FilmAid, the brainchild of award-winning film and television producer Caroline Baron, began in 1999 as a kind of balm for refugees living in Macedonian camps after fleeing from their homes in Kosovo. Baron believed that there could be a relationship between FilmAid and refugees, as entertaining films have the power to bolster spirits and lift morale amid the drudgery and displacement of camp life.

She was proven right, and after witnessing the numbers of people in attendance for even an hour or two of distracting and satisfying amusement, Baron realized her screens were capable of so much more.

FilmAid Evolves

Once she’d accomplished her first goal, Baron’s next step was to produce and present videos that provided vital information to the camp’s inhabitants. FilmAid contributed films on relevant topics like HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, health and hygiene, women’s rights and conflict resolution, reaching thousands of refugees at camps spread throughout Africa, Europe, South America, Haiti and Asia.

But the project didn’t stop there. After partnering with the United Nations, other nonprofit organizations and some high-powered industry brass, the making of FilmAid productions ended up squarely in the hands of the refugees themselves.

For Refugees, By Refugees

Since then, refugees and FilmAid volunteers have shaped the organization into a community-led creative force. An incredibly unique organization, the participatory relationship between FilmAid and refugees creates an outlet for those enduring the rigors of camp life and the trauma of displacement. In being able to creatively express themselves, many refugees can express hope as well.

All FilmAid activities now fall under one of three categories: Media Content, Community Outreach and Skills Development. Media Content projects include films that tell stories, documentaries, public service announcements containing critical health information (a documentary about landmine awareness and detection skills is of particular note) and even music videos. Activities are not restricted to film only. The Refugee Magazine is written and produced by and for inhabitants of Kakuma and Dadaab camps in Kenya. FilmAid’s official website gives full access to each issue of The Refugee Magazine.

Community Outreach projects include the mobile cinema, in which a screen is secured to the bed of a truck and rolled through camp, displaying media projects, pertinent information and the occasional Charlie Chaplin film. Workshops focused on community engagement, mass media broadcasts and online and social media utilization to share community-made content are all part of FilmAid’s scope in the refugee camps.

Finally, Skills Development brings all aspects of FilmAid together. Through education in photography, journalism, radio and digital media, FilmAid empowers people, especially young people, to tell their stories. Additionally, through its media content, FilmAid provides training to community members who want to facilitate workshops on health, protection and rights issues.

The Film Festival

In 2016, the Tenth Annual FilmAid Film Festival was held in Nairobi. The festival’s theme that year was “Where I Am: Stories of the Relationship Between Identity and the Environment.” The festival showcased young filmmakers from the Dadaab and Kakuma camps while providing a platform for other international filmmakers to share stories relevant to the theme. In addition to films screened and awards distributed, a panel discussion was held on the topic “Media, Arts and the Refugee Narrative.”  Through the festival, the creative teamwork of FilmAid and refugees is highlighted while simultaneously entertaining, informing and empowering camp inhabitants.

It’s “a different kind of aid – a skills-driven aid,” says Emmanual Jal in an interview with Vanity Fair. Jal, a former child soldier from Sudan who is nurturing a growing career as a hip-hop musician and actor, performed for a concert in the Kakuma camp in 2015. During the show, volunteers for FilmAid and refugees filmed a music video for one of his songs.

Jal credits FilmAid for being among the few investors in a “cure” for problems rather than just treating them. As the young artist says, “to actually empower somebody and let them rise and gain their dignity, that’s the difficult part.” By giving a voice to the voiceless, FilmAid is helping to improve the quality of life in refugee camps across the globe.

– Jaymie Greenway

Photo: Flickr

Quality of Life in Africa
The mobile phone continues to be one of the best weapons in the fight against global poverty. According to Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSMA), currently six in ten individuals worldwide have cell phone access, and most of those people reside in developing countries where basic living necessities such as clean water are scarce. In Africa, up to 93 percent of the population has access to cell phones. This access provides opportunities for organizations to design anti-poverty programs, and as a result, their cutting-edge apps improve the quality of life.

Earlier this month, the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire (RCSCI) debuted its RCSCI mobile app with a threefold purpose: to improve living conditions, bolster healthcare programs and assist authorities with enforcing international humanitarian law compliance. It boasts features including regular updates on volunteer projects and educational posts on how and where to donate blood. It also provides 24-hour emergency alert notifications, ensuring that response time is quicker than ever after a natural disaster.

“We are thrilled with the launch of our new app, and the opportunity to provide aid to those in need and improve humanitarian efforts throughout the region,” RCSCI secretary general Emmanuel Kouadio stated.

The RCSCI provides one of many examples of how groundbreaking apps improve the quality of life in Africa. Last month Nigeria began a new program called “SMS for Life 2.0.” Designed as one part of a comprehensive information communications technology (ICT) development initiative, the program focuses on improving healthcare for Nigerian citizens by monitoring the availability of medicine and improving the safe delivery of drugs. The program is being implemented in each of the 36 Nigerian states and is already in use at more than 250 facilities.

In addition to SMS for Life 2.0, app designer Vodacom has created a school management program using mobile technology to provide reliable, quality meals for students and is planned for use in 4,000 schools across Nigeria’s Kaduna State. Chief Officer of Vodacom Business Vuyani Jarana recently told IT News Africa, “Vodacom is taking the lead in leveraging mobile technology to address healthcare, education and agricultural challenges in Africa.”

Both RCSCI and Vodacom are continuing to broaden their programs in efforts to eliminate poverty, with a focus on the future of agriculture as the next phase of development. Eventually, it is hoped that near-universal access to mobile technology will alleviate the lack of access to other vital resources in Africa.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

Project-based learningThe concept of project-based learning is powerful: actively working through a project allows students to show creativity and adaptability that may be lacking in students who are exposed only to a traditional classroom setting.

In India, project-based learning places students’ focus on solving issues of personal interest and mitigates the high pressure of traditional education.

Often, students are lectured by teachers for the sole purpose of learning information to perform well on standardized board exams. These tests have the potential to determine whether a student can attend top colleges, receive the best jobs and have an overall successful future.

This method of testing puts intense pressure on students to the point where cheating scandals occur every year. Numerous gadgets are marketed and sold, one example being small in-ear microphones that allow someone to remotely feed students test answers. According to the Los Angeles Times, there have even been reports of principals allowing students to cheat for a fee.

Students who perform well on these tests often go on to top colleges and careers. For everyone else, dropping out is a likely alternative. In India, 99 percent of kids are enrolled in primary schools, however, only 37 percent continue on to college.

To help change the status quo, the American School of Bombay (ASB) provides an alternative to traditional education in India. ASB believes that students learn and perform better when guided by internal motivation.

This international school located in Mumbai strives to be forward-thinking in terms of its less traditional teaching methods and strong ties to technology. The school believes that “teachers are most effective when they facilitate collaborative student learning through a wide variety of media-rich, interactive, and authentic learning experiences.”

In most schools across India, teachers provide lectures that do not deviate from a set curriculum. However at ASB, teachers are willing to let students take the lead on getting involved in projects that suit their personal interests and skills. One example of such a project is Plugged In, where tech-savvy students decided that they wanted to impart their knowledge to other children in Mumbai who did not have the same access to technology.

The ASB students did not know until arriving that the less fortunate school where they volunteered had no access to a computer, and they were forced to work around this obstacle.

At the end of the program, the volunteers were able to donate a computer to one student who had excelled, only to discover that his family could not afford electricity. This discovery, however, led the ASB students to embark on a new project of developing a power source that can be fueled by burning trash.

Receiving an education is an important hallmark of ascension out of poverty to the middle class. Project-based learning offers an alternative to students who drop out of school if they do not perform well on board exams.

Furthermore, many projects that students engage in offer new and inventive methods of reducing poverty. Project-based learning gives hands-on practice for improving the quality of life for people living in poverty.

It allows students to take a role of leadership and find what works for them to make use of their natural drive. When it comes to her students, one ASB teacher felt that it is important to “be their partner in learning and mentor them to a place where they can take off.”

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Pixabay

Palliative CareAccording to the Quality of Death Index, developing countries are typically “unable to provide basic pain management due to limitations in staff and basic infrastructure.”

However, Mongolia recently exceeded expectations, ranking 28 out of 80 countries in the 2015 Index. The country’s success is largely due to its National Palliative Care Program which was spearheaded by Dr. Odontuya Davaasuren.

Palliative care is defined as a multidisciplinary approach to medical care for people with serious illnesses.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 40 million people require palliative care each year especially in countries with aging populations and where the incidence of noncommunicable diseases is high.

In Mongolia specifically, 79 percent of deaths are the result of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Davaasuren was first inspired to create the program after participating in the 2000 Palliative Care Conference in Stockholm. In a letter to the International Palliative Care Resource Center (IPCRC), Dr. Davaasuren said she was amazed that such a program did not exist in her country.

However, turning a dream into a reality was no easy feat for the Mongolian doctor. Many of Dr. Davaasuren’s assertions were initially met with criticism during the program’s introduction.

For example, the use of opioids as a form of treatment was traditionally frowned up because health care providers feared that patients would become dependent on the drugs.

Per her IPCRC letter, the doctor held steadfast to her belief that “It is a human right to receive palliative treatment, even when the disease is not curable” and continued to work on introducing the program.

The National Palliative Care Program was created based on four foundational measures: public health policy changes, the indispensability of available drugs for palliative care, the education of health care professionals in palliative care, as well as the actual integration into the overall national health care system.

Notably, since 2005, all medical schools in Mongolia integrated palliative care into their education programs.

At the 67th World Health Assembly in January 2014, the World Health Executive Board called on health systems worldwide to improve upon their palliative care systems. According to the WHO, doing so is “fundamental to improving the quality of life, well-being, comfort and human dignity for individuals.”

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: IPCRC, Odontuya Davaasuren et al., Quality of Death Index, 2015, United Nations, World Health Organization
Photo: Google Images  

Childfund International
The United States Census Bureau has forecasted the population of the world to reach eight billion by the year 2025. In terms of hunger this can be considered an extremely daunting statistic. How will eight billion people eat in the future when people cannot even adequately feed everyone living on Earth today? Eliminating global poverty and giving children necessary skills to survive and thrive in the coming years are crucial parts of the world hunger solution.

ChildFund International is one organization that focuses mainly on children and improving their quality of life in order to sustain a better future. It is known for sponsoring children in over 50 countries. Giving to countries in need with specific guidelines involving nutrition and social development have been proven effective in comparison with unspecific cash donations.

Focusing on making sure children and families have access to food and health living environments is a great strategy for charities to implement. Once starvation is off the table, kids can go to school and parents to work. Eventually they can become self-sufficient, disbarring the notion of welfare dependency.

Supporting children with food, water, school supplies, and access to decent medical care is all part of the sponsorship benefits that ChildFund International distributes. A recent article on their website notes how population increases are only exacerbating the problem of widespread hunger. Developing countries are becoming more urban; building cities means destroying farmland. Farmland is necessary for agricultural production, and the less natural farmland there is, the more difficult it becomes to produce food.

Solving global poverty and solving world hunger are interrelated goals. Providing access to clean drinking water, food and medical care boosts the economy by increasing the number of healthy learning and working children in a community. The more educated the children are, the more likely they are to grow up and secure sustainable employment.

Having a stable job will mean having a stable income and the ability to break the vicious cycle of poverty. Studies have shown that poverty in the United States has decreased significantly over the past 50 years and the goal of eradicating poverty altogether is very possible with governmental assistance and appropriate policy implementation. However, poverty is still a huge issue in foreign nations and every effort is needed to help resolve it.

There are still billions of people living on barely $2 per day and suffering from hunger and the absence of clean water. Foundations like ChildFund International and everyone who gets involved can make sure everyone has the chance at a better tomorrow.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: The Economist, The Huffington Post
Photo: TriCounty Sentry

When it comes to quality of life, there are few countries that can supersede America in terms of luxury, comfort and overall well-being. Not even Canada or Britain exceeds the United States in quality of life. However, Norway, an oil-rich country situated in the Scandinavian Peninsula, undeniably outstrips the American standard of living.

The United States has a lower per capita GDP than Norway with a GDP of 51,749 compared to 99,558, respectively, and is also home to one of the most pressing income distribution gaps in any industrialized nation, surpassed in income inequality by only Russia and Mexico.

Due to America’s cavernous income inequality, the poorest 38% of Norwegians are better off than the poorest 38% of Americans despite an overall lower average per capita GDP. According to Syracuse University professor Timothy Smeeding, the United States relies heavily on the markets to an extent that social safety nets are neglected, unlike Norway, which focuses more resources on providing aid to the poor.

This is not to say that America completely disregards its poor. To clarify, the United States has initiated its portion of socially-oriented acts, such as its attempt to reform the welfare system during the past two decades.

However, while the number of individuals on welfare was reduced from 5 million to slightly over 2 million, the welfare poor were downgraded into the working poor. Although welfare reform was rooted in good intentions, the lack of government safety nets defeated the purpose of the entire act.

Although the discovery of oil on the land in 1969 had transformed Norway, more than just an abundance of the valued natural resource buttresses Norway’s economy. Norway’s success has been attributed to what many call the “Norwegian Model”– a model of running a welfare state in which resources are carefully monitored, preserved and kept up-to-date.

While the United States ranks among one of the wealthiest nations in the world, it has stayed remiss in establishing social safety nets, particularly for the less economically-advantaged subsection of the population. Due to the lack of social safety nets, America hosts one of the largest global income inequality gaps, and is ultimately surpassed by the tiny welfare state of Norway in terms of quality of life.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: Infoplease, CS Monitor, World Bank, News in English
Photo: The Telegraph

According to the Global Age Watch Index, Honduras is the worst Western hemisphere country to live in as an elderly person. The survey measured income security, health status, employment and education, and enabling the environment. It is important to understand and consider the well-being of the elderly in different countries, because their mortality is a good indicator of a country’s total development.

Over half of the participants reported not feeling safe using public transportation or walking alone at night. According to the World Bank, “Between 2005 and 2011, the homicide rate in Honduras more than doubled from 37 to 91.6 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.”  The lack of a pension system leaves 70 percent of Hondurans above the age of 60 in poverty.

Less than seven percent of Honduras’s population is 60 years old or over, which correlates with the poor living conditions of the elderly. Moreover, it is harder to advocate for better condition for the elderly when they are a minority. Inversely, developed Western countries have high aging populations and living standards for the elderly. Larger aging populations have more representation, especially in democratic countries. Therefore, governmental policies are more favorable to the elderly.

Population make-up significantly impacts the future of a country. Countries with large youth populations are more inclined to political instability. The Arab Spring, for example, was started in countries with large populations of youth. The Survey was created by the United Nations Population Fund and covered 98 percent of the world’s elderly.  It was motivated by the growing aging demographic in the world’s population.

As expected, traditionally developed countries fared better in the survey – Sweden, Norway and Canada top the list of best countries to grow old in.

– Nicole Yancy

Sources: Foreign Policy: Think Again Global Aging, Foreign Policy: The Arab World’s Youth Army, The Guardian, World Bank, IB Times
Photo: Billweeks

Since 1945 the United Nations has established the contemporary global, obligation to address the economic and social well-being of ordinary citizens. A very new concept when written into their charter: “The United Nations shall promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of progress and development in the economic and social order.”

Over time, for at least economists and policy makers, this development agenda has become synonymous with “improving economic opportunities through increased production of goods and services.” The implicit assumption is that economic growth will increase quality of life standards, life expectancy, improve nutrition and health.

Since 1945, there have been impressive advancements in the elimination of extreme poverty, but still many professionals wonder how to accelerate growth even more throughout the world – particularly in Africa and South Asia, two regions with a great number of poor. The issue has prompted economists and policymakers to analyze the importance of several factors, policies and institutions, finding six factors for successful development:

1. Social inclusion – With a healthier and more educated population, nations can enjoy a more effective economic and political life. Illiteracy is a major barrier to participation in the economy. Without widespread education, citizens are more easily manipulated by un-just governments – allowing for the empowerment of counter-productive leadership.
2. Quality management – Governments must manage their national macro-economic environment; if there is no over-arching/holistic governance, the nation loses its credibility both in private sector business, and the citizenry. The “political capital” of a country cannot be wasted, and moreover, if public resources and urgent needs are not continually addressed, then the country falls into a burden of “catch up” where they are always behind in development, comparatively.
3. Transparency and accountability – Transparency is essential to prevent corruption and financial fraud, and promotes citizen participation. Experience shows that trust in one’s government encourages citizens and businesses to pay their taxes, thus advancing development and social services. Companies invest and expand more, creating greater confidence in the government and a “virtuous circle” of development ensues.
 4. Technology and innovation – Economic production is no longer just about capital and labor, now knowledge and innovation are just as important. It has been proven that technology gaps can explain the disparity in productivity between different countries. Technological adoption, knowledge dissemination and information communication technology (ICT) are imperative for national competitiveness.
5. Economic opportunities – Increasing the access and use economic resources to citizens is imperative. Free and open access to markets can contribute significantly to development; access to goods, labor and financial markets for personal use, production and exchange; especially the promotion of small-businesses.
6. Administrative Infrastructure – Business and society often come down to bureaucratic needs:  issuance of licenses, permits, birth certificate, passport, filing taxes, starting a business, registering a title, property rights, contract settlements, foreign trade authorization, hiring an employee, use the public health services, etc. The efficiency of bureaucracy is pertinent to advancing greater and more equal access to public resources.
 – Mary Purcell

Source: ITC