Making a difference in the world can seem like a momentous task. Many people feel like their contributions will be insignificant; how can the actions of one person impact such an immense amount of people? However, making a difference may not be as hard as it may seem. Impacting the lives of others can happen in a variety of ways. By dedicating oneself to the cause of helping others, one can be ensured that they are performing acts for the greater good. There are many ways to get involved, so why not start today?

Poverty is dwindling in many areas throughout the world, but there is still a substantial amount of work that needs to be done. Many people would love the opportunity to help, but see no way to get started. This may seem daunting at first, but there are ten easy ways to get started.

Let’s start with the political aspect. First, simply calling or getting in contact with Congress with letters or emails is a great way to start. Congressional leaders have been known to support poverty-reduction legislation when as few as 7-10 people declare their interest in the issue. Second, meeting with congressional workers is surprisingly easy to set up. Our democracy was built upon these standards, so incorporating them only makes sense!

Politics, however, is not for everyone. Spending money or wearing merchandise whose proceeds go to a greater cause can be easier for some people and doing this is just as easy. For example, one can simply buy from the Borgen Project! All proceeds from the online store go towards improving living conditions of others. Besides buying straight from the Borgen Project, there are other alternatives. eBay allows its users to set aside a share of sales and profit as a donation to the Borgen Project, so purchasing items off the site also can help the cause.

Fifth, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are an excellent way to get information about world poverty seen in the public. Social media also gives citizens a unique opportunity to interact with famous people. Sixth, by posting on politicians’ and celebrity pages, people can get their message seen on these people’s profiles. Why not use every means possible to get news of the cause heard by all, regardless of fame and fortune?

Getting the news out and garnering support to diminish international poverty can certainly be difficult. However, informing others about the cause and giving people options as to what they can do to help is an effective method. Donating time and money to a program such as The Borgen Project is a way to impact worldwide poverty. People rarely give without asking, so writing out letters asking for donations often strikes a chord. People generally feel more inclined to help when they know the facts, and when they are asked. Fundraising online is another great way to obtain support. Ninth, donating to the Borgen Project or programs such as Kershaw’s Challenge, is also very beneficial. Lastly, performing an act (such as running a marathon) and obtaining charitable support for these acts is another way to get involved.

Getting involved can be so simple even though it can appear to be complicated. However, this is hardly the case – often, just getting started can be the most difficult part. Hopefully these ten ways to get started will get some action going anywhere, from the running trail or from online shopping on the couch!

– Zachary Wright

Sources: The Borgen Project, Kershaws Challenge
Photo: Cafe Press

what is advocacy
What is Advocacy? With advocacy, people fight social injustice through political means. Advocacy groups perform a vital function in policy making, but what exactly are they? There are many types of organizations that use advocacy and many of them are non-government organization, like The Borgen Project, Greenpeace, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Rifle Association. Essentially, these groups deliberately attempt to influence policy makers to follow their agendas.

Several components of advocacy include:

  • Active promotion of a cause or principle.
  • Actions that lead to a selected goal.
  • One of many possible strategies, or ways to approach a problem.
  • Can be used as part of a community initiative, nested in with other components.
  • Not direct service.
  • Does not necessarily involve confrontation or conflict.

Advocacy is not a service, like Habitat for Humanity or passing out food at a soup kitchen. Rather than these community projects, these groups will, for example, work with government officials and persuade them to pass low-income housing legislative or improve welfare programs. Instead of standing outside of bars, warning people about drunk driving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving lobby officials on behalf of more stringent drinking and driving laws.

One of the main benefits of advocacy is the ability to affect a larger population than just one community. It can be difficult, especially for small organizations, to reach a wide audience, but by speaking to several policy makers, the groups are able to influence legislation that will potentially affect thousands or even millions of people.

The more people advocacy groups involve in their cause, the more successful the cause is likely to become. Other outlets, like social media, help raise awareness and put pressure on policy decision makers to comply with the organization.

If people do not believe in the advocacy groups’s agenda, the cause may fizzle out. High levels of organizations also can determine success. Advocacy groups are an excellent way to influence the government into action, whether that be on behalf of the world’s poor or ending drunk driving.

Mary Penn

Sources: CARE USA, The Community Tool Box


Below are ten quotes about life in poverty. Each of these quotes illuminates the everyday struggle of those living in poverty, a struggle which we here at the Borgen Project are working to eradicate.

1. “In a country well-governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” -Confucius

Consider two countries: the United States and Russia. In the United States, a country which we would consider well-governed, poverty is something which is never directly confronted by the media. Instead, US citizens believe that social welfare programs and soup kitchens can console the homeless and the poor.

Rather than working with the poor to help them out of poverty, we donate our spare change every once in a while. Moreover, we avoid sparking consolidated efforts within our communities because we do not believe we will receive the support of others.

Whereas in poorly governed countries, like Russia, wealth is something abstract. For the majority of people, wealth is unattainable. Poor governance and corruption create about wealth for the few, but not for the many. In these countries, wealth is a signal of corruption and unfair treatment.

2. “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Mahatma Gandhi

Poverty is the worst form of violence because it cannot be easily eradicated with food or aid. Rather, poverty cultivates long-standing tendencies towards violence. When people live in poverty and feel as though they lack social mobility, they are more likely to resort to other forms of activity, namely violence, to get their point across.

3. “Coming generations will learn equality from poverty, and love from woes.” Khalil Gibran

As Gibran explains, one can learn equality from poverty. When you don’t have anything to eat and you see other people with plenty, but who are unwilling to share with you, you wish that they could understand your hunger.

Moreover, when you have plenty and you see people with nothing, you are quick to defend your goods because maybe you ‘worked’ for them. However, it is only until you have endured a life of poverty and been lifted out of it, that you can see the humanity in other people and understand their pain. Hunger is universal, poverty doesn’t have to be.

4. “Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.”-Muhammad Ali

Traditional warfare has always changed landscapes. Wars have been fought, territories won, and people have been conquered. The wars of poverty are categorically different because communities lift themselves up, together, to create a new, more prosperous community. The individual plight of poverty requires change; it requires individuals to recognize their struggle, identify their strengths, seek help, and work with others to make their world a better place.

5. “The community which has neither poverty nor riches will always have the noblest principles.” – Plato

A rich community cannot know what it’s like to struggle, in the same way that a poor community cannot know what it’s like to be satisfied. Communities which are neither rich nor poor, but those which strike a healthy balance between the two, are those that can know a little bit of both. These communities are empowered with the ability to abstain but also to persevere.

6. “You are going to let the fear of poverty govern your life and your reward will be that you will eat but you will not live.” – George Bernard Shaw

If all you do is work to make money and be ‘successful,’ you won’t have the time to help others. If money is your only focus, your main goal, when will you be fulfilled? When will you say enough money is enough? The truth is you will never be fulfilled. A life led in pursuit of materialistic ideals is one led in vain. If your life is not governed by a fear of poverty, you have the freedom, time and energy to find fulfillment, wherever that may be.

7. “An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.” – Albert Einstein

Hunger is a human need. One cannot address higher cognitive pursuits without first addressing their hunger. If someone is poor and hungry, their first order of business is to procure food by whatever means possible (stealing, prostitution, or other illegal activities).

Accordingly, it’s unlikely that they will be able to make sound decisions under these circumstances. In order to create the most liberating political atmosphere, one in which many people can and are actively participating, one would have to first address poverty.

8. “He who is not capable of enduring poverty is not capable of being free.” – Victor Hugo

If you cannot endure a life in poverty, then you allow yourself to be constrained by materialistic concerns. If you were truly free, the material wouldn’t matter. However, for a lot of people, poverty is a huge constraint. It is difficult for them to want a better life but have no means of attaining it. A huge part of living in poverty is accepting that you lack the means to do what you want to do, but that that does not, and should not, define you. Only once you rid yourself of defining feature can you really enjoy your life.

9. “Poverty of goods is easily cured; poverty of soul, impossible.” Michel de Montaigne

Much of what we see in the development world addresses poverty of goods. We provide food, aid, and resources to those who lack them in hopes of lifting them out of poverty. With these resources, poverty of goods is often cured. However, we rarely, if ever, see programs to address poverty of the soul. Poverty of the soul, unlike of goods, is present in every country.

There will always be individuals who will never be satisfied with their life. Rather than trying to address those forms of poverty, we only focus on poverty of goods. However, I would argue that humanitarian work relieves one from poverty of the soul. Rather than leaving us devoid, humanitarian work fulfills our inner need to help others and satisfies our desire to leave the world a better place than we found it.

10. “The burden of poverty isn’t just that you don’t always have the things you need, it’s the feeling of being embarrassed every day of your life, and you’d do anything to lift that burden.” – Jay-Z

People can overcome poverty. However, people who have lived in poverty can never overcome the amount of shame incurred by their time spent in poverty. Throughout their time in poverty, these people remember being treated differently; they remember never having enough food on the table; they may even remember coveting others for having more than them.

These ills brought on by a life in poverty are not easily erased and they often leave a huge impact on these individuals if they come out of poverty, as Jay-Z did. The key for people who have come out of poverty is for them to carry those feelings with them in their daily intentions and to acknowledge people living in poverty today with certain compassion.

– Kelsey Ziomek
Sources: Good Reads, Brainy Quote


Read humanitarian quotes.

While there are some habits that should be broken, there are a few habits that may be worth making in the name of ending global poverty. For example, if the bad habit in question is spending money on a large, frivolous coffee every day, then a good habit that could replace it would be using the money spent to fund a program that fights global poverty.

Jeremy Dean, author and founder of PsyBlog, offers years of experience in how to break a bad habit, and in one particular post entitled How to Help Other People Change Their Habits. According to Dean, there are three simple steps to helping someone break a habit. Following the steps below can help break a habit and make room for good habits that could change the world.

Step 1: Acknowledge that the person in question wants to change a habit and is open to help in doing so. As long as they are open to change, then they are ready for step two.

Step 2: Avoid a judgmental attitude. Find a balance between a voice of support and encouragement and a tone of judgment. It is a habit in and of its self to remain non-judgmental, but when assisting another in achieving a difficult goal, even footing is a must.

Step 3: Increase self-awareness and identify the situation that encourages the bad habit. Many habits are performed unconsciously, repeatedly and in recurring situations. Identifying the situation or emotions that trigger the behavior help to break a habit and the reversal can begin.

Remember to work together when breaking a bad habit, and try not force someone to change if there is no desire to do so. Through his research, Dean says that it could take up to two months to break a habit, but with support and perseverance, it can be done. Try channeling bad habit energy into good causes like blogging for the Borgen Project, taking the Pledge, or trading in the cost of your daily coffee for a vaccination sponsored by UNICEF.

– Kira Maixner

Source: PsyBlog
Photo: Precision Nutrition

USAID’s New Global Water StrategyOn May 21, 2013, USAID issued a new global water strategy, the government’s first comprehensive integration of water security into all US development funding and programs.

“For many years in development work, water, sanitation and hygiene have been a bit forgotten. Instead, significant focus has been placed on education, maternal health and nutrition, overlooking the fact that water and sanitation are foundational building blocks for all of those other elements,” said Alanna Imbach, media officer with WaterAid America.

Aid organizations have long been insisting that access to clean water is a basic and essential consideration underlying all development issues. In developing countries, some 5,000 children are estimated to die every day from water-borne diseases, overwhelmingly due to diarrhea from bad drinking water, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene.

The plan for the next five years is to provide at least 10 million people with “sustainable access” to an improved water supply, and six million people with access to improved sanitation during that period. New USAID guidance will emphasize local ownership and sustainability of US-funded aid projects while offering greater flexibility on how that funding can be used. This new openness will allow for more innovation from partnering humanitarian groups, a positive change from the past.

“We know that every dollar we invest in clean water and basic sanitation yields eight dollars in benefits,” said Dick Durbin, a US senator pushing this legislation. “People are healthier, kids stay in school, food is safer, AIDS drugs and other critical health treatments are able to work.”

Read USAID’s Water Strategy Announcement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah, joined members of Congress – Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Chris Coons, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Congressman Ted Poe – to release the U.S. Government’s first Water and Development Strategy. This strategy recognizes the vital role water plays in ensuring the health and economic well-being of people around the world.  In addition, it sets out to represent a fundamental shift at our Agency toward a new model of development – defined by public and private partnerships, the use of new technology, and emphasizes long-term results.

Globally, over 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation. Projections are that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under severe water stress conditions.

“We will achieve greater impact by partnering with outside organizations and businesses that leverage innovative approaches and new technologies. This approach will also emphasize sustainability by building local capacities for operations, maintenance, and monitoring,” said Administrator Shah.

USAID’s Water and Development Strategy elevates the importance and visibility of water as a development priority within the Agency and highlights its importance in meeting the development imperatives to improve health and increase food security. The Strategy will address global water-related development needs by providing a clear understanding of USAID’s approach to water programming, emphasizing how sustainable use of water is critical to saving lives. To achieve this goal, the Strategy sets two strategic objectives:

  • Water for Health – Improve health outcomes through the provision of sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
  • Water for Food – Manage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security.

“This new U.S. Water and Development Strategy will help lift poor people around the world out of conflict and poverty.  It is smart, strategic and builds on our past successes using new breakthroughs in science and technology,” Senator Durbin said. “It will save water and it will save lives.  USAID’s new plan will bring water and sanitation – the most basic of human needs – to millions of people around the globe, dousing the flames of global poverty, disease and conflict.”

Improving human health and welfare, having adequate nutrition to thrive, and maintaining the sustainability of natural systems requires a coordinated global response to the challenges of water and sanitation access for present and future generations. This Strategy reflects the commitment of the U.S. government to work in partnership with the global community to meet these challenges.

– Mary Purcell
Photo: Flickr

These top 10 global poverty blogs are some of the best of the best in addressing the issues, solutions, and concerns surrounding the global battle against extreme poverty.

1. The Borgen Project – Works with US Congressional leaders to improve the USAID response to the global poverty crisis; advocacy to secure crucial poverty-reducing legislation, mobilization and awareness campaigns making poverty a political priority. The blog addresses the impact of poverty from every angle, and highlights innovative and dynamic development successes.

2. The Impatient Optimist – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog features the work of the foundation’s grantees, partners, leadership, and staff, as well as other bloggers, to provide commentary and insight on the issues of poverty. Stories and updates from the people working every day to help alleviate poverty, help promote health, and to help every student in the United States realize his or her full potential through education.

3. The Huffington Post – The highly respected news agency developed their Impact blog with reputable contributors from around the world, renowned journalists, stories about celebrities and average people, domestic and global poverty concerns and innovations, and good-news-stories. Type in the search word “poverty” and find a vast archive of videos and articles covering poverty concerns.

4. The World Bank – “Working for a world free of poverty,” this blog is a forum for discussing development issues and provides open access to WB data. Open access to data is a key part of the WB’s commitment to sharing knowledge to improve people’s lives.  The Open Data Initiative believes that “statistics tell the story of people in developing countries, and can play an important part in helping to overcome poverty” – WB’s President, Robert Zoellick.

5. The United Nations Development Programme – Details the UNDP’s 6,000+ development projects and 8,000 outputs in 177 countries and territories worldwide; comprehensive, qualitative and timely information about how aid flows and its results. The blog is also part of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) to which UNDP is a signatory, advocating voluntary transparency aimed at making information about aid spending easier to access, understand and use.

6. The U.S. Department of State – Mission: to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. offers up to the minute news coverage of U.S. foreign policy information; their blog offers the opportunity for participants to discuss important foreign policy issues with senior Department officials. shows exactly what America is doing around the world to help reduce poverty and improve development.

7. InterAction – An alliance organization of more than 180 U.S. based non-governmental organizations (NGOs), working around the world. InterAction serves as a convener, thought leader and voice of their member community. Their blog represents the collective mobilization of its members in: international development, humanitarian aid, accountability and policy creation.

8. ONE – Is a global mobilization of over three million people, unifying to fight “the absurdity of extreme poverty.” Co-founder Bono is part of the group’s influential leadership team, joined by other political and humanitarian experts from around the world. Their blog aims to educate and facilitate the general public in direct action for poverty reduction, and subsequent issues resulting from poverty.

9. Oxfam America – “Working together to end poverty and injustice,” Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice and to develop long-term solutions for social change. The international Oxfam confederation works in more than 90 countries, and their blog is a comprehensive look at all political, economic, humanitarian angles of poverty issues.

10. Business Fights Poverty – The world’s largest network of business and development professionals, NGOs and academia all focused on fighting poverty through business. Their blog highlights how business can combat poverty, providing resources, methods and tools for business and thus economic development, showing impact and opportunities.

– Mary Purcell

Photo Source: Impatient Optimist

Crowdfunding Pushes Philanthropy and Development

Crowdfunding is an approach to raising money for new projects and businesses by soliciting contributions from large numbers of ordinary people – online. In 2011 alone, this industry raised $1.5 billion dollars, both in for-profit and non-profit ventures. Due to new regulations, some estimate the trend could grow to $500 billion annually. This could mean huge changes and development through social-venture enterprises; more start-ups and funding for projects that have a beneficial social impact.

The money raised through crowdfunding falls into three different categories: 1. Philanthropy, where there is no expected return for the donation, 2. Lending, where the money is paid back, or some other gift (usually the business product) is given as a reward, or 3. Investment, in exchange for profit or revenue sharing (equity).

Much to industry surprise, the category that received the most funding was philanthropic which equaled 49 percent of all funds raised; despite the fact that most funding sites are for lending or investing.  A few sites, like and, are exclusively for 501 registered charities. North America is the largest contributor, $837.2 million, over half of the global total, and also the fastest-growing region.

The dramatic news is that earlier this year new legislation was submitted to the SEC, allowing for even greater investment to be made through crowdfunding. So, if the current trends prevail, projects benefiting social causes could start to receive massive amounts of capital. The average equity-based campaign is aiming to raise about $85,000, compared to just $700 for donations. When the new regulations are approved, more funding is expected to flood into “impact investing.”

Jonathan Blanchard, founder of WeSparkt a crowdfunding platform focusing on social-entrepreneurship, believes investing will start to focus on a “double bottom line – profit and social good – to raise equity.” Blanchard sites a Monitor study suggesting that crowdfunding will reach $500 billion annually.  His site will target impact investors hoping to create social change.

You can participate right now, get in with the crowd – fund a project for the global poor!

– Mary Purcell

Source: Forbes, Forbes
Photo: Hong Kiat



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