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Navigating the world of the government can be a complicated and scary venture. But with a good idea and an understanding of what is expected, it does not have to be so bad. The dream of starting your own non-profit can become a reality by following these steps and tips.

A non-profit organization is defined as an organization that operates without taking a profit, meaning that any money received is not distributed to its directors, members, or officers. These can take the form of schools, churches, libraries, charities, foundations, hospitals, volunteer groups and even a few government agencies. These organizations are exempt from paying national taxes and may be from paying state taxes as well, depending on the base location of the non-profit. The Borgen Project, a national campaign to end extreme global poverty, falls under this designation. So do World Food Program USA and Charity:Water.

First, it is imperative to have a good idea to fill a need that is currently not being met. There are thousands of groups out there working to end poverty, save the environment, advocate for human rights, and end poverty. That does not mean that another organization cannot be created, it simply means that some creativity should be applied. Maybe this new organization funds inventions or works in less commonly assisted countries. It is all about taking a cause and a passion and combining them to make a difference in the world.

After an idea has been filled out and expounded upon, it is necessary to start doing some research on what requirements must be met to officially become a non-profit and become exempt from federal taxes. Several forms are necessary, including the SS-4 to receive an Employer identification Number for the IRS, banks, and others, and the 1023 to become officially recognized as a non-profit and therefore not taxed as a normal for-profit business would be. There are numerous codes, procedures, and rules that must be adhered to in order to avoid revocation of official standing. But our federal government is not the only one with special requirements; all of the states do as well.

Each state has different requirements that must be met and procedures that must be followed. Generally, though, registration of intended name must take place first thing. After that some sort of Articles of Incorporation must be submitted. These may need extra information, multiple submissions, or even publication in newspapers. For instance, the only submission needed is that of a certificate of a nonstock corporation in Connecticut and the Director must register with the state Attorney General. But in Washington, one needs two copies of the Articles of Incorporation and the Director must register with the Secretary of State. The differences may seem small and inconsequential, yet failure to comply will result in a rejected application.

Once all the research on what is necessary on the national and local levels has been completed and paperwork is underway, funding must be taken into account. Aside from the initial setup fees to the federal and state governments, money is needed for general operations, like renting a building and travel expenses. If the organization is charitable, money is obviously needed to fund various projects and to make the necessary donations. Clint Borgen started the Borgen Project on his laptop while and made money for his dream by living on a fishing boat in Alaska. Now the non-profit takes part in constant fundraising and takes on corporate sponsors to fund their existence. It is all about doing the homework and having the patience to understand that raising the money for start-up, as well as to stay running and meet goals, will take a lot of hard work as well as time.

When all the paperwork is done, the money has been secured, staff has been acquired, and the start-up is through the initial processes the work of getting the name out there can begin.

  • Utilize the Internet and social media like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Start a blog and update it regularly to build an interested audience.
  • Contact local news sources about goals that have been met or upcoming events.
  • Participate in an already established event.
  • Get in contact with other similar non-profits and try to start a good working relationship with them.

And the list continues indefinitely. Most importantly is to continue to work and stay optimistic even when it seems like the whole thing is taking entirely too long.

Chelsea Evans

Sources: Council of Non-Profits, Hurwitt and Associates, Borgen Project, Cornell University

family planning
This past July, Family Planning 2020, an initiative aiming to increase accessibility to family planning services in developing countries, celebrated its one-year anniversary. Sponsored by the United Kingdom, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Family Planning 2020, or FP2020, is working with governments around the globe to ensure that 120 million more women in the world have access to family planning aid by 2020. Convening at the London Summit for Family Planning last year, governments, sponsors, donors, civil societies, and private sector representatives laid out a goal-based timeline for success.

FP2020 targets the poorest countries in the world. Today, more than 200 million of women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to family planning and contraceptives. What FP2020 aims to do for these women is provide much needed information, services, and mechanisms for family planning. Over 20 governments worldwide are committed to the initiative, among them the governments of India, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Kenya.

As July 11th – World Population Day as well as the anniversary date of the London Summit – approached, FP2020 partners were applauded for their progress and were encouraged to keep moving forward. Since the FP2020 London Summit last year, Zambia has seen the promising creation of a national strategy that has brought religious, tribal, and community leaders into the conversation of improving family planning services and accessibility to contraceptives in all areas of the country. In Sierra Leone, the government has funneled significant funds towards its health and family planning sectors. In Nigeria, FP2020 partners are working to open clinics in strategic areas that will serve people within a 12-mile radius, improving accessibility to family planning services. Other partner nations are undertaking similar initiatives.

The future of FP2020 gleams with the hope of improving lives for millions of women in the developing world. In the words of the director of the FP2020 project, Valerie DeFillipo, “The global community is recommitted and re-energized. We as individuals have the power to ensure that women’s autonomy over health-related decisions is a fundamental right, not a privilege.”

Follow @FP2020Global on Twitter to learn more.

-Lina Saud

Sources: The Interdependent, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LFPS, LFPS
Photo: Path

On July 15, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the International Labour Organisation, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine announced the launch of a new slavery prevention program entitled “Work in Freedom.” This project includes a 9.75 million GBP commitment (over 15 million USD) with the purpose of protecting females in South Asia from labor trafficking.

Human trafficking stands out as a growing global issue, with approximately 21 million global citizens forced into labor or prostitution around the world. The majority of modern day slaves find themselves tricked into becoming part of one of these millions of trafficked people. Traffickers target very poor and often remote areas promising to help people find jobs, when in reality they are forced into slavery. The United Nations deemed human trafficking the third-largest global criminal industry.

The plan is to target the most heavily travelled human trafficking routes with access to South Asia, focusing on Bangladesh, Nepal, and some Gulf States. The Work in Freedom Project also plans to provide 50,000 women with technical skills and training to only help them find employment, and to enable them to recognize a trafficker’s ploys and secure legal work contracts guaranteeing proper wages.An additional 30,000 women will receive education to help them learn their rights and find employment as part of the Work in Freedom Project.

Other focuses of Britain’s international support involve child labor. The plan includes keeping girls under 16 years old in school and teaching women to recognize ‘recruitment fees’ and other unethical charges traffickers place as a burden on families in their ‘recruitment’ schemes.

The Work in Freedom Project also hopes to build momentum in governments, employer, and labor unions to cooperate in addressing the issues associated with human trafficking. It calls for employers in the private sector to step up their regulation to prevent hiring trafficked workers.

Work in Freedom demonstrates the United Kingdom’s commitment to international aid. Their new five year program tackles one of modern society’s biggest issues and provides assistance for thousands of women without a voice by giving them education, the power to stand up for themselves, and economic opportunities.

– Allison Meade

Sources: U.K. Government Press Release, Health Canal International Labor Organization
Photo: [email protected]

Namibia is currently facing its worst drought in three decades. Located in southwest Africa, Namibia is one of the driest countries in the world. All 13 regions of Namibia have been affected by the drought with major shortages of food and water, but the north has been hit the worst. In order to compensate, many families are forced to sell livestock, reduce the number of meals per day, or migrate to the cities in search of work. Angola has also been affected by the drought. With migrants from both Angola and Namibia flooding into nearby countries in search of food, the crisis is beginning to take on a regional dimension.

In Namibia’s northwestern Kunene region, agriculture is limited by the area’s dry and sandy soil. Local populations are semi-nomadic and rely heavily on livestock. In search of fresh pasture, these local populations have been forced from their villages and their traditional way of life. The young men are visibly absent from the region, as many of them have left their villages to find the distant stretches of pasture for their livestock.

Typically, Namibia experiences only light and erratic seasonal rains. For the last thirty years, the country has experienced low seasonal rainfall. But after a second year of failed rains, the country is now in a state of emergency. Because of the prolonged dry season, the Government estimates that 2013 crop yields will be 42 percent lower than those of 2012. With only one harvest per year, the country will not see another harvest season until March 2014. Namibia’s cereal crop output is expected to be 50 percent below average. A third of the population, some 780,000 people, are at risk of malnutrition – this includes 110,000 children under the age of five.

When declaring a state of emergency, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohama said, “It has now been established that climate change is here to stay and humanity must find ways and means of mitigating its effect.” The Namibian government has committed $20.7 million in assistance to affected people, but aid so far has been insufficient.The Namibian government has warned that there might not be enough water for its people, which puts livestock at risk, further prolonging the crisis. Many families have applied for food aid, but few have received anything.

In order to help the 110,000 children at risk of malnutrition in Namibia, UNICEF has pledged $7.4 million to the country. According to Micaela Marques De Sousa, UNICEF’s Namibia representative, “Shortages of food and water are increasing the immediate threat of disease and malnutrition…But anecdotal reports already indicate children are dropping out of school, a clear sign of stress and vulnerability in families.” In addition, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has issued an appeal for $1.45 million, in hopes of helping 55,000 people in Northern Namibia.

Kelsey Ziomek

Sources: Reuters, The Guardian, OCHA, UN News Centre, The Washington Post, IOL News, IRIN Africa, ReliefWeb, UNICEF
Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation

The Director-General for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) recently met with the Iranian Foreign Ministry for Expatriates’ Affairs on August 6th. During this meeting the participants discussed activities of mutual interest including natural disaster management, environment protection, and Afghanistan reconstruction.

These activities would build upon the relationship already established between Iran and the JICA, the Japanese governmental agency responsible for official development assistance. In 2011 the Iranian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the JICA.

JICA’s activities in Iran fall under five main headings: enhancement of domestic industries and vocational training, reduction of the income gap between urban and rural communities, environmental preservation, water resource management, and disaster prevention.

Under the first topic area, enhancement of domestic industries and vocational training, JICA provides extensive technical assistance to Iranian government officials and the private sector. These activities are hoped to provide job growth and opportunities for Iranian unemployed. The reduction of the income gap projects focus on agricultural development in the country. The activities include infrastructure development and rural community development. In addition, a JICA expert advises the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture. Environmental protection activities include air pollution, energy management, ecosystem conservation, and wetland management among others. A JICA expert advises on water resource management and is placed under Iran’s Ministry of Energy. Iran is prone to devastating seismic earthquakes. JICA experts work closely with Iranian counterparts to devise forecasts and disaster management plans, as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction plans for the country.

The meeting with Iranian officials occurred after the Japanese government reaffirmed their commitment to ongoing sanctions again Iran in response to the country’s nuclear program. In March the US agreed to a 180-day extension for a waiver on Iran sanctions for Japan. Japan imports significant amounts of crude oil from Iran. However, an agreement between the US and Japan has permitted Japanese banks to access US financial systems, despite imposing the strict sanction against Iran. Japan agreed to continue to reduce their imports of Iranian crude oil.

Development programs implemented by other nations are often denied permission to operate inside Iran. However, the JICA has maintained a relationship with the country and successfully implemented activities in Iran since 2007. These development activities avoid more controversial topics such as women’s rights and democracy and governance but the relationship established between the two countries is also important to future programs and increased understanding. While Japan continues to reduce their imports of crude oil (depriving Iran out of much needed trade) it appears they will continue to cooperate on development programs that have the potential to positively affect Iranian citizens.

– Callie D. Coleman

Sources: FARS News Agency, JICA, Platts

This past January, Mozambique experienced massive flooding which took the lives of 70 people, left hundreds homeless and impoverished, washed away bridges, and left little soil to grow corps. This was the worst flooding in 13 years.

“I helplessly watched all my cattle disappear into the red sea of rushing floodwater while our family house was collapsing, leaving us with the clothes on our backs,” said Rofina Mathe, a mother who lives off sustenance farming. “Now we are wondering what the future has in store for us.”

The Climate Investment Funds’ Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) has provided funding to Mozambique in the amount of $91 million. PPCR is helping Mozambique prepare for future extreme weather. The hope is that the money will go towards enhancing infrastructure that will help the people of Mozambique be more prepared when a flood occurs.

PPCR efforts aim to upgrade 7 meteorological stations and 52 hydrological stations this year. By 2015, the number of stations should increase to 35 and 71 respectively. There will also be policies to enable hydrological and weather data, as well as allow information to be shared among agencies and farmers. Furthermore the funds will go towards improving the early warning systems that warn locals about coming floods.

Since the floods, the government has increased the amount of Climate Investment fund money allocated to developing flood protection efforts and improving hydrological and meteorological services to $15 million from $10 million. The Norwegian government is providing an additional $4.5 million.

“It will be a big step (towards) climate resilience. We are moving towards investment where we want to prove that climate resilience is achievable,” said Xavier Chavana, coordinator of the program at the Ministry of Planning and Development. “The funding is coming at the right time because people will learn and be able to deal with climate change.

– Catherine Ulrich

Sources: Alertnet, IRIN Africa
Photo: ASEM

video games
The video game industry is huge – worth about $78 billion in 2012 – the size of the movie and music industry combined. Yet almost all games are produced in the developed world. The limitations on producing games in the global south are manifold – technological, education, and financial. So how can game creators in these areas grow?

Even in relatively wealthy South Africa game consoles are years behind industry leaders. Support from game publishers outside their core territories is minimal. On top of that, hurdles to creating games on the current platforms are high: access to the specialized hardware and licenses provided by the console manufacturers are expensive and not given easily.

The most common platform for gaming in Africa and Asia is the mobile phone. In Africa, of the 650 million mobile phones, Nokia Series 40 and BlackBerry 7 are still the dominant platforms. Adam Oxford of htxt.co.za explains that, “Mxit and BiNu are really big social networks geared up for feature phones, with massive followings in South Africa and Nigeria. There are loads of games on both platforms.”

Although there are not many local game makers in the developing world, Africa has a handful scattered in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Nana Kwabena Owusu of Ghana’s Leti Games thinks this shortage of talent is an education problem. “There are good creators, but retraining them to think in terms of game development, merging technical and creative thinking, is tough.” This is not a problem restricted to Africa – the education system in the U.K. has only just been restructured to encourage good programmers, and game design is still mostly learned though experience in studios.

By giving the opportunity of learning how to develop games and programs in Africa, a new market could be tapped. Even though the most common electronics in Africa are outdated in comparison to East Asian, American, and European products, there is still the opportunity for new developers to sell to American markets. Developing games on the Android and iPhone markets is an easy way to insert African developers into a market that has much potential to grow. This increase in developers in Africa could in turn boost the strength and diversity of many African nations’ economies.

– Matthew Jackoski

Sources: The Guardian, MCV
Photo: Wonder How To

‘The world sends us garbage. We send back music,” said Favio Chávez, the conductor of the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra.

The Cateura Dump, in the Bañado Sur area along the Paraguay River, is surrounded by seven neighborhoods. 2,500 families live in these neighborhoods, and the majority rely on the landfill to survive, sorting through the 1,500 tons of waste delivered daily and reusing whatever can be found. Poverty has forced many children to work with their families instead of attending school, resulting in inadequate education and a low level of literacy. The area also faces frequent flooding, as well as problems with sanitation and clean drinking water. It is from these troubled beginnings that the Landfill Harmonic originated.

Whilst working in the area, Favio Chávez, an ecological technician decided to teach music to some of the children. Chávez had previously trained as a musician and initially used his own instruments to give lessons. But he soon had too many students and not enough instruments. It was then that the idea to create instruments from recycled materials first struck him. The result was “Los Reciclados” (the Recycled Orchestra) was born using oil cans and scavenged wood, forks and kitchen utensils to create orchestral instruments.

Since its beginnings, the Recycled Orchestra has toured the world, performing in Argentina, Brazil, and Germany, and will be the subject of an upcoming documentary, “Landfill Harmonic.” And while the orchestra may have been created to “educate the world and raise awareness,” as Chávez says, the profound impact on individual lives is very apparent. Chavez continues, “…even though these students are in extreme poverty, they can also contribute to society. They deserve an opportunity.”

One of the orchestral members stated, “My life would be worthless without music.” For children living in poverty, and in an environment where the potential for education and advancement is slim, being given the opportunity to study music and travel the world can be invaluable.

“People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly,” Chávez says. “Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.”

– David Wilson 

Sources: Time, Notes on the Road, UNICEF
Photo: MSNBC Media

The injustice of ableism is often overshadowed by sexism, racism and LGBT discrimination in the media. The US International Council on Disabilities, however, hopes to raise ableism’s profile. USICD aims to cultivate global empowerment of disabled people by prioritizing the rights of the disabled in U.S. foreign policy. As an organization, it also strives to foster a mutual understanding between disabled and abled individuals within the United States and in foreign countries, thereby creating a united front of advocacy for the disabled.

Mentally and physically handicapped people are among those most susceptible to human rights abuses and poverty. Because they are often stigmatized by employers and assumed to be virtually worthless in the workforce, members of the disabled community are systematically denied access to jobs and, thus, opportunities for upward social mobility. Lacking stable means to earn an income, many disabled people struggle to support themselves. USICD is intent on striking down these common misconceptions and insists that the disabled have much to contribute to society.

Disabled people are also among those most vulnerable to the chains of modern slavery. In China for instance, there have been several documented cases of forced sweatshop labor among the mentally handicapped. Human traffickers often prey upon the disabled, being fully aware of the disadvantage they have in being able to advocate for themselves. Even if they escape such terrible circumstances, their plight will likely be ignored by the justice system, in which their testimony is often discredited based on assumption of their intellectual defects.

Throughout this past year, USICD has worked to lobby on behalf of passing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through the Senate. If CRPD is ratified, countries participating in the Convention would be obligated to grant their disabled citizens with the same legal rights and protections afforded to disabled Americans under the 1990 Disabilities Act. This would mean that the rights to employment and basic healthcare services would be guaranteed to disabled individuals under international law.

Moreover, by compiling content for a digital database, USCID aspires to develop among its constituency budding human rights activists for the disabled cause. Armed with knowledge that then translates to power, its members realize that although the struggle for equality between disabled and abled people is far from over, it is nonetheless a battle worth fighting.

– Melrose Huang

Sources: USICD, Huffington Post, National Council on Independent Living, China, U.S. Department of State
Photo: RFA

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will hold a workshop on Perennial Crops for Food Security later this month to highlight the development of a perennial wheat variety by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), CSIRO and Charles Sturt University.

DPI was recently successful in growing a perennial wheat variety in the Cowra district in Australia. Perennial crops offer significant benefits in sustainability that support efforts to address food security. The wheat variety will produce for three consecutive years compared to other wheat varieties produce only one year. DPI is also pursuing research in inter-cropping of perennials in Cowra. Their work involves planting perennial grain and legumes side by side to boost soil nutrition.

In addition to discussing developing new perennial crops the workshop will focus on increasing perennial crop yields and integrating these crops in production cycles. Perennial crops are more sustainable as they are able to be harvested without killing the plant. This ensures that the plant continues to grow and produce. The perennial crops are also heartier and able to survive temperature changes and extremes. However, annual plants have received the vast amount of technological attention (i.e. corn).

However, there are several barriers to encouraging farmers to adopt these crops. In regions where land tenure or ownership rights are tenuous, investing in perennials crops does not appeal to farmers who do not need investment security of perennials. Many of these crops take several years to establish and produce a crop and it can be difficult to convince farmers that this investment is worth the wait. The specialized equipment and the new techniques required do not make conversion any easier and often involve a high price tag.

The FAO expert workshop will include speakers from several countries. These experts will discuss trends and the status of various perennial crop developments. The gaps and opportunities for integrating these crops in the production chain will also be addressed by presenters. Speakers and participants also come from diverse public and private backgrounds.

Perennial crops will be a long term solution for food security, as demonstrated by the various barriers that must be overcome. However, the many benefits that they present make it an important endeavor. If food security is to be achieved and 9 billion people fed by 2050, scientists and international development specialists must pursue a variety of options.

– Callie D. Coleman

Sources: Cowra Guardian, FAO, Perennial Solutions
Photo: Perennial Solutions