Posts

Donate by SavingThere are countless efforts around the globe working to improve living conditions for those in extreme poverty. While per capita, Americans are the biggest charitable givers on Earth, charitable contributions can be increased. By cutting back on everyday living expenses, it is possible to donate by saving money.

Alternatives to Buying Bottled Water

Drinking water is a healthy habit, but bottled water is costly and creates single-use plastic waste.

One way to donate by saving is buying a reusable water bottle. For instance, the reusable Dopper bottle donates 5 percent of every purchase to the Dopper Foundation, an organization working to improve water resources in Nepal.

Upon saving money on single-use bottles, the amount saved can be diverted to a charitable cause. The average American spends around $266 on disposable water bottles, which can add up to over $17,000 in a lifetime. Those savings could be donated to support the work of organizations like Water is Life which pledges to provide clean drinking water to a billion people by 2020.

Water is Life helps communities around the world gain access to clean water through many means, including filters and wells. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the organization sent filtration straws and portable filtration systems to the hardest-hit parts of the island. Currently, it is working on installing 40 solar-and-wind-powered water filtrations stations in the northwest part of the country. The stations are capable of providing 20,000 liters of drinking water a day.

Credit Card Fee Avoidance

A recent survey of 200 U.S. credit cards found that credit cards average 4.35 fees per card. Furthermore, every card in the survey charged at least one fee.

No-fee cash-back cards are available. Card issuers will also offer a cost break to customers with a long series of on-time payments by lowering their interest rates, waiving the very occasional late fee, or both.

Trading in a big-annual-fee card, asking for late waivers and lowering interest rates can save cardholders $100 – 200 per year. The amount saved is almost enough to fund a grant to a Kenyan or Ugandan entrepreneur through Village Enterprise, which can transform the lives of a family living in poverty.

Since its founding in 1987, Village Enterprise has trained more than 154,000 owners who have gone on to create 39,000 businesses. One such success story is Angela Adeke, a Ugandan woman who was denied the opportunity to attend school due to her family’s extreme poverty. After her own children were denied entry to school because they could not afford uniforms, Adeke took action. With the help of a $150 grant, she invested in fabric and sewing machines for her tailoring business. Adeke sewed her own children’s uniforms and made uniforms for more than 4,000 Ugandan children. She now trains disenfranchised young women to become tailors.

Household Maintenance

The average family spends $6,649 on home maintenance. From major repairs to even the price of lawn mowing, it all adds up. A recent survey from Homeadvisor shows that 72 percent of new home buyers are learning how to do their own repairs. Video tutorials are now available online for most projects, enabling families to save on expenses.

The savings can be donated to a charity like Heifer International, an organization that helps families help themselves. The organization has been active in 25 countries, helping more than 32 million families to overcome poverty and hunger. In Nepal, projects targeting women have contributed to improved gender equality. Nine out of 10 of the families in Nepal interviewed say they had increased their income as a result of Heifer International projects, and it is possible to donate by saving on expenses as manageable household maintenance.

Trimming the Food Bill

Most Americans spend nearly half of their monthly food budget on eating out. By preparing more meals at home and packing a lunch more often, these funds can be diverted to donations. A conservative estimate is that preparing one meal per week instead of eating out will save more than $800 per year. These savings can fight worldwide hunger when diverted to an organization like The Hunger Project (THP).

The Hunger Project works to end hunger through strategies that are sustainable, grassroots and women-centered. Mozambican citizen Moises Fenias Malhaule is an example of a THP success story: Malhaule joined THP education and microfinance programs, and in ten years, he has expanded his farm and paid for his children’s education. Malhaule has also taken many courses in development and construction and shared his knowledge with his community. Donations to organizations like this not only help individuals but often have ripple effects, making entire villages more resilient and self-sufficient.

Organizations like Water is Life, Village Enterprise, Heifer International and The Hunger Project are making a considerable impact in global poverty reduction, but their work relies on financial contributions.  While finding the extra money to donate can be challenging, with a few lifestyle tweaks, it is entirely possible to donate by saving money.

– Francesca Singer 
Photo: U.S. Air Force


On May 18th, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Village Enterprise announced that it would be forming a coalition with the African Wildlife Foundation as part of its ‘graduation program’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The new partnership will focus on alleviating poverty in the DRC while simultaneously conserving the Bonobo population in the area.

Bonobos

Bonobos are a type of great ape that can only be found in the DRC and are the closest living biological relatives to the human species. They are known for their peaceful lifestyles and female-led societies; unfortunately, Bonobos are currently endangered and on the brink of extinction.

You may be wondering, what does alleviating poverty in the DRC have to do with the endangerment of Bonobos? Surprisingly, quite a bit. The reason Village Enterprise and the African Wildlife Foundation decided to cooperate on this issue is because the alleviation of poverty in the DRC may very well be a saving grace for the Bonobo population.

Threats and Risk

The primary threat to Bonobos’ survival is poaching. As of 2018, 90 percent of the people living in the DRC can only afford to eat one meal per day; as a result, many people turn to hunting wild animals for food. Even though it is technically illegal to hunt Bonobos under current DRC law, many are so desperate that they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep from starving to death.

Impoverished people have also taken to selling Bonobo meat in the marketplace. As they are increasingly rare, Bonobo meat is becoming increasingly more valuable, meaning people who are in a tough financial situation may find law-breaking and Bonobo extinction worth the risk if it means providing for their families.

Since there are so few Bonobos already — and they have a relatively slow reproduction rate of 4-5 years — the population is decreasing rapidly and will continue to do so if economic conditions in the DRC remain the same.

New Partnerships and New Hope

The new partnership hopes to get to the root of the issue by utilizing Village Enterprise’s expertise in entrepreneurship to train the African Wildlife Foundation how to successfully start businesses throughout the DRC. In a press release detailing the goals for the new alliance, Village Enterprise stated that it expects the African Wildlife Foundation to open 240 new businesses by the program’s end.

If this strategy works as planned, the increased employment opportunities — and subsequent economic stimulation — would mean that approximately 720 less households would live in extreme poverty (surviving on $1.90 or less per day). Alleviating poverty in the DRC could mean creating less of a need to hunt Bonobos to sell or feed one’s family.

Sixty-three percent of the DRC’s population currently lives below the poverty line, making it the poorest country in the entire world. The Congolese people are in desperate need of an intervention such as that done by the Village Enterprise and the African Wildlife Foundation. Though the preservation of Bonobos is undoubtedly important, this program will hopefully have a much broader effect: providing relief to a country in crisis.

– Maddi Roy
Photo: Flickr

AfricaRural Africa is one of the most poverty-stricken regions of the world. Half of the global poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa and 389 million in this region live on less than $1.90. While other regions in the world have seen drastic reductions in poverty, progress in Sub-Saharan Africa has been slow. Even though the persistence of rural poverty in Africa is a multi-faceted problem, certain primary factors can be addressed. The extreme poor lack access to resources to achieve economic empowerment. Thankfully, organizations like Village Enterprise have stepped up to the plate to introduce new opportunities.

Village Enterprise provides a graduation program on entrepreneurship and innovation for those living in extreme poverty in Uganda and Kenya. The organization hopes that its simple and cost-effective model can help bring an end to extreme rural poverty in Africa. Village Enterprise stands out from other organizations by using a group-based approach. Each business is started by a group of three people and usually provides support for 20 people in the community. When individuals join the program, they can’t pay for their family’s needs and have no business experience. The program includes training, a $150 grant and mentorship for the aspiring entrepreneurs.

81 percent of the businesses started through Village Enterprise were founded by female entrepreneurs. This is especially important, since women reinvest 90 percent of their income on average to their families and communities, while men only reinvest 30 to 40 percent.

Lucy Wurtz, Development and Communications Director for Village Enterprise, told The Borgen Project that the employees on the ground have tools, including Grameen’s Progress Out of Poverty Index, to determine the level of poverty in a community and who could use their services. Then, every household in the community is invited to join the program. While only 30 entrepreneurs can be working and training in a group at a time, Village Enterprise can reach 90 to 100 households in a community a year.

“The idea is everyone who wants to has a chance to participate,” says Wurtz, “so you are lifting up the whole area.”

When the program is finished, Village Enterprise is able to move on. Once the entrepreneurs learn the skills, they are empowered and able to continue improving their economic standing. The business owners are also able to work together as a group, as each member can pick up different skills. Some become especially adept at finance and can help their fellow entrepreneurs with book-keeping. Others may specialize in marketing or leadership.

“Once you give a number of skills to a group of people,” says Wurtz, “that group starts acting as a support body to disperse the skills within the group members and take on the attributes of what you’re teaching.”

Village Enterprise measures the impact of the program by the increase in the standard of living. The organization recently conducted a randomized trial involving 6,000 households and 138 villages in Uganda. Researchers returned to the communities a year after the program was finished to see if there were still significant improvements. The study will soon be available to view on the Village Enterprise website.

The organization is expanding in several ways. It continues to grow in the countries in which it already works, Kenya and Uganda, and is also looking into expanding into other African countries, with the Democratic Republic of Congo being one potential target. One of the factors driving expansion is a new opportunity for donors. Village Enterprise is now participating in an innovative way to finance development: development impact bonds. These bonds get investors to pay up front for the costs of an intervention that can be measured by predetermined metrics. If the goals are met, then an outcome payor, usually a donor agency or foundation, will pay back the investor based on this performance.

Village Enterprise has started over 39,000 businesses and trained over 156,000 entrepreneurs. With hope, this approach can go on to empower and lift up the over 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans living in extreme poverty.

Brock Hall

Photo: Flickr