Blackboard inc
Earlier last month, educational technology company Blackboard Inc. announced plans to award five grants to global learning programs as a part of the organization’s Charitable Giving Program.

Based out of Washington D.C., the company aims to reimagine global education through charitable donations. The donations are provided to different organizations and programs that are helping individuals across the globe gain access to educational opportunities.

Here are the organization’s 2015 Charitable Giving Program recipients:

  1. Lark’s Song. As a non-profit organization focused on giving individuals and organizations the tools to succeed through education, Lark’s Song will use the funds to support its Global Education Initiative in Zambia, Africa, with the goal of providing educational training and establish internet access within the area.
  2. The Black Star Project. The Black Star Project addresses the achievement gap in education for students in different racial groups. The organization will use the proceeds to fund academic enrichment programs including its Youth Tech 2.0 program which helps students learn to develop websites for businesses within their communities.
  3. New Community For Children (NCFC). NCFC aims to provide children with educational experiences that build their academic, social and creative skills through the advocacy of improved educational opportunities. The proceeds will help fund the organization’s STEM curriculum and other educational programs.
  4. Turning the Page. Turning the Page works with public schools and families to provide students with educational resources and access to a high-quality education. The Blackboard proceeds will be used to increase technology education and accessibility to children living in D.C. and Chicago.
  5. Digital Harbor Foundation. As an organization dedicated to fostering learning, creativity, and productivity through learning, The Digital Harbor Foundation will use the funds to increase tech education opportunities for children, organizations and educators across the U.S.

According to Blackboard, the Charitable Giving Program was established in 2014 as a way for the organization to improve the availability and effectiveness of global education by promoting and providing educational availability worldwide.

“The work that these organizations do every day is directly tied to creating better outcomes for learners around the world, and I couldn’t be more proud to support them,” Jay Bhatt, current CEO of Blackboard Inc. said to PR Newswire. “I look forward to working with them throughout the coming year to help accomplish their unique goals and missions.”

Lauren Lewis

Sources: PR Newswire, Blackboard Inc. 1, Blackboard Inc. 2, Blackboard Inc. 3, Blackboard Inc. 4, Lark’s Song, The Black Star Program, New Community For Children, Turning the Page, Digital Harbor Foundation
Photo: Blackboard Blog

Room to Read 10 Findings to Improve Global Education
Room to Read set out to change the lives of children around the world by focusing on literacy and gender equality. Fifteen years later, the non-profit has educated almost 10 million children.

Their other accomplishments include publishing more than 1,000 books in local languages, building more than 1,900 schools, establishing more than 17,000 libraries and providing more than 31,000 girls with education and life skills.

Room to Read facilitates education programs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia. Through monitoring and evaluating their programs, Room to Read has revealed 10 keys to their success:

  1. Children read faster and with greater comprehension when they benefit from systematic reading instruction that focuses on phonics.
  2. Children are more likely to read when their teachers have been trained in how to conduct reading activities, such as reading aloud and shared reading.
  3. Children prefer illustrated fiction books, such as folklore and fantasy.
  4. Libraries are well-run and effective when they are monitored and evaluated consistently.
  5. Access to libraries makes students want to read more at school and at home.
  6. Transparency leads to greater community involvement and participation.
  7. Advocacy and partnerships with local governments are crucial to improving instructional methods and professional development for educators.
  8. Parent and guardian engagement in their daughters’ education is essential.
  9. Life skills education is directly associated with lower dropout rates and higher advancement rates among girls.
  10. Identifying risk factors and implementing early warning systems can prevent girls from dropping out of school and provide them with needed support.

“Achieving our milestone of 10 million children impacted through Room to Read’s programs is a time to celebrate and further our mission,” said Erin Ganju, Room to Read’s CEO and co-founder. “By sharing our findings on what works in global education, we hope to deliver a quality education to every child in every corner of the globe.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: Roomtoread, PRNewswire, AnnualReport
Photo: Flickr

education_awardActress Jessica Biel and actor and singer/songwriter Justin Timberlake will be honored in Los Angeles in the fall by GLSEN, a non-profit focused on schooling. The couple will receive an education award for their commitment to children’s education.

The GLSEN Respect Awards began in 2004 and have been held annually in Los Angeles and New York to broadcast the charity work of educators, students, influential individuals and corporations who have made an exemplary difference.

Recently, GLSEN announced this year’s honorees to voice the organization’s excitement for the Respect Awards and to showcase the humanitarians receiving the awards. GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard said that GLSEN is thrilled with their diverse selection of philanthropists. Byard also said that Biel and Timberlake have been great supporters of the cause.

“Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake have been visible and committed allies,” she said.
Biel and Timberlake will receive the Inspiration Award that will highlight the couple’s continual and thorough pledge to improving the lives of children.

Biel and Timberlake have participated in work for water sanitation, women’s rights, human rights, poverty, disaster relief, refugees, slavery and human trafficking and health — all causes that contribute to a quality standard of education.

Biel has taken to Twitter to use her celebrity to raise awareness for Charity: Water, an organization that seeks to provide clean water for areas without.

“In Orissa, India #water & sanitation solutions can change lives,” Biel said.
She also asked that her followers visit the Charity: Water Twitter page and website for more information and to retweet her tweet.

Timberlake contributed a song to Songs for the Philippines, a collection of 39 popular tracks, to benefit those displaced after the supertyphoon in 2013.

All charity work aside, Biel and Timberlake are a celebrity couple who understand the importance of a safe environment for education. GLSEN does, too.

Since 1990, GLSEN has made it a point to research and create programs for primary education systems. The organization has successfully helped to implement student leadership plans and educator training, as well as federal advocacy.

According to UNICEF, creating a safe and successful learning environment is difficult in areas of war and poverty. In one UNICEF article titled “Finding a Safe Space for Learning in a Country Beset by violence,” displaced refugees and citizens in areas stricken with conflict may miss years of schooling because of their unfortunate living conditions.

The article also describes the struggles of a teenage girl named Nicolette Divine who moved out of her area so that she could attend school in a safe setting.

“My mother said that a school at the monastery was starting, so that was why I came [to Bangui], so that I can study,” Divine said.

GLSEN has employed many tactics and ideas to ensure the safety of children in school. With the power of voice and opinionated thinking, GLSEN has successfully executed programs that created special days dedicated to social and educational movement towards safe and positive schooling systems.

In previous years, GLSEN Respect Awards have honored actress Julia Roberts, NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt, athlete Jason Collins, as well as corporations like MTV and Johnson & Johnson.

The lineup for the GLSEN Awards features actor Dave Karger, actress Jessica Capshaw, athlete Mike Irvin, country music artist Terri Clark and more. The event will take place at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills on Oct. 23.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Billboard,, Look to the Stars 1, Look to the Stars 2, UNICEF
Photo: Us Weekly

Few U.S. nonprofits successfully address the wide-ranging needs of domestic and international individuals living in poverty through both political advocacy and service delivery.

The Heartland Alliance is one such nonprofit.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the Heartland Alliance is among the top anti-poverty organizations in the Midwest. The Alliance focuses its efforts on four main areas: housing, health care, jobs and justice.

The Alliance’s modern mission and structure has evolved from two Chicago-based organizations of the past: the Travelers Aid organization, a group that assisted vulnerable populations with housing, employment and community resettlement in the 1880’s, and the League for the Protection of Immigrants, which helped assimilate immigrant to U.S. life beginning in the early 1900s.

Starting in the 1960s, the two organizations began to merge and restructure. Today, the formally named “Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights” operates through four main companies: the Heartland Housing, Inc.; Heartland Health Outreach, Inc.; Heartland Human Care Services, Inc; Heartland Alliance International; and one affiliate, Heartland Health Centers.

Heartland Alliance International is the primary channel through which global poverty and injustice needs are addressed. The organization works to “improve legal protections abroad” by promoting the rights of refugees and immigrants, protecting victims of gender-based violence, and upholding the legal rights of sexual minorities, including HIV/AIDS victims and members of the LGBT community.

Heartland Housing, Inc. advocates for and oversees “high-quality housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness, poverty or chronic illness.”

Specifically, the group oversees development and property management of supportive housing for impoverished Chicagoans, provides budget, education and mental health counseling services and advocates for legislative and administrative housing issues at the state and local government level.

Heartland Health Outreach, Inc. similarly provides primary health care treatment, including routine physicals, diagnostic testing, dental care and mental health and substance abuse treatment. Heartland Health Outreach, Inc. also develops and advocates health policy solutions to state and local governments, as well as overseeing other splinter organizations that attend to health care needs for impoverished persons.

The Heartland Human Care Services, Inc .takes on a variety of roles. It assists in finding solutions to areas ranging from domestic and sexual violence, addiction and immigration, and provides financial education and vocational and skills training to Chicagoans in need.

Each year, the Heartland Alliance benefits over one million people in need domestically and internationally.

Katrina Beedy

Sources: Heartland Alliance, BBB
Photo: Heartland Housing

Asirvad Microfinance Initiative India
In short, Asirvad Microfinance is an organization that aims to provide services to poor women in India. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, it offers an income generation program, through “micro enterprise, housing and festival loans.” According to CNN Money, Microfinance groups are nonprofit, and help “fill the gap” when entrepreneurs can’t get loans. They lend money, but usually smaller amounts under $35,000, to companies with just a few employees. CNN Money said their guidelines for lending are “much more flexible than traditional banks.”

Asirvad lends between 50,000 and 100,000 Indian rupees to people doing business or improving current business. This amounts to about US$812 to US$1,628. These loans do have stipulations. For instance, a rural household income cannot exceed 60,000 rupees a year, and urban or “semi-urban” households cannot exceed 120,000 rupees a year. The borrower also cannot be more than 50,000 rupees in debt already.

The company was founded in 2007, and is based in Chennai, India, though it has branches in eight other cities in India. Another of Asirvad’s goals is to “empower at least one million families by 2013 by providing financial assistance.” Asirvad is managed by a team of seven people.

They define their values by way of an acronym:

                A for acceptance,

                S for support,

                I for integrity,

                R for resilience,

                V for viable,

                A for adaptable,

                D for dependable.

Asirvad is trying to lend a minimum of one billion rupees to the women of urban and rural India by 2015. They intend to “organize groups of committed poor women” and hope to provide financial services “in a sustainable manner” with an eye trained on eradicating poverty “through viable income generation activities.”

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Asirvad Microfinance: Vision, Asirvad Microfinance, CNN, Business Week

Sometimes all it takes motivate someone to make a difference is a magazine article. For Brad Gautney, founder of the nonprofit Global Health Innovations, a National Geographic article on poverty in Haiti he read during his senior year of college changed his life aspirations and lead him to dedicate many years following to providing health services to Haiti as well as Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, and Liberia.

It all started when Gautney interned at a pediatric HIV ward in Haiti. He found the work so rewarding, and the need so great, that he spent the next 10 years returning to Haiti to donate his services. He even brought his family to live there for four years to run a clinic, school and nutrition program. Eventually Gautney’s work expanded to other African countries in need, making Global Health Innovations what it is today.

Now, the organization has 6 board of directors and is making more of an impact than ever. Global Health Innovations’ biggest feat so far is what it dubs the “HITSystem” which gives aid to pregnant HIV positive mothers to ensure that they can do everything in their power to prevent passing on the disease to their child, and providing treatment if a child is infected. The system is designed to combat poor treatment systems like in Kenya, where women are all too often discouraged from bringing their children back to the hospital for testing and treatment due to poor communication.

The organization also works to distribute mosquito nets to prevent malaria, one of the leading causes of death in all of the countries the organization works in. They have handed out more than 7,000 nets in Malawi as part of their “Under the Net” campaign. According to a video posted on the organizations website, providing nets to the entire population would reduce the spread of malaria by 90%.

In addition, they have provided disaster relief in Port-au-Prince Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake. Gautney went back to the clinic where he originally began working, and set his team up to provide medical services within 36 hours of the disaster.

Gautney’s faith plays a big part in his work. He says on the organization’s website that he has seen “lives transformed by the healing power of God’s love, and in the process, [his] life was transformed by God’s love as well.”

– Emma McKay

Sources: Abilene Christian University
Photo: CNN

HelpAge USA Fights for Elderly RightsThough the eldest members of society are believed to be the wisest, they have also been revealed as the poorest and most neglected age group in the world. HelpAge USA formed in response to this travesty as a way to help the elderly claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty.

Though many aid organizations set their sights on helping young, vulnerable children, HelpAge USA recognizes that the elderly are often just as vulnerable as the youngest members of society. HelpAge USA, therefore, works with partnering organizations to spread awareness about elderly people’s roles and value in communities.

HelpAge USA is an affiliate of the broader HelpAge international movement that builds awareness of global aging issues around the world. As a branch of this successful parent group, HelpAge USA spreads awareness of elderly rights among U.S. audiences while simultaneously urging them to advocate for the empowerment of the elderly in the developing world.

At the infrastructural level, HelpAge USA has outlined specific goals for improving communities’’ ability to help its older members, such as enabling older men and women to have secure incomes, quality health care, and support in emergency situations.

In addition to building up infrastructure, HelpAge USA works directly with the elderly to build a global and local movements that teach older men and women how to stand up for themselves in the face of discrimination. This is an important tool for the young and old alike, especially in impoverished regions with lower access to widespread employment, resources, and education.

The most innovative part of HelpAge USA is that it involves older men and women in “program design, implementation, and review.” That is, HelpAge USA relies on the input of the elderly themselves to drive the movement’s goals and ambitions. What better way to empower and properly gauge the needs of a deprived group of citizens than to place them at the heart of the movement itself?

For all they have done for their neighbors and communities, HelpAge USA believes that society owes the elderly their share of healthcare, social services, and economic and physical security in return.

In the fight against global poverty and affronts to human rights standards, one cannot forget to fight for the rights of the older men and women that have contributed so much to their communities’ social, economic and cultural development during their lives.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: HelpAge USA, Idealist
Photo: Flickr

The Better World Fund was founded in 1998 by media mogul, philanthropist, and humanitarian Ted Turner. The man who brought us the cable station CNN started the Fund as an umbrella organization to facilitate public-private partnerships to address a range of global concerns, including health crises and environmental problems.  The fund also serves as an advocacy and outreach organization to support the work of the United Nations, and to lobby for the US Government to provide political, financial and sometimes military support for UN humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts.

The major initiative of the Better World Fund is the Better World Campaign, whose publicity and advocacy work currently focuses on what the organization calls its “key issues.”  The top three of those issues are climate change, global health, and international security.

In each of these areas, the Better World Fund and the Better World Campaign work to build support for UN initiatives.  On climate change, they advocate for adoption of the Copenhagen Accord, which establishes a registry to keep track of the ways that different nations are responding to climate change. The Accord also commits developed countries to providing up to $100 billion per year by 2020 to reduce emissions and take other measures to address climate change.

In the area of global health, the Better World Fund supports UN education and treatment efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, and it supports vaccination efforts to eradicate polio.  In the area of international security, the Fund advocates for UN efforts to end nuclear proliferation, to combat international terrorism, and to enforce maritime laws governing the activities of governments and businesses, and the management of marine natural resources.

The Fund’s Board of Directors includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, civil rights leader Andrew Young, and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.

– Délice Williams

Sources: Better World Campaign, Charity Navigator
Photo: Glogster

Founded in New York in 1998, the Volunteers Association for Bangladesh is a small NGO on a big mission: to change public education for the poor in Bangladesh. The organization, whose members are mostly expatriate Bangladeshis living in the U.S. and Canada, has devoted itself to providing the funds, technical resources, and training necessary to improve Bangladeshi public schools, particularly those in rural areas where most of the country’s poor people live.

Their task could be seen as a daunting one. Statistics from 2009 put the literacy rate among Bangladeshi males at 54%, and among females at only 32%. According to more recent studies, the literacy rate for people in Bangladesh over age 15 is just under 60%. Dropout rates for high school students are estimated at 42%. Figures like these speak to the great educational need that the Volunteers Association for Bangladesh seeks to address.

The VAB has taken a comprehensive approach to meeting these educational needs and tackling the problem of inadequate schooling. Programs in 60 schools across the country are designed to help students from preschool through university. They provide free preschool with a nutritious meal, tutoring for 6th-grade students to help them pass entrance exams for high schools, and scholarships to help high school students pay for tuition and other necessary materials.

The group has also donated supplies like computers and science equipment in order to help 15 public schools better serve their students. In 2005, VAB started a college scholarship program, which has since helped 201 students pay for tuition and textbooks. In addition, they train local university students to work as tutors in the public schools.

All of these efforts are making headway in helping to open up doors to real opportunity for the poor in Bangladesh. The VAB is working to keep expanding its programs, and most recently they have partnered with Microsoft Southeast Asia to start a computer literacy and training program. To learn more about VAB and all of its efforts, visit

Délice Williams

Sources: Volunteer Association for Bangladesh, The Financial Express
Photo: Voice of America

World Hunger Day is May 28th, and to raise awareness, Africare, a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of people in Africa, is advocating the #Fast4Hunger One Day Challenge. It encourages people to fast for a few hours or a whole day to get a better sense of how hungry and starving people in Africa live every day.

The challenge takes place through social media, where participants can use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share their experiences while fasting with the hashtags #Fast4Hunger or #Fast4HungerChallenge. Those who want to take the #Fast4Hunger pledge can visit Africare’s website and download the #Fast4Hunger Challenge Toolkit to get everything they need to raise awareness about world hunger on World Hunger Day. Africare will also be hosting a Twitter chat between donors, partners, and the general public on May 28th from noon to 3pm to further advocate and raise awareness about people who need help, especially those in developing countries in Africa.

Kendra Davenport, Africare’s Chief Development and Communications Officer, explains that the hunger experienced by hundreds of millions around the world is a problem that most of the global population remains largely disconnected from. “#Fast4Hunger is an opportunity for people to begin understanding the severity of global hunger, viscerally and intellectually, and to learn how they can become part of its solution,” said Davenport.

Katie Brockman
Source: Wall Street Journal
Photo: Africare