Fighting Poverty in South America
A long history of imperialism, turmoil and instability has manifested itself into modern issues of poverty in South America. Countless grassroots and nongovernmental movements are providing help to the poor in this region. Many funds often drown in the complexities of bureaucratic and organizational structures, unfortunately. One individual is repurposing the term “influencer culture.” This refers to the social leverage that internet users with clout have. Aaron Murphy is creating mini-docuseries for awareness and sharing his personal payment service usernames. He is raising funds at a global scale that he directly pumps into the community. He is fighting poverty in South America through social media and videos.

Aaron Murphy

Aaron Murphy traveled to South America on a backpacking trip to learn Spanish. He now wanders across states in the region — mainly Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela — to empower families and communities. His entire journey is available for public access on his social media, specifically his YouTube and Tik Tok accounts. His posts and videos often include an effort to promote awareness along with a call to action. Notably, the content available on these platforms provides a candid view into the everyday life of people living in poverty in South America.

The intent is not to romanticize a serious issue. Instead, he aims to connect with his viewers, sharing the very human reality beyond the understanding of people who live with less. He includes mini-documentaries and conducts interviews with residents. Murphy willfully makes an effort to understand the communities he is in. Murphy has also vocalized part of his videos’ purpose is to remind viewers of the privileges and blessings they experience daily.

Vlogs and Awareness

Murphy’s posts calling people to action have gained large traction recently, especially on Tik Tok. The app’s algorithm works to boost trending videos and topics. His audience is growing along with efforts to support his organization. Murphy provides continuous updates on different projects, giving followers a transparent view of where their proceeds go. His videos also focus on documenting dialogue between individuals and families. He also translates what they say into English subtitles.

Murphy films his videos into vlogs. They cater to a younger audience and have a natural look. One series of videos prompted a wave of global action at the beginning of March 2021. Murphy was following a Venezuelan native community without quality access to housing and food. In the first video and caption, he showed the livelihood of the struggling community. He then urged followers to donate through Paypal and Venmo. Followers raised $12,000 after Murphy posted the video. This gave the Murphslife team the ability to provide the community beds for 112 huts.

The Murphslife Foundation

The Murphslife Foundation accepts funds through Patreon, Venmo, Paypal and Cash App to go towards its efforts fighting poverty in South America. It is a largely unique approach to tackling poverty in South America, though an effective one for convenient participation among younger activist communities. The organization has no connection to any tax-exempt status. Perhaps a testament to its efficacy, the organization is a young and rapidly growing one.

Oftentimes, there is little opportunity to provide direct help for international causes. Initiatives to eradicate poverty in South America have become saturated and commodified in ways similar to that of an enterprise. The nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations affect the people negatively. This takes place, though the organizations are important within the larger picture of a long-term solution to poverty.

It has an association with nationalities and governances, forced through sanctions and other diplomatic complications. Potential donors dull the impact of a donation when dissuaded from giving to charities for these political complications. Murphslife shows how short-term results are also incredibly effective solutions to help those in need. Going forward, hopefully, other organizations and influencers will follow Murphy’s model of fighting poverty in South America. This will help them anchor their support in the fight to end poverty as a whole.

– Danielle Han
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