change and equality. From filming videos to photographing street fashion, Saudi women are taking a stand for gender equality and celebrating women’s empowerment.

– Grethel Aguila
Photo: Flickr

Young creatives
Without a doubt, the surge of the internet has created many waves in the way that people live their everyday lives. From ride-sharing apps to Instagram stories to trendy Tiktok dances, it seems like social media has overwhelmed every aspect of modern life, working particularly hard to keep people connected through an unprecedented time of social distancing. However, it is not just the mundane that has changed with the dawn of the online age; young creatives have used the internet to completely reimagine modern activism.

The Age of Digital Activism

Digital activism, defined as the use of digital tools (i.e. the internet, mobile phones, social media, etc.) for bringing about social and/or political change, is hardly a new phenomenon. As of 2018, the Pew Research Center found that around half of all Americans had engaged in some form of political or social activism via social media over the past year. They also found the majority of Americans believed that social media was a good tool for bringing important global issues to the attention of lawmakers. It is more than likely that these statistics have grown over the past several years, particularly in the culmination of movements such as the March for our Lives, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. It does not take very long to come up with countless examples of online activism.

More recently, however, a new trend has grown popular among young creatives on Instagram: zines. Zines are self-published, non-commercial print works that are typically produced and distributed in small batches by artists looking to share their work. While they have been a part of youth pop culture for many years now, a group of young women have taken it into their own hands to shift that paradigm.

The Birth of More Color Media

In early June of 2020, Aissata Sall, a recent high school graduate, single-handedly launched her independent publication, More Color Media. From the very beginning, Sall wanted this project to be different from what had been done already; she wanted to tell the stories that were not already being told. Within just 10 short weeks, the small project gained nearly 5,000 followers across multiple platforms and exploded into a team of nearly 100 creatives, all using their talents from photography to poetry to bring global issues of poverty, education and inequality to light in a new, innovative way.

“We have team members from Estonia, France, North Africa — everywhere!” Sall said in an interview with The Borgen Project on August 14th of 2020. “It’s just been amazing to see how many people we’ve reached and how many people have reached out to us to tell us how happy they are with the space and the platform we’ve created. That’s the biggest accomplishment in our eyes.”

This new platform has created a unique way for young creatives to share information, with eye-catching graphics and stunning photography all utilized to draw attention to global issues from Venezuela to Lebanon to Serbia. Many of these posts include thorough factsheets and sources, allowing viewers to digest news from around the world and quickly find resources to help. By just sharing informational posts, fund pages and petitions to lawmakers regarding specific issues, More Color Media has reportedly reached over 30,000 individual audience members across all of their platforms.

“We want to provide more platforms for us to be able to support people in our communities and in the global community,” explained Diana Sinclair, the co-Editor-in-Chief of More Color Media. “We’ve already been using our platform to highlight individual funds to help reach people’s needs. We’ve also talked a lot about opening up other platforms like a podcast to help give a greater voice to the communities we want to support.”

A New Generation of Activists

While they continue to grow, More Color Media may very well represent the future of digital activism, serving to show that there is no limit on who can make a difference. According to RESET, an organization working to help advance the next generation into the digital age, one of the biggest benefits of digital activism is the ability to connect with a large community and globalize a campaign’s goals. More Color Media is doing just that. More Color Media’s first print issue is fast approaching, with a release date tentatively in late September, and both Sall and Sinclair are waiting eagerly with bated breath.

To learn more about More Color Media, visit their website, www.morecolormedia.com, or check them out on Instagram at @MoreColorMedia.

– Angie Bittar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

pandemic-induced inequality in latin americaFrom 2002 to 2018, Colombia, “one of the most unequal countries in an extremely inequitable region,” cut its poverty rate in half. This reduction of poverty accompanied massive economic uplift throughout Latin America that saw wealth inequalities diminish rapidly. Before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, economic and social inequality in Latin America had reached its “lowest point in recorded history.” Millions of families lifted themselves out of poverty, job opportunities soared and the quality of education increased. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to destroy this new progress toward equality. Although the situation is dire, there are simple steps that anyone around the globe can take to help reverse the trend of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

Economic Inequality

The World Bank predicts that due to the pandemic, the economies of Latin American countries will contract by 9.4%. This will cause 53 million Latin Americans to fall below the poverty line of less than $5.50 earned per day. With further reduction of jobs, COVID-19 will undoubtedly continue to destroy opportunities vital to the incomes of Latin America’s poor. This “setback of two decades” will further inequality between the rich and poor in Latin America, because it eliminates many jobs that poor daily wage workers depend on while hardly touching the incomes of the rich.

Francisco Ferreira, Professor of Inequality Studies at the London School of Economics, stated in an interview that “the inequality of COVID doesn’t just take place between the states of nations, but rather in neighborhoods of the same city.” Francisco commented further that “when this type of disaster arrives, poverty necessarily rises because the rich are better equipped financially to deal with it, and this causes inequality.”

Manual laborers in Latin America constitute 53% of the overall employment force. However, these individuals face especially high unemployment risks because of COVID-19. If they do manage to keep their jobs, these workers also face a higher risk of getting infected with the virus. Infection could lead to medical bills that can plunge people further into poverty and thus increase pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

Unequal wages also lead to worsened living conditions, like a lack of piped water and sanitation. In Brazil, as much as 50% of the population has no access to improved sanitation. For Bolivia, 30% of the population has no access to piped water. A lack of adequate sanitation facilities has the potential to start a vicious cycle of poverty and poor health conditions. This is especially concerning during a pandemic.

Gender Inequality

The pandemic also has the potential to severely reduce gender equality in Latin America. Women hold 55% of the most vulnerable informal jobs in Latin America. This means that when economies crash, women may be among the first to lose their financial independence. Unemployed women may be forced into care roles in communities, which may lead women to permanently leave the labor market. In the long term, this will greatly damage the economic capabilities of Latin American countries.

Overall, the pandemic stands to cause catastrophic long-term damage to the progress of equality in Latin America. By eliminating jobs and reducing the number of financially independent women in Latin America, the COVID-19 crisis has begun to retrench economic gains and further steepen earnings gaps between the rich and poor. However, those outside of the region can quickly and easily contribute to the reversal of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

How to Help

Even though the pandemic stands to undermine decades of progress towards social and economic equality in Latin America, there are simple steps that every person reading this article can take to help reduce the impact of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America.

  • Raise Awareness: By spreading awareness of pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America, anyone with a phone or social media account can draw attention to how decades of economic progress are being reversed. Taking this step towards combatting inequality is as simple as posting a link to this article. Making more people aware of how the coronavirus stands to eliminate jobs in Latin America makes policy and aid attention toward this problem becomes more likely.
  • Contact Congress: By contacting Congressional representatives and telling them to support foreign aid initiatives, anyone reading this article can help direct funding toward reducing pandemic-induced inequality in Latin America. Only by contacting senators and representatives can individuals demand increased foreign aid spending. This money would go toward creating economic stimulus, expanded shelters and better healthcare.
  • Donate to The Borgen Project: By donating to The Borgen Project, one can contribute to a cause working to increase foreign aid spending and by extension working to reduce pandemic-induced inequality. Donating to The Borgen Project means contributing to an organization that will continue to fight for U.S. legislation that will increase foreign aid spending and funding. This is vital to eliminating social and economic inequality in Latin America.

Overall, COVID-19 threatens to reverse decades of progress toward equality in Latin America by eliminating jobs that create social mobility. Nevertheless, anyone can quickly and easily help reverse the trend of pandemic-induced inequality emerging in Latin America. It’s as easy as spreading awareness, contacting their congressional representatives and donating to The Borgen Project.

– Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Acid Attack Survivors
Terrifying acid attacks in India are rising in number according to ABC News. Advocates for acid attack survivors estimate that around 1,000 attacks take place per year in the country. However, only 300 cases get reported due to fear of retribution. It can take up to 10 years for an abuser to face justice, and still, some get off scot-free.

Gender-Based Violence

India has more acid attacks than any other country in the world. With patriarchal arranged marriages common, unsatisfied husbands are often the perpetrators. In these attacks, a person throws acid on the woman’s face and body with the intent to disfigure her permanently. Men commit these gendered acts of violence out of jealousy, for retribution or for any “wrongdoing” that they believe has occurred.

Once a woman endures such an attack, she is expected to cover her face in public. Oftentimes, she must hide in the home of a family member since it is difficult to find employment under these circumstances. Society tends to reject disfigured acid attack survivors, who are then unable to find employment due to the prejudicial belief that they deserved the violence. As a result, it is nearly impossible for a woman to support herself or her children, which throws them into abject poverty.

An NGO for Survivors

In 2014, Make Love Not Scars (MLNS) launched in Delhi as the first nonprofit center for the rehabilitation of acid attack victims. Ria Sharma is the founder of the organization. After completing graduate work in the United Kingdom, Sharma came back to India to make a documentary film on acid attack survivors. Her work on the film inspired her to start an NGO to assist the survivors with recovery

Psychological and Physical Recovery

Sharma has stated that the main focus of the organization’s efforts is to enable acid attack survivors to recover both psychologically and socially. The survivors need to regain confidence, which is a difficult task after enduring an attack that often disfigures a person for life. The women suffer immense physical trauma as well as long-term psychological repercussions. MLNS addresses the impact of such an attack by encouraging the victims to enroll in courses that will enable them to earn a regular income. The organization also helps pay for these courses. In this way, MLNS works to alleviate global poverty by helping the victims make a living. Otherwise, the survivors would have difficulty in finding a job after such a devastating and disfiguring experience.

Funding for Medicine and Legal Aid

In addition to offering psychological aid, MLNS raises money to provide for women’s medicine, surgery and vital post-operative care. The charity also helps survivors of acid attacks connect with leading pro-bono lawyers who volunteer to help victims in India.

New Laws Help Prevent Acid Attacks

Some countries are enacting laws and restrictions that reduce the number of acid attacks. For example, in Bangladesh, these attacks have gone down in number after the death penalty was introduced for the crime. Additionally, the sale of common chemicals used in the attacks is now restricted in Bangladesh. Advocates for victims hope that similar laws will be instated in India.

MLNS Founder Honored

In 2016, Make Love Not Scars ran a campaign named #EndAcidSale, which called for a universal ban on acid sales. The campaign won a Gold Cannes Lion award in the category of film. Then in 2017, Sharma won the United Nations Bill and Melinda Gates GoalKeepers Global Goals Award, becoming the first Indian to receive the honor. Sharma has stated that MLNS would like to expand its work into other areas of gender-based violence and burn victims.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Permaculture Farming
Permaculture farming is a design system for farming that applies ecological principles from nature to human agriculture. It attempts to banish pollution, water waste and energy waste. In the same vein, it focuses on improving productivity, efficiency and upcycling production to improve farmers’ conditions and their land. The heart of permaculture is caring for the planet, caring for people and promoting equitable distribution.

Permaculture Farming Integrates Production

This concept grew out of a sustainable agriculture movement initially developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia in the 70’s. The principles of permaculture are many. For instance — observing and interacting, catching and storing energy, obtaining a yield, applying self-regulation and feedback. Additional principles include using and valuing renewables, producing no waste, designing from patterns to details, integrating production (instead of segregating it), using small solutions, valuing diversity, valuing the marginal and creatively responding to change.

Enabling Self-Subsistence

NGOs and charity organizations often provide direct aid that is helpful in the short term but does not offer long-term solutions. A permaculture advocate named Josephine Awino explained, as an example, that in Kenya cash crops are primarily grown. However, when a community transitions from growing cash crops and moves towards growing plants that their community can eat — it allows the community to depend less on imports and exports. With less dependence on external subsidies, which are transitory and sometimes withdrawn, the community can create a long-standing, institutional baseline for financial success.

The Reuse of Land

Permaculture typically uses cyclical farming techniques to reduce waste and sewage problems. Permaculture farming primarily focuses on practical ways one can enrich the soil, to maximize garden output. It is also possible to implement the cycling of produce types during this process so that the land can consistently retain the same nutrients during each growing season. Any community can improve the soil quickly through using compost-making, water catchment systems and improving the landscape for water retention. Instead of focusing on what one can get from the land, permaculture focuses on how one can continue to reuse land exponentially. In communities where there is minimal space for gardening and farming, the reuse of land is particularly helpful. The consistent ability to reuse the soil can help protect low-income communities from famines due to blockades or sanctions from other countries.

Generating Income

Many communities often function with small economies. In this same vein, even small economies utilize mutual trade and aid — made possible through permaculture. Additionally, permaculture reorients the economic goals of a community. Instead of working to gain more money to buy imported food, the community can save money by consuming the food that they have created, themselves. Permaculture farming creates less dependence on outside income and promotes the circulation of the local economy in conjunction with surrounding economies and the instrumentation of direct, mutual aid. Also, permaculture farms can utilize the space they have created to offer other community services, which can, in turn, be used to generate income. Once the farm is successful, it can also serve as a teaching site for other communities within the region. In this way, communities can learn permaculture practices and this service (of teaching) itself can serve as yet another direct source of income.

Promotion of Community Reliance

When communities implement various kinds of food production, it does not necessarily require that individuals own land or have money. For example, a community can band together to petition their government to provide ground for a shared, community garden. Frequently, permaculture can function successfully in limited, private spaces — like rooftops or walls, to optimize the area and encourage growth. Individuals are inspired to rely on their community members to identify which places will work best for creating garden zones. Additionally, permaculture farming can unite a small community in the shared goal of making food to be used for and sold by the community, exclusively.

– Hannah Bratton
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in the DRC
Congolese-Cypriot model Noëlla Coursaris Musunka is not just an international, fashion superstar. In addition to her successful modeling career, her charity Malaika is changing the lives of young girls and women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Through her philanthropy, Coursaris Musunka aims to empower and thus, help improve girls’ education in the DRC, so they can have the most opportunities for future success.

Noëlla Coursaris Musunka

After Coursaris Musunka’s father died when she was young, her mother sent her to live with relatives in Belgium and Switzerland so that she could have a stable education. Though Coursaris Musunka succeeded academically and completed a degree in Business Management, she had little contact with her mother back home in the DRC. Their communication at that time consisted mainly of occasional letters or phone calls. As Coursaris Musunka herself said, “When you have nothing, you know that if you fall there’s no one to pick you up. So you have to stand. I resolved very early on that I would study and work and be independent.”

Realizing that many girls back home did not have access to education, she decided to start a charity to help girls’ education in the DRC. Coursaris Musunka, inspired by her own experiences and the lack of opportunity she witnessed at home, began this endeavor.

Malaika Foundation

Malaika Foundation (named after the Swahili word for “angel”) is a grassroots organization working to improve girls’ education in the DRC. Coursaris Musunka acts as the charity’s president and founder.

According to Coursaris Musunka’s personal website, Malaika “empowers Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs.” The Malaika School currently educates more than three hundred young girls with a rigorous syllabus. Notably, 100% of students have passed their year six exams since 2017. Additionally, Malaika has created 20 wells in the DRC to supply residents with drinking water. Moreover, she founded a community center that “provides education, health and sports programmes to over 5,000 youths and adults per year.”

The Malaika School in Kalebuka

Currently in its ninth year of operation, the Malaika School (located in Kalebuka) advances girls’ education in the DRC at no cost to its hundreds of students. Also, the institution serves both primary and secondary school-aged children. The school educates students on a variety of topics, including multiple languages, STEM fields and the arts. Malaika particularly emphasizes the importance of leadership to teach girls to strive for success. The school also commits itself to sustainability — providing students with breakfast and lunch every day. Importantly, these meals include fruits and vegetables, grown in the school’s own garden. Additionally, the school is “100% powered by solar energy.” After graduation, Malaika matches students with internships while other students choose to continue their education at universities or specialized colleges.

A Model Beyond Fashion

Coursaris Musunka continues to invest her free time into the charity she founded. “My message to every child,” she says, “to every young girl, is this: take your opportunity, go to school. Educate yourself. Become pioneers of education and pioneers of Africa and the world.” Coursaris Musunka is a model in the world of fashion, female leadership and educational, charity initiatives. Inspirational and influential figures such as Coursaris Musunka are doing important work in the advancement of education, especially for young girls.

Jackie McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities Who Grew Up Poor
Celebrities lead lavish, luxurious lives, and are often subjects of envy for many common people. However, some of them came from less than affluent backgrounds and never imagined that they would achieve the status and wealth they possess today. Here are three celebrities who grew up poor and how their past affects their philanthropy today.

Jennifer Lopez

Considered the most influential Latin performer in America, actress and singer, Jennifer Lopez has released a plethora of hit songs and acted in many movies. She is currently engaged to famous baseball player Alex Rodriguez and lives on a property worth $28 million. This is a far cry from her childhood, where she grew up sharing a bedroom with her two sisters in the Bronx. Her parents worked tirelessly to provide just enough for Jennifer and her sisters. She inherited a strong work ethic from them. Despite her fame, Lopez has not abandoned her roots. Her popular song “Jenny from the Block” is about how she has not forgotten her roots.

Perhaps due to her own difficult upbringing, Lopez pays specific attention to supporting children’s charities. She works as an activist for the ALAS, a program promoting early childhood development in Latin America, and has performed many concerts to raise donations and awareness for the cause. Lopez also participates in the Noche de Los Niños Gala hosted by the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, raising funds for their patients.

Ralph Lauren

Fashion icon Ralph Lauren had dreamed of being rich since his high school days. However, he was anything but at the time. Lauren grew up in the Bronx, the youngest son in a Jewish immigrant family. He often fantasized about living a better life and loved watching movies to help him escape the feeling of poverty.

From a young age, his entrepreneurial instinct was prominent. Since he was a child, Lauren had an extravagant taste in clothing and sold handmade ties to children at school to pay for them. This consequently became the root of his extremely successful fashion career. Now, with a net worth of billions, Lauren is giving back. His Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation has donated millions to causes like education and cancer care. Lauren, who has not forgotten his life as a Jewish immigrant child, is a supporter of groups like the American Jewish Committee.

Jay-Z

Jay-Z is an award-winning songwriter and rapper who seems to have it all—success, a famous partner and several successful business ventures. However, the artist came a long way from the conditions he grew up in. Jay-Z was the fourth child in his family. Born into an impoverished neighborhood where drugs and violence were rampant, Jay-Z turned to rap as a way to cope with the issues surrounding him.

Now, he is passionate about helping others escape those same problems. Jay-Z has spoken out repeatedly against racial injustice, drug use and other problems he grew up dealing with. Additionally, his charity, the Shawn Carter Foundation, has donated millions to programs and scholarships for children growing up in difficulty. Jay-Z’s past is deeply intertwined in his career and philanthropic efforts. Therefore, he is one of the most notable celebrities who grew up poor.

Despite their fame and success, these celebrities have not forgotten the poverty they grew up in. These three hard-working philanthropists are now helping to fight the same problems they dealt with growing up. With the determination and influence of celebrities, the movement against poverty should greatly advance.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr