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World Changing Celebrities
People often recognize celebrities for their music and performances but there are a variety of stars that use their fame as a platform to support charities, create foundations and change the world. Below are five world changing celebrities that are actively using their voice to fight global poverty.

Leonardo DiCaprio Protects Indigenous Rights

Along with spreading awareness and educating followers about climate change on his Instagram page, DiCaprio created the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation which focusses on protecting all of Earth’s inhabitants. It has recently partnered with Earth Alliance to address and take steps to find solutions to major threats to the planet’s life support systems.

One of his most notable works is the protection of indigenous rights. Dicaprio’s Foundation helps fund programs focused on and led by indigenous people. It helps indigenous people defend their rights, create renewable energy sources, develop sustainable livelihoods and increase the political impact of advocacy efforts. As of 2015, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation accumulated $15 million in grants to fund innovative organizations and environmental projects focused on preserving and protecting the planet.

Christy Turlington Assists with Childbirth Safety in Haiti and Uganda

Because of her personal experience with complications in childbirth, Turlington is using her voice to advocate the importance of making childbirth safe for every woman. In 2010, she worked on “No Woman, No Cry,” a documentary that told the stories of pregnant women in four different countries: Bangladesh, Guatemala, Tanzania and the United States. She expressed the need for lifesaving medical care for women giving birth in case of the occurrence of complications.

She also founded the nonprofit Every Mother Counts, an organization that focuses on the health and wellbeing of mothers all over the world. As of now, her organization has partners in countries like Guatemala, Haiti, India, Tanzania and the U.S., and has impacted more than 600,000 lives.

Matt Damon Gives Access to Safe Water

Another of the world changing celebrities is Matt Damon, who is the co-founder of Water.org, an organization focused on providing families with safe water and sanitation. The foundation hopes that less time spent searching for water will allow children to go to school and get an education, improve health and help the economy. Damon’s foundation expresses the importance of access to affordable financing through WaterCredit. WaterCredit is a pay-it-forward system that makes it possible for household water and toilet solutions by bringing repayable loans to those who need access to affordable financing. In total, Damon’s foundation has benefited more than 20 million people across 12 different countries.

The Lewis Family Improves Access to Health Care

In the 1980s, Ryan Lewis’ mother, Julie Lewis, contracted HIV due to a blood transfusion from pregnancy complications. She lived through her prognosis and decided to create the 30/30 project. The 30/30 project’s main focus is to improve access to comprehensive health care by building multiple medical facilities worldwide. The project has placed a total of 30 medical facilities in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Togo, India, the U.S., Rwanda, Bolivia and Puerto Rico.

The organization places medical facilities based on the needs of the area. For example, the Mbita Clinic in Kenya intends to prevent and treat major diseases, which include HIV, TB, malaria, water­borne illnesses and respiratory and heart ailments. The Mbita Clinic reduces waiting cues, prioritizes critical care needs, improves conditions for the staff and allows for service expansion due to the district’s high infant mortality rate and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. In total, the medical facilities have had 215,963 patient visits.

Bono Fights to End Extreme Poverty

In 2004, Bono co-founded the ONE organization. ONE’s goal is to end extreme poverty and preventable illnesses and diseases by 2030. ONE is a nonprofit organization with diverse groups of people. These groups come together and take action to organize, mobilize, educate and advocate for gender equality, youth employment, quality education and equal access to health services. ONE has secured over $30 billion in funding for historic health initiatives. It also helped pass the Electrify Africa Act of 2016, a U.S. legislation on energy poverty.

From actors to musicians, these five world changing celebrities put their public reputations to use by showing everyone that their voices matter and are an important key to make a difference and change the world.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

The 3030 ProjectIn 2014, musician Ryan Lewis, a member of the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hip-hop duo, became the first to donate to the 30/30 Project, the project that he helped his mother, Julie, kickstart. As a thirty-year survivor of HIV, Julie Lewis designed the project with the goal of building thirty healthcare facilities worldwide. It is virtually impossible for people living in poverty to receive treatments, considering “Just one month’s supply of a typical antiretroviral drug costs more than the annual income of most Malawians.” But, these new facilities will give people access to treatments for life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The Lewis family saw the injustice and pledged to make a positive change. After all, their motto for the project states, “Healthcare is a human right.”

Lewis and his musical partner, Macklemore, started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $100,000. This went towards the first phase of the project, which is building a non-profit health center in Neno District, Malawi. The campaign exceeded its goal, raising over $150,000. So, the excess will be used for the next phase, which is a non-profit clinic in Kangundo, Kenya.

Dambe Health Center

Just like they promised, the 30/30 Project completed construction of the Dambe Health Center in the Neno District of Malawi in August 2015.

Partners in Health opened the clinic in March 2016. “This health center serves a community of 30,000 people…by addressing the need for free, basic primary care and lowering the barrier of access.” Since its launch four-and-a-half years ago, sixteen health care centers have been built. Six are currently under construction and eight are in the fundraising stage.

No Mom Left Behind

In addition to their main goal, the 30/30 Project launched its “No Mom Left Behind” campaign. The funds raised, build and maintain maternity wards in impoverished regions. Since 2017, they were able to build a new maternity ward and renovate a clinic in Togo, West Africa. For the 2019 fundraising year, donations will be used to construct a maternity ward in Kenya. It will offer HIV counseling, testing and medication, immunizations and family planning. The need for these services is high, as one in forty-two women die during childbirth. Sixty percent of women deliver their child at home, far from the helping hands of medical professionals. Construction on a nursing school in Uganda is already underway, with the hopes of training students to properly handle patients and any problems that may arise during childbirth.

As a family who has experienced the heartache associated with a loved one’s positive HIV diagnosis, the Lewises know how important it is to receive proper treatment. This is especially true for expectant mothers, who have a twenty-five percent chance of transmitting the disease to their baby. However, treatments could reduce that likelihood to less than two percent.

Ryan Lewis has made a splash in the music scene. Over the last five years, he has also made major strides in the world of philanthropy. Due to his generosity and perseverance, thousands of people in Africa and India are receiving life-saving treatments that they were previously unable to afford. With continued support, the 30/30 Project will help provide healthcare to many other underserved communities.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

Ryan Lewis's Mom Fights Global AIDS
Ryan Lewis is a successful DJ, musician, and producer and ultimately, a very famous man. However, there was a 25 percent chance when he was born that he would contract HIV. Thankfully, he did not, but other infants with similar risks are not always so fortunate. Such occurrences are part of the reason why, while Ryan Lewis makes music, Ryan Lewis’s mom fights global AIDS.

Ryan Lewis’s Mom Fights Global AIDS

Ryan Lewis’s mother, Julie Lewis, is a 59-year-old, HIV-positive woman. She contracted HIV in 1984 when she received contaminated blood during a blood transfusion after her complicated first pregnancy with her daughter, Teresa. She was not diagnosed until 1990, during which time she gave birth to Laura and Ryan, who were both fortunate enough not to contract her HIV. Julie was only given 3 to 5 years to live.

However, Julie Lewis is still alive and relatively well today thanks to modern medicine. Unsurprisingly, she wanted to do something special to celebrate her life, and her contribution to society became founding the 30/30 Project and, with a little help from Ryan, raising $160,000 to help the project build its first clinic in Malawi. The project would only get bigger from there.

The 30/30 Project

The 30/30 Project is so named because it aims to build 30 clinics and keep them running for 30 years. Of the 18 clinics that have been, or are still, being constructed, 15 of them are in Africa, 1 is in India, and 2 are in Washington.

Such growth was accomplished by partnering with healthcare partners who live in towns, and villages of interest who lack the supplies and/or abilities to build the clinics themselves. Once the partnership had been established, it’s all a matter of designing the building, sending volunteer construction workers to oversee the project and helping the staff the clinic.

For example, one of the targeted areas was Limpopo, South Africa. This rural town has a high unemployment rate, a low education rate and a 19 to 27 percent prenatal HIV rate. The 30/30 Project partnered with the Ndlovu Care Group to construct a clinic there — the two-story, solar-powered building opened in fall of 2017 and features a waiting area, care clinic and laboratory.

30/30 Project Results

Of the 18 clinics that are mentioned on the 30/30 Project website, 13 of them have been completed. Each of these clinics has substantially improved the quality of care that HIV-positive individuals in the community can receive.

For example, the clinic in Limpopo, South Africa serves 7,600 people with HIV as well as provides the Ndlovu Care Group with a place to work on vaccines for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The clinic in the Bududa District in Uganda serves over 16,000 people. The one in Madhya Pradesh, India cares for 5,000 people. Ultimately, Julie plans to provide 600,000 people with the same high-quality healthcare that allowed her to survive.

The Fight for Progress

As Ryan Lewis’s mom fights global AIDS, clinics are being constructed in developing nations so that HIV-positive people can receive the care they need. At 13 clinics and counting, it is clear that the 30/30 Project has already made a sizable impact in terms of how many people can survive their AIDS diagnosis.

Thanks to the efforts of Julie Lewis and all those who support her, HIV-positive people in these communities can now live long, healthy lives — just like Julie has.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr