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The READ ActAccording to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), nearly 263 million children and youth around the world are without an education. Of all of the regions, sub-Saharan Africa has the most detrimental number of children out of school – over a fifth of children between the ages of six to 11 and about one-third of children between the ages of 12 to 14. As the children grow older, the rates continue to worsen – almost 60 percent of youth between the ages of 15 to 17 are not receiving an education. The READ Act is a big step forward in the fight to change these numbers.

The Necessity of the READ Act

The UIS and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report show that in Nigeria alone, 8.7 million children who are supposed to be in primary school are not. In Sudan, it is 2.7 million children and in Ethiopia, it is 2.1 million children. These children are not given the chance to thrive and challenge themselves and it is out of their hands due to the vast global poverty they are encompassed in.

Statistics such as this emphasize the importance of laws such as the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act. This act was signed into law in 2017, and it is this law that is providing these 263 million children (130 million of whom are girls) hope for a deserved and promising education.

Bringing the READ Act into Reality

Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA) first introduced the READ Act into Congress. Both Rep. Lowey and Rep. Reichert are important contributors to the passing of this bill, along with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).

The main causes as to why these 263 million children do not have access to education are conflict and political instability. This law aims to provide education to the children who are in these situations, while simultaneously aiming to improve the overall quality of education. Rep. Reichert commented to World Vision, “By giving young people in impoverished regions the tools to read and write, we will put them down a positive path where they are better able to care for themselves, the needs of their families and their communities.”

The READ Act came about as an idea: what if the United States could make a significant difference by ensuring that every child has an equal and fair opportunity for a safe, quality education? After 13 years of constant due diligence and advocates contacting Congress over 1500 times, today there is widespread global success from this act.

How the READ Act Will Help

UNICEF reports that the READ Act of 2017 “will be tasked with developing a strategy to work with partner countries and organizations to promote basic education in developing countries.” The READ Act creates programs that also promote education as a foundation for economic growth. The act not only recognizes the importance of children having access to a quality education, it emphasizes that the act will create a chain reaction in communities by providing more jobs which will aid in diminishing poverty.

Rep. Lowey stated, “Prioritizing education around the world will not only help students learn to read and write – it will ultimately help protect vulnerable communities from hunger and disease and increase economic advancement, particularly for girls and women.” The READ Act, in providing millions of children around the globe with an education, is generously increasing the chance for these children to find jobs and build stable lives one day as they get older.

It is because of American citizens’ insistence that Congress take action that the READ Act has become an applicable law. More importantly, it is because of the citizens’ efforts that millions of children around the world now have new opportunities open for them and a brighter, more hopeful future to look forward to.

– Angelina Gillispie

To find out more about the past successes of our advocacy work and our current legislative priorities in Congress, head over to our Legislation page.

Photo: Flickr

how to stop poverty
Poverty in the world is a topic constantly present in the news, media and everyday life. With nearly half of the world’s population living on less than $1.25 a day, it can be discouraging to say the least when asking how to stop poverty.

Researchers estimate that it would take $60 billion annually to completely end poverty, which would only be a fourth of the income from the top richest billionaires in the world. But what can be done when there is not as much money to give? Fortunately, there are multiple ways every person can help end poverty.

Donate

The most common but just as helpful step is donating. Multiple websites accept donations to help end poverty. Websites such as Self Help Africa, Habitat for Humanity, and Save the Children use donations to help build new homes, provide clean water and food and help when disaster strikes.

Many of these organizations allow people to volunteer and work hands-on in the program, but if this isn’t an option, donating is a great way to help out. Try searching around for different organizations! There are a lot of programs that work on poverty, and they should state exactly where their donations go.

Talk to Your Representatives

Congress is made up of multiple representatives and senators from all over the country who are there to represent their constituents’ worries, wants and where they believe action should be taken. Calling your representative is a very simple action with huge impacts — plus it only takes about thirty seconds to complete!

You can find the representatives for your area right on the Borgen website. If talking on the phone is a bit stressful, emailing Congress works just as well! Email and/or call every week to continuously encourage Congress to support fighting poverty in foreign countries.

The representatives need to make note on what issues are called in about, and the more calls an issue gets, the more attention and action it will receive at the legislative level. 

Clean Out that Pantry and Closet!

No one likes clutter, but it can be difficult to motivate oneself to go through all of those old clothes in the closet. However, by donating, one can remember that it is all going to a good cause! Haven’t worn that sundress in a few years? Do those jeans just not fit right anymore? Give them to someone who could use them!

Sometimes it can be difficult to get rid of things that have sentimental value, but by donating you can be reassured that your old favorite outfit will have another life with someone who could really use it.

The exact same thing can be done with food as well! Check through the cupboards for non-perishable foods that you won’t use and give them to a food bank. This website can help locate the closest food shelf, their hours and how to contact them!

Buy Fair Trade products

There is an unfortunate and dangerous power imbalance between international trade and large corporations. Fair Trade Products, however, works on improving worker conditions, higher wage for the farmers and workers, and works against child and forced labor. The website also includes a list of products, brands and retailers certified under their name.

When asking how to stop poverty, simply switching up the brand of morning coffee or going to a different grocery store is one simple way to help farmers and workers get the living wage they deserve.

Demand Action

Poverty has been a huge crisis in the world for a very long time, and people often find themselves asking how they can stop it. While the question of how to stop poverty is a loaded one with multiple elements, there are little things that anyone can do everyday to help. Donating, volunteering, helping at a food shelf, switching coffee brands — all of these are ways that everyone can help.

As discussed, talking to local representatives and bringing their attention to important issues like poverty is a huge step to helping end it; but sometimes the task can be overwhelming. However, working together, getting involved and communicating with local government can all be catalyzed by just one person. Don’t be discouraged — demand action.

 – Marissa Wandzel

Photo: Pixabay

 IranThe United States House of Representatives recently passed legislation condemning the use of civilians as human shields, a violation of internationally recognized human rights currently being practiced by Hizballah. The Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act is currently being reviewed by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Hizballah is a terrorist organization originally formed by Iranian extremists in Lebanon. They are responsible for terrorist attacks all over the world, including bombings of the United States embassy in Lebanon, suicide bombings in Bulgaria and barrack attacks in Beirut. The organization has been operating in Lebanon for decades, sustaining political power by holding nearly half of the seats in Lebanon’s cabinet and National Assembly. Hizballah has maintained a reputation for being the most successful anti-Israel group in the Middle East, gaining support from Arab nationalists as well as Iran and Syria.

Hizballah is currently putting Lebanese lives at risks by placing military strongholds within Lebanese villages. They seize civilian homes, hospitals and schools and use them to store weapons and house troops. Over 200 villages are currently being used by Hizballah for military purposes, mainly in southern Lebanon. The terrorist organization is essentially using civilians as human shields to try and protect their military with no regard for their safety. If conflict were to occur between Israel and Hizballah, which is likely and recurrent, civilians will be caught directly in the middle of the violence. These practices are in direct violation of Article 58 of the Geneva Conventions precautioning against the effects of attacks, which state that parties of conflict must avoid locating military objectives in densely populated areas and take precautions to protect civilian populations.

If the Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act becomes law, Congress will condemn Hizballah’s use of human shields, and the United States president will sanction any person or entity guilty of using human shields, impose asset blocking and urge the United Nations Security Council to support a resolution imposing multilateral sanctions against Hizballah. This law will be an important step towards protecting the civilians who are affected by Hizballah’s activity.

– Jenae Atwell

Photo: Flickr

How to Become a Representative for Congress
How does one become a representative for Congress? The journey to becoming a Member can be difficult and demanding. However, the privilege to represent one’s country can be very rewarding.

The U.S. Congress is divided into two chambers. The requirements vary by chamber, as do the roles they serve. To become a member of Congress one must first decide whether one wants to serve in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. Once having made this decision, one must meet certain specifications to qualify for office.

How to Become a Representative

  1. Meet the Qualifications
    The U.S. Constitution requires Members of the House be at least 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state–though not necessarily the same district–they represent. Article VI, clause 3 requires that all Members take an oath to support the Constitution before they exercise the duties of their office.The Constitution was deliberately written to make becoming a Member of the House more accessible, to making this chamber closest to the people. Founders wanted it to be possible for ordinary citizens to obtain office and for elections to be frequent.To be eligible for the Senate, candidates must be at least 30 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years and reside in the state they plan to represent at the time of election.
  2. Identify Key Issues 
    Members of Congress are representatives of their constituents. To become a representative for Congress, potential candidates need to determine and articulate issues that are relevant and important to voters. One must have strong knowledge of current political affairs and one’s stance on current and future policies.
  3. Build a Network
    Connections and relationships are key to running a successful campaign. According to Business Insider, this factor is causing many hopeful millennials to lose congressional races. In a blog post by hopeful House Member Erin Schrode, a 24-year-old activist from Northern California who hoped to be the youngest woman elected to the House, told readers a man told her after voting he would have voted for her instead of the incumbent–had he known who she was. Name recognition is an essential component of a successful campaign.
  4. Fundraise
    Money matters in elections. Funds pay for advertisement, media exposure, branding, letters to potential voters and commercials. While there is no minimum amount required to run for office, more funds equate to better efficiency and exposure.
    Wendy Carillo, a thirty-six-year-old who arrived in America as an undocumented immigrant recently launched a race for Congress. In an interview with Medium, she suggested a candidate should raise at least $100,000 to pay for the “mini enterprise” one creates when running for office.
  5. File Paperwork
    According to BallotPedia, federal law requires all candidates to file a statement of candidacy within 15 days of receiving donations or funding costs for their campaign that exceed $5,000. This is the only part of ballot access that is mandated by federal law. To have one’s name printed on an election ballot, a congressional candidate must do one or both of the following: collect and file petition signatures and/or pay registration fees. Once this is satisfied, requirements vary from state to state.
  6. Campaign
    The final and most crucial task is to campaign. Talk to voters. Learn what matters to them. Appeal to their desires in your language and actions. Congressional candidates can spend up to 18 hours a day campaigning. A successful candidate must know and act on what matters to voters.

Still want to become a representative for Congress after having read up on how to? Stay grounded in the fact that campaigning does not have to be difficult or tiresome. Listening to the needs of constituents and turning them into policies make the work rewarding and gratifying. Our country truly becomes a nation for the people, run by the people when members of Congress remember this principle.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

End Neglected Tropical DiseasesPrevalent in more than 149 countries, Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a range of parasitic and bacterial diseases that affect more than a billion people across the world. Neglected Tropical Diseases disproportionately target poor and vulnerable populations in tropical areas, and if not treated, can often lead to physical and intellectual impairments. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations such as USAID are working alongside U.S. Congress in order to end Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Typically caused by inadequate sanitation and lack of clean drinking water, NTDs vary in their effect but can prove detrimental, especially in children. These diseases can impair intellectual development in children as well as cause blindness and other physical disabilities. The health costs are not the problem caused by NTDs, as they also reduce school enrollment and prevent economic progress because infected individuals are limited in ability. This is why it is critical to end Neglected Tropical Diseases.

USAID is leading the global fight against NTDs. It implemented large-scale treatment programs and research for the affected countries. In the past 10 years, the U.S. made great progress in this fight, giving more than $11.1 billion in donated medicines. This contribution provided more than 1.6 billion treatments to approximately 743 million individuals.

The U.S. impact does not end there. In addition to the treatment programs and research implemented by USAID, Congress also prioritized this issue by introducing the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (H.R. 1415).

H.R. 1415, sponsored by Representative Christopher Smith (D-NJ), advances the current program working against NTDs. This act prioritizes improving the current program by monitoring funding, including morbidity management in treatment plans and expanding research development. So far, this act has five cosponsors and was referred to three House sub-committees.

Although USAID led a strong battle against NTDs, there is still much work to be done for the one billion people affected by this problem. As NTDs are slowly eradicated, the livelihoods of the world’s poor will begin to improve as children can return to school and adults are able to achieve financial stability.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr


The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Many in the U.S. feel that is their job to help those in poverty stricken countries. Currently, there are  five bills in legislation that affect global poverty.

International Affairs Budget:
One piece of legislation that affects global poverty is the International Affairs Budget. In March 2017, the Trump administration proposed a 31 percent cut to the State Department and USAID funding. This enormous cut has not been seen since World War II. Programs funded by the IAB create jobs here at home by opening new markets to U.S. businesses and protect our national security by fighting terrorism and preventing conflicts before they start. This piece of legislation that affects global poverty can help those in need.

AGOA and MCA Modernization Act
Another piece of legislation that affects global poverty is the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennial Challenge Corporation (MCC) Modernization Act. This legislation that affects global poverty has a rich history. This act has spurred economic development around the world. Strengthening these programs furthers the U.S. position of international leadership and strengthens our domestic economy while protecting our national security interests.

Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act
The lack of education for girls in developing countries can hinder their ability to find jobs, engage in civil society and access other economic opportunities. This piece of legislation that affects global poverty can help. This act will prioritize efforts to support access to primary and secondary education for displaced children with a specific focus on the inclusion of women and girls in foreign assistance programs.

Economic Growth and Development Act
The Economic Growth and Development Act seeks to boost market-based economic growth in developing countries. This legislation that affects global poverty also creates opportunities for the U.S. private sector to become more involved in foreign assistance programs by improving planning and coordination among U.S. departments and agencies.

Global Health Innovation Act
The last legislation that affects global poverty can help significantly. Each year, millions of people in the developing world die of infectious diseases, malnutrition and complications due to pregnancy and childbirth. This act seeks to require the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to submit an annual report to Congress on the development and use of global health innovations in the programs, projects and activities of the Agency.

If you feel strongly about any of these issues, visit the borgenproject.org and email your local congressmen. https://borgenproject.org/action-center/

Paige Wilson

Photo: Flickr

How to Run for Congress
The United States Congress is the singular place where all laws and regulations start, and where constituents have their concerns recognized and addressed. Running for Congress may be many American citizens’ next move in pursuing their political activism and career in leadership.

There is a lot to know about considering a step up into congressional office. Depending on the state a person resides in, as well as whether one is running for the House of Representatives or Senate, the specifics vary. So, how does one run for Congress?

 

How to Run for Congress Tips

 

  1. Meet the Qualifications:
    The U.S. Constitution requires anyone running for the House of Representatives to be 25 years of age, a citizen of the U.S. for at least seven years, and a resident of the district they’re campaigning in. For the Senate, the candidate must be 30 years of age, a U.S. citizen for nine years, and a resident of the state they wish to represent.
  2. File the Paperwork:
    Once the candidate reaches $5,000 in campaign contributions, within 15 days they must file a statement with the Federal Election Commission announcing they are running for candidacy. The campaign committee must also submit a Statement of Organization.
  3. Be Known in the Community:
    A highly recommended aspect is being involved with the local office before deciding to take it to the next level, positions such as city commissioner, mayor, or governor. This gives the person an opportunity to be more well known with supporters and a better chance of being elected when running for Congress.
  4. Be Educated:
    Even though candidates are not required to have a degree in political science or law, someone running for Congress should understand how it works, have a grasp of the Constitution, the process of lawmaking, and all that goes into being an elected representative.
  5. Campaign, Campaign, Campaign:
    After passing the objective requirements, one must campaign, and appeal to voters in order to win that seat in office. This involves raising enough money in donations and contributions, as well as having a campaign staff that helps spread the message. The candidate must be able to go out and talk to people in that area in order to be knowledgeable on the issues they’re concerned about.

Just being able to resonate with local people and the things they care about is so important, the candidate should make it known that they will vote in the voice of the people if elected. This is how to run for Congress.

Emma Dale

Photo: Flickr

5 Calls App Makes Congressional Communication EasySince the results of the 2016 election, many people have been looking for ways to productively communicate their political positions. 5 Calls, a new nonprofit app and website created by a group of volunteers, provides an efficient pathway for contacting senators and representatives. Contacting Congress can be extremely influential in encouraging or preventing specific policy and legislation. The 5 Calls app makes congressional communication easy and provides a step-by-step guide to getting the most out of a call.

Activists of all stripes encourage the act of calling legislators, rather than emailing or ranting on social media. Congressional offices across the country tally the issues that are brought to them by the people in their district. These numbers are reported directly to representatives, making them aware of the issues that their constituents are passionate about. As stated on The Borgen Project website, “It’s not uncommon for a leader to support a poverty-reduction bill after as few as seven to 10 people call in support of it.”

The app’s website draws users in with, “Turn your passive participation into active resistance. Facebook likes and Twitter retweets don’t create the change you want to see.” Not only is the site’s strategy effective, but the 5 Calls app makes congressional communication easy.

Users enter their zip codes and receive their representatives’ names and phone numbers. Users can pick certain issues that they are passionate about, and are provided with a short and effective script specific to the issue that they selected. For example, some issues currently listed on the website include: “Keep Funding for ‘The Wall’ Out of the Budget,” “Demand Congress Support Healthcare for All,” “Urge Congress to Grant Asylum to Syrian Refugees,” “Keep the National Institute of Health Funded,” and “Ban the Use of a Brain-Damaging Pesticide.” The website also provides a summary of the issue’s context, explaining why it is relevant and why constituent calls are necessary.

The 5 Calls app makes congressional communication easy by providing phone numbers for representatives and senators based on a user’s zip code. The site is simple, aesthetically pleasing and effective. The 5 Calls app reports that users have made more than a million calls through the app. The site is run fully by volunteers, and all donations go to data updates and hosting the site. The app also offers an email alert option, which reminds users to stay involved and keeps them updated on current issues.

The 5 Calls app makes congressional communications easy, so there are no excuses for not advocating for personal political preferences. Calling Congress can make a difference, and apps like 5 Calls are paving a way for involvement and advocacy.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Photo: Flickr


Negotiations continue with the White House in determining the fate of the International Affairs Budget. Because the White House’s proposed cuts—nearly six percent for 2017, 31 percent in 2018— are so extensive, an omnibus bill has been proposed in Congress.

The White House’s budget cuts could negatively impact African, Asian, Latin American and Caribbean countries. Cuts in global healthcare measures, food assistance programs and foreign developmental assistance programs, for instance, could potentially result in significant setbacks for developing countries.

In response, Congress has proposed an omnibus bill which, if passed into law, would help protect funds for foreign affairs. The bill also widely rejects many of the budget cuts previously suggested by the White House. The bill proposes that $300 million go toward Food for Peace in Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria and South Sudan. Furthermore, the bill provides that $296 million of the International Affairs Budget be set aside for Medicaid in Puerto Rico.

According to the House Appropriations Committee, the fiscal 2017 omnibus bill would contribute international humanitarian relief to countries around the world, including $990 million to prevent and mitigate famine around the world. It also targets funding to “U.S. foreign policy priorities and provides critical humanitarian aid to war-torn and impoverished areas around the globe.“

Countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, such as Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, would also benefit by the omnibus bill’s passage, which reserves $16.5 billion for international programs through the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. Other targeted countries that would receive both economic and security benefits include Colombia, Jordan and Egypt, provided that the latter maintains its peace treaty with Israel.

A final decision is anticipated on this bill by the end of May. If passed into law, the Fiscal 2017 International Affairs Budget would survive the drastic budget cuts previously proposed by the White House. In addition to helping those in need, programs funded by the International Affairs Budget create jobs here at home by opening new markets to American businesses and protect our national security by fighting terrorism and preventing conflicts before they start.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr


Although each shift in U.S. Presidential administrations inspires increases in civic participation by citizens, President Trump’s election in 2016 may prove to be one of the most inspirational of all. For the average citizen with no history of political advocacy, determining how and where to start can feel overwhelming, but knowing how to attend town hall meetings is as easy as following this step-by-step guide.

  1. Identify your political representatives. Your Congressional representatives comprise two Senators and one Representative. To find them, visit https://borgenproject.org/call-congress/ and plug your zip code into the box under step one to go straight to the Congressional directory.
  2. Find the next town hall meeting near you. From the directory, you can visit each Congressperson’s official website. Once there, look for a link labeled “Events,” “Meet your representative” or something similar. If you cannot find anything specific, scan the page for a “Contact Us” link and call or email the Congressperson’s staff for information on the next town hall meeting happening near you. Other third party organizations such as TownHall Project have streamlined many of these steps to make it even easier to determine how to attend town hall meetings.
  3. Prepare for the meeting. This step is vital to getting your point across and being taken seriously. Research your topic as well as your Congressperson, and be prepared to make an “elevator pitch” about your feelings on the issue. Your opinion is important, but to your Congressional representatives, your well-informed opinion that takes their position into account is unforgettable.
  4. Tell your personal story. Town hall meetings offer the chance to connect with your Congressperson in a human, immediate way. Explaining why you feel passionate about an issue because of its direct effects on you, your friends, or your family is a surefire way to make an impact.
  5. Be polite. There is a fine line between an impassioned plea and a Twitter-worthy rant. Rudeness, insults, or reminding your Congressperson that your tax dollars pay their salary will only damage your credibility and sever the lines of communication.
  6. Talk to the staffers. Staffers will always accompany members of Congress in meetings as part of their administrative duties. Take the time to seek them out. Introduce yourself by asking for their business card and explaining briefly why you chose to attend. Even if you do not get an opportunity to speak directly with your representative because of time constraints or a large volume of participants, talking to the staff can get your voice heard by your representative.
  7. Bring your friends. There is strength in numbers. Bringing a group of friends to the meeting will not only ease any anxiety you may feel, it will provide a visual demonstration to your representatives of how many other voters support your stance on an issue.
  8. Follow up afterward. Send additional emails and make follow-up phone calls to your Congressional representatives’ offices and state that you were in attendance at the recent town hall meeting. Better yet, put the next meeting on your calendar and repeat the whole process. This lets your Congressperson know you mean business, and you will continue to show up until your issue is resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner.

Using this guide to know how to attend town hall meetings will put you in a centuries-long tradition of civic involvement.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr