Compassion International, a Christian ministry organization, is highlighting the reality of global poverty through an interactive event hosted in the United States.

The exhibits are free to the public and seek to display true stories of children living in challenged developing countries such as Kenya, Uganda and the Dominican Republic. Through this forum, the organization gives visitors the opportunity to step into the lives of people living in developing countries without getting on a plane.

Visitors are guided through exhibits laid out over 2,000 square feet. Throughout the tour, people have the opportunity to experience the lives of three children who are sponsored by Compassion International. Each of the children featured narrates their own story.

“The tour took us through his life in the streets and eventually to the point where he became involved with Compassion International,” Joseph Hughes, who resonated with the story of Rueben, a child from the Dominican Republic, said. “It was a moving experience. I’ll admit, when Reuben finally became stable, had food and access to an education, I teared up a little.”

According to UNICEF, 1.9 million children are living in poverty today. The interactive tour started when Compassion International teamed up with local churches to provide child development programs and assist children living in poverty.

James Hays, a pastor who helps lead the event, said he wanted to give others the opportunity to experience life in different regions of the world that are impacted by global poverty.

“We thought it would be something not only our church would benefit from, but the community could as well,” he said.

Overall, the response from visitors has been positive. Jillian Kissell, a participant of one event in Searcy, Arkansas described the event as “enlightening”.

“I think it’s important to see how others are living and what their daily lives look like,” she said. “I like experiences that will get me out of my comfort zone and learn something new.”

Hays said this is the first time Compassion International has put on the event. According to information found on Compassion International’s website, the tour will visit 35 cities this year.

Alyson Atondo

Sources: UNICEF, Harding, Access Atlanta, TCPalm, The Connection
Photo: Flickr

The Global Health Film initiative held its first festival last month to use film and media as a catalyst for discussion and change on global health issues. The festival included film production workshops, in-depth panel discussions and pitching opportunities.

The inaugural event was held in London this year on Oct. 30-31. The festival – Films to Inspire Change, began a new era of global health discussion, incorporating art and expression into the previously science-only forum.

According to the Global Health Film initiative, workshops at the festival included:

  • Film for social change in low-resource settings ( by Medical Aid Films)
  • Guerrilla filmmaking and global health (by What Took You So Long?)
  • Crowdfunding for global health film (by Dartmouth Films)
  • Impact of global health film (by BRITDOC Foundation)
  • Innovation at grass roots: filmmaking in low resource settings (by BBC Media Action)
  • Media training for health advocate (by Rockhopper TV)

One of the films featured at the festival, “Body Team 12,” follows the first female member of the Ebola response teams in Liberia. Another, “Fire in the Blood,” documents the battle to make AIDS drugs cheap enough for poor countries to afford them (Sci Dev Net). “TB Unmasked” and “TB Silent Killer” cover tuberculosis, while “Outbreak” exposes the “hidden” beginning of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

In order to facilitate discussions such as those sparked at the festival, the Global Health Film initiative also developed two labs this year to support global health advocates and produce films that highlight critical global health issues. The Global Health Film Lab houses nine fellows and gives them the training and tools they need to produce their own change-inspiring films.

The initiative also holds screenings for new films that present new ideas in the global health field. Past screenings include “Girl Rising,” which promotes the education of girls in developing countries, and “Open Heart,” which tells the story of Rwandan children with rheumatic heart disease.

These films continue to raise awareness and present otherwise widely-ignored information in a way that evokes an emotional response.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: SciDev, Global Health Film 1, Global Health Film 2
Photo: Pixabay

World Hunger Action Month
Established five years ago, World Hunger Action Month has been an international holiday aimed at raising awareness and inspiring people to donate to one of the several causes on World Food Day.

This holiday takes places throughout the month of October with World Food Day occurring on Oct. 16, 2015; in the spirit of this holiday, the list below describes several prominent organizations for those who are inclined to donate:

  1. World Food Programme – The World Food Programme was created in 1961 as part of the UN in order to aid countries susceptible to malnutrition. Its mission is to create a world where one has access to his or her daily needs at all times. Operating with sister agencies in Rome, the UN and with NGO partners, the WFP routinely affects more than 80 million in 75 countries with food assistance.
  2. UNICEF – Originally founded in 1946 to aid post-war countries, by 1954 its mandate adopted the needs of children who also lived in the developing world. Today, working in roughly 190 countries, UNICEF provides nutrition, safe water, sanitation and immunization to the world’s extreme poor; approximately 90 percent of revenue goes straight to the programs it supports.
  3. Stop Hunger Now – Stop Hunger Now is a relatively new foundation that began in 1998; despite this, the organization has since become a major influence by providing more than 180 meals to recipients in 65 countries.
  4. Action Against Hunger – This is a highly rated organization. The effects of this charity can be seen in more than 45 countries, and it aids around 13 million people annually. Reportedly, for every dollar, 93 cents are invested in relief programs.
  5. Freedom from Hunger – Freedom from Hunger is a longstanding organization focusing its efforts strictly where poverty and hunger are paramount issues. Today this organization reaches 24 countries across the world.
  6. Save the Children – Beginning in 1919, Save the Children was founded by Eglanyne Jebb to assist war-torn Europe. After the Second World War, its revitalization then spread from continent to continent, ceaselessly expanding even through today with the undertaking of the Millennium Development goals.
  7. FHI – Food for the Hunger International Federation began in 1971 founded by Dr. Larry Ward; it was not registered as an international NGO until 1987 in Geneva.The FHI provides various services depending on the need of the locals, yet focuses on health (including nutrition), sanitary water and agriculture.
  8. Hunger Project – The Hunger Project is an innovative organization that attempts to empower men and women in rural regions to become self-reliant and sustain their own development.Its work has reached 24,000 communities, affecting roughly 20.6 million individuals.
  9. Bread for the World – This organization produces change by advocacy. Bread for the World was founded in 1974 and reaches out to elected officials through letters in order to produce responses among the congressional leadership.
  10. Heifer International – Established in 1944, this organization provides livestock and training to those in poverty in order to break the cyclic struggle to access food.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: WFP, UNICEF, Stop Hunger Now, Action Against Hunger, Freedom from Hunger, Save the Children, FHIF, THP, Bread, Heifer International
Photo: Flickr

On Sept. 24, at sundown, thousands of candles, flashlights and lanterns were raised to the sky in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Sustainable Development Goals

These 17 goals, which would be announced by world leaders in New York the following day, range from ending poverty to protecting marine life and providing quality education.

Each country would decide whether or not to commit to the fifteen-year agenda to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.”

The Sustainable Development Goals were designed to build upon their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs, implemented from 2000 to 2015, targeted the eradication of poverty, disease and hunger.

Now nations hope that the SDGs will finish the deal by directly addressing issues that promote poverty, such as unsanitary water and social inequality.

“This agreement marks an important milestone in putting our world on an inclusive and sustainable course,” says Helen Clark, the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.

The biggest challenge now is ensuring that these goals remain on track and leaders exercise vigilance in carrying them out. This is where #LightTheWay steps in.

#LightTheWay For a Better Planet

#LightTheWay was founded by action/2015, one of the largest civil society campaigns. The idea was to “call on leaders to light the way to a better future for people and planet.”

#LightTheWay, described by Our Voices as “a tidal wave of humanity,” ensured that the Sustainable Development Goals will not be quickly forgotten. It tells leaders “we’ll be watching every step of the way to ensure they are met.”

Over 100,000 people in cities across the globe organized vigils in both public and private settings to send a message to world leaders that their citizens support the Sustainable Development Goals.

Organizations such as Our Voice and action/2015 encouraged participants to post pictures and videos of the vigils on social media with the caption “#Lighttheway.”

Some world leaders see the enthusiasm and determination as a promise of a better future and fully support their citizens’ efforts in #LightTheWay.

A Global Effort

After more than 150 people gathered on the Millennium Bridge in Dublin, Ireland’s President, Michael D. Higgins, said, “It is my hope that by 2030, we will look back on the 25 September 2015 as a decisive moment in global history.”

Even prominent figures such as Stephen Hawking and Malala Yousafzai participated in #LightTheWay to show their desire for a safer and more stable world.

Said UN Youth Delegate Eoin O’Liathain, “These new goals are lighting the way forward, everyone must work to make them a reality.”

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Action 2015/span>, Our Voices, UNDP, UN , Development Education Programme
Photo: Action 2015

The Syria Refugee crisis is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. With the picture of the young refugee boy whose body washed up on shore grabbing the attention of the world, more people than ever are paying attention to this humanitarian crisis.

With increased awareness of the Syrian Refugees, comes an increase in advocacy (as people in many countries are stepping up to tell their governments how they feel about accepting refugees into their countries) and an increase in activism.

Individuals like hotel owner Andrew Davies and lettings agent Wendy Wilcox on the Greek island of Symi, are stepping up to help these those who are fleeing violence and pain in hopes of finding a better life.

Together, the pair has launched a reception service on the tiny Greek island called Solidarity Symi, using an abandoned post office as their resource headquarters.

This organization is a not-for-profit that works to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment to destitute Syrians who have crossed over the Mediterranean into Europe.

These heroic individuals work at this project eight hours a day in addition to the jobs they work at to make a living.

There are 30 core volunteers that work to get the refugees taken care of while they are in Symi and to direct them to resources about how to continue their journey safely.

Though some Symi residents worry about the influx of refugees hurting their tourism-based economy, Davies’ thoughts on the matter are simple. “How could we lie on the beach reading books when people were suffering?” he asks.

Many cross the Mediterranean in dangerously overloaded boats, with smugglers who overcharge them or delay the trip. But, in a country torn apart by war, many Syrians are left with no other choice.

As Francine Uenuma of Save the Children emphasizes based on the refugees she has spoken to near Serbia, “They’re fleeing violence. They’re fleeing persecution. And the risks they’re taking, I think, underscore that point.”

Right now, independent operations like Solidarity Symi are especially important in light of the strain on humanitarian aid agencies such as the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.N.’s World Food Program.

Solidarity Symi has raised over £26,000 through a Facebook site and donations from visitors. There are donation boxes set up around the island, and community members are working to raise awareness of the organization through on-site and online mediums so that it can continue to develop.

The Facebook page is also continually updated with items that the organization is in need of, so that those present on the island can make material donations such as soap, travel bags, specific foods, sleeping mats, and even toys for children.

The Solidarity Symi Facebook page is a very positive resource that updates supporters with pictures and posts about how their donations are helping and about refugees as individual people, not simply victims and members of a mass migration.

The people working tirelessly at organizations such as Solidarity Symi are a perfect testament to how each individual has the power to make a positive difference.

For more information about Solidarity Symi, or to donate to the organization, visit their website.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Blogspot, Daily Mail, Facebook, NPR 1, NPR 2, Reuters
Photo: cooksailing

Everyone has heard the phrase “ignorance is bliss” when they were younger. And it’s not a phrase that anyone can fully understand until they are suddenly faced with the gift of knowledge, and the world seems to fall out from underneath them.

Because it really is bliss, to live blandly and emptily and unaware of the world around you.

It’s hard for anyone to force themselves to become informed because it seems that by choosing to learn more about the world, what a person is really forced to do is to learn about all of the bad in the world and to be bombarded with negative images of all the horrific things that happen on the planet we inhabit every day.

Sometimes it feels like a wonder that anyone reads the news or tries to keep up with the times — every day it’s something new and uniquely terrible.

And it doesn’t help that sometimes all of this tragedy does is reinforce the idea that an individual is like a tiny drop in a massive bucket, not capable of making much of a difference. So we don’t educate ourselves because all it will do is make us sad, and what can a single person do anyway?

As Steven Shepherd states in a scholastic article on the perpetuation of ignorance, “Maintaining unfamiliarity is an ideal way to protect the psychologically comfortable (even if inaccurate) belief that [someone else] is taking care of the problem.”

The average consumer of news underestimates how much of a difference they are able to make but not the power of other individuals to make a difference. By assuming that other people will take care of the world’s problems, they effectively admit that it is only through the power of people that change will be affected.

The fact of the matter is, in some sense, we are all individual drops in a bucket. But it is only if every drop agrees to do its part that we can and will make the world a better place. As Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Once a person decides to make an active effort to change the world, then possibilities start to open up. “Seek and you shall find,” as the saying goes. There are causes and charities that are always accepting donations (use a website like to verify the legitimacy of the organization, and check to see how much of their money goes toward the cause and how much to areas like administration).

There are rallies to attend, there is awareness to raise, there are petitions to sign, and there is understanding to spread. Because, though ignorance may be bliss, knowledge is power, and compassion is the most vital ingredient of our humanity.

The Borgen Project itself is a perfect resource for finding ways for the informed person to make a difference. Our “30 Ways to Right a Wrong” page is full of excellent ideas for anyone who wants to start making an active difference.

Pretending the problems of the world don’t exist won’t make the problems any better. In contrast, every individual who decides he or she is going to do what he or she can to right wrongs will make the problems better.

So yes, depressing news stories continue to flood the media waves can be depressing, however we should still pay attention:

  • Because it’s our responsibility to uphold the principles of humanity.
  • Because it is the only way that we can start to address problems.
  • Because by breaking out of our false sense of security, we can create a real sense of security all throughout the world. Our individual bubbles of privilege can be expanded to include all of the people across the earth.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Before It’s News, APA
Photo: Pittsburgh Parent

FC Barcelona, Global Citizen, Gates Foundation Unite to Combat Poverty
Although athletics are intended to be competitive, they have a unique way of bringing people together; a shared love for that game or passion for a team unites people across the globe. The most universally uniting sport, however, must be soccer.

Almost every kid ever participated in peewee soccer – remember the oranges at halftime? The game is played all over the world, professionally, collegiately and friendly. The international phenomenon is a simple concept (kick ball, score goal), perhaps one of the main reasons for its timeless universal success.

Soccer is global, and as one of the greatest teams in professional soccer, F.C. Barcelona is globally recognized for its international fan base and crazy-talented players, like Lionel Messi. Barcelona, however, is not solely praised for its talent on the field. The team is also receiving well-deserved credit for its efforts to end global poverty.

The F.C. Barcelona Foundation was founded in 1994 and gives Barcelona the opportunity to give back globally. All projects developed by the organization are centered on sports and promote quality education and positive values. The efforts of the organization benefit children and adolescents of Catalonia and the world.

The recently announced partnership between the F.C. Barcelona Foundation, Global Citizen and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will empower people to take action to end extreme global poverty.

These three major powerhouses will surely make a profound difference in many lives and raise awareness about the realities of poverty. The partnership will work in alignment with the United Nations Development Goals to eradicate poverty by 2030.

Sports have the unique ability to unite people from all walks of life. Mix that with advocacy and activism – a real game-changer. Together, Barcelona, Global Citizen and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation unite to change the world and encourage others to play hard against poverty.

Barcelona just scored a stellar goal.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Global Citizen, FC Barcelona
Photo: FCFoundation

In mid-July, star marathon runners tied up their laces for peace. The group included world record holders Wilson Kipsang, Tegla Loroupe and international marathon champion, John Kelai, all of whom raised awareness of violence in Northern Kenya.

The runners traveled from Lodwar to Lake Bogoria, 520 miles in 22 days. They carried an Olympic-style torch, which was passed from walker to walker.

Although many of the runners have been touched by ethnic violence, Kelai launched the walk to commemorate the loss of his three uncles who were killed by cattle rustlers 25 years ago.

“Last year at least 310 people were killed and more than 220,000 fled their homes as a result of inter-communal conflicts attributed to competition over land and water resources, cattle rustling, and struggles over political representation,” says the United Nations.

The Aegis Trust, a British non-governmental organization, coordinated the walk. The Kenyan runners engaged with young people at risk of violence and the group posted photos of their journey on Twitter with the hashtag, #kenyawalk4peace.

The runners shouted “Amani! Amani!” – which means peace in Swahili, Kenya’s language.

Elim Okapel, a Turkana elder, decided to join the athletes on their journey. He says, “It is now 48 years that we have preached peace and we have not got a remedy. We have decided walking was the only solution.”

Kelai, who believes education is key to avoiding violence as a lifestyle, says, “To achieve any precious thing, you must pay a price so that you can be crowned. For peace to be realized and enjoyed in this region, we must go that extra mile.”

Kelai hopes that the Kenyan government will soon build schools in the north to help change the lives of all who are subjected to violence.

He says, “With the young generation being educated better than our parents, it will be easy to transform the way of life.”

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Business Insider, The Guardian, NPR
Photo: Flickr

povertyAustralia is considered a developed nation with rather good development indicators: children in school, high life expectancy, higher than average gross national income and the ability to be an agent of change. Yet, like most countries, there are still people living in poverty or at a disadvantage.

Guy Sebastian and his wife Jules have started a foundation to directly combat poverty in their native Australia as well as branch out and help others living in poverty abroad.

In the United States, Guy Sebastian is best known for the song “Battle Scars,” released in 2012 with Lupe Fiasco, but his musical career began when he won the first Australian Idol title in 2003. His wife Jules is a celebrity stylist and a copartner in The Sebastian Foundation.

Sebastian’s humanitarian work started very early in his musical career when he took a tour of Africa, specifically Uganda, as an ambassador for World Vision. During his time there, he saw the debilitating effects that poverty can have on a person, and he has worked for awareness surrounding poverty from that time on.

When the Sebastian’s family started to grow, they became even more involved with helping children and families in Australia and the world. Through this desire, The Sebastian Foundation was formed.

The Sebastian Foundation states, “Our focus is people. Our love is people. We want to see the need and meet the need. We want to help in any way we can and we hope you join us in our mission.” With this thought in mind, they form collaborations with like-minded organizations to work with as partners.

Recently, much of their work has centered on local initiatives such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, dance programs for youth with Downs Syndrome and children’s hospitals. They have also partnered with Sam Moran, the Yellow Wiggle as of 2006 and a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador; Sam works to help “Australian children who are sick, disadvantaged or have special needs.”

The foundation has global poverty in mind as well. Especially because of Sebastian’s time as a World Vision ambassador, The Sebastian Foundation focuses on families in regards of “poverty, poor health and disease, empowering women, educating children and giving them a chance at a better future [and] community.”

One way to be involved with this great foundation is to donate and, in return, one can receive a gift heart bracelet with the word “joy” on it. Or they have a shop where one can purchase a beautiful print of a photo taken by Sebastian, and all proceeds are a donation for the foundation.

Overall, the Sebastian family has used their celebrity status in Australia to help those who need it most in their home country. But through their global work, and Sebastian’s breakthrough on the U.S. music market, their reach can spread even farther than before, helping so many people in need around the world.

– Megan Ivy

Sources: Guy Sebastian, The Sebastian Foundation, The Sebastian Foundation Facebook Page, The World Bank, YouTube
Photo: Jules Sebastian

At a recent fundraising gala, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) raised more than $40 million. This money was dedicated to preserving the last of Earth’s wildlife, habitat, and fragile ecosystems.

DiCaprio stated during the opening ceremony, “We’ve decimated our forests, wildlands, polluted and overfished our rivers and oceans; all the key ecosystems that not only serve as a home to our planet’s biodiversity but also make life here for us possible”.

The event itself, an annual affair, focused its current efforts on protecting key species like the tiger, rhino, shark, and mountain gorilla by working with governments to conserve the jungles, coral reef and forests they call home.

The LDF was able to raise such a large amount of money in a single evening by holding a live auction, presented by the LDF’s long-term partner Julius Baer and other co-sponsors like Chopard and Armani.

The live auction sold an extensive collection of fine art, luxury items and uniquely memorable lifetime experiences. Some of the items sold were an estate home on Leonardo DiCaprio’s own Belize Island that was sold for over $11 million, a private concert with Elton John sold twice for a total of $3 million, and a limited re-edition of Rodin’s “The Thinker” sold for close to $2 million. This shortlist of expensive items were a few of the many auctioned off at the gala event. In addition, several key figures at the event donated simply out of the kindness of their hearts for this worthy cause.

Starting in 1998, the LDF has stated its mission of protecting the world’s last wild places. The LDF implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well being of all Earth’s inhabitants. Since that time the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues. The LDF has made several strides with grantmaking, public campaigns and media initiatives to focus efforts on protecting the biodiversity of the world.

With accomplishments like this, it is truly satisfying to see the LDF tirelessly strive to make a difference.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Look to the Stars, Leonardo DiCaprio, Calfund
Photo: Flickr