Mandela Washington FellowshipThe third annual Mandela Washington Fellowship concluded in early August 2017, wrapping up an intensive six-week program undertaken by nearly 1,000 young African leaders working toward community development and social change. The fellows came from all 49 nations in sub-Saharan Africa and trained at 38 colleges and universities across the U.S.

The Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The program accepts applicants between 25 and 35 years old who have demonstrated leadership in positive community development. Fellows are filtered into one of three tracks of study: business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership and public management.

The 2017 cohort of fellows included elected officials, peacekeepers, activists and educators who combat a wide range of social and economic issues. Admissions to the Fellowship reflect YALI’s commitment to promoting diversity. Fifty percent of the 2017 class were women and 51 fellows identified as disabled.

During the program, participants develop skills that enable them to promote economic development and security in their home communities. Fellows are linked with U.S. mentors from NGOs, private corporations and the government. The pairs work together to develop comprehensive action plans for the fellows to implement upon their return to Africa.

The program concludes with the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit, where fellows can network and attend panels led by U.S. leaders. After the summit, 100 fellows are selected to remain in the U.S. to participate in six weeks of professional development training.

The Fellowship also provides participants with unprecedented access to seed capital for their entrepreneurial endeavors. In 2014, the U.S. African Development Foundation contributed $5 million to the program to fund small grants to the Fellows for business expansion. Additionally, the State Department gave $5 million for fellows to use on community development projects. USAID works to leverage $350 million in existing development programs to support the fellows.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship cultivates relationships between the African Fellows and U.S. influencers at top universities and across the private and public sectors. Fellows end the program well-positioned to continue driving social and economic change in their home countries.

Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

Heat-Mapping for D.C. Food Insecurity- BORGEN
The federal capital of one of the most powerful nations in the world is unfortunately also home to some of the worst food insecurity in the nation.

According to D.C. Hunger solutions — an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center — one in eight households, or 13.4 percent, in the District of Columbia struggles with hunger. In the surrounding suburban areas — one of the richest in the country — the number of people facing food insecurities has risen considerably in the past 8 years. Almost 346,000 residents in the DMV suburban area now live in suburban poverty.

These statistics have fed an exigent need to find new and improved methods to document, plan and combat hunger in the Greater Washington metropolitan area. The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) serves the food security needs of this area, including the District of Columbia as well as counties in neighboring Maryland and Virginia. One of the largest obstacles in allocation of resources in this area is the disparity within the regions, as well as the undocumented presence of poverty and food insecurity.

In the midst of one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country is what has been labelled as pockets of hunger. Establishment of food banks and food distribution programs in one part of the county or city is not enough to reach out to the entire population in need of assistance, particularly children.

The solution to this problem has been the heat mapping technology for hunger in the Washington metro area. Designed by Michael Hollister for the CAFB, the technology maps the amount of food distributed in every part of the Greater Washington region; the amount of food needed is layered on the map as well.

The data is obtained through census statistics, USDA records, Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap and food assistance programs’ inventories. The hunger map then shows the areas in greatest need with calculated food insecurity rates. The layered statistical data is color-coded, as in a heat map, for easier visual interpretation.

The meticulously worked out data and the subsequent mapping technology have allowed for more uniform distribution of food resources. In the District of Columbia, the heat map has allowed for a partnership between the CAFB and another D.C. nonprofit, Martha’s Table, to prioritize school locations in the area for provision of healthy lunches.

In Virginia, the heat mapping visualization has helped the CAFB’s northern Virginia branch to access mobile home parks. These mobile home parks, like Marumsco in Woodbridge, had been long overlooked by the food distributors as they are not very visible or well-known, in-need areas.

The map of the region with visually obvious red zones brought the needs of this community to the attention of CAFB. Thanks to the heat map, there is now a food bus at Marumsco distributing nutritious lunches to kids in need.

The objective of the heat mapping method is to effectively visualize the areas with unmet food needs. The misled perceptions of affluence — in the suburban areas especially — have in the past hindered the efficient distribution of food to areas in actual need. But with the contrivance of heat mapping, the food banks in the capital area will be able to extend a helping hand to everyone in need.

Atifah Safi

Sources: Washington Post, Capital Area Foodbank, WAMU, Huffington Post, FRAC
Photo: Flickr

Global Development Lab Brings Silicon Valley to Washington-TBP

USAID’s mission to fight global poverty has just received significant support with the recent addition of the Global Development Lab. USAID has long been the leading government agency seeking to alleviate poverty, yet their mission has primarily been that of implementation. The agency is now not only committed to the physical deployment of aid, but also the development of future relief systems.

Founded in April of 2014, the new subdivision seeks to change the ways in which aid is delivered and developed. According to the official website, “The U.S. Global Development Lab is a new entity within USAID that brings together a diverse set of partners to discover, test, and scale breakthrough solutions to achieve what human progress has only now made possible—the end of extreme poverty by 2030.”

The Global Development Lab is bringing the fight against extreme poverty into the 21st century information age. Its aim is to use strategies that top technology companies have used, such as crowd sourcing, big data collection, and constant research and development to find the best solutions in terms of ending extreme poverty.

USAID has appointed Ann Mei Chang as Executive Director for the Global Development Lab. Chang worked for twenty years in Silicon Valley, spending eight of them working for Google as lead engineer of its mobile division. With both experience in the technology and nonprofit sectors, Chang brings a fresh outlook on new ways to implement global development.

The lab is revolutionary in its mission to use resources and partners from both the public and private sectors. The Global Development Lab is partnered with technology companies that are synonymous with innovation. Microsoft, Intel and Nike are listed as cornerstone sponsors. Many of the nation’s top universities, including the University of California, Duke and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have also partnered with the lab. USAID hopes that these partnerships will “leverage the combined skills, assets, technologies, and resources of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to deliver sustainable development impact.”

USAID and its new Global Development Lab are not only attempting to alleviate extreme poverty through donations and other tried methods, but the agency is now attempting to end the suffering of millions around the globe by seeking cutting edge solutions through science, innovation, and collaboration.

– Joe Kitaj

Sources: USAID, The White House
Photo: USAID Blog

A hundred million people are estimated to be homeless in the world and the number is only growing bigger with the rise and fall of economies. It is estimated that there are another 100 million “hidden homeless” worldwide, a number which takes into account those living in abandoned houses, cars, or houses and apartments with little to no furnishings.

Dr. Mark Bergel, now deemed a CNN Hero, founded his organization after noticing the very few furnishings in the houses of those struggling to make ends meet.

Bergel started his journey as a professor at American University and eventually took on his vision to help others as a full time job. He founded an organization called A Wider Circle in 2001, a nonprofit devoted to furnishing the homes of families living in poverty, free of charge.

Since it’s founding, A Wider Circle has furnished the houses of over 125,000 people, but Bergel’s mission does not stop there. He is also committed to providing an education for those who have asked for one.

Managers from the Greater Washington Area’s homeless shelters mentioned to Bergel that an education in “life skills” and how to cope with stress would be highly beneficial for the shelters’ frequenters.

So that is just what Bergel did.

He incorporated educational programs into A Wider Circle’s mission to help lift adults and children out of poverty by communicating the importance of life skills and helping to adjust the “whole person.”

“I want to help create the change that will enable people to rise out of poverty and enjoy the freedom and independence afforded to others. Poverty is a human problem, and human beings will solve it,” Bergel explained.

After many community service trips, Bergel came face to face with the truth that many people living below the poverty line often lived without beds, tables and couches. Bergel stated that “most apartments had nothing but a chair… There was nothing that would give these people a sense of hope, [or] a sense of dignity.”

With new furnishings and one less issue to worry about Bergel hopes to give families room to breathe and the ability to start fresh.

Currently, A Wider Circle has two full warehouses complete with donated furniture, toys, clothes and clean sheets. Families are able to stop in and choose what they need from the selection.

Since donating his own bed in 2008, Bergel has been sleeping on his floor or couch. He says he intends to do so until every family in the United States has enough beds for each family member.

Bergel’s foundation is not only helping people in the U.S. to live easier lives, but he is also bringing attention to a global issue — the “hidden homeless.” By helping the lives of the “hidden homeless” in the U.S. Bergel is one step closer to addressing this issue on a global scale, and by publicizing his work, we are one step closer to inspiring others to follow his lead.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: CNN, A Wider Circle
Photo: Brown University

What Is the House Foreign Affairs Committee?

Generally, a congressional committee is a sub-organization of Congress that addresses issues related to a specified area of legislation or duty. In other words, a congressional committee is a legislative delegate to Congress. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is a sub-organization of the House of Representatives that considers legislation impacting the diplomatic community, which includes national and international governmental organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations. The Department of State, the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, and the United Nations, for example, are all members of the diplomatic community.

What Does the House Foreign Affairs Committee Do?

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for oversight and legislation relating to, among other areas, foreign assistance, military activity, enforcement of international sanctions, promotion of democracy abroad, and all other matters not specifically assigned to a subcommittee. As stated on the Committee’s website, “The Committee may conduct oversight with respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Committee as defined in the Rules of the House of Representatives.” Rule X, section (i) of the Rules specifically covers the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

How can the House Foreign Affairs Committee help alleviate Global Poverty?

As mentioned, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for oversight and legislation related to foreign assistance. Specifically, the Committee is charged with oversight and legislation regarding relations of the United States with foreign nations, foreign loans, diplomatic service, and measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business interests abroad. As part of this unique mandate, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has not only the power to sponsor direct foreign aid programs to help fight global poverty in foreign countries, but also the responsibility to ensure such measures are taken because American investment in the relief of global poverty is an investment in the American economy.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Gov. Tom Ridge was quoted as saying, “By building new markets overseas for American products, the International Affairs budget creates jobs and boosts the economy here at home.” USAID is a clear example of how our assistance develops future markets, as “long-time aid recipients have become strong partners and are the fastest growing markets for American goods.” For exactly this reason and in line with it’s unique mandate, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has both the capacity and an obvious responsibility to help alleviate global poverty.

Contacting your congressperson to voice your opinion on investment in the relief of global poverty goes a long way in creating support for effective policy. To find out if your congressperson is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, visit their website. You can follow the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Twitter: @HFACrepublicans.

– Herman Watson

Photo: Zimbio
Source: GovTrack, Ed Royce, The Hill, USDA Local & Regional Food Procurement, House Foreign Affairs Committee

Capital-One-Do-More-24Capital One Financial Corporation was honored for the donations the company contributed last year, making it to number one on the Washington Business Journal’s list of top corporate givers in its local area by donating $15.7 million to its community in 2012. The company was honored for its philanthropy at a convention aimed at celebrating the charitable achievements made by businesses; the convention closed out with a highly successful one-day charity event called Do More 24.

The convention featured speakers of various charitable foundations — including the founding CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the CEO of Martha’s Table — to discuss philanthropic strategies and stories about businesses and organizations that have greatly helped their communities through donation of time, money, or supplies to those in need.

One important achievement of the conference, in particular, was the launch of the Do More 24 campaign, a short, one-day charity event led by the United Way. The fundraiser focuses on issues related to poverty and access to economic opportunities, student performance in school, and high school graduation rates for minority students. The campaign determined which problems were the most severe in the community, and in turn gave the most donor money to the nonprofits that focus on the most pressing issues. Despite its brevity, the fundraiser was able to generate over $370,000 in just the first 30 minutes and eventually raised over $1.2 million by the end of the campaign.

– Katie Brockman

Source: Washington Business Journal, Do More 24