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Nonprofits Helping Syrian RefugeesThe Syrian civil war has been ongoing since 2011, making the Syrian refugee population the world’s largest group forcibly displaced from their country. At the end of 2018, there were 13 million refugees from Syria, accounting for more than half of the country’s total population. The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon (70 percent) and Jordan (90 percent) are living below the poverty line. Fortunately, a number of groups are stepping in to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Keep reading to learn more about these three nonprofits helping Syrian refugees.

3 Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

  1. Sunrise USA – Founded in 2011, Sunrise USA is a nonprofit organization focused on providing humanitarian assistance for Syrians in need whether they still live in the country or not. The group is focused on sustainable development in areas including education and health care.
    • Health Care With help from donations, Sunrise USA built a full-time clinic in the Tayba camp in Syria, as well as a clinic in Istanbul and a polyclinic in Rihanli, Turkey. The organization has also established 22 trauma care facilities in Syria.
    • Education As of 2018, around 5.8 million children and youth in Syria were in need of education assistance. About 2.1 million of them were out of school completely. Sunrise USA has built four schools and provided books and supplies to students and families around refugee camps. In 2015, Sunrise USA was a lead sponsor in the creation of the Al-Salam School which had 1,200 students.
    • Care for Orphans The number of Syrian orphans, both in Syria and neighboring countries, has increased to more than 1 million since 2011. Through Sunrise USA’s orphan sponsorship, hundreds of orphans have been provided with food, clothing, education and medicine.
  2. Doctors Without Borders (DWB) – Officially founded in 1971, the organization’s core belief is that “all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender, race, religion, creed, or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries.” Here’s a look at DWB’s efforts to help Syrian refugees:
    • Jordan – In 2017, Jordan closed off the border connecting the country to Syria and in 2018 canceled all subsidized health care for Syrian refugees. Doctors Without Borders has three clinics in Irbid, Jordan that focus on non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of death in the region. In 2018, the organization provided 69,000 outpatient consultations, 11,900 individual mental health consultations and 2,690 assisted births.
    • Lebanon – Shatila refugee camp in South Beirut is home to Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese people living in poor and overcrowded conditions with minimal services. Doctors Without Borders has set up both a primary health care center and a women’s center inside the camp in 2013. The organization also launched a vaccination campaign around the camp, opened a mental health support branch in a clinic in Fneideq, offer family planning and mental health care services in the Burj-al-Barajneh refugee camp, and operate a care program in Ein-al-Hilweh refugee camp for patients with mobility issues.

Concern Worldwide US – Founded in 1968, Concern Worldwide works in the world’s poorest countries to provide emergency response, education, water and sanitation, as well as help communities develop resilience to higher impacting climates. The organization works to help Syrian refugees in a few ways:

    • Lebanon – Concern Worldwide is not only focused on creating “collection centers,”–which are multi-family shelters–but also on improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the highly concentrated refugee areas of the country. The organization has provided assistance for 56,000 refugees and is also helping hundreds of children get access to education.
    • Syria – Since 2014, Concern Worldwide has worked in Syria to tackle waterborne diseases by installing generators and chlorinated water sources and also providing hygiene supplies. The organization also provides basic necessities to Syrians by distributing food baskets and for families with access to markets, food vouchers.

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

Starkey Hearing Foundation
The Starkey Hearing Foundation is an organization that William F. Austin founded and it is on a mission to help people with hearing loss around the world. Its goal is to make hearing health care services more accessible for people worldwide, and thanks to the Minnesota Vikings, more people are aware of the cause.

Hearing Disadvantage Facts

Around 466 million people around the world have disabling hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization, of these 466 million people, less than 3 percent can actually afford hearing aids. They also lack the funds in order to pay for the care they need. Hearing aids can cost anywhere between $40 and $3,000, so developing countries will have a hard time paying for these if they are already having a hard time making ends meet.

Impoverished people in countries around the world receive poor treatment from uneducated doctors and can face preventable medical issues that can cause hearing loss. One of the most common issues is Otitis Media, which is a chronic ear infection in the middle ear that causes inflammation. This infection is most common within babies under 5 years old and can go undetected in foreign countries due to doctors being unable to give proper treatment.

Twenty-five percent of adults around the world who are over the age of 65 have hearing loss. Most of these people come from Asian and African countries. Lack of resources and awareness are the reason why so many Africans and Asians have a hearing impairment.

Pregnancy complications also contribute to hearing loss, not just for the unborn baby, but for the mother as well. Researchers have found that if a mother were to spend time in excess noise, the baby would likely be susceptible to being hearing impaired. Consumption of alcohol and smoking cigarettes also play a role in a baby possibly being deaf. Both cigarettes and alcohol have toxins and can cause malnutrition for an unborn child.

Starkey Hearing Foundation

The Starkey Hearing Foundation has a goal to make sure everyone around the world has access to health care services so they can get the proper care they need. Its goal is to also help people afford hearing aids. The organization teamed up with the government and other organization health leaders to make this possible. The Foundation has talked with global health professionals to advocate for hearing health and provide support to the government in developing hearing health policies.

Over the years, the Starkey Hearing Foundation has been to over 100 countries and has helped people receive the proper care they needed in order to hear again. Because of this, the organization now has the largest hearing health care database in the world. Many people from different countries have traveled to its headquarters in Minnesota to receive help.

The organization has helped different medical practices with research by figuring out the reason behind hearing loss within a specific country. It also supports other physicians who have worked on the hearing problem around the world.

The Foundation has shared different strategies with the government who are currently working on developing hearing policies in developing countries. It has also shared its knowledge on how hearing care could improve within the existing health systems.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings, who are a national football team based in Minneapolis, are the biggest supporters of the Starkey Hearing Foundation because the organization is also based out of Minnesota.

In 2013, the Vikings partnered with the Starkey Hearing Foundation in order to help spread awareness to their fanbase about the issue. With over 2 million followers on Facebook, over 1 million followers on Twitter, over 800,000 followers on Instagram and drawing in roughly 66,000 people to games every year, at least 3 million people are aware of the Foundation and how to support it.

During every home game, radio and television stations would promote the campaign so even more people would become aware of the cause. Fans who attended the home games also received Starkey brand ear protection. The Vikings also made a commitment that for every touchdown the team scored, they would donate $500 to the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

– Reese Furlow
Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Venezuela
In January 2019, Nicolás Maduro won the Venezuelan presidential election, bringing him into his second term as president. Citizens and the international community met the election results with protests and backlash, which has only added to the conflict in Venezuela. The National Assembly of Venezuela went so far as to refuse to acknowledge President Maduro as such. Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president almost immediately after the announcement of the election results, a declaration that U.S. President Donald Trump and leaders from more than 50 nations support. Russia and China, however, have remained in support of President Maduro.

During his first term as president and beginning in 2013, Maduro has allowed the downfall of the Venezuelan economy. His government, as well as his predecessor, Hugo Chávez’s government, face much of the anger regarding the current state of Venezuela. Continue reading to learn how the conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor in particular.

How Conflict in Venezuela is Affecting the Poor

Maduro’s aim was to continue implementing Chávez’s policies with the goal of aiding the poor. However, with the price and foreign currency controls established, local businesses could not profit and many Venezuelans had to resort to the black market.

Hyperinflation has left prices doubling every two to three weeks on average as of late 2018. Venezuelan citizens from all socio-economic backgroundsbut particularly those from lower-income householdsare now finding it difficult to buy simple necessities like food and toiletries. In 2018, more than three million citizens fled Venezuela as a result of its economic status to go to fellow South American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. However, nearly half a million Venezuelans combined also fled to the United States and Spain.

Venezuela is currently facing a humanitarian crisis that Maduro refuses to recognize. The opposition that is attempting to force Maduro out of power is simultaneously advocating for international aid. As a result, local charities attempting to provide for the poor are coming under fire from Maduro’s administration, as his government believes anything the opposition forces support is inherently anti-government.

In the northwestern city of Maracaibo, the Catholic Church runs a soup kitchen for impoverished citizens in need of food. It feeds up to 300 people per day, and while it used to provide full meals for the people, it must ration more strictly due to the economic turmoil. Today, the meals look more like a few scoops of rice with eggs and vegetables, and a bottle of milk. While the Church’s service is still incredibly beneficial, it is a stark contrast from the fuller meals it was able to provide just a few years prior.

The political and economic conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor citizens of the country in the sense Maduro’s administration is ostracizing local soup kitchens and charities. A broader problem facing the poor is that because Maduro refuses to address the humanitarian crisis, international organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) are unable to intervene and provide aid.

Project HOPE

There are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are making an effort to help Venezuelans suffering as a result of this crisis. One of the easiest ways they can be of service is by providing aid and relief to citizens who have fled to other countries. Project HOPE is an organization that currently has workers on the ground in Colombia and Ecuador to offer food, medical care and other aid to those escaping the conflict in Venezuela. Project HOPE is also supporting the health care system in Colombia in order to accommodate the displaced Venezuelans there.

The current conflict in Venezuela is affecting the poor, but it is also affecting the entire structure of the nation. It is difficult to know what the outcome of this conflict will look like for Venezuelans and for the country as a whole. What is important now is to continue educating people about the ongoing crisis so that they can stay informed. Additionally, donating to Project HOPE and other NGOs working to provide aid to Venezuelans in neighboring countries would be of great help. With that, many Venezuelan citizens will know that people support them and are fighting to see progress.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Comoros
Comoros is a group of three volcanic islands located between Africa and Madagascar with a population of just over 800,000. Mount Karthala, which is located on the island of Ngazidja and the bigger of the two active volcanoes in Comoros, has frequent eruptions. The last largest eruption took place in 2005 and caused thousands of citizens to flee. Here are five facts about poverty in Comoros.

5 Facts About Poverty in Comoros

  1. Limited Economic and Trade Opportunities – Comoros relies heavily on its exported goods. The three main crops that are important to the country’s economy are vanilla, cloves and ylang-ylang, all of which people use for perfume essence and essential oils. Most of the earnings from these crops go towards natural disasters that occur regularly, primarily fires and severe weather.
  2. Rapid Population Growth – The population has steadily been growing since the 1970s. There are approximately four births to every one death. According to the World Population Review, the average adult woman has about 4.7 babies. The population should continue rising at an even pace.
  3. High Dropout Rates – Comoros has access to two different types of schools; the primary and secondary school system that France established and the traditional Islamic school system. Despite access to an education program, the dropout rate is continuing to steadily rise. Causes of this rate are teacher strikes from lack of proper pay, student strikes from the continuous school shutdowns and political instability. Students who do finish school and obtain a higher education typically do so in another country and do not return after.
  4. Inadequate Health Care Access – Comoros lacks a public health care system. Despite this, the country has been able to keep many of its illness rates low, including HIV and tuberculosis. Many believe that access to clean water that is available to over 90 percent of the country contributed to this. The highest cause of death in Comoros is malnutrition which caused nearly 45.1 percent of deaths between 2007 and 2017.
  5. Lack of Natural Resources – Deforestation is causing the natural forests to decrease due to the lack of re-growing trees. With the increase of population, agricultural lands have less time to regenerate and the food source to decline as a result. These factors and changing weather patterns are affecting natural resources in Comoros at a rapid pace leaving the country in a vulnerable state. Heavy rains and a decline in forest protection are causing floods and landslides, which causes more damage to already weakening agricultural fields. It also causes soil erosion to silt the coral reefs and disturbs the marine life ecosystem and the livelihood of fishing due to fish being Comoros’ main source of protein.

In studying poverty in Comoros, not everything is bad. An NGO called Dahari stemmed from the Engagement for Sustainable Development (ECDD) in 2013 and has since been working in the Comoros islands to provide sustainable agriculture, technology to farmers and increase environmental protection. It provides aid towards controlling the environmental factors and shaping landscapes for future generations and increase the economy. The organization also uses ecotourism to help manage marine life and natural terrestrial resources. Dahari works closely with local communities to achieve peaceful collaboration and help adapt locals to the new technologies and ways they can increase their agricultural development.

The Comoros government continues to work towards its country’s improvement. Despite its efforts, these five facts about poverty in Comoros show that the rapid rise in population and ecosystem decline that changing weather patterns caused continues to affect the country’s efforts to climb out of poverty. With much-needed help, Comoros can work towards rising out of poverty and work towards becoming a resilient and prosperous country.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr

Fireless CookerIn many developing countries, a lack of resources is the main reason why families struggle to survive. In Kenya, firewood for fuel is a huge burden to find and cut every day. Thus, the international NGO Practical Action created a solution to fight the issue of fuel: the fireless cooker.

A fireless cooker is an electricity-free and fuel-free device that helps families save time so they don’t have to sacrifice work to collect firewood.

Practical Action describes the purpose of the cooker as using “stored heat to cook food over a long period.” In a way, a fireless cooker is a simpler version of a crock-pot. It continues to cook the food after it is taken off of a heat source and keeps it warm for a long time, without wasting fuel.

To make one of these ingenious fuel-saving cookers is quite simple. Materials needed to operate the device include old clothing or banana leaves for insulation, rough cloth, heat-resistant polythene, two cushions (made from cloth stuffed with old clothes) and a basket big enough for cooking. Practical Action wanted to make it easy for families to use, so they chose materials that should be readily available in the communities in Kenya.

The first step in the creation process is to line the desired basket with the old clothes or banana leaves. Then, a rough cloth is placed on top of the insulation materials to keep them in place. Next, the polythene is laid on top of the rough fabric to cover it like a bowl. The homemade cushions are then attached on both ends of the basket to store the heat inside.

The impact of this fireless cooker on the families and communities that use it are immense.  Practical Action stated that it can reduce fuel use by 40 percent, “preserving scarce food and saving people hours of precious time.”  One local of Kenya who is reaping the benefits of Practical Action’s invention said, “I am glad to know how to make a fireless cooker. It is going to be of great help to me since I’ll be preparing enough food before going to work on the farm.”

Not only is the fireless cooker environmentally friendly, but also it saves the stay-at-home mothers the tedious and arduous work of cutting and picking firewood every day. Now, the mothers in these households can focus on their children’s education and wellbeing of the family.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr


The Netherlands has various strategies in terms of accepting refugees. There is the Dutch Council for Refugees, which works to improve the lives of migrants in the country. Despite having an organized council, there are still problems that accompany taking in refugees and handling their living arrangements.

Close to 60,000 refugees were admitted into the Netherlands in 2015.

Refugees in the Netherlands are housed in former prisons. The country’s crime rate has dropped drastically over the last several years, causing many correctional facilities to close down. The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) decided to use these empty prisons as temporary housing for refugees. Before they are granted asylum status, refugees are normally stuck in temporary housing for at least six months.

A report shows that the Netherlands approved 70 percent of refugee applications made in the first nine months of 2015. In comparison, EU approval averaged 47 percent.

There have been many difficult housing issues in small Dutch towns caused by an influx of refugees. Some refugees were housed in cramped cities or hastily built homes in the suburbs. Although many have been able to find temporary homes, there are many others who have struggled.

A group founded in 2012 called We Are Here helps refugees in the Netherlands find temporary shelter in unoccupied buildings in Amsterdam. The group has more than 200 members and helps those who have a hard time integrating into society.

Thankfully, there have been projects to help refugees in the Netherlands. For example, a project called A Home Away from Home allowed Dutch people to design temporary houses for refugees.

There has been some controversy regarding refugees in the Netherlands paying for their living situation. In total, refugees in the Netherlands have paid more than EUR 700,000 over the past four years. According to a regulation placed in 2008, working refugees have to pay 75 percent of their income toward food and housing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQE12YXR51s

Once they have been living in the Netherlands for six months, refugees are required to work at least 24 weeks per year.

Back in mid-2016, the Netherlands made an agreement with Germany. It pledged to return the last half of 900 refugees that were sent to the Netherlands after Germany could not grant them formal asylum.

The Dutch Council for Refugees works with 14,000 volunteers and a few hundred paid employees to support refugees with legal rights and the asylum process. The organization also used “NGO twinning projects,” which is a process used to facilitate work with other refugee-assisting organizations.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

What is an NGO
What is an NGO? The acronym NGO stands for non-governmental organization. With only slightly more specificity, an NGO is any organization, usually non-profit, that operates independently of a government.  Contrary to common usage, the NGO title does not necessarily imply the organization works abroad; NGOs can be local, national, or international.

But apart from these literal definitions, what unique roles do NGOs serve that government aid organizations and corporations do not?

The innumerable NGOs that are working on international humanitarian issues suggest that NGOs can adapt quickly and respond to changing needs faster than government organizations which require executive and electoral approval for action. The Global Journal published a list of the top 100 most influential and effective NGOs, acknowledging famous groups such as OxFam, PATH, and Medicins Sans Frontiers.

These groups’ acclaim comes from consistent and well-organized delivery of critically important services such as medical care, environmental education and advocacy, and human rights protection.

But all NGOs are different and some are met with intense criticism for lack of transparency in budgeting or effectual action. When donating money or looking for work in the NGO world, it is always important to do your research about how much of the group’s budget goes to administrative costs and how much goes directly to the cause you care about. The website Charity Navigator is a useful resource for this.

Another important critique of NGOs is that all too often organizations staffed with Americans and Europeans come into developing nations with action plans that don’t fit the local context and end up adversely affecting their target populations. This, however, is a not an inherent flaw of NGOs but rather a symptom of failing to acknowledge the importance of local expertise within the NGO framework.

Because NGO funding commonly comes from developed nations, a particularly effective model for NGOs includes using local in-country staff to plan and implement programs on the ground while working with an international board focused on fundraising, outreach, and strategic group planning.

It would be untrue to claim that NGOs are immune to political influence simply because they are not directly connected to governments; NGOs’ funding and even daily operations are subject to political approval.

For example, NGOs working to bring amnesty to political refugees will often face intense political adversity, and even violence during their in-country work. But unlike government organizations, NGOs typically have more flexibility to defy a political status quo to pursue what they believe to be important social change.

– Shelly Grimaldi

Sources: Grant Space, Miratelinc
Photo: The Design Inspiration

BOMA ProjectAccording to the U.N., the majority of people living in extreme poverty are women. This unfortunate reality is commonly referred to as the “Feminization of Poverty.” Lack of resources, education and income for women are among the various reasons this phenomenon exists.

However, organizations like The BOMA Project are fighting to end this gender disparity among the world’s poor.

The BOMA Project is a U.S. non-profit organization as well as a Kenyan NGO. The organization was recently chosen to receive a prestigious grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Notably, the organization seeks to help impoverished women in drought-prone areas. The BOMA Project is currently operating in two Kenyan counties: Marsabit and Samburu. Both of these areas suffer from arid climates that make it difficult for their residents to thrive.

The BOMA Project’s two-year program is known as the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP). This program empowers and educates women to sustain small businesses.

The organization states that REAP, “replaces aid with sustainable income and helps women ‘graduate’ from extreme poverty by giving them the tools they need to start small businesses in their communities.”

REAP is accomplished through five major phases:

  1. Targeting the most vulnerable women within communities using a wealth ranking system.
  2. Assigning village mentors who assist in writing business plans as well as visit monthly over the two-year period.
  3. Providing two installments of grants to help women acquire the necessary resources to start their businesses.
  4. Training women how to run their businesses successfully.
  5. Forming savings associations comprised of 3 to 4 other BOMA businesses.

The BOMA Project also teaches women how to keep track of daily budgets, be secure during unexpected shocks and save for future purchases. This all-encompassing system has been the foundation of the organization’s success since its beginnings in 2009.

Since then, 9,432 women have enrolled in the program. Of the women who have already completed their two-year training, 93 percent are no longer living in extreme poverty (according to the organization’s criteria) and 98 percent now have savings.

While these numbers are promising, The BOMA Project is aiming to expand its reach, helping 100,000 women and children by 2018 and 1 million by 2021.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr


There is no question that the technology revolution of the past 40 years has had an immense effect on human health and development, but many have wondered if there is a single, specific innovation that has proven to be the most impactful.

The answer ends up being that there are many necessary technologies and innovations crucial to human development: 50 to be exact.

The Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies at the Lawrence Berkeley National Research Laboratory (LIGTT) has recently published a report called, “50 Breakthroughs: Critical scientific and technological advances needed for sustainable global development.”

The Berkeley Lab, as it’s commonly known, was founded in 1931 at UC Berkeley, and is now owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy. A subdivision of the lab, the LIGTT’s mission is to “identify, develop, and deploy, the next generation of breakthrough technologies for sustainable global development.”

The report ob 50 technologies fighting poverty comes after two years of intense analysis and research. The project was funded in part by USAID’s Global Development Lab.

USAID’s Dave Ferguson, who serves as the Director of the Center for Development Innovation, said “We believe science, technology, and innovation can deliver transformational results, and the 50 Breakthroughs study is an extremely valuable contribution in this endeavor.”

The study is divided into nine different categories and aims to give aid organizations and agencies a map of where to invest their time, funds and resources so as to have the greatest impact.

The categories are global health, food security and agricultural development, human rights, digital inclusion, water, access to electricity, gender equality and resilience against climate change and environmental degradation.

The report finds that water is the most important and needed breakthrough. Director of the study, Shashi Buluswar, said, “Water will be the defining problem of the next 50 years. It’s probably the single most important thing that needs to be solved.”

Other breakthroughs include greater access to vaccines, improved and highly efficient fertilizer and increased water filtration capacity.

Buluswar states that the Berkeley Lab is capable of working to implement many of the breakthroughs but encourages organizations both domestically and around the globe to contribute to their further development. You can read the report here.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Berkeley Lab 1, Berkeley Lab 2, LIGTT
Photo: desalinate4kids

VEGA
The Volunteers For Economic Growth Alliance, or VEGA, is a nonprofit that brings its members together to execute economic growth projects overseas.

Founded in 2004, VEGA was originally an initiative of the United States Agency for International Development. The organization was meant to be a procurement partner.

Today, VEGA represents itself as a respected NGO alliance of 23 member organizations. Each member brings its expertise to the Alliance to allow VEGA programs to grow in development and scale.

Based in Washington, D.C., VEGA can effectively manage its programs stationed in developing nations.

With a mission to mobilize expertise and resources to promote sustainable economic opportunities, VEGA’s programs aim to scale the services of local organizations, create jobs, increase commerce and trade and improve management.

Volunteers from the U.S. offer their expertise to programs that are committed to serving women, youth and others who are ready to be entrepreneurs in order to lift themselves out of poverty.

Currently, VEGA manages 36 programs in 28 countries.

These programs include: Farmer-to-Farmer, Capacity Building of Cambodia’s Local Organizations, Competitive Agriculture Systems for High Value Crops and Kazakhstan Business Connections.

Though programs only run in 28 countries, members have worked in over 140 countries, bringing their values and skills to local partnerships.

The expertise that VEGA members bring to the team range in areas from agriculture and food security, to tourism development and financial services. Also included are environment and energy, enterprise development and trade and investment.

VEGA believes that economic growth that emphasizes innovation, local partnerships and integrated solutions is the best way to promote prosperity.

With the power of volunteers rallying behind this mission, the strength in collaboration has allowed this NGO to make an impact in economic growth for the developing communities it serves.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: VEGA Alliance, ACDI VOCA, Africa Agribusiness Magazine

Photo: USAID