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the rule of lawIn many countries around the world, the judicial process comes with a hefty price tag. As a result, impoverished communities often lack access to the legal services and assistance necessary to achieve justice. To ensure these communities can access the judicial process, legal organizations are expanding their manpower internationally to provide legal tools and programs to people in need. Below are five legal organizations addressing global poverty by promoting the rule of law.

  1. Lawyers without Borders (LWOB) – This organization offers pro bono legal services to communities in need around the world. These services often include legal advice and assistance to promote the rule of law. Additionally, the organization helps train future members of the trial system through its “Support Through Trial Advocacy Training” (STTAT). This includes judges, prosecutors, magistrates and more. LWOB takes participants step-by-step through the trial process to better understand legal proceedings. To ensure as many communities benefit from STTAT training as possible, LWOB has translated course materials into a plethora of languages including “Swahili, Amharic, Creole, Nepali, French and Spanish.”
  2. Lawyers Against Poverty – This organization works to promote social justice in different countries. Composed of volunteer lawyers from around the world, Lawyers Against Poverty provides legal assistance and donations to communities in need. For example, in 2020 the organization donated 30,000 pounds to help women living in Jordan file legal proceedings for domestic violence during the pandemic. Additionally, the organization has donated 10,000 pounds to provide refugees in Greece with legal assistance filing asylum cases. To date, the organization has donated time and money to Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Greece to broaden important access to judicial systems.
  3. TrustLaw (The Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Created in 2011, this program came into being as part of the Thomson Reuter Foundation’s aim to provide pro bono legal services to worldwide communities. By connecting non-governmental organizations with law firms, TrustLaw provides a plethora of communities with legal assistance and training courses. In fact, TrustLaw has supplied legal assistance worth about $172 million since its creation. Additionally, the program works on three “areas of impact” to promote the rule of law. First, TrustLaw encourages members to devise solutions to climate change. Next, TrustLaw works to end modern slavery by conducting legal research on the issue. Finally, TrustLaw works to ensure women’s rights are upheld and respected on the international stage.
  4. International Development Law Organization (IDLO)In 1988, the International Development Law Organization was uniquely formed to serve as a global intergovernmental organization that promoted the rule of law. It has impacted more than 90 different countries worldwide. Additionally, IDLO works in regions like Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. In addition to promoting the rule of law, the organization also focuses on women’s rights, economic sustainability, peace and democracy, public health, climate change and access to justice. The organization focuses on U.N. goals as well in its efforts toward sustainability.
  5. Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) – A nonprofit, the Global Legal Action Network dedicates itself to injustice and holding countries that violate human rights accountable. To gain international influence, the nonprofit partners with local grassroots organizations and civil society leaders in countries around the world. In addition to addressing human rights violators, the organization also deals with legal issues. These include issues tied to war, immigration and economic justice. More recently, GLAN has partnered with the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) to expose how the Chinese government mistreats Uyghurs in concentration camps.

The five legal organizations mentioned above address global poverty by offering donations, legal services and assistance to communities in need. This way, poor communities are not disadvantaged in terms of accessing different judicial systems around the world. Overall, these legal organizations ensure justice is available to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, sex, ethnicity or nationality.

Chloe Young
Photo: Unsplash

Homeless Youth in CanadaThe plight of homeless youth in Canada is a recent issue in the public eye. The increased representation and awareness have garnered celebrity support, such as from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. The married couple has committed to donating $500,000 in total to the cause. Covenant House Vancouver and Toronto, foundations dedicated to opening their door to the homeless youth in Canada, are the lucky recipients.

The Issue

The first majority study done on homeless youth in Canada, “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey,” was conducted just four years ago in 2016. A recent study found that the youth make up around 20% of the entire homeless population in Canada.

These children often experience housing instability and child abuse prior to their homelessness experience. Once on the streets, children under 16 — around 40% of the homeless youth in Canada — struggle through increased adversity. Further, various forms of oppression often couple homelessness. A staggering number of these children identify as POC, LGBTQ+, and of many other marginalized groups.

However, organizations and philanthropists alike have stepped up to address this dire situation.

Covenant House

Covenant House is an international organization that provides support and aid for homeless youth in Canada. The organization’s mission statement is: “Covenant House launched a federation-wide initiative to design and implement a cutting-edge, data-informed strategy to help even more of our kids achieve meaningful, long-term outcomes.”

It especially focuses on offering services to members of the LGBTQ+ community, POC, and abuse victims. The organization provides more than just direct support for these young individuals. Covenant House commits to restructuring data processing regarding homeless youth, reviewing methods of information analysis and generation, and finding the best performance measurement strategies. The organization works toward short-term as well as long-term change.

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s Involvement

The serious issue of youth homelessness in Canada deeply struck Ryan Reynolds, a Canadian himself. In response, Reynolds and Blake Lively decided to donate $500,000 to the cause. The couple even matches donations up to $375,000 before the end of 2020 to encourage others to donate.

The choice of where the funds should go was a personal one. Reynolds has a long-time relationship with the Covenant House. The dedication they put into their work and the extensive impact they wield in the community inspired his “investment.”

In the interview done by Covenant House, he described the donation as an investment rather than a monetary donation into homeless youth in Canada. Reynolds stated, “The young people who pass through the doors of Covenant House more often than not have a story marked by extraordinary trauma. They are so much more than that trauma. They have so much to offer the world. Matching this gift is saying you believe in them. You believe in the power of compassion to transform the trajectory of a human being.”

The CEO of Covenant House Vancouver, Krista Thompson, expressed her gratitude for the donation and continued relationship with the couple. Thompson remarked, “Ryan and Blake truly understand that young people who are facing homelessness deserve unconditional love and absolute respect.” The money will be used to assist with youth experiencing homelessness and fund much of the research that is occurring to combat the issue of homelessness as a whole.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous communities in Canada

The Canadian Constitution recognizes three Indigenous communities — First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. Here are five of the many Indigenous-led organizations in Canada, collectively working to create success and prosperity for Indigenous communities.

5 Canadian Organizations for Indigenous Prosperity

  1. First Nations Information Governance CentreThe First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) is working to achieve data sovereignty. With support from regional partners and a special mandate from the Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs in Assembly (Resolution #48, December 2009), the FNIGC collects and uses data to “build culturally relevant portraits of the lives of First Nations people and the communities they live in.” Their motto, “our data, our stories, our future” reflects their vision of Indigenous stories being told by Indigenous people, for Indigenous people.
  2. IndspireIndspire is using the gift of learning to help provide academic success and long-term prosperity with support through financial aid, scholarships/bursaries, awards, mentoring and physical resources.
  3. Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada – Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada (AFOA) is creating a community of Indigenous professionals by supporting successful self-determination through “improving the management skills of those responsible for the stewardship of Indigenous resources.” This includes aid in management, finance and governance.
  4. Reconciliation CanadaReconciliation Canada facilitates the engagement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with meaningful conversations on reconciliation and the lived experiences of Indigenous people. They aim to inspire positive change and understanding. At present, the programs and initiatives offered by the charity are Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy, Reconciliation Dialogue Workshops, interactive community outreach activities and Reconciliation Canada.
  5. First Nations Child and Family Caring SocietyThe Caring Society supports First Nations children, youth and families. The organization has been able to provide 250,000 services and products to Indigenous children by putting Indigenous children and families first.

These five organizations are just some of many who are working to support success and prosperity for Indigenous communities in Canada. Their work helps blaze a path for a brighter future for Indigenous people and the country alike.

– Jasmeen Bassi
Photo: Flickr

Operation Christmas ChildFor most of the world, Christmas comes once a year. A day full of red bows and snow glistening in the December sun. Not so for Samaritan’s Purse, a nonprofit headquartered in North Carolina. For them, Christmas is not merely a holiday, but a lifestyle. Operation Christmas Child began as a mom and pop project in the United Kingdom. It quickly grew into a worldwide phenomenon under the umbrella of Samaritan’s Purse. Over 150 countries annually take part in the program. Every year volunteers fill shoeboxes with toys, basic care items and a message of hope for the eager hands of boys and girls living in underdeveloped countries.

Volunteers from around the world spend the months leading up to Christmas filling boxes to the brim. Schools, churches, community organizations and individuals all work to bring a glimmer of light to poverty-stricken countries. Last year, Samaritan’s Purse was able to collect 10.5 million shoeboxes to give to the world’s poor.

Operation Christmas Child in Madagascar

One country in particular that reaps from Operation Christmas Child’s generosity is Madagascar. Madagascar is an African island nearly 800 miles from the shoreline of Mozambique. It is home to exotic species, the deciduous baobab trees and unfortunately, overwhelming statistical poverty. According to The World Bank, 70.7% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2012. Three factors that play a role in the rise of poverty in Madagascar are political crises, climate shocks and a sharp increase in global food prices.

With all the compounding factors that exacerbate poverty, Madagascar is a perfect destination for Operation Christmas Child to focus its energy.

Students in Madagascar

It was the summer of 2017. Mary Patton Murphy, a rising high school junior, packed her bags for her first trip across the world. Murphy is one of around thirty students that was able to be a part of the competitive week-long student vision trip with Samaritan’s Purse in 2017.

For years, Murphy had packed shoeboxes in the months leading to Christmas and dropped them off during National Collection Week. One year, a child that received one of her boxes sent Murphy a letter thanking her. This personal experience made her fall deeply in love with the organization. Murphy’s trip to Madagascar allowed her to see the ins and outs of the organization.

“It is such a well-run process,” says Murphy, “[the organization] truly maximize[s] their resources.” Murphy witnessed this first-hand during her time spent in Madagascar. Volunteers visited two distribution centers a day where each shoebox is diligently cared for and searched to ensure the safety of the delivery.

Murphy illustrated the process, noting that it “is a long one.” She expounded adding that “the shoeboxes travel to a local collection center. Then they are consolidated into carton boxes and sent to a processing center to make sure there isn’t anything harmful in any of the shoeboxes like toothpaste because the kids will try to eat it. They might add to a box if it is low on supplies or toys. Then the shoeboxes are shipped across the world. Some of these kids have never received a present before.”

Wrapping Up

Volunteers of all ages are the driving forcing behind this operation from beginning to end. They all advocate to make a difference in the lives of impoverished children across the globe. For individuals who would like to advocate on behalf of these children, they should visit this website.

The leaves fade from various shades of red and yellow and the morning air turns crisp and cool. The collection of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child will soon be underway. Make an early start to the season of giving with a mere shoebox, a few toys and a heart for the world’s poor.

Chatham Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

NGOsNon-governmental organizations (NGOs) are nonprofit associations founded by citizens, which function independently of the government. NGOs, also known as civil societies, are organized on “community, national, or international levels” to help developing nations in their humanitarian, health care, educational, social, environmental and social issues. These citizen-run groups perform various services and humanitarian functions by advocating citizen concerns to governments, overlooking policies and encouraging political participation by providing information to the public.

History of Non-Governmental Organizations

Non-governmental organizations started emerging during the 18th century. The Anti-Slavery Society, formed in 1839, is the first international NGO. This organization had a profound impact on society, and it stimulated the founding of many other NGOs since opening its doors. Of note, many civil societies began to form as a result of wars. For example, the Red Cross formed after the Franco-Italian war in the 1860s, Save the Children began after World War I and Oxfam and CARE started after World War II. The term non-governmental organization emerged after the Second World War when the United Nations wanted to differentiate between “intergovernmental specialized agencies and private organizations.”

NGOs engage in many different forms throughout communities in the sense that they are a “complex mishmash of alliances and rivalries.” Some have a charitable status, while others focus on business or environment-related issues. Other non-governmental organizations have religious, political, or other interests concerning a particular issue.

The World Bank identifies two broad types of non-governmental organizations: operational and advocacy.

Operational NGOs

An operational non-governmental organization is a group of citizens that focus on designing and implementing development projects and advocacy. NGOs promote and defend particular causes, and operational NGOs fall into two categories: relief and development-oriented organizations. They are classified on whether or not they “stress service delivery or participation.”

An example of an operational NGO is the International Medicine Corps (IMC) in Afghanistan. The IMC installed a vaccination campaign against measles. They trained about 170 Afghani’s how to vaccinate children between the ages of 6 and 12, and conducted a two-week-long “vaccination campaign.” These efforts assisted 95 percent of children in the capital of Kabul.

Advocacy NGOs

Advocacy non-governmental organizations use lobbying, press work and activist events. This is in order to raise awareness, acceptance and knowledge on the specific cause they are promoting or defending. An example of an advocacy NGO is America’s Development Foundation (ADF). This NGO provides advocacy training and technical assistance in efforts to “increase citizen participation in democratic processes.”

Non-Governmental Organization Funding

Since non-governmental organizations are nonprofit organizations, they rely on membership dues, private donations, the sales of goods and services and grants. These funds cover funding projects, operations, salaries and other overhead costs. NGOs have very large budgets that reach millions, even billions, of dollars because of heavy dependence on government funding.

Another chunk of NGO funding belongs to the individual, private donors. A few of these donors are affluent individuals, such as Ted Turner who donated $1 billion to the United Nations. Most nonprofits, however, depend on multiple small donations from people to raise money.

Overall, non-governmental organizations function to build support for a certain cause whether it is economic, political or social. In addition, NGOs tend to bring people together, especially advocacy NGOs.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Pixabay

Migrant Workers in Qatar

When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

The Pele Foundation and the Empowerment of the Disenfranchised Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known widely by the moniker Pelé, is arguably the most popular Brazilian football player and had led his team to trebled triumph in the World Cup. But Pelé doesn’t have a one-track mind: he has one leg in the sports pool and the other leg in the social activism pool.

Previously, Pelé worked with FIFA as an ambassador against racism as well as with UNICEF to advocate children’s rights. He has moved on to inaugurating his own organization called The Pelé Foundation to empower impoverished, disenfranchised children around the world.

The Pelé Foundation

When first announcing the launch of his foundation Pelé said, “In 2018, I am launching The Pelé Foundation, a new charitable endeavor that will benefit organizations around the world and their dedicated efforts to empower children, specifically around poverty and education.”

Having grown up poor, Pelé developed an affinity for charity work. In the past, he had supported a multitude of different organizations including 46664, ABC Trust, FC Harlem, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Prince’s Rainforests Project and The Littlest Lamb.

In the future, Pelé’s organization plans to expand and cover issues such as gender equality and will eventually birth offshoot programs, not unlike other organizations of its nature.

Partner Organizations

Pelé isn’t alone in this endeavor. During the initial announcement, Pelé blazoned that he would be partnering with both charity:water and Pencils of Promise to fulfill his goals.

Founded in October 2008, Pencils of Promise (PoP) is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the state of education for children in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ghana and Laos. Besides improving the quality of education, PoP also constructs schools and educational facilities, trains faculty, champions scholarships and supports sanitary programs. Backed by big names such as Justin Bieber and Scooter Braun, PoP is a big name itself in the humanitarian space.

Established in 2006 and having funded 24,537 different projects, charity:water is spearheaded by Scott Harrison. charity: water gives all donations to projects working to end the current water crises. Harrison said, “We’re excited to partner with The Pelé Foundation to bring clean water to thousands of people in the years to come. Having access to clean water not only saves hours of wasted time, but it also provides safety, health and hygiene. It directly impacts the future of children, and we believe it’s the first step out of poverty for rural communities all over the world.”

– Jordan De La Fuente
Photo: Flickr

 

global healthSince 1983, J.P. Morgan has hosted an annual healthcare conference to unite industry leaders, fast-companies, innovative technology creators and people willing to invest in these technologies. Though the company is known for being a global leader in financial services, J.P. Morgan has made global health a priority by donating nearly $200 million a year to nonprofits globally, leading volunteer services and using its access to capital to help local communities suffering from poverty.

J.P. Morgan has made the following its core values:

  1. Corporate responsibility
  2. Health initiatives
  3. Strengthening communities
  4. Environmental sustainability

In January 2018, Bill Gates made an appearance at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference to discuss his thoughts. At the conference, Gates’ speech discussed recent progress in global health and what else still needs to be done. Initially, he pointed out how global health has been the focus of his foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for the last eight years. He explained how child mortality has decreased by 50 percent and credited new vaccines to reducing deaths due to rotavirus, pneumonia and malaria.

Afterwards, he expressed the need for more innovation, explaining how funding research is the most elementary step in improving global health. He mentioned the current gap between the tools that are currently available to eliminate stubborn diseases and poverty and the tools that are needed, explaining that the only solution is innovation. He emphasized how “the tools and discoveries companies are working on can also lead to breakthrough solutions that save millions of lives in the world’s poorest countries.”

He concluded his speech by emphasizing the need for more research into preterm births, as they account for half of newborn deaths. It has also become clear that a child’s nutrition and the microbiome in their stomach, or rather the interactions between the two, are the largest factor in determining the child’s survival rate. The best solution to this is ensuring that children have the proper ratio of microbes in their stomach, a problem Gates and his partners have started to tackle.

Gates and his foundation have always made global health a priority. They work with partners globally to improve the following five program areas:

  1. Global health, which focuses on developing new tools to reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, malaria and HIV.
  2. Global development, which aims to finance the delivery of high-impact solutions, providing people with healthy, productive lives.
  3. Global policy and advocacy, which promotes public policies and builds alliances with the government, the public and the private sectors.
  4. Global growth and opportunity, which works to break down economic barriers in an effort to lift people out of poverty.
  5. U.S. programs, which focuses on ensuring all students graduate from high school and have the opportunity to go to college.

Thanks to Bill Gates, his foundation and the J.P. Morgan healthcare conference, investors and advancements will continue to increase, alleviating the burden of global poverty and improving global health.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Flickr

Macedonian Youth
Macedonia, an ancient gem of the Balkans, boasts sweeping emerald mountains and fresco-furnished monasteries. Home to an eclectic population with Eastern and Western roots, the country is also a breeding ground for ethnic and political turmoil, which slowly gave way to widespread poverty.

The country’s unemployment rate, though declining, is still above 20 percent; the poverty rate in households with children exceeded 60 percent in 2007. Fortunately, a number of international organizations are investing in the Macedonian youth to help the country recover from a prolonged period of stagnant economic growth and political turmoil.

Opportunity International is a nonprofit that lends financial support to entrepreneurs in Macedonia and 21 other developing countries. Providing access to loans, savings, insurance and business training, the organization enables and encourages Macedonian youth to work their way out of poverty, educate their children and create jobs for their neighbors.

Aside from monetary assistance, the organization has also invested $20 million in the past decade on electronic technologies. This helps lower transaction costs and expand banking services to marginalized households. ATMs, point-of-sale devices and satellite branches are becoming more prevalent in community-gathering centers and many of Opportunity’s 9.6 million clients now use mobile phones to verify identification, repay loans and make purchases remotely.

Founded by expatriates in 2007, Macedonia2025 is a “think-and-do” tank that focuses both on instilling education programs to mold future leaders and connecting the Macedonian diaspora to their roots. The Summer Diaspora Business Trip brings young Macedonians from across the globe to Skopje, the capital of their homeland, to visit historic sites, interns at local or foreign firms and network with influential entrepreneurs and CEOs.

On the domestic front, Macedonia2025 launched the Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF) to support smaller businesses. Just three years after its inception, the private equity fund has already amassed more than €3 million. With Homestrings and USAID slated to join the partnership, the future total investment is projected to be €15 million.

Claire Wang

Photo: Flickr