In the August/September 2015 issue of AARP The Magazine, Viola Davis of ABC’s hit series, “How to Get Away with Murder,” talks about growing up in poverty and why giving back is important to her.

Now the star of a drama that has 9 million viewers on the edge of their seats, Davis said she is living her dream by just being able to afford a house. “When you grow up poor, you dream of just having a home and a bed that’s clean — that’s a sanctuary,” Davis said.

In her interview with AARP, the actress said that she grew up in a household with five siblings in an old building in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Her mother worked in a factory and her father groomed racehorses. “But grooms don’t make money,” Davis said. “Definitely not enough to feed a family of eight.”

Her family received food stamps that paid for groceries which did not last the entire month. Occasionally, Davis had to resort to garbage dumps for scraps and sometimes she had to steal from a store. When she was caught, she felt so ashamed that she forced herself to stop. Davis then had to count on other means to eat.

“Most of the time, the school lunch was the only meal I had. I would befriend kids whose mothers cooked three meals a day and go to their homes when I could,” Davis said.

The summers were difficult because she did not have school to feed her, but the winters were not much easier. The pipes in the building where she lived sometimes froze over, so the family did not have water to clean with or drink. The furnace broke, and the family would have to use each other’s body heat to stay warm.

Despite her hunger and unstable home life, Davis performed well in school. She and her siblings wanted to make sure they did not live in those conditions in the future.

“School was their haven,” Sara Davidson, AARP The Magazine writer, said. “And they stayed late, participating in sports, music, drama and student government.”

School was not only Davis’ means for nourishment but also where she found her calling. She entered the Upward Bound program, which funded her education at Rhode Island College. After graduating, she attended Juilliard for their drama program.

Continuing in her success, Davis won two Tony awards and later received two Oscar nominations.

Though it seemed as if Davis’ rise to fame was only increasing, she still had her doubts about being cast in a lead role. In her childhood years, she had experienced racism every day.

“People would throw things out of their cars and call us the N-word,” Davis said.

Because of this, she thought she was too dark-skinned to earn a big part in a Hollywood movie. “That notion was upended when, in 2014, she was offered the starring role in How to Get Away with Murder,” Davidson said.

In addition, although Davis was more than pleased with her life as a professional actress, wife and mother, she yearned for something more. She was asked to be the spokesperson for Hunger Is, and now she is dedicated to giving back.

Hunger Is was formed by the Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. The campaign seeks to end childhood hunger. With her own experience in the matter, Davis gave a touching speech about her childhood struggles. The two non-profits then donated $100,000 to the causes of her choice.

Davis divided this contribution between many organizations in her hometown including Central Falls High School’s Thespian Society.

Helping kids achieve their dreams, or even getting them meals, has brought Davis more happiness than acting. Although she had a difficult childhood, Davis is still looking up.

“There’s buoyancy and lightness in me. I’m not angry about my life. I’m not bitter at all. I’m happy,” Davis said.

To read more about Davis’ interview, visit the AARP website.

– Fallon Lineberger

Sources: AARP, Entertainment Weekly, Hunger Is
Photo: Flickr

Obama's foreign policy
In an interview last Sunday with The Atlantic, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greatly distanced herself from President Obama’s foreign policy views.

Discussing her opinions with Jeffrey Goldberg, Clinton criticized Obama’s catch phrase for foreign policy, which is said to be, “Don’t do stupid stuff.”

According to Clinton, this is not exactly an effective approach. “Great nations need organizing principles,” Clinton told Goldberg when he mentioned Obama’s doctrine. Clinton described such organizing principles as peace, prosperity and progress.

Apart from her general philosophy on foreign policy, Clinton elaborated on specifics, insisting that the United States should have intervened early in the Syrian war in order to avoid al-Qaeda-inspired groups from seizing control of the rebel side against the Assad regime. She noted that in failing to assist in building up a credible fighting force on the rebellion’s side, a large hole was left, increasingly filled by Jihadists.

The pointed evaluation from Clinton comes at an interesting time period, as she is rumored to be a potential candidate for the 2016 presidential election.

Despite Clinton’s critique, she continued to defend Obama as far as his intentions, explaining to Goldberg that Obama was, “trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy” (as far as foreign policy).

Given Obama’s second term has been dominated by foreign policy issues including the rise of ISIS in Iraq, the Israeli Palestinian conflict and the rising aggression of Russia against Ukraine, Clinton’s criticism is hard-hitting.

Although she did not outright state as much, Clinton’s interview suggests that she is worried that the United States is removing itself from the world stage as a leader in foreign policy and conflict. More than this, she subtly hints that if she were in charge in the near future, she would approach foreign policy differently.

In her recently released book “Hard Choices,” Clinton details how she and Obama disagreed on how to handle the situation in Syria, especially when it came to the question of whether or not to arm the rebel factions.

Clinton continued to qualify her comments during the interview, stating: “I’ve sat in too many rooms with the president. He’s thoughtful, he’s incredibly smart, and able to analyze a lot of different factors that are all moving at the same time. I think he is cautious because he knows what he inherited.”

In this way, Clinton has propped herself strategically in-between the President and former President George W. Bush on the scale of advocating for military intervention.

According to CNN, those close to Clinton gave the Obama administration a warning that the interview was coming. In response to the interview, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes stated that Hillary was “fully-on-board” during her time as Secretary of State with respect to the administration’s foreign policy strategy.

– Caroline Logan 

Sources: CNN, Sun Herald, The Atlantic
Photo: US News

In terms of living standards, Africa has been rated as the poorest part of the world since the year 2010. It is home to the majority of those living in poverty, meaning those who survive on less than $1 per day. It is estimated that 47 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population lived in poverty in 2008, according to a 2012 United Nations study.

In an interview, the deputy director of the Africa Program, Richard Downie, discussed the current and future state of the African economy.

What exactly do you do at the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies)?

RD: I’m deputy director of the Africa Program. I conduct research on U.S. foreign policy issues and interests in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In your opinion, why is Africa so poor?

RD: First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that Africa is riding the wave of a prolonged period of economic growth. So there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. But it’s true that many Africans remain poor. There are many reasons for this, but I would argue that the most important one is poor governance. While governance standards are slowly improving, a minority of African leaders remain more interested in lining their own pockets than providing for their people. This is a particular problem in countries with rich endowments of natural resources. Unfortunately, the revenues from oil and other lucrative resources end up funding the lavish lifestyles of politically-connected elites in the capital city rather than helping to lift a broader mass of people out of poverty.

What factors have contributed to Africa’s economic state and how could they have been avoided?

RD: Poor governance is the most important one. The main responsibility lies squarely with African governments themselves. But international donors have not been resolute in putting pressure on African governments to do better. Too often, they’ve been content to disburse the money and consider their job done. In some countries, this approach amounts to complicity in funding corruption.

What things can be done to pull Africa out of poverty?

RD: We should support initiatives that provide African citizens with the tools to hold their governments to better standards of behavior. This would include offering training, education, and assistance to—among others—civil society organizations, the media, legislatures, judiciaries, and political parties.  If empowered, these institutions can play an important watchdog role in exposing corruption and building a constituency for good governance.

However, we shouldn’t place the entire onus on Africans. There are things that Western companies and institutions can do to promote good governance in Africa. One of the most important is to do something to track down and stop illicit financial outflows from Africa, which dwarf the amount of aid that flows into the continent.

Do you believe that foreign aid helps or hurts the African economy?

RD: It can help, if it’s given in a responsible, targeted way, accompanied by strong accountability mechanisms. But it won’t be—and shouldn’t be—the main way to lift Africans out of poverty. Many African countries have enough resources to address the needs of their people. It’s what they do with these resources that matters.

In addition, the transformative impact of trade and investment will be more important than aid in delivering economic growth to Africa in the long-term. Again, the key factor is how the wealth is used.

Is there anything else you think would be useful in regards to the African economy and poverty reduction?

RD: As you know, Africa is incredibly diverse, with some very good performers, some very bad ones, and a lot somewhere in the middle. It’s important not to adopt blanket approaches to the continent because what works in one place might not be relevant or successful in the next.  In general, I think it’s important when thinking about our relations with Africa to look beyond the traditional donor-recipient dynamic.  We need a more mature relationship with Africa that takes account of the improving economic landscape on the continent–a relationship of equals that is grounded in enhanced trade and investment.

– Samantha Davis

Photo: ChildSob

How to Build a TelecentrePLANWEL is an NGO in Pakistan that is short for Planning Professionals for Social Welfare Works. It was founded in 1990 by a group of local technology and business experts for the purpose of promoting basic computer literacy, information sharing, health care, e-government, e-commerce, and e-learning through telecentres, or what they call community access points. Telecentres are public places that provide access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) which help promote development for populations who otherwise would not have such access.

In the past 20 years or so, PlanWel has collaborated with several foreign entities such as Utah State University, Kansas State University, American Distance Learning Consortium, International Telecommunication Union, USAID, and World View Foundation – Malaysia. To date, PlanWel has contributed to the formation of over 400 telecentres all over Pakistan. PlanWel’s mission statement is, “Bringing Technology to the People, Building Technology Based Communities, and Technology for the People and Run by the People”. PlanWel is one of the many examples of telecentre programs that are working to improve lives by providing access to ICTs.

Generally, telecentres are located in rural areas of the developing world. According to the Foundation, there are over 87,513 telecentres in over 53 countries. In this interview, the PlanWel CEO, Shahab Afroz Khan, talks about how to build a telecentre.

What do the telecentres look like?

“In fact, they are not at all fancy. In a rural setting, it would be a one-room to two-room building with some space for housing 5-10 PCs’s at the maximum, one Printer, Scanner, Fax Machine. Internet connectivity through Fiber lines – DSL (In Pakistan we have a very well connected Fiber Optic network). For power, if it’s not on the National Grid, we have it by solar energy. One teacher would teach the students – Typically he is the Owner/ Manager, who would earn his living through this.

The only missing element – AND most important is content in the local language – which we are still looking for and working on.”

What advice would you give on how to build a telecentre community?

“First of all, motivate the community and tell them what they are missing: Information about business, citizen’s information, money transactions, sharing of information, and computer literacy. Once they are convinced that there is a need to open up a telecentre, they need to try and get some type of support from important local people, such as a landlord, local government representative, and the like. This is important because, in many countries like in Pakistan, you must have local support.

It is also absolutely necessary to have your own building – one room of 14ft X 10ft would be sufficient. You cannot run a telecentre on rented space. Next, locate some donors to give you the hardware – this is the easiest part as the donor would like his name to be advertised – which you can do with some caution.”

– Maria Caluag

Source: PLANWEL,
Photo: LawaOnline