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Micro-LoansFor many of the world’s poor, access to equipment, capital and necessities like basic healthcare are difficult to acquire. Kiva.org is a pioneer for online micro-lending that enables low-income entrepreneurs to do something they otherwise would not have been able to afford. Kiva facilitates connecting a lender to a borrower, who then helps fund a no-interest loan as low as $25 (USD). The borrowers are then held accountable to repay the loan. As of today, Kiva is working in 84 countries and has a 97 percent loan repayment rate. Essentially, micro-lending is working.

Recently, Kiva entered a new lending space: education. With its Student Micro-loans program, now anyone can lend as little as $25 to students. In 2010, Kiva launched in Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador by working closely with its field partners to find prospective students in the three countries and create a customized loan program that works within the countries’ educational systems. Kiva’s CEO Premal Shah stated that moving into short-term student loans was a natural transition for Kiva. Shah saw an opportunity for financing something that had a long-lasting effect, and education fit the bill because student micro-loans create an education option for students in poor nations.

Improving access to education should be a top priority globally. Investing in higher education is a must if a country wants to encourage economic development. Education shapes the next generation of innovators, inventors and experts. Kiva CEO Shah mentioned that a one-year certificate in accounting can mean a 200-300 percent income increase in the countries Kiva is serving. It is a practical method to break generational poverty, which is why many impoverished nations treat education as a necessity. International focus on higher education was prominent during the 1990s, when student enrollment in public education doubled in developing countries.

Another startup, Vittana.org, launched a micro-lending marketplace for students and has since partnered with Kiva to help students get into the workforce and marketplace after matriculation. In 2014, Vittana and Kiva hoped to help 20,000 students access micro-loans for their educations. As a practical matter, the organizations are focusing on countries where jobs are abundant, but most require some level of higher education, like a certificate or degree. The purpose of aiding the borrowers in getting jobs afterwards is to secure Kiva’s interest in repayment. The loan is a loan, not a donation. Once repaid, the lenders have the option to re-invest in another borrower, or in this case, another student.

In short, student micro-loans create an education option for students of poor nations. By enabling education, students around the world have the chance to pursue knowledge and skills, and they are more competitive in the workforce and have the opportunity to break the cycle of generational poverty. When even one person steps away from poverty, it benefits them, their family and their community at large. Facilitators like Kiva and Vittana make it easy for anyone with $25 to get involved. In sum, their strategy is to pursue solutions to the lack of access to school with a simple, working concept that student micro-loans create an education option for students in poor nations.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

African Students in China
The number of African students in China is on the rise.

In 2000, there were less than 2,000 African students enrolled in Chinese universities. In 2015, there were 50,000.

The number of African university students in China surpasses both the United States and the United Kingdom, which each host around 40,000 students. France remains the host of the most African students at 95,000.

The increase in African students in China coincides with the strengthening relationships between China and numerous African countries. China is focused on Africa, and has provided several African countries assistance in areas like government and education, which continues to this day.

An example of these partnerships is China’s gift of 65 scholarships to Ghanaian students for the 2017/2018 academic year. As reported by Xinhua News, the Chinese government has also provided other resources to Ghana’s government.

For the Chinese government, African students in China encourages strong times between the Asian country and the African continent. CNN highlights how China hopes that investments in Africa will create strong economic and political partnerships with the African people.

One of the benefits for African students in China is affordable education. Chinese education is relatively inexpensive, even without a scholarship.

African students in China also benefit their countries. Because Chinese laws discourage international students from remaining after their studies, many African students return home and use their skills and education in their home countries.

Many students feel that the business connections they make with China are valuable beyond education, along with learning the language of a country that is considered to be a rising power.

African students in China illustrate a growing, mutually beneficial relationship between China and Africa. China’s commitment towards assisting Africa and Africa’s receipt of resources and opportunities has created a multi-country network and a climate of exchange that is continually expanding.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr


As the world grows increasingly connected and technological, the tide of calls for people to work in the technology industry grows every day. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs created in 2015 were in computer science – almost seven million of them.

With this in mind, it is easy to understand the push for more students to learn coding and other computer science-related skills. Even the U.N. Secretary General has called for “greater investments in computer science.” Investments in these occupations also present a great opportunity for developing countries to move forward technologically and socioeconomically.

One organization in Ghana helps increase the number of students interested in computer science and teaches children coding. In 2016, the Ghana Code Club began in order to teach children in Accra computer programming skills. Because the school curriculum in Ghana does not include technology, this club addresses the learning gap through after-school programming. Ernestina Appiah, the club’s current CEO, founded Ghana Code Club and also organizes the activity at multiple schools.

After working as a secretary in IT, Ernestina Appiah realized how valuable basic coding skills could be. Then, she learned how to design a few of her own websites. Soon after, she founded the organization as a project in partnership with the iSpace Foundation. Now the Ghana Code Club serves students between the ages of eight and 17 in different areas of Ghana after school.

Students who participate in the after school program gain valuable skills they can use in any career path. From building and designing websites with HTML to game creation using Scratch, students who participate in the after school activity can explore all of their interests. Girls, especially, have the opportunity to gain a foothold into the world of technology.

Programs run by trained volunteers and ICT teachers operate in 13 schools across the country. IT professionals train volunteers and primary school teachers who have no prior coding experience. Teachers and volunteers then team up to teach participants. Young children who participate get an early introduction into the world of computers, while older children learn Python, HTML and CSS. All students have the opportunity to learn and work with Scratch.

The Ghana Code Club also cycles through different schools, community centers and libraries to further expand its reach. With its dedicated CEO, team and board, it shows no signs of stopping.

By helping students gain important skills by promoting coding in Ghana, the Ghana Code Club increases the competitiveness of students entering the workforce. As the program expands, more and more children will have the opportunity to impact their communities and make a better future for themselves by learning these invaluable skills.

Selasi Amoani

Photo: Flickr

Global educationEdmodo is an online leader in global education networks for students, teachers, administrators, and parents across the world. Often referred to as “Facebook for school,” Edmodo bridges borders and continents to globally connect educators and learners.

Edmodo was launched in 2008 in Chicago, Illinois by two school district employees working in their respective technology departments. Now, according to their website, the program has over 65 million users in 370,000 schools worldwide.

Jeff O’Hara, one of the founders of the project, noticed the number of social networking and media sites he had to block while working for his school’s Information and Technology Department. He wanted to find a way to integrate the social media aspect of students’ lives back into the classroom. O’Hara and Nic Borg designed Edmodo to give teachers and students a safe and productive tool in social learning.

Edmodo constructs its features with teacher input. Every year the company holds a professional development conference, called EdmodoCon, for its international community. The online platform even partnered with Sony Global Education, Inc. to launch a global math literacy campaign. Twice a year, the partners hold a worldwide math competition which is available to students and teachers in 190 countries.

The network adheres to its global community by being available in six different languages and providing in-post translations. Edmodo has features that facilitate discussions between educators, consolidate assignments for students, and provide a marketplace for teachers to share or sell resources.

Through Edmodo, teachers are able to connect their classrooms with classrooms across the globe. Students learn about other customs and cultures in lessons that deeply engage their interests. Edmodo has been used for modernized ‘pen-pal’ projects – students in different countries share their hobbies and classrooms partner online to delve into a subject from another perspective.

Edmodo gives teachers around the world free access to educational resources and a platform for global communication with other teachers. Bringing together the global education community, Edmodo allows teachers from across the globe to share ideas, receive feedback and grow professionally by learning from one another.

Erica Rawles

Photo: Flickr

Philanthropists_in_Asia
The United Nations, the World Health Organization and other aid groups estimate that almost one-third of people in Asia live on less than $1.51 per day. Here are some of the most successful philanthropists in Asia who are fighting to end poverty and hunger by 2030.

1. Jack Ma—China

Founder and executive of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Ma donated $2.9 billion to charitable causes across China last year. Ma also set up a $2.4 billion trust for Hong Kong youth and rising entrepreneurs.

2. Sunny Varkey—India

Founder of Gems Education and one of India’s most prominent entrepreneurs. Varkey has recently signed the Giving Pledge, which is a promise to give most of his wealth to philanthropic missions. His foundation seeks to train 250,000 teachers in order to help nearly 10 million students across India, China, Africa and the Middle East.

3. P.J. Lhuillier—Philippines

Founder of the P.J. Lhuillier Group. In addition to providing 300 annual scholarships to impoverished students, Lhuillier has also established a foundation that enables dropouts to go back to school. The foundation already has 19 adult education centers open with 48 additional centers to open this coming year.

4. Cho Gang-Gul—South Korea

Founder of Hannsem. The furniture magnate donated $400 million to a South Korean think tank that works across Asia to seek out and train a new generation of global leaders through an understanding of both Eastern and Western cultures.

5. Jeffrey Cheah—Malaysia

Chairman for the Sunway Group. Since 1997, Cheah has donated nearly $50 million worth of scholarships for 20,000 low-income students. Cheah’s foundation has also donated $6.2 million to fund an exchange program between Southeast Asian institutions and Cambridge University.

6. Mohamed Abdul Jaleel—Singapore

Founder of Mes Group. The construction mogul had to drop out of school when he was 16 to support his family. He has made it a life mission to help impoverished children get through school. For the past several years, he has given $1.1 million annually to the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which gives students money for lunch meals and school supplies. Abdul Jaleel also donates an additional $1 million each year to schools in Singapore’s poorer neighborhoods.

7. Philipp Graf von Hardenberg—Thailand

Founder of the Children’s World Academy. The German native moved to Thailand to provide aid after the 2004 Tsunami and has been helping impoverished children ever since. He set up an orphanage to help children affected by the devastation, and the same facility still operates to this day as a school for impoverished youth. The school has raised more than $5 million.

8. Manny Pacquiao—Philippines

World boxing champion and Philippine Congressman. Pacquiao and his wife donated 200 college scholarships, funded full missions for Habitat for Humanity in the Southern Philippines and gave upwards of $400,000 in medical assistance to needy families.

9. Hendro Gondokusumo—Indonesia

Founder of Intiland Development. As one of the largest property developers in Indonesia, Gondokusumo has just set up a new foundation aimed at giving low-income and impoverished families affordable and safe living in the capital Jakarta and across the island of Java.

10. Yao Ming—China

Retired NBA All-Star. His foundation has helped repair schools and build sports facilities for hundreds of thousands of students in rural China. The Yao Foundation hopes to improve the lives of 150,000 children through sport and exercise by the end of this year.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes 1, Forbes 2, Forbes 3
Photo: Flickr

niger_students
While the developing world is gaining more and more Internet access, many countries are still without technology.

One African nation, Niger, is utilizing the brainpower of students to help map the country despite its supposed technological inequalities. A landlocked country in Sub-Saharan Africa, Niger maintains a population of over 17.4 million. With a GDP of under $7.5 billion last year, it is considered a low-income level country.

With the help of Hungarian Orsolya Jenei, the project–called Mapping for Niger–allows Nigerien university students to map the country using GPS equipment. The students geo-locate buildings and roads, take photographs and interview local residents about a variety of subjects specific to each area.

Niger students first mapped their university in Niamey. When the students go home or to other parts of the country, some take GPS trackers with them. The information is eventually uploaded onto a collaborative mapping program called OpenStreetMap which maps locations worldwide.

Even though the students only have one computer, four GPS trackers and have to help pay for the Internet subscription, the dedication of the students is unparalleled.

According to Jenei, digital mapping has already been implemented in other African countries. Doctors Without Borders has made use of the technology in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help locate hospitals in remote areas. Yet Jenei says digital mapping could have other uses.

While Google Maps or other similar applications provide users with adequate navigational directions, digital mapping provides a host of other useful information.

“Flooding is a big problem [in Niger], washing away many people’s homes every year,” Jenei said. “Creating maps of flooded areas would be a great way to help figure out who needs to be relocated. Mapping wells could also reveal the distances rural dwellers have to walk to get water, and help figure out how to improve their access.”

Prior to working with the Nigerien students, Jenei worked on the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. Like the Niger project, OpenStreetMap utilizes open source and open data sharing as a means for direct humanitarian response and economic development.

– Ethan Safran

Sources: France24, World Bank. Openstreetmap.com
Photo: Observers

giving
“I believe poverty is not an inherent part of society, but can be overcome if everyone works to achieve it.”-Jessica Beck.

Jessica Beck is the founder of FIU TECHO, a branch of the Techo organization at Florida International University. Techo is an international non-profit organization provides humanitarian aid to the poor citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean.  The focus is to educate the residents on how to implement long lasting solutions to the issues of education, malnutrition, poverty, and corruption.

One Techo branch at Florida International University is participating in the Wynwood Miami Art Walk, a local artist event held the second Saturday every month. The Techo letters will be found along the walk and members can write down their hopes and goals towards ending global poverty and making the lives of others so much better. Notoriously broke, college students participating for Techo in the Art Walk are proving that anyone can make an impact – no matter how little people think they might have to give.

Sustainable development means formulating economic and environmental growth policies that don’t detract from environmental health, meaning they will be successful policies in the long run. Societies can’t function on infrastructures that are not environmentally sound because eventually the negative consequences of those policies will force the society to restructure yet again.

Founded in 1997, Techo is a Latin American non-profit organization focusing on providing aid to people living in slums through volunteers working with families struggling with extreme poverty. The organization uses an ‘implementation’ method that targets community development. The Non profit’s fundraising headquarters are in Miami, Florida and it is lead by young volunteers. Volunteers are present in 19 countries including Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

Recruitment for volunteers takes place exclusively in college universities, and the organization actively seeks contribution from people less than or equal to 30 years of age. Students with a strong passion for humanitarian work are targeted in the hopes that their dedication will enhance their work. Experience with working in slums helps to qualify volunteers to pursue a professional career in global relief and poverty reduction. The way that Techo works is a mutual effort between volunteers and slum residents. Residents are reassigned houses based on severity of living conditions and are responsible for taking on 10% of the new home cost.

Funding comes from a variety of sources. The Boston Consulting Group and The Inter-American Development Bank are two of Techo’s main partners. Donators known as ‘techo friends’ are monthly financial contributors at a fixed rate. A donator giving 30 dollars a month can support a family that functions on one dollar per day. It is incredible the difference just one dollar can make and sheds light on the common misconception that global poverty is an impossible issue to solve. The condition is reminiscent of something Nelson Mandela once said – “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: FIU, Facebook, Techo

foxconn_employees_china
With the holiday season approaching, big-ticket items, such as the forthcoming Sony Playstation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One, are being rapidly assembled in Chinese manufacturing plants. The retail values are $399 and $499 respectively, but the cost shows little of the true price one pays.

Sony has come under scrutiny recently for their partnership with Foxconn, the largest electronics manufacturer in the world. At Foxconn’s Yantai plant, students are reportedly being forced to assemble the gaming console, or risk failing their courses.

The students claim they were offered unpaid internships, but were given manual labor instead of tasks related to their field of study. If the students refused, they were threatened with losing six credits.

This is not the first occurrence of unfair labor practices by Foxconn. In January, workers making the Xbox console threatened a mass suicide over staffing assignments. In September of last year, about 2,000 workers rioted over unfair wages and work conditions.

Sony has said in a statement that it “expects its suppliers, including Foxconn, to fully comprehend and comply” with its supplier code of conduct, and they “are in communication with Foxconn and are investigating the matter.”

Microsoft, while not addressing Foxconn directly, has said that their Code of Conduct is enforced by contract, and “If our strict standards are not met, suppliers risk business restrictions or termination of their contract.”

– David Smith

Sources: The Daily Mail, Washington Post
Photo: Japan Focus

Food_for_thought

The 2013 Thought For Food Challenge calls on students from colleges and universities from all around the world to produce a project that presents an innovative solution to the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. Teams of students are provided top-of-the-line tools and resources to research global food issues, brainstorm ideas, and produce a proposal to compete for funding.

These are the five finalist entries from this year’s competition:

  1. Food Waste Incentives: Team Ingenerovictus, a group from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee built a food waste collection system. The students intend to collect organic matter and transport it to a central plant where they will convert the matter to agricultural products using an anaerobic digester. In order to encourage participation in their program, the students plan to offer incentives. In return for separating garbage, hotels and restaurants can get credits which they can spend with retailers who have already agreed to partner with the student’s proposed project.
  2. Vertical Farms: Team Agrilution, from the HAS University of Applied Science in the Netherlands, constructed a prototype for a closet sized vertical farm. This farm uses an aquaponic system that makes use of LED lighting, minimal inputs and an automatic system. This would allow for efficient food production in non-rural area. Team Agrilution aims to solve the food crisis by bringing households closer to food production, particularly in urban regions.
  3. Food Certification: Team CrOpportunity, made of 5 students from the University of Nebraska, has developed a food certification plan to spread better information to consumers in developed countries and to direct more funds to developing nations. The team aims to certify restaurants and food producers who have reached sustainable criteria and a level of excellence and then redirect a portion of their profits to food groups abroad. The project also seeks to provide consumers with reports of theses standards to generate greater transparency in the food industry. Consumers can vote for their favorite restaurants and organizations online.
  4. Reclaiming Arid Land: Team O.A.S.I.S., from Kenya, plans desalinate seawater and pipe it to arid regions with the goal of reclaiming lands affected by deforestation and desertification. They also plan to install fish farms in the trenches used to pipe the seawater. Through the implementation of this agricultural structure, the students hope to gain greater food security by establishing environmental stability, provide adequate low-cost housing, and create more employment opportunities.
  5. Goosing Egg Production: The Henlight project, by Team Foodisclosure with students at U.C. Davis and the University of Oregon, seek to improve egg production yields. The idea focuses on a simple solar-powered lamp that lengthens effective daylight, thereby increasing the rate at which hens lay eggs. Ultimately, this project would expand the amount of stimulation chickens receive. This idea is based on the need to raise the appraisal of surplus food and increase the efficiency of food production.

– Grace Zhao

Source: TFF challenge, Co.Exist
Photo: Agrilution

Live Below the Poverty Line

Recently, students at the University of Melbourne in Australia spent five days on less than two Australian dollars a day in order to raise awareness for those living in extreme poverty.

Students participated in this as part of the Live Below the Line challenge, a program of the Global Poverty Project.  The Global Poverty Project is in organization designed to advocate for the world’s poor and get citizens effectively engaged in the fight to end extreme poverty.  Their Live Below the Line Challenge, which spans three continents, asks participants to spend five days living below the poverty line in an effort to show solidarity with the world’s poor and to raise money and awareness for their cause.

The challenge of the Live Below the Line campaign is effectively budgeting resources so that participants have the food to last themselves 5 days.  Participants are not allowed to take snacks from their pantries or consume anything that had been bought before the challenge unless it was factored into their five day budget.  Their diet consisted mainly of pasta, lentils, fruit, and rice for the duration of the challenge, and they were only allowed to drink tap water.

The students at the University of Melbourne raised over $24,000, which is more than any other Australian university.  The closest American university to raising this amount was the University of Notre Dame, raising only $3,239.  Some celebrities are also involved in the Live Below the Line challenge, ranging from Ben Affleck to Hugh Jackman.

This was an impressive achievement for these Australian students.  However, as hard as it seems to buy food on such a low budget, participants still had it better off than the world’s poor.  They had access to shelter, sanitation, and healthcare—things that most of those living below the poverty line do not have.   It is hard for us in the developed world to imagine the amount of hardship faced by the world’s poor, but the Live Below the Line challenge gives a small peek into the lives of the least fortunate.

Citizens interested in the program should go to www.livebelowtheline.com where there are further descriptions of the program, recipes and other helpful resources.  The website also contains leaderboards so that participants can see what individuals or groups have achieved the most fundraising so far.  The question that the challenge poses to all of us in the developing world is obvious:  Can YOU Live Below the Line?

– Martin Drake

Source: Live Below the Line, The Age
Photo: VSO