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how to write the President

The President of the United States may seem out of reach to everyday constituents who do not hold any government office. Fortunately, the U.S. democracy is such that essentially anyone can reach the White House. The official website of the president, whitehouse.gov, makes information for contacting the nation’s highest office readily available. Web visitors can find phone numbers, with telecommunications options available for the deaf or mute, online. Furthermore, there is a form built into the site for easy email correspondence.

Though calling and emailing are fast and convenient communication methods, there may be a circumstance that calls for a letter. While the website provides basic information about how to write the president, there are a few other things a potential correspondent may want to consider:

The Paper

The White House recommends that correspondents compose their letter on 8.5 by 11-inch paper, which is the standard size for most ruled and printer paper. There are no guidelines about weight, color or fiber; communicators are free to choose whatever paper they feel is appropriate. That being said, the letter is going to pass through many hands once it arrives at the White House, so durability is an important consideration.

The Method

Choosing between a typed letter and a handwritten letter is an important decision about how to write the president. While handwritten letters tend to come across as more personal, they may be illegible. Should a correspondent choose to send a handwritten letter, use a dark ink pen and write neatly. Avoid using cursive or writing small. For typed letters, stick to a 10 to 12-point font size and avoid flowery, cursive-looking fonts.

The Message

Threats aside, correspondents can write the president about any number of topics. Whether someone wishes to voice their support or frustration, advocate for policy, give their opinion or share a personal anecdote, the White House is receptive to correspondence from the public. Letter writers should keep in mind that the president holds the highest office in the nation, and that alone garners some level of deference. Regardless of personal political opinion, it is wise to use a respectful tone when addressing the president, even if the purpose of the letter is to express discontent.

Enclosures

The White House cannot accept monetary contributions in any form. If a correspondent chooses to enclose any additional documents or photographs, it is likely that they may not be returned. Furthermore, these items may be damaged during the security screening process.

The Volume

The White House receives tens of thousands of letters and packages on a daily basis. The Office of Presidential Correspondence is the government body that receives all of these letters. Within this office, staffers, interns and volunteers are tasked with the responsibility of reading all of these letters. Generally, correspondents should not expect that their letter will actually be read by the president, although there is a chance that it may. Former President Obama made it his policy to read ten letters every night, chosen by the Director of Presidential Correspondence. President Trump may hold his own letter-reading regimen.

Though there is no real way to ensure that any particular letter makes it to the president’s desk, Fiona Reeves, who served as the Director of Presidential Correspondence during the Obama administration, provided a few insights in an interview with 99% Invisible. Reeves explained that her team sought out mail “that is geographically diverse . . . [with] different writing styles . . . and ways of communicating.” The point of passing letters on to the president is to give him a sense of what really matters to the American people. A pointed letter that helps the president feel the country’s pulse may very well find its way to the Oval Office.

Mailing

The final consideration for how to write the president has to do with the mailing. Correspondents should address their letters to:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC, 20500

Ensure to include a return address on the letter. Place a stamp in the upper right corner and mail as usual or visit a local post office for expedited mailing options. Choosing to write to the White House is an empowering civic opportunity available to anyone. Sending mail to the president is an opportunity to advocate for policies that alleviate global poverty.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Google

help RefugeesAccording to the International Rescue Committee, Syrian refugees account for between a quarter and a third of Lebanon’s population. Jordan has about 630,000 Syrian refugees—proportionally, that is the same as the United States taking in all 64 million residents of the United Kingdom.

Those who would like to extend a helpful hand are often unsure of where to begin. Here are six ways to help refugees:

    1. With the Syrian crisis alone resulting in over 4 million refugees, many agencies doing valuable work are stretched thin. A New York Times story on the refugee crisis includes links to several well-ranked charities that are seeking donations to help refugees.
    2. For those interested in more hands-on work, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) connects volunteers to refugee programs worldwide, though this initiative is geared towards highly skilled professionals.
    3. There are several other ways the average person can volunteer, however. The International Rescue Committee has local offices across the United States offering volunteering opportunities, such as working with refugee children or helping adults with their job search.

  1. The White House has a portal for volunteering to help refugees. If you enter your location, it provides a map and list of locations in your area that help refugees. For example, if you enter Washington, D.C., one of the results is the local Ethiopian Community Development Council, which helps African refugees resettle and build new, fruitful lives.
  2. You can also donate items. While many organizations do not accept physical donations like clothing on an international level, many local offices do. The International Refugee Council, for example, says local offices are often in need of items such as clothing and children’s items.
  3. Contact your senators and contact your representative. There are a variety of things you can encourage them to do, such as make pathways to accept refugees, increase funding for foreign aid or give more support to U.N. programs working with refugees.

This list is a good starting point for those interesting in aiding refugees to overcome global crises.

Emily Milakovic

Photo: Flickr

AVERT Averting HIV & AIDsFor far too long, HIV and AIDS have been a detrimental part of our world. However, with organizations like AVERT that have been at the forefront of the HIV response, there is some hope that this epidemic can be controlled and lives can be saved.

Since 1986, AVERT’s aim has been to “share knowledge, empower people to protect themselves and others from infection, reduce stigma and improve HIV programs globally.”

What makes AVERT’s efforts deserving of recognition is that they are able to reach thousands of people across the world every day — and their partnerships work to ensure that the lives most in need are the ones changed. The organization works particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region whose  history shows limitations in promulgating policies, initiatives and laws.

AVERT’s most important initiative is its role in promoting education as power and using this tool as a way to reduce new infections. By working with community-based organizations, AVERT helps to build the local response to HIV and AIDS in some of the most affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In tackling HIV and AIDS, some of the organizations AVERT collaborates with will include the Umunthu Foundation in Malawi, Sisonke in South Africa, Phelisanang Bophelong in Lesotho and the Bwafwano Integrated Services Organisation in Zambia. Furthermore, AVERT’s global website, AVERT.org, provides a wealth of information for people looking to protect themselves from HIV and to spread awareness of the vital work currently in progress in the field.

The website “supports the global HIV response by providing a well-researched resource on the global epidemic.” With 12 million visitors viewing their website in 2015, 69,500 people receiving HIV tests since 2010 and 20 rural communities receiving support to build networks of elderly carers, AVERT is surely making a dent in battling HIV and AIDS.

With campaigns such as Stand Up to HIV, AVERT is able to highlight the impact of the HIV stigma on one’s health and also aims to empower people to test for HIV. Their animation “Why am I so scared of HIV?” creates a platform for their messages about HIV and AIDS to be shared across the globe. This important initiative has the power to raise awareness and enlighten the masses.

The organization especially touches the lives of the illiterate in impoverished areas, by educating them on the importance of staying protected and protocols to avoid the progression from HIV to AIDS. AVERT is steadily working to ensure that HIV is no longer a death sentence.

The improvements made in battling the HIV and AIDS epidemic have increased tremendously thanks to organizations like AVERT. As the Executive Director of UNAIDS stated in 2011, “a few years ago, we could only dream of a day when there would be zero infections and deaths caused my HIV and AIDS…but today we know we can make it happen.” Today, there is hope because of organizations like AVERT.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: AVERT, UN
Photo: Flickr

Why We Need More Activists
When the world’s problems seem too big, too complicated and too terrifying to even try and solve, the words of Margret Meade always seem to provide much-needed perspective, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Activism, as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, is “the use of direct and noticeable action to achieve a result, usually a political or social one.” By this definition, an activist is someone who does an action on behalf of a cause.

The traditional method of activism usually involved a picket and a protest. However, with the introduction of the Internet and the expanding access to information and connectivity, activism has begun presenting itself in diverse, and arguably more effective, ways.

Activism has played a role in ending slavery, protecting civil rights, promoting equality for women and many other issues, but as the way activism works begins to change, the need for activists grows.

Before globalization and the hyper interconnectivity of our world through trade and online access, problems were handled generally at a local level. Communities pushed against government policies they disagreed with or pushed for social change they deemed fit.

As issues expand to a global level, so must activism. But unlike the past, those most affected by certain life debilitating issues do not have the access needed to have their voices heard.

activistsNearly half of the world’s population — a staggering 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

While the international poverty line has been drawn at living on a $1.25 or less a day, which more than 1.3 billion people do, it is important to acknowledge that a significant portion of the people living on earth today is barely getting by. Poverty is especially rampant in undeveloped nations.

So in addition to dealing with economic insecurity, citizens of poor countries have few avenues for social, political or economic change. They cannot simply sign a petition for their government to implement better social programs.

Many of them live in rural communities far removed from their governments, and most of the governments in developing countries are unable or unwilling to help their citizens break the bonds of poverty.

This is why we need more activists. Half of our world is essentially voiceless. They cannot adequately act on behalf of their own cause, but that does not mean they should not be heard. If the portion of our population, who has enough, did enough, then couldn’t we all have enough?

We need to use activism to scream that global poverty must be eradicated.

There is what seems like endless ways to become a voice for someone who needs to have their needs heard.

Join organizations who have made it their mission to address global poverty in one way or another, volunteer at their events, rally your friends to become involved, contact your local and federal governing representatives to encourage them to join the fight.

It does not matter how you choose to be an activist, it only matters that you act.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Do Something, BMartin, Cambridge Dictionary, One, Permanent Culture Now, Activists Handbook
Photo: Pixabay, Wikipedia

Novak_Djokovic
Novak Djokovic, the number one men’s tennis player in the world, has added a new honor to his list of accomplishments: United Nations Children’s Fund Celebrity Goodwill Ambassador.

Djokovic championed children’s rights for years before his appointment in late August. He previously served as UNICEF’s Serbia Ambassador, and his own organization, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, works to improve children’s lives in Serbia by cooperating with Serbian schools, local organizations and non-governmental organizations.

The Foundation “has focused its activities towards the improvement of conditions in which children in Serbia get education, grow up and play.”

Djokovic’s foundation and UNICEF work to uphold the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. These rights include the ability to have access to services such as education. Djokovic joined UNICEF in 2011 as the Serbian Ambassador and has since visited Serbian schools with UNICEF.

“The early years of life are crucial. When well nurtured and cared for in their earliest years, children are more likely to survive, to grow in a healthy way, to have fewer illnesses, to develop thinking, language, emotional and social skills and become productive and successful citizens of society,” he said about his commitment to children’s causes.

Djokovic joins a list of Goodwill Ambassadors famous for sports, film, theater and more. He and David Beckham are among the most notable athletes currently serving as Goodwill Ambassadors. With their fame, these ambassadors help to bring children’s issues to the forefront of public consciousness, and Djokovic has already shown his dedication to improving children’s lives.

Rachelle Kredentser

Sources: UN, ESPN, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: UN

break_the_chains
Fear dominates the lives of young girls who live in brothels. They are silenced and commanded by an oppressor who beats, rapes and threatens them. They are sold and minimized to property. With this lifestyle, how can they hope for freedom, or even hope?

On July 2, 2015, Mike Rutter and George Cook completed a 3,000-mile bike ride across the United States. Their reason for the 40-day ride? To raise awareness of human trafficking victims and extreme poverty.

The pair began their endeavor in Santa Monica, California on May 24. The cycling tour, Break the Chains, was a mission to raise money and attention for victims of poverty and violence.

According to the U.S. Department of State, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.

George Cook says he first realized this was such a problem when he was 13 and noticed shackles hanging in a money manager’s office. The manager told him, “Oh, those are for a slave.” Cook says he was dumbfounded, thinking “Lincoln freed the slaves,” so where were they now? The manager responded, “Well it’s going on all over the world with people being bought and sold and held in captivity.”

Like Cook, Rutter also learned about human trafficking and poverty firsthand. Remembering his first trip to India, he says, “[A child] begged me for his survival. He was surrounded by other children just like him—a generation plagued by the cycle of poverty, something most of us can’t understand.”

Rutter said, “We are simply riding a bike, but through that simple act, we have the opportunity to change a life.”

Working with Bright Hope, an organization that strives to offer opportunity and hope to those who live on less than one dollar a day, the pair provides voices for the victims who are unable to speak for themselves.

On their 40-day bike ride, the pair was followed by a 24-foot RV that was painted with the Break the Chains logo. At every stop, the men received questions and interest.

When asked how they powered through 90 miles each day in varying weather elements, Rutter said, “The girls we are trying to do this for, they don’t have a choice what’s happening to them that day so we’re going to plow ahead.”

To help motivate them further, they ride with pictures of the girls with their stories written on the back. Rutter said it was a reminder that although they may be going through a bit of pain, “it’s nothing compared to the pain that these victims go through on a daily basis.”

Throughout their tour, Cook and Rutter hoped to raise $1 million. With these donations, they plan to train more police officers to bring brothel owners to justice, as well as establish rehabilitation centers for the children that they rescue.

Cook recognizes the correlation between poverty and human trafficking. He says, “Where there is poverty, people do not have the money to pay for a detective or prosecutor. They don’t have money and can barely survive so they get taken advantage of.”

In addition to working with Bright Hope, the pair works closely with the International Justice Mission (IJM), which rescues and assists victims of violence.

On July 2, Cook and Rutter completed the 3,000 miles in Sandy Point State Park in Maryland. They raised $256,592 dollars.

To learn more or donate to the cause, visit BrightHope.org.

– Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Facebook, International Justice Mission, Youtube, The Emporia Gazette, Wish TV
Photo: Cops

Up_for_School_Petition
At the time of this posting, eight million people and counting have signed the Up for School Petition. These people want to make sure that children all over the world get an education — a good one. One that will help end the cycle of poverty.

This includes children displaced due to natural disasters or wars. This includes children living in poverty so bad that their parents cannot afford to send them to school, and the children themselves are forced to work. This includes girls who are married off as children or who are unmarried but get pregnant while still of primary or secondary school age or who have their period but no appropriate way to take care of the blood.

Up for School, a petition sponsored by A World at School, demands government leaders to fulfill their promise made at the U.N. in 2000, which guarantees all out-of-school children will be in school before the end of 2015. As Hellen Griberg, A World at School Global Youth Ambassador, reminded world leaders of the Up for School Petition at the Oslo Summit for Education Development on July 7, 2015, “We know that nothing changes without pressure. Therefore, we have been building support in every corner of the world.”

In 2000, 102 million primary school children were out of school. By 2011, the number dropped to 57 million. Progress was being made in developing countries. Primary school enrollment reached 90 percent. Literacy rates were on the rise and gender gaps were narrowing. In 2012, however, the number started rising again to 58 million children out of school. The number is still rising and has now reached 59 million.

Along with this increase in numbers is a decrease in funding. International aid to basic education started falling in 2011 for the first time since 2002. In 2014, only one percent of overall humanitarian aid went to education. Now progress is stalling, placing the 2015 target at great risk.

Yet education is crucial to overcoming poverty. The United Nations Children’s Fund considers education to be critical in achieving all the Millennium Development Goals. Education provides future generations with the tools to fight poverty, disease and gender disparity — all issues that need work in order for the world to improve the environment, the economy and our security. From the midst of today’s primary school children, our future leaders will emerge — our educators, doctors, scientists, economists, heads of state and all the others who will be needed to support a developed world. We may not know them by name now, but one day they will be making decisions about our world.

“Sometimes we wait for others and think that a Martin Luther [sic] should raise [sic] among us, a Nelson Mandela should raise [sic] among us and speak up for us. But we never realize that there are normal humans like us, and if we step forward, we can also bring change just like them,” asserted the Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, on the June 18, 2015 airing of The Daily Show. Yousafzai is the survivor of the Taliban’s assassination attempt in 2012 for openly supporting girls’ right to education.

Why should I sign the Up for School Petition? I cannot think of a reason why anyone should not — or cannot. Most of us may not have had a voice at the Oslo Summit for Education Development on July 6-7, 2015 or at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia on July 13-16, 2015. We also will not have the opportunity to speak at the U.N. Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda on September 25-27, 2015. What we can do, though, is visit the Up For School Petition website to sign the petition now. I just did. It took three minutes.

– Janet Quinn

Sources: United Nations 1, United Nations 2 UNICEF, UpWorthy, A World at School 1, A World at School 2
Photo: A World at School

One-Direction-Anti-Poverty-CampaignOne Direction is coming to Seattle. The world-renowned teen heartthrob band One Direction has recently made an important addition to their laundry list of achievements. The band members have collectively launched an impressive anti-poverty campaign that also seeks to tackle inequality and slow down climate change.

They have named the initiative the Action/1D manifesto, and have asked their millions and millions of fans across the globe to contribute. Fans are encouraged to share powerful, creative pieces that will help raise awareness of our world’s most pressing issues.

The band’s initiative is part of the wider action/2015 campaign. This larger campaign is a global citizens movement founded on the idea that 2015 can be the pivotal year when the world finally sets out to tackle persisting global issues like poverty.

The boys stress that their initiative—and the campaign as a whole—will not see success unless World Leaders are successfully swayed. Change can only happen if the harnessed power of everyday people compels leaders to make long-term commitments.

Although they are speaking out to a primarily younger fan base, they still wholeheartedly believe in the power of everyday citizens. The band released a statement explaining, “Young people really do have the power to help end poverty, tackle inequality and to stop the dangerous climate change.”

In fact, the band believes that now is the time for members of the younger generation to take action, and create a united voice that is loud enough to reach the ears of leaders worldwide.

The band has released a collaborative video asking fans to get involved by posting videos and pictures depicting how they would “celebrate” the campaign’s victory. Another option for fans is to answer the question, “What would your ideal future look like?”

The plan is for fan-sourced content to be delivered in a single video depicting one strong, unified, socially driven message. Each band member will also release his own individual video in the months to come. Louis will reportedly be the first to do this, with plans to release his personalized video on July 13.

One Direction is the most recent high-profile group to join many other famous personalities in supporting the 2015 campaign. Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, Sir Richard Branson, Shakira, Ben Affleck, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Bono have already issued their campaign support.

When people in the global limelight choose to utilize their power to harness support for important issues like poverty, significant changes can be made. According to Declan Fahy, an associate professor at American University’s School of Communication, celebrities have the ability to “personify ideas and social issues.”

By showing the world how important issues like poverty, inequality, and climate change are to them, One Direction is encouraging their fans to adopt similar perspectives. By putting a face on these complex issues, famous people can make their audience feel more connected to the problem, and even mobilize them to take action.

As one of the biggest bands in the world, One Direction has the power to bring the most important global issues to the forefront. Especially by encouraging a younger generation to care about these issues, the band could help make huge strides in the worldwide fight against poverty.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Daily Star (UK), Think Progress
Photo: Cambio

International-Youth-Day

August 12, 2015 marks the fifteenth commemoration of the United Nations International Youth Day. The annual celebration draws together young people from around the world to work as agents of change.

Each year, the U.N. highlights a particular issue that affects the world’s young people. This year’s recently announced theme, “Youth Civic Engagement,” will draw international attention to the importance of youth involvement in political, economic and social affairs. The U.N. asserts that youth participation in public life is necessary to achieve global sustainable development.

This August 12, young people around the world will join the U.N.’s movement to get involved in civic activities. Here is how you can be a part of the International Youth Day 2015 celebrations:

Use Social media

The U.N.’s Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development wants to hear from you! Use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to spread the word about the importance of civic engagement. Use the hashtag #YouthDay to connect with young people across the globe.

Advocate

While youth advocacy is always an important part of International Youth Day celebrations, this year’s theme emphasizes youth involvement in public life more strongly than ever. Civic engagement means taking action, so choose a cause that means something to you and get started!

You can raise awareness by creating info sheets or flyers and placing them at local schools, libraries and community centers. You can also contact local media outlets and ask them to run a feature on your issue. The more publicity your issue gets, the better.

Call or email your congressional leaders and ask them to support your cause. Gather a group of friends to lobby your local officials on or around August 12.

With all the work you put into your specific cause, do not forget to call attention to the limited opportunities for youth engagement in many areas of society. Talk with leaders in your school, faith community and local organizations, and ask them to strengthen programs that promote involving youth in civic activities.

Plan an event

Organizing a community event to promote International Youth Day is a great way to raise awareness and funds for a cause of your choice. You can host a concert and invite local musicians to play, or plan a festival or block party and invite a distinguished individual to speak. You can even organize an exhibit featuring art from young people in your community.

Share your engagement

If you decide to plan an event for International Youth Day 2015, do not forget to document it and share photos with [email protected] If you share your event with [email protected], the organization will post the information to its global map of International Youth Day activities. Your events could inspire others to advocate for youth civic engagement.

The most creative photo submissions will be displayed at the U.N. Headquarters, shared online via official U.N. social media and used in the World Youth Report 2015. Be sure to include this copyright release form so the U.N. can share your photo. The deadline for submissions is July 23.

– Caitlin Harrison

Sources: UN 1, Department of Economical and Social Affairs 1, Department of Economical and Social Affairs 2, UN 2
Photo: Nam News Network

Ugandan_Journalists_Rap
Music is a powerful, emotional and memorable way to spread a message, something Zoe Kabuye is perfectly aware of.

At 14 years old, Kabuye is a professional rapper in Uganda using her creative drive to make music that focuses on social issues and children’s rights. Known professionally as MC Loy, Kabuye became the youngest rapping newscaster in Africa last year and now appears regularly on NewzBeat, a Ugandan television show featuring artists that report the news musically.

As rap music becomes increasingly popular in East African countries, more and more hip-hop artists emerge as socially and politically aware artists who use their talent to spread a message. Unfortunately, media in Africa is often censored and regulated by the government; rap, however, permits free speech, making it a rare and excellent way to spread hard-hitting social issues.

Kabuye began rapping at a very young age and in 2012 she rapped for Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, at a celebration for the country’s 50th year of independence. Now, she addresses issues regarding social justice, including sexual abuse, limited access to education, and corruption in the Ugandan school system.

Successful and informative, Kabuye earned her career with raw talent and guidance from 28-year-old rapper Sharon Bwogi. Professionally known as Lady Slyke, Bwogi recruited Kabuye to join NewzBeat and is one of the most admired female rappers in Uganda. Her music centers on human rights, child abuse, youth empowerment, and peace.

Every Saturday, NewzBeat is presented in English and Luganda, the language of Uganda. Each episode runs for five minutes featuring four local, regional, and international stories. The program is not afraid to address the hard-hitting and controversial topics; in fact, NewzBeat thrives on informing the people about these issues, covering subjects such as poverty, government corruption and Uganda’s desire to outlaw mini-skirts.

The television program has gained a loyal group of followers since it first aired last year, attracting viewers with its unique musical foundation. Uganda’s youth is especially interested in NewzBeat and as the leaders of future generations, this is a huge thumbs up. It is important to educate today’s youth about social issues so they can formulate opinions and make change.

Positively employing their talents, Bwogi and Kabuye have shed light on the real issues in the world. They yearn for social justice and are effectively using their voices to make a difference. This dynamic duo raises awareness and takes action to address what’s wrong with the world. Lady Slyke and MC Loy just dropped the mic.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Take Part, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2
Photo:CFM News