“I believe poverty is not an inherent part of society, but can be overcome if everyone works to achieve it.”-Jessica Beck.

Jessica Beck is the founder of FIU TECHO, a branch of the Techo organization at Florida International University. Techo is an international non-profit organization provides humanitarian aid to the poor citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean.  The focus is to educate the residents on how to implement long lasting solutions to the issues of education, malnutrition, poverty, and corruption.

One Techo branch at Florida International University is participating in the Wynwood Miami Art Walk, a local artist event held the second Saturday every month. The Techo letters will be found along the walk and members can write down their hopes and goals towards ending global poverty and making the lives of others so much better. Notoriously broke, college students participating for Techo in the Art Walk are proving that anyone can make an impact – no matter how little people think they might have to give.

Sustainable development means formulating economic and environmental growth policies that don’t detract from environmental health, meaning they will be successful policies in the long run. Societies can’t function on infrastructures that are not environmentally sound because eventually the negative consequences of those policies will force the society to restructure yet again.

Founded in 1997, Techo is a Latin American non-profit organization focusing on providing aid to people living in slums through volunteers working with families struggling with extreme poverty. The organization uses an ‘implementation’ method that targets community development. The Non profit’s fundraising headquarters are in Miami, Florida and it is lead by young volunteers. Volunteers are present in 19 countries including Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

Recruitment for volunteers takes place exclusively in college universities, and the organization actively seeks contribution from people less than or equal to 30 years of age. Students with a strong passion for humanitarian work are targeted in the hopes that their dedication will enhance their work. Experience with working in slums helps to qualify volunteers to pursue a professional career in global relief and poverty reduction. The way that Techo works is a mutual effort between volunteers and slum residents. Residents are reassigned houses based on severity of living conditions and are responsible for taking on 10% of the new home cost.

Funding comes from a variety of sources. The Boston Consulting Group and The Inter-American Development Bank are two of Techo’s main partners. Donators known as ‘techo friends’ are monthly financial contributors at a fixed rate. A donator giving 30 dollars a month can support a family that functions on one dollar per day. It is incredible the difference just one dollar can make and sheds light on the common misconception that global poverty is an impossible issue to solve. The condition is reminiscent of something Nelson Mandela once said – “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: FIU, Facebook, Techo

There are many challenges facing education in Latin America.  Many schools are not properly equipped with current textbooks or any lab equipment.  Even worse, some schools do not even have proper infrastructure, and students are forced to attend a schoolhouse with a leaky roof or holes in the wall.

These physical problems are directly responsible to the startling statistics about students in the region of Latin America.  According to the Inter-American Development Bank, only 10% of the region’s poorest students are performing at their grade level.  Only 40% percent of students graduate from secondary school, and according to the Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education, international comparisons have Latin America ranked near the bottom in education.

What is being done to combat these trends?

One method of change to education in Latin America are initiatives to upgrade outdated curriculum models.  Docente al Dia is an online platform that seeks to give teachers access to new curriculums and lesson plans.  It also acts as a social media community, a Facebook for teachers.  This will allow Latin American educators to collaborate on ideas, and connect the education system in a way not previously possible.

The Central America Foundation for Rural Education Development (CAFRED) is an organization that identifies rural communities lacking proper schooling facilities and builds healthy, safe, and sustainable schoolhouses.  CAFRED also sponsors a variety of education initiatives to create an environment of learning often denied to rural communities in Latin America.  One example is the “Professional Teacher Development Program” which provides much needed professional development for rural teachers by giving lessons in sensitivity and Individual Education Programs.

A positive statistic for Latin American students is that by 2015, 30 million students should have access to an electronic device to support learning.  This is one of the many projects and topics championed by the Inter-American Development Bank.  The Bank endorses five ‘dimensions of success’ in education: high expectations for student learning, students should enter the system ready to learn, all students having access to effective teachers, schools having adequate resources, and all graduates having the skills necessary to contribute to the labor market.

Access toeducation is a necessary component for producing global citizens and engaged consumers.  Stimulating education in Latin America should therefore be a top priority for world leaders.

– Taylor Diamond

Sources: Inter-American Development Bank, Brookings Institution

Over the course of her career, Colombian recording artist Shakira has been nominated for five American Grammys and eight Latin Grammys, both of which are among the highest honors in the music industry, and has amassed an estimated net worth of a staggering $200 million. However, despite her international fame and incredible fortune, Shakira remains an avid humanitarian, having initiated and participated in many charity organizations, particularly those that target her home country of Colombia.

After solidifying her position as a true Latin American music star with the release of her critically-successful breakthrough album, Pies Descalzos, Shakira founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation (Barefoot Foundation) in efforts to aid the impoverished children of Colombia. While growing up in her native country, Shakira made it a mission to serve the country’s poor after watching children make homes out of park benches and street corners.

The extent to which early experiences impacted Shakira’s humanitarian motives is manifested in the name of the non-profit, non-governmental charity organization. Pies Descalzos not only pays homage to the album that launched Shakira’s musical career but also recognizes the thousands of children who are far too destitute to even afford shoes

One of the overarching goals of Pies Descalzos is improvements in international education quality – an opportunity that can enable needy children to break out of the confines of squalor. Pies Descalzos provides children with the opportunity for attaining an education and necessary tools for survival, such as food, that they otherwise would have been unable to access.

Since 2003, the foundation has launched six schools in Colombia that provide support to impoverished children and their families by providing education, food, and financial support. Also founded by Shakira, the Barefoot Foundation in America, rather than focusing its efforts solely on Colombia, takes its aid worldwide, promoting universal education.

After receiving honors from the United Nations in 2006, Shakira reinforced the urgency and importance of Pies Descalzos and other charity foundations by stating, “Let’s not forget at the end of this day when we go home, 960 children will have died in Latin America.” With her adamant support of global education and passionate efforts towards eradicating hunger and poverty, Shakira has demonstrated that the power of music can travel far beyond entertainment purposes to serve inspiring humanitarian purposes.

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: Ace Show Biz, Celebrity Net Worth, People
Photo: People

According to a recent report presented to the UN General Assembly by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, Latin America is leading the way in the establishment of laws related to promotion and protection of the right to food. De Schutter praised the region for its remarkable progress over the past 10 years.

Most recently, in January 2013, Mexico established the National Crusade Against Hunger to solve Mexico’s food insecurity issues. In fact, 25 percent of the Mexican population is dealing with food insecurity, in a country where more than seven million live in conditions of extreme poverty. Other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Guatemala are creating similar initiatives to tackle hunger in their own countries.

According to De Schutter report, the right to food is not solely about hunger as an issue of supply and demand, but also as a problem of the limited access to resources such as land, water and seeds for small-scale farmers, not to mention a lack of economic opportunities for the poor and a failure to provide living wages and social security.

In an article by The Guardian, De Schutter said that “treating food as a human right brings coherence and accountability. It helps to close the gaps by putting food security of all citizens at the top of the decision-making hierarchy, and making these decision-making processes participatory and accountable.”

Besides food policy, there are other issues that affect countries’ abilities to attain the right to food. For example, capital flight weakens states’ capacities to achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs). States need capital to invest in their agricultural industry and decrease poverty in both rural and urban areas. Additionally, a country’s failure to implement taxation greatly affects the government’s capability to provide for its citizens in many ways, including the provision of food.

With these issues in mind, De Schutter’s report makes it clear that progress in attaining the right to food comes hand in hand with a developing country’s government’s commitment, involvement in civil society, and coordinated initiatives in the realms of education, gender, sanitation, foreign direct investment, and economic development. For instance, countries such as Brazil, whose government was fully committed to the implementation of its “zero hunger policy,” succeeded in improving the right to food with a structure of good governance.

Another common characteristic that De Schutter pointed to was the importance of human rights institutions and civil society in monitoring government’s accountability to promises of decreasing hunger levels in their country.

In the Guardian article, De Schutter was quoted as saying, “The poor may experience considerable difficulties in accessing judicial redress mechanisms, which is why social audits matter. The role of other actors, national human rights institutions and civil society, is therefore essential.”

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: The Guardian1,The Guardian2,The Hunger Project
Photo: San Diego Red

Pro Mujer International is a development and microfinance organization helping women in Latin America. They provide financial, health, and human development services to help women break the cycle of poverty. Pro Mujer equips women with the tools and resources necessary to build their own livelihoods through microfinance, business training, and health care support.

Pro Mujer is motivated to affect change in Latin American society. They understand the conditions of income disparity and gender inequality. They believe that when women are given the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, they will also lift their families too. According to Pro Mujer, women are more likely to reinvest in their families to provide education, healthcare and to improve living conditions.

The organization is committed to a client-focused approach that actively seeks results. They strive for integrity, transparency, solidarity and they work to maintain commitment to human development. Pro Mujer was founded by Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco in 1990 in Bolivia. Their vision for an organization to help lift women from poverty has today become one of Latin America’s premiere development and microfinance organizations for women. Pro Mujer has since been able to allocate over $1 billion in small loans and services including empowerment training, preventive health education and primary healthcare services.

Examples of the financial services provided by Pro Mujer include small business loans, education and housing loans, savings accounts, and life insurance. Their business and empowerment training programs teach women to be more economically independent and informed decision makers as well as teaching basic financial literacy, and empowerment training on domestic violence, communication and leadership skills. Additionally, Pro Mujer is able to provide healthcare assistance including pre and post natal monitoring, family planning, and sexual and reproductive health services to name a few.

Pro Mujer’s current CEO is Rosario Perez. Perez began her career in private banking where she was charged with leading multinational businesses and teams and executing organizational transformations. She is now responsible for Pro Mujer’s portfolio of more than US $100 million and 1,700 employees. Her employees serve more than 2,547,000 clients in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru.

– Caitlin Zusy

Sources: Pro Mujer, Mastercard Worldwide

The New Stars of Emerging Markets
As the economy continues to expand, the stories of economic growth and development are shifting.  The new stars of emerging markets are beginning to rise and take the spotlight in the story of development.  Over the past decade, the most well-known stories of rising nations within emerging markets have been that of BRIC nations-Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Reporting double-digit growth numbers over the past several years has catapulted them to the top of the emerging markets.  However, their growth is starting to level off and has fallen back into single digits.  They are more stable and sustainable in their growth and have paved the way for new stars to take the spotlight.

Head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley Investments Ruchir Sharma believes the BRIC nations are beginning a period of slow-down and their slower growth will leave room for other nations to take center stage.  The stories of the BRIC nations are remarkable. China’s double-digit growth has turned the nation into a sustainable nation with a growing middle class.  This is a huge step in overall country development. The creation of a middle class provides additional opportunities for advancement and brings in outside investors to the nation who are interested in the increasing consumer spending capacity.

Who are the new stars?  Sharma says the nations to watch for are the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as parts of Latin America such as Peru, Chile, and Colombia. Political leaders in these countries are stable and have a strong understanding of economic reform. These nations have great potential to be the new emerging markets and double-digit growth-producing countries.

The Philippines is one of the most cost-competitive destinations of technology and business service centers. While India used to dominate the call-center world, the Philippines is fast becoming a strong competitor.  Indonesia has a strong commodity business to build economic strength and Thailand’s manufacturing sector continues to expand.

Beyond the potential new stars of emerging markets are several economies that have the ability to follow behind in the coming years. Nations like  Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka are beginning steps towards economic reform. According to Sharma, the winners of one decade are rarely winners in the next, but the emerging markets continue to be a strong factor in the global economy and a strong place for foreign investment. It will be a fascinating story to watch as the decade unfolds.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Wall Street Journal
Photo: Avid Investor Group

USAID and Syngenta Sign Collaborative Agreement
To continue to advance U.S. efforts to fight hunger, USAID has signed an agreement with global company Syngenta International AG. The agreement will seek to increase food security and reduce hunger in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The agreement will go to support farmers.  According to USAID, each night, around 870 million people around the world go to bed hungry and Syngenta is joining the fight to reduce those numbers.  Their partnership in the fight will help to increase the adoption of innovative technologies and create mechanisms for crop insurance.

The USAID and Syngenta agreement will allow both groups to reach the impoverished and malnourished across three different continents in joint efforts to end global poverty.  USAID and Syngenta will work together in research and development and capacity building. They will work together and with scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and other donors. This commitment advances the goals set by Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

As previously announced, Syngenta will invest over $500 million in Africa alone to help farmers adopt new technology to increase their yields. With 27,000 employees in 90 countries, Syngenta is truly a global company that is making a global impact. Part of their mission is to bring plant potential to life through science while protecting the environment and improving health and quality of life. Syngenta hopes to ignite change in farm productivity worldwide through the partnership.

Feed the Future is part of this global effort and supports countries as they develop their own agriculture sectors to increase economic growth and trade. In 2012, more than 7 million food producers were helped through Feed the Future. The USAID and Syngenta partnership will continue to grow agricultural development and promote the goals of Feed the Future.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: allAfrica
Photo: USAID

U.S. Solar Company Expands International Development to Latin America
SolarReserve, a U.S.-based solar company, has announced its expansion into Latin America for international development purposes. The company opened up an additional office in Santiago, Chile, as part of an effort to “provide cost-effective, clean energy solutions worldwide.”

SolarReserve plans to focus primarily on solar energy opportunities in the growing mining sector throughout the region, and will also be developing large-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) projects, as well as photovoltaic projects.

Company CEO, Kevin Smith, stated that the move to Latin America was a logical next step considering the benefits of clean energy development in the region, including the abundant solar insulation, inclusionary energy policies, and the expanding mining sector. He also said that although hydropower and wind power are already established sources of clean energy in Latin America, solar is only more recently gaining a foothold.

Smith also stated that SolarReserve hopes the installation of solar energy will help provide a more consistent and reliable energy source to the region, along with a cleaner source of power from an environmental standpoint.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Power Engineering

Colon Misses Out on Panama's Economic Growth
The Panama Canal is framed by Panama’s two largest cities. At one end is Panama City, a vibrant, bustling metropolitan center that is currently experiencing some of Latin America’s greatest growth. At the Canal’s other end, just forty miles away, lies the city of Colon, where potable water, electricity, structurally sound buildings, and meaningful work are all in short supply for the city’s 220,000 residents.

Panama has had an average economic growth of nine percent every year for the last five years. This is due in large part to foreign investment and development in Panama City, where Central America’s first subway is currently under construction. The tallest building in Latin America, a 70-story Trump hotel and condominium, is not out of place among newly constructed skyscrapers, malls, and restaurants.

But Colon has not enjoyed the same booming industrial and commercial development. The city has the largest duty-free trade zone in the Western hemisphere, which has long been a point of contention between residents and developers. Recent development within the zone has benefited businesses there, but not the city at large. The duty-free zone caused social unrest last year when Panama’s president passed a law allowing sale of land in and near the zone. Residents feared this would displace them from their homes and hurt their incomes. Several were killed in the protests.

The economic inequality between Colon and Panama City stems in part from racial segregation and discrimination. Racism is a long-standing problem in many Latin American countries, and Panama is no exception. Those with light skin are often viewed more favorably than those with dark skin in terms of wealth, attractiveness, and ability.

Colon is predominantly black, while Panama City has a larger percentage of European descendants. Many believe that racial discrimination has played a role in Colon’s economic depression.

The stark disparity between Panama City and Colon is an example of the unequal economic growth occurring all over the world. In many places, wealth remains concentrated where it is already abundant, while the poor remain poor, and grow poorer. Correcting this imbalance will require a multifaceted, in-depth, strategic approach that the world’s poor are unable to implement themselves. Therefore, those who have the means to do so are responsible for working to make humane living conditions and economic security realities for every person on the planet.

Kat Henrichs

Source: NY Times
Photo: AP