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Macklemore & Lewis Address Global Poverty
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are a fairly new artist/producer group that has quickly risen to fame through their popular song, “Thrift Shop.” Criticizing mainstream media, consumerism, and popular culture, this hip-hop group has a lot in common with the work being done at The Borgen Project. Raising these questions is essential to understanding not only the condition of the United States but also the state of the world.

Gaining considerable exposure within the music industry in the past year, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have released their full-length album The Heist, hitting the number one spot on iTunes.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are proud to be from humble beginnings and proud to support the “alternative” lifestyle of anti-consumerism. Deciding not to sign with any record label, the group is completely independent and produces their own music with their own flare.

Thinking under the lens of global poverty, “Thrift Shop”  raises a number of ethical concerns. On one hand, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are criticizing the United States culture of consumerism. A lyric from the song explains:

“They be like “Oh that Gucci, that’s hella tight”
I’m like “Yo, that’s fifty dollars for a t-shirt”
Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition
…I call that getting tricked by business”

Here, the group brings attention to the arbitrary nature of clothing, calling out branding as a mere print on some cloth, and propose, throughout the rest of the song, that spending 99 cents on an otherwise expensive jacket is a much better option.

Alternatively, we look that the main hook of the song with a somewhat critical eye in relation to global (rather than only domestic) poverty:

“I’m gonna pop some tags
only got 20 dollars in my pocket
I’m, I’m I’m runnin’, looking for a come up”

All humor aside, the group is bringing attention to the fact that $20 for clothes is considered insanely cheap in the United States. However, while American consumers think that they are being frugal, $20 is far more than most people in the world make in one year. That much money, in much of the world, could be used much more effectively to feed a family. However, while the monetary value is relative—what may be cheaper in the U.S. is expensive elsewhere—Macklemore & Ryan Lewis advocate for frugal living no matter what the exchange rate, leaving the quality of their beats far from impoverished.

– Kali Faulwetter

Sources: Rap Genius
Photo: MTV

How to Find Your Members of Congress
Democracy is a wonderful thing. Any U.S. citizen, no matter their level of education, age, race, or social standing can call up their members of Congress and request that they vote in favor of or against specific legislation or simply a topic they feel is important.

So why don’t more people contact their representatives? Excellent question. Skepticism? The intangibility of the benefits perhaps? Whatever the reason, it remains clear that not enough people are taking advantage of this excellent tool of democracy. We at The Borgen Project think that needs to change. And that change starts with you. So, to help you get started, here’s a breakdown of how the U.S Congress works.

So What Exactly Is Congress?

Congress is composed of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. 100 senators make up the Senate, 2 from each state. The House of Representatives currently has 435 members and the population determines the number of representatives per state. For example, Alaska has only 1 representative while the state of Texas has over 30.

This means that 3 people represent you in congress, 2 state senators and 1 representative.

And, There’s an App for That

Contacting your representatives seriously can’t get any easier if you have a smartphone. A free app is available for the iPhone called “Contact Congress”. Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it up and hit the “use my location button”. Your 3 representatives will pop up on your screen. You can call each one from the app without ever looking anything up or dialing the numbers. You can also share your activity on Facebook and Twitter so everyone will know how gosh darn cool you are for calling your reps. You know you want to.

If you don’t have an iPhone, never fear. Check out The Borgen Project website to find your representatives via your area code.

Once you’ve figured out who your reps are, Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards making sure those who represent you are in fact, representing how you feel about certain issues and bills.

Great, so now what?

Call them! Yes, pick up that thing that plays music and updates your twitter and….(gasp) dial some digits. (or tap on the faces if you have the app) It will feel strange to talk to a real human but don’t be dismayed. All you have to say is, “I’m a Borgen Project supporter. Please increase funding for USAID.” Or, “Please vote to increase funding for global poverty-related legislation”. That’s it. You can call anytime you want, just be sure to leave a message if it’s after business hours.

The person taking the call will make note of your call. This is the important part! The aide will tally the number of calls on certain issues and often times the representative will decide how they vote based on the calls they get from people like you and me. If constituents don’t call requesting global poverty be on their radar, it probably won’t be, particularly in our current political environment. For example, some of the issues currently listed on my representatives’ web pages include the following- jobs, fiscal responsibility, immigration reform and healthcare. Not ONE mention of global poverty from any of my 3 reps. Where my BP supporters at?

Still not convinced? It’s simple. One 30-second phone call a week is the easiest way to make a difference in fighting global poverty. It takes almost no time and costs next to nothing (much less than donating to a cause or volunteering your time).

For more detailed information regarding your leaders in Congress, this website is a pretty handy tool. You can look up your members of Congress and their voting records as well as bills that are on the docket for the coming week. Stalk your congressional leaders with ease! And don’t forget to call them.





– Erin Ponsonby

Sources: The Borgen Project, U.S. Senate,
Photo:America Bikes

Challenge: Live Below the Line for 5 daysCould you live on $1.50 a day?  This is the question Live Below the Line asks of participants.  Live Below the Line is an innovative awareness and fundraising campaign that is seeking to change the realities of extreme poverty.  1.4 billion people worldwide currently survive on less than $2 per day.  Causes like Live Below the Line are working hard to change that number by raising awareness, funds, and encouraging individuals to take the challenge.

Individuals are challenged to feed themselves for five days on $1.50 per day to stand in solidarity with those around the world who live in extreme poverty.   The number of $1.50 was chosen because it is the current equivalent to define those living in extreme poverty as set by the World Bank.  And while some argue $1.50 goes farther in developing countries, that number also includes those living in extreme poverty in developed nations such as the US.  For those in extreme poverty, $1.50 goes towards more than just-food. It funds housing, health, education, food, transport, and all other household expenses.

Live Below the Line partners with several organizations fighting global poverty on the ground and encourages participants who take the challenge to raise funds for one of those organizations during the 5-day experience.  It is an initiative out of the Global Poverty Project which educates and activates citizens to become engaged in the movement to end extreme poverty.

The 2013 challenge runs from April 29th to May 3rd.  Individuals are allowed a total of $7.50 to feed themselves for five days. Groups can get together to purchase food for the week, but they must ensure their daily meals still only equal $1.50.  To find out more, check out the website Live Below the Line.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: Live Below the Line

Get Water: A Game That Tackles Global ProblemsGet Water is a touch-screen game with the objective of helping Maya collect clean water for her family. On the surface, players are swiping their fingers across the screen, shooting boomerangs at peacocks, and dodging turtles. But the true spirit of the game lies in its ability to literally put the discussion on these issues in your hands.

The main character is Maya, a young girl who wants to go to school but can’t because the need for clean water for her family is more urgent. Players collect clean water and avoid touching the dirty one, running through a village until a peacock, turtle or football breaks their pot. Rather than trade in coins or cash, players trade in pencils symbolizing education for abilities such as Hyper Hydration, Fancy Filter, and Purification Tablets. The game is not just a testament to the need for access to clean water; it also compels us to ask questions concerning human rights and social justice issues, education and gender rights. Through our phones and devices, we get a glimpse into the life of those who are without access to clean water.

This is the first game made by Decode Global, a Montreal based startup founded last year by Angelique Manella. Manealla’s goal with it was to develop a fun and engaging game that would spread awareness on social issues and prompt global change.

– Rafael Panlilio
Source: Forbes

Can Soap Operas Help Fight Poverty?While the era of the soap operas may be coming to a close in the United States, in many Arabic countries soaps are becoming more and more popular. This increase has come from the unusual mix of American melodrama characteristics (love, family turmoil, deceit, etc.) with cultural values that audiences can identify with.

Surprisingly, soap operas have a history of influencing impoverished communities for the better. In South Africa, a soap opera addressed safe sex and it was found that the viewers of the soap were four times more likely to use condoms than non-viewers. In Mexico City, a soap opera aired that discussed the issue of child literacy. This caused enrollment in literacy programs to skyrocket throughout the entire city.  Even in Colorado, many low-income families increased their child’s health insurance after viewing a soap opera discussing child health problems.

One of the ways in which soap operas can aid in the fight against poverty is through awareness. With such a large audience, a soap opera could be an incredible tool used for spreading awareness about social, health, and economic issues facing impoverished communities. In this way, altering the content of a soap opera to contain relevant content for viewers would only increase ratings.

Although the effectiveness of soap operas being used as an educational tool isn’t full-proof, the idea of altering soap operas, at least slightly, to educate impoverished communities on governmental and social issues seems like an effective strategy to raise awareness about social issues, injustices, and aid in the struggle against poverty.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Al Jazeera

Climbing For Hemophilia AwarenessHemophilia is a life-threatening and frequently disabling condition that cannot be cured. However, with correct treatment, hemophiliacs can live a normal life. Hemophilia is a serious threat in the majority of developing countries where patients lack access to proper treatment.

Chris Bombardier, a 27-year-old hemophiliac, is attempting to climb Mt. Aconcagua as a part of his Seven Summit Challenge to raise awareness of hemophilia. Bombardier was the first American hemophiliac to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro in June 2011. The remaining 6 summits include Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Denali, Carstensz Pyramid, Mt. Elbrus, Vinson Massif and Mt. Everest. He is currently climbing Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, which is approximately 22,847 miles high. He started the climb on Tuesday, January 29th with 2 guides and 8 other climbers.

Bombardier is a board member of Save One Life, an international non-profit that aids impoverished hemophiliacs in developing countries. All money that Bombardier raises through his climbs will go to Save One Life.

Bombardier hopes that his climbs will increase hemophilia awareness: “Most people in the States don’t even know about hemophilia; think about how little is known worldwide. I think having someone with hemophilia pushing the limits is a cool story in itself, but I hope it raises awareness of the discrepancy in treatment,” Bombardier said.

Bombardier’s Seven Summit Challenge is crucial for raising awareness about the existence of hemophilia in developing countries where therapy and factor concentrations are often unavailable. Factor concentrations are preparations that are injected into a hemophiliac’s vein to replace the missing blood clotting factors.

Only a few developing countries have fractionation facilities or have made concentrates available. Problematically, approximately 80% of patients with severe hemophilia (PWH)  live in developing countries. PWH patients denied access to factor concentrates will have five damaged joints by the age of 20. Damaged joints limit physical movement and thereby prevent normal participation in society.

In addition to factor concentrations, PWH patients should participate in physiotherapy and rehabilitation which help prevent disabilities that prohibit normal social involvement. Physiotherapy and rehabilitation procedures include muscle strengthening exercises, exercises that maintain or increase range of motion, training proprioception and coordination, management of pain, and orthotics.

Facilities must be formed in developing countries that provide access to educational materials and trainers in order to educate local areas about the proper treatment for those diagnosed with hemophilia or PWH. Hopefully, Bombardier’s Seven Summit Challenge will raise the money and awareness needed to tackle this challenge so that patients with hemophilia or PWH can enjoy a normal life.

– Kasey Beduhn

Sources: Europe PubMed Central, Europe PubMed Central, PRWeb, Adventures of a Hemophiliac
Photo: Adventures of a Hemophiliac