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Volunteering
A common reason for conflict, whether cultural, racial or economic is lack of empathy. The solution to this problem may be simpler than previously believed. An article on psychology website Spring suggests that empathy can increase with as little as two positive experiences with a group.

To collect their research, scientists paired Swiss people with people of Balkan descent. The Swiss-Balkan relationship has historically been tense due to anxiety about immigrants in Switzerland. In the experiment, Swiss participants expected to receive a painful electric shock but were rescued by people with traditional Balkan names.

The Swiss participants then received brain scans while observing other people being shocked. If earlier in the experiment a Balkan person had helped the Swiss person in question, the Swiss participant’s brain would demonstrate a similar empathetic response toward both Balkan and Swiss victims. If, however, the Swiss person had not had that positive encounter with a Balkan participant, he or she exhibited lower levels of empathy toward Balkan victims than towards Swiss victims.

According to this study’s researchers, “Our findings show that empathy with an out-group member can be learned and generalizes to other out-group individuals.”

How can these findings be applied globally? Simply put, they may indicate that volunteering can increase empathy. Not only can volunteering help reduce some of the immediate symptoms of global poverty; it can also decrease inter-group tension.

Bridging the gap preventing different groups from interacting with each other is an important step in reducing conflict. Volunteerism does just that by putting human relationships first. It places members of different communities that may never have had positive inter-community encounters in close proximity to each other. Positive volunteering experiences can lead to increased empathy and decreased conflict between them.

In an article by the New Zealand Red Cross, Warwick Armstrong, a volunteer driver for the Cross Town Shuttle wrote about the benefits of volunteering. The Cross Town Shuttle provides transportation for people in Christchurch who have no transportation means of their own. Armstrong said he enjoys the companionship his position provides.

“It’s good for your health!” he wrote. “It gives your empathy batteries a recharge”.

Volunteerism puts human relationships first and encourages personal interaction. It is a powerful tool for increasing empathy, and thus reducing tension, between groups.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

Teaching Abroad
Teaching abroad is an incredible opportunity to give back, and the experience can provide an individual with a multitude of unanticipated advantages. In addition to experiencing a different culture, teaching abroad can vastly improve one’s chances of finding a career in a variety of fields.

The majority of teaching abroad programs aim to teach English in impoverished regions around the world, so as to improve children’s education. Such skills/lessons are desperately needed because according to a reputable teaching abroad program, Sudan Volunteer Programme (SVP), numerous local teachers in these countries do not have the proper skill-sets to teach English, or the school does not have enough money to pay their teachers.

In such cases, volunteers are needed to help educate children and give them the proper skills and opportunities to attain a successful profession. This type of education proves tremendously impactful, as speaking English can significantly increase a child’s chance of professional success down the road.

According to the University of Toronto, teaching abroad can be equally advantageous for the teacher volunteer’s career opportunities. To teach abroad, the volunteer generally does not have to be a certified teacher or have any particular foreign language skills to serve for an organization. Many volunteers can be ‘hired’ with a bachelor’s degree in just about anything, an interest to learn about foreign cultures, a good attitude, a passion for education and seriousness about the job.

Having taught underprivileged children in a foreign country provides one with distinct cultural and teaching experience that can galvanize one’s career. Recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees who teach abroad are often hired full time into high standing positions that they may not have otherwise qualified for.

According to WorldTeach, an accredited teaching abroad program, numerous individuals go into academic careers, international development, educational or volunteer organizations, teachers, school administrators and in business and multi-national companies. Some have become leaders in the U.S. Congress, and one has even served as a U.S. Ambassador.

Though living in a foreign country for a summer or a year may seem daunting, the benefits that can come from the experience prove to be well worth any initial hesitation. From giving children a shot at a better future to becoming more culturally aware, teaching abroad is an incredible opportunity that will boost one’s personal growth and a chance at professional success.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr

Social Entrepreneur CorpsFounded by Greg Van Kirk, the Social Entrepreneur Corps (SEC) diagnoses needs and implements innovations that help marginalized, impoverished and vulnerable families build a better life for themselves.

The volunteers and employees of the SEC play an important role in creating impactful social innovation. They can “gain the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to become the high impact leaders and social entrepreneurs of the future.” In addition, the SEC has been “leading innovative and dynamic impact immersion programs for 10 years and over 1,000 participants have joined [their] diverse programs.”

The organization utilizes well-structured programs where participants are mentored by field leaders, who are experienced development professionals.

One of the SEC’s initiatives includes a needs and feasibility analysis, in which participants perform research through observations, surveys and informal conversations in order to analyze needs of impoverished communities.

Another is an innovative-design initiative, in which participants use their research to develop and give consultations to local community members on ways to improve their state of poverty.

As one SEC participant states, “from giving presentations in Spanish to local organizations to going on campaigns in rural regions, every activity gave me the chance and the courage to step out of my comfort zone and push my boundaries as far as I could.”

Communities in Latin America, for example, are reaping the benefits. The Jutiapa region in Guatemala had a successful village campaign which benefited women entrepreneurs in the region. In one day, participants “served over 150 people and helped the women to sell 69 pairs of glasses, 35 eye drops, 30 packets of vegetable seeds, 8 solar lamps/cell phone chargers and one water purification bucket.”

The female entrepreneurs earned nearly $240 in net profits, which is the equivalent of over two months’ wages for the average rural Guatemalan.

The Social Entrepreneur Corps has played an important role in breaking the cycle of poverty in Latin American countries. The organization’s efforts continue to inspire families and communities.

Vanessa Awanyo

Ghalib Khalil
The actions of individual people like Ghalib Khalil have been cited as the spark for many great advocacy and social movements. As Nelson Mandela once said, “It is time for the next generations to continue to struggle against social injustice and for the rights of humanity. It is in your hands.”

 

Ghalib Khalil: A Movement

 

This is exactly what took place in 2010 in Pakistan after the country was devastated by flooding. Ghalib Khalil, inspired to help his country recover from the natural disaster, realized that his own solitary efforts would not be enough to make a big difference. Guided by the advice of a teacher, the 15-year-old created the Rescue Pakistan Youth Foundation. Networking for the organization on Facebook, Khalil used his connections to mobilize support and a volunteer force of several hundred Pakistanis.

This volunteer force engaged in door-to-door collections to help make a difference, but Khalil knew that he still wanted to make a bigger impact. By reaching out to large international corporations and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Khalil was able to dramatically expand his impact on advocacy. Due to the creation of Rescue Pakistan Youth Foundation, he successfully raised more than $100,000 to aid in relief efforts.

Since then, Khalil’s impact on advocacy has only continued and increased. After Pakistan recovered from the flood, Rescue Pakistan Youth Foundation continued to take donations for local community projects, but Khalil has set his sights on the struggle for peace. Peacetide, originally named Friends Without Borders, is an international advocacy campaign that focuses on promoting mutual respect and peaceful relations between Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan, Greece and Turkey, Kosovo and Serbia.

The campaign is aimed at 14 to 25-year-olds, using visual storytelling through videos, pictures, art, inspirational quotes and personal testimonials for peace from its members. To date, the campaign’s main promotional platform on Facebook has more than 40,000 followers.

Both Rescue Pakistan Youth Foundation and Peacetide have achieved a positive impact on advocacy on a grassroots level while helping to educate, promote international peace and make a tangible difference in local communities in Pakistan. The secret to the popularity of Khalil’s organizations is connection, which is perfectly summed-up in Peacetide’s motto, “Goodness is growing one friend at a time.”

Claire Colby

Sources: Peacetide Facebook Page, The Xrtaordinary, International Political Forum
Photo: Flickr

Clicktivism

In the digital age, it is easier than ever to voice one’s support for a cause or raise awareness about a particular issue, all it takes is the click of a button.

In the wake of the recent devastating earthquake in Nepal, Facebook gave users the option to donate to the International Medical Corps’ relief efforts. According to a Facebook post by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, over $10 million was raised by the Facebook community — in just two days.

Social media provides a platform to quickly support a cause without exerting much — if any — personal effort. This phenomenon has been labeled as “clicktivism,” or “slacktivism,” and has been widely criticized for creating an impression of support, rather than actual accomplishing anything for the cause.

Many critics point out that clicktivism satisfies the urge to respond to an issue, thus reducing eagerness to take further action.

However, according to a study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, the truth is quite the contrary. Researchers found that Americans who promote causes using social media by creating posts, joining a group on Facebook or taking other similar actions, actually participate more in offline activist efforts than non-social media promoters.

“The presumption was that these individuals were replacing more ‘meaningful’ actions with simple clicks and shares. But what we found is that they’re actually supplementing—not replacing— actions like donating, volunteering and planning events,” Senior Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Center for Social Impact Communication Denise Keyes was quoted in the research report.

The study showed that so-called clicktivists are over four times as likely than non-social media promoters to encourage others to contact political representatives about an issue, twice as likely to volunteer time to a cause, more than twice as likely to participate in an event or a walk and just as likely to donate money.

It is unlikely that every user who donated to relief efforts in Nepal dedicated him- or herself to volunteering and staying informed about progress in the nation. But whether or not clicktivists take action offline, sharing a post inherently increases visibility and raises awareness, regardless of the amount of effort (or lack thereof) exerted by the “sharer” or “retweeter.” It is possible that a certain user does not accomplish anything further after pressing “share,” but that user’s friend might be scrolling through their newsfeed and be inspired to do more. Although using a hashtag and retweeting a human rights organization does not necessarily equate to action, the importance of such actions in rallying support for global issues cannot be diminished.

It is not a new concept to use whatever tools necessary to mobilize supporters of a cause. Activism is a spectrum comprised of many levels of involvement and dedication. Whether it be signing a petition or putting money in a donation box while purchasing groceries, lower levels of commitment exist and have existed, regardless of their portrayal on the Internet.

Clicktivists should remember that while their online actions are definitely helpful, it should not suffice or constitute full-fledged activism. Therefore, clicktivists should push themselves to stay committed to issues that peak their interest. That is not to say that they should stop sharing, liking and retweeting. The benefits of those actions are immeasurable.

– Arin Kerstein

Sources: Daily O, Facebook, Daily O, Georgetown University, Daily O
Photo: Invisible Children

MAG America
People know that war leaves scars, on bodies, minds, families and homes. Those affected live with the destruction, adapting to the best of their ability, and attempt to go on with their lives. While international support in the wake of conflict is great, little thought is given to the scars left behind in war zones.

When peace is brokered, troops leave behind bullets, elaborately packaged, carefully hidden explosives and yet-to-be-detonated fireworks of the military grade variety. Farmers fear working their fields. The building of roads, schools and water lines is halted indefinitely. Economic recovery is nearly impossible, at least until the threats are eliminated.

The Mines Advisory Group, or the MAG, has tasked itself with removing such lingering threats. Since 1989, MAG America employees have provided extensive training to volunteers living in post-war zones. Teams clear landmines and explosive weapons that did not go off when fired, and remove abandoned weapons, strategizing to prevent their proliferation.

To protect communities where mine contamination and weapons surpluses remain, the MAG offers programs that teach people how to recognize threats, what areas to avoid and emergency procedures. The MAG employs 2,400 people in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The 2,400 individuals make up about 90 percent of the MAG staff. Most are from severely underprivileged communities. Not only do these individuals benefit from the steady salary, they additionally receive professional training as mine destruction specialists, educators, community liaison specialists and medics.

The MAG is currently working to secure military storage in El Salvador, where access to small arms has fueled the second highest homicide rate in the world. Land clearing operations in Lebanon are ongoing, as they are in Iraq. The organization is aiding seven nations in Africa and four nations in Southeast Asia.

Manchester is home to the MAG’s international operations, while MAG America is based in Washington, D.C. More volunteers and staffers are needed, but the MAG recommends three ways to join its cause: become a “team driver” by building your own awareness, a “medic” by raising awareness in your community or a “virtual deminer” by fundraising or donating.

– Olivia Kostreva

Sources: MAG 1, MAG 2, MAG 3, MAG 4, Idealist
Sources: MAG

donate time
There are many ways to give to your charity of choice, but one of the most effective ways to give back is to donate time – that is to say, volunteer. Being generous with your time is beneficial to both you and to your cause of choice.

The effort to eliminate poverty worldwide would not have advanced as far as it has without the hard work of thousands of volunteers – and continued initiatives to reduce poverty will require more volunteers as well. Here are three reasons why you should donate your time.

1. Volunteering Benefits Charities

When volunteers give their time to an organization, it allows that organization to use the money it would have otherwise paid someone to do the same task to make improvements elsewhere. According to the University of California San Diego, an average volunteer hour is worth $15.39. Volunteering permits organizations to make intelligent decisions about where that money is better spent.

Giving your time also saves you money, allowing you to invest it in other causes as you see fit – it truly spreads the wealth in more ways than one.

2. You Reap the Rewards

As opposed to donating money, donating your time allows you to see first-hand the difference you’re making. Volunteering also allows you to meet new people, explore new causes and develop skills that may be useful to you later in life. Not only that, volunteers often end up learning lessons that stick with them throughout their entire lives and lead to other opportunities.

3. Your Community is Enhanced

No matter what cause you support, donating your time enhances your community in that it brings people together. Even if your efforts aren’t aimed locally (for instance, in nearby schools, youth programs or elderly facilities), working to better the world makes your community a better place to live. Engaging in service strengthens individuals’ sense of “civic responsibility” and encourages further investment into communities everywhere.

Donating time is one of the best ways to give back to not only your charity of choice but also your community. In 2013, over a quarter of Americans volunteered in some fashion. Increasing the number of volunteers — and the hours they spend volunteering — across the world is sure to make a difference for a number of causes, poverty-elimination included.

– Elise L. Riley 

Sources: University of California San Diego, Huffington Post
Photo: Flickr

International Day of Charity
September 5 will mark the second annual United Nations International Day of Charity, a day on which the U.N. encourages the world’s citizens to raise awareness and donate time to charitable acts. The U.N. General Assembly created the Day under Resolution 67/105 in 2012 “to promote charitable activities around the world.” The GA selected the date to honor Mother Teresa, who dedicated much of her life to charity and who passed on September 5, 1997. “Donations of time or money; volunteer engagement in one’s own community or on the other side of the world; acts of caring and kindness with no thought of recompense; these and other expressions of global solidarity help us in our shared quest to live together in harmony and build a peaceful future for all,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Here are a couple of ways to celebrate the Day:

Volunteer Close to Home

Explore websites like Volunteer Match that allow its users to browse volunteer opportunities based on location and interests. A 2001 U.N. report claims volunteering grows social networks, increases self-esteem, develops skills important to future employment opportunities, gives volunteers a sense of purpose, and equates to a U.S. economic benefit of $225 billion per year. To volunteer with the spirit of International Day of Charity to the fullest extent, volunteer without any intention of including the experience on a resume. Choosing to volunteer for an issue or organization for which you are passionate, could lead you to continue the effort even after the Day of Charity.

Log On to Social Media

With Social Media connecting millions of people around the world, it is now easier than ever to advocate at the grassroots level. The Blackbaud Index estimates the nonprofit sector raised $22 billion online in 2011. Starting an online fundraising campaign to share with your friends and followers can raise funds for a noble cause and inform others about the issue. However, if those of you with social media accounts do nothing else to celebrate International Day of Charity, like their Facebook page and follow @IntDayOfCharity. Supporters can tweet using #CharityDayUN, share the website of their favorite charity or volunteer organization, or share articles relating to the Day of Charity.

Donate

Americans gave $335.17 billion to charity last year alone, and the U.N. would like to see a spike in that giving in September. But beyond giving directly to your organization of choice, try involving more people in donating for the Day of Charity. A door-to-door food drive for a local soup kitchen is another chance to remind others about the upcoming Day and encourage them to participate. Those who may not be able to give monetarily could consider sorting through old clothes and household items to donate to organizations like the Salvation Army.

However you choose to celebrate the International Day of Charity, remember to, as Ki-Moon says, “recognize charity for what it is at heart: a noble enterprise aimed at bettering the human condition.”

– Erica Lignell

Sources: Facebook, United Nations, United Nations 2, Twitter, Volunteer Match, Market Watch, Olympic Information Center, Deseret News
Photo: Calls Free Calls

MacArthur_Foundation_human_rights_justice_poverty
Only 5 percent of the world’s income is in the hands of the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population.  According to UNICEF, around 22,000 children die every day from poverty-related issues.  They die in some of the poorest villages on the planet that most people don’t even know exist and not a lot is being done to help them, considering the amount of waste the rest of the world produces.

Around 28% of children in the developing world are projected to be underweight or to have stunted growth, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia containing the majority of those children.  Because of the slow progress in these two regions, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) objective of cutting the number of undernourished children in half will be missed by 30 million children, a tragic amount.

As far as the health of the impoverished goes, infectious diseases continue to harm those living in poverty all over the world.  Every year about 1 million people die from malaria and 350-500 million people have malaria.  Of all those people who died from malaria, 90 percent of them are from Africa and 80 percent of the people with malaria are children.

Around 3 million people die each year from HIV/AIDS and about 40 million people are living with it.

Water problems can be a big problem for impoverished countries as well, with about 1.8 million annual child deaths from diarrhea which stems from non-clean water sources.  Nearly 1.1 billion people in developing countries don’t have suitable access to water, and 2.6 billion don’t have any means of even basic hygiene.

Those facts can make it seem like there is no hope, but there are actually a lot of people out there helping to end undernourishment and extreme poverty.  Pope Francis, for example, is a strong advocate for this cause and he has stated multiple times that “with wealth, comes responsibility.”  He seeks to help the many refugees, fleeing war in their countries, who are seeking at least some sort of sustainable living conditions.

These refugees not only fail to find generosity, but they often breathe their last breath on their voyage to find a better home.  According to Pope Francis, “It is intolerable that thousands of people continue to die every day from hunger, even though substantial quantities of food are available, and often simply wasted.”

A very admirable group of people created a volunteer organization called The Justice Project Macarthur and are going to a food festival at the Camden Town Farm this Saturday, February 1, in Camden, Australia, which is just outside of Sydney.  This food festival will be supporting Oxfam’s Grow campaign that strives to create equality in global food availability and distribution.

The Justice Project Macarthur volunteers are promoting this campaign to everyone at the festival so that they can all be presented with the chance to make a difference.  The Justice Project Macarthur is an action group that advocates for global injustices like slavery, fair trade, and food security and they are a great inspiration for people seeking to provide aid for the undernourished around the globe.

Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: Global Issues, Catholic Online, Camden-Narellan Advertiser
Photo: Macfound

finding_internships
Working for an organization that stands for an important cause is very appealing to many people. Nonprofit internships are great ways to be a part of something bigger, while gaining experience in the world. With the opportunities so vast, it’s hard to know where exactly to start. Below are the Top 10 sites for finding internships with a nonprofit organization.

1. Encore

Encore is a powerful resource in the nonprofit world. With a listing of over 5 million opportunities in nonprofit sectors, Encore is one of the biggest sites for navigating jobs and internships in encore careers.

2. Idealist

This site is a huge resource with close to 80,000 nonprofit organizations and 10,000 job/internship listings.

3. The Foundation Center

Known for bringing forth developing information about philanthropy, The Foundation Center has an easy-to-navigate job board featuring openings at nonprofit organizations.

4. Internmatch

Internmatch provides a comprehensive listing of nonprofit organizations across the world, and the internship opportunities therein. The site is tailored to meet visitors’ needs, making it easy for an individual to choose a nonprofit organization based on his/her preferences.

5. Commongood Careers

This search firm helps nonprofit organizations hire and recruit individuals based on their skill set and talents. Boasting a 93 percent successful hire, and retention rate, Commongood Careers is a great resource to help people find the right nonprofit for them.

6. Bridgespan Group

The Bridgespan Group operates the online Nonprofit Jobs Center with approximately 350 open positions. Their site also provides people looking for leadership opportunities within a nonprofit the necessary tools to get started.

7. The Nonprofit Times

This site provides visitors with a newsfeed that tracks events in the nonprofit world, and a huge database in which visitors can enter key search terms to find the nonprofit of their choice.

8. Greenlights

Greenlights is home to a large number of nonprofit members whom they help support by giving people a way to join their organization. Along with offering training and other services to nonprofit organizations, Greenlights makes the process in finding a job/internship position very informative and easy.

9. The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Another site that provides news and information on philanthropy, The Chronicle of Philanthropy also has a jobs listing with over 1,000 positions in various fields in the nonprofit sector.

10. Interns.org

Interns.org is an easy-to-use site that directs volunteers looking for internship opportunities with nonprofit organizations that suit them the best. It also provides those in search of an internship with a way to communicate with one another.

– Chante Owens

Sources: Interns, Greenlights, Internship Match, Huffington Post