Borgen Project Initiatives
In the fight against extreme poverty, people often think about ways to donate and how to make their concerns known to politicians. As a global issue, poverty is gaining support from all over the world in various fashions, revealing how celebrities are a huge asset to the discussion of global poverty.  Below are a few celebrities who are working in unique ways to support the fight against poverty and The Borgen Project initiatives they would most likely support.

Oprah: Keeping Girls in the Classroom

People know Oprah Winfrey for the charitable donations she has given to a variety of causes for decades. Winfrey donated $1 million to the N Street Village project. This project provides resources to women who are either homeless or have low-income to help stabilize them and promote their quality of living, such as assisting with employment, health care and various other recovery initiatives. Winfrey has also donated to causes that target young girls, such as providing about $140 million to pay for girls attending the Oprah Winfrey Leader Academy since its founding in 2007. Given the initiatives Winfrey has supported in the past, one can assume that Winfrey would support The Borgen Project’s initiative The Keeping Girls in School Act, as it works to expand the educational opportunities for young girls.

Elton John: Fighting the Spread of Disease

People know Elton John mostly for his musical abilities; however, for nearly half of his musical career, John has advocated for awareness of HIV/AIDS and continues to indirectly support legislation changes for poverty. In 1992, Elton John was motivated by the loss of friends like Freddie Mercury to HIV/AIDS and he created the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The Foundation has raised over $125 million, fought discrimination of those diagnosed and has worked in over 50 countries. If one considers John’s dedication to preventing and treating severe diseases, one can assume that he would support The Borgen Project’s initiative the End Neglected Tropical Disease Act, as it serves to support U.S. foreign policy that advocates for conditions that people often overlook but occur at rates worth congressional attention.

IU: Reaching Out to Children

IU is a South Korean singer known for her charitable donations to numerous causes over the years, both social and environmental. Following the breakout of a wildfire in South Korea, the star donated nearly $100,000 to ChildFund Korea. ChildFund Korea provides relief in Korea and across the world in areas including education, child protection and health. When IU made her donation, she did not specify it to an isolated situation, but rather to the whole organization and allowed it to decide how to use it. A Borgen Project initiative that reflects IU’s passions might be the Reaching Every Mother and Child Act as this policy addresses the health risk related to the health care of expectant mothers and their infant children.

Trevor Noah: Closing the Education Gap

Trevor Noah is a comedian and TV host. Noah founded the Trevor Noah Foundation in early 2018 in his home country, South Africa. Noah’s Foundation focuses on education and emphasizes closing the gap between those who have access to education and those who do not. It especially highlights how, as different communities face economic disparities, the progression of education sometimes outpaces those who have varying amounts of financial flexibility. Noah financed the Foundation in its first year, but just before 2019 began, he announced that he would match the donations of others. Noah’s form of philanthropy is unique because his goals come from his personal experiences. For this reason, Noah is likely to support The Borgen Project initiatives that strive to close the digital gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not, especially in developing countries.

Each of these celebrities has a different reason for supporting various initiatives to fight global poverty and, depending on how they have chosen to fight against poverty, they reflect an initiative, act or bill that The Borgen Project is pushing U.S. foreign policy to support. Whether timing, location or experience influences these celebrities, they each made a personal decision to make a difference that can inspire everyone.

Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

Women have overcome many obstacles since the beginning of time. Gaining equal rights, balancing career with children and battling insecurities with self-image and self-worth are just a few of the battles that women continue to fight. It is no secret that women are strong and capable of changing not only the path of the world, but their own paths. The stories of these three powerful women that have overcome poverty could belong to any woman.

Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey grew up in the small town of Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her family was extremely poor and Winfrey sometimes had to wear potato sacks because of lack of clothing.

After living in Mississippi with her grandmother, Winfrey was sent to live with her mother in an even more extreme state of poverty. During her time there, she was subjected to child abuse and rape. She also became pregnant. However, her baby boy tragically died due to complications after she gave birth.

Winfrey eventually went to live with her father, where her life improved. She attended college and pursued journalism. Her television career soon took off with a job as an anchor; after this, she hosted her own TV show. Through all of Winfrey’s trials in life, somehow she was able to persevere and overcome poverty. Winfrey is quoted saying, “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change their future merely by changing their attitude.”

J.K. Rowling

The billionaire author of the iconic “Harry Potter” series struggled with finances at one time. Living in a two-bedroom house with her daughter, the newly-divorced Rowling struggled to survive on state assistance.

“…I was jobless, a lone parent and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.”

However, through this time of great struggle, Rowling pushed through and decided she would make her dreams a reality on her own terms. She reflects on this time during a documentary with ITV. “I feel I really became myself here, in that everything was stripped away, I’d made such a mess of things. But that was freeing, so I just thought, well, I want to write, and I wrote the book. And what is the worst thing that can happen? It gets turned down by every publisher in Britain, big deal.”

The determination and fight to never give up led Rowling out of poverty. At a commencement address to Harvard graduates Rowling states, “Poverty entails fear, stress and sometimes depression. It means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty on your own effort that is on which something to pride yourself…”

Sonia Sotomayor

The first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, grew up in the housing projects of South Bronx. She was repeatedly witness to drug deals and gang crimes. Having an emotionally detached mother, Sotomayor learned to entertain herself with books. Despite with her love of stories and knowledge however, she still found herself slightly behind educational standards.

Again, this set back did not stop her determination. She studied and learned around the clock in order to be on top. Needless to say, Sotomayor continued to fight her way out of poverty. She fought hard to overcome obstacles thrown her way due to her poor upbringing.

Sotomayor managed to excel in academics and eventually went on to attend Princeton University and Yale Law. She is now a federal judge.

Hopefully these women will inspire people that are fighting their own way out of poverty today.  These stories reveal hope and highlight the importance of determination, while revealing the crucial community obligation to ensure that all have the opportunity to overcome poverty.

Amy Robinson

Sources: The Telegraph, Harvard Magazine, Biography Online, Indian Country Today, NPR
Photo: The Telegraph

Money is not the only way to contribute to charities, although it is arguably the most effective – unless you are a celebrity. Apparently just being associated with a charity is enough to boost donations by $100,000 per year. Research from the Rutgers’s Business School found charities with celebrity endorsements received a 1.4 percent increase in donations over charities that were not associated with stars.

In that respect, the popular celebrity news website, The Daily Beast, found out who the most charitable celebrities were in regards to lending out their name and fame. Using an in depth survey with forty-eight characteristics via E-poll market research, a list was created with the top celebrities in the charitable running. The list was narrowed after secondary research on, a site that tracks how many charities celebrities are actually supporting. Using Traackr to record the number of actual hits on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and personal blogs, the list was further weighted to reflect the celebrities’ personal effort put into promoting their respective organizations.

Elton John was at the top of the list with support towards a whopping forty-eight charities. Furthermore, his foundation to help treat AIDS victims, Elton John Aids Foundation, is one of his personally founded charities. Though it may be due to the passing of many of Elton’s close friends of because of AIDS/HIV, he hosts enormous galas open to his multitude of famous friends as fundraisers for his organization.

Second on the list is Angelina Jolie, recognized worldwide for her long list of humanitarian efforts. She has visited various nations such as Tanzania, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Egypt and Costa Rica, even during times of conflict and war. Taking a hands on approach, she has provided care and aid to refugees in the aftermath of natural disasters, apartheid, oppression and more. She is the founder of the Maddox Jolie-Pitt, named after her first adopted Cambodian son, an organization which serves to implement sustainable community improvement policies for women and children in Cambodia. Angelina and Brad Pitt sold the first images of their newborn twins to People and Hello! Magazines for $14 million, utilizing the entire sum of money for the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

Following Angelina on the top 25 list is Bono, the incredible U2 front man, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres. Some of the most famous stars on television and film are giving huge chunks of their success away to help others, thus becoming role models in the world of charity and fundraising. It is simultaneously inspiring and humbling to recognize that people have the ability to help those in need no matter how famous, wealthy or well off we are in their own lives. Celebrities have a name and a face but their actions are worth so much more than that, and anyone can take action against global poverty.

Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Marie Claire, The Daily Beast, Look to the Stars