LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

International Day of the Girl: A Skilled GirlForce

Today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl, a day declared by the United Nations in 2011 to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world.  It’s a day when activist groups come together under the same goal to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere. Fast forward to today and the International Day of the Girl has become a global movement of hope, inspiration and advocacy to better the lives of half our planet who is being left behind.

Each year the United Nations selects a theme. The theme for 2018 is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce”. Per the UN:

Today’s generation of girls are preparing to enter a world of work that is being transformed by innovation and automation. Educated and skilled workers are in great demand, but roughly a quarter of young people – most of them female – are currently neither employed or in education or training.

Of the 1 billion young people – including 600 million adolescent girls – that will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse and exploitation are common.

On 11 October, International Day of the Girl, we are working alongside all girls to expand existing learning opportunities, chart new pathways and calling on the global community to rethink how to prepare them for a successful transition into the world of work.

Under the theme, With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, International Day of the Girl will mark the beginning of a year-long effort to bring together partners and stakeholders to advocate for, and draw attention and investments to, the most pressing needs and opportunities for girls to attain skills for employability.

Source: www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

Preparing a new generation of skilled female workers will be an enormous undertaking to say the least. There are tremendous challenges that girls living in poverty and crisis face in the areas of education, health, safety and violence, discrimination and lack of opportunity. These obstacles hold girls back and harm us all. When we don’t utilize half of our population, we are all missing out. Girls hold an enormous source of energy, power and creativity in their voices and passion to make their lives and communities better.

A girl with an education is a supergirl — she can change her future and her community. She can even change the world. -UNICEF

While I was in Kenya last February with LifeStraw, I witnessed firsthand the resilient perseverance of girls when it comes to getting an education and improving their lives. Some of these girls walked hours and worked all day and night just to receive an education knowing very well what it could do for their future and their family.

These girls were as curious about me as I was about them. As I left the group assembly to check out the school they shyly followed me and asked my name and questions about America. I asked if I could interview them to learn about their dreams for the future. Here is what they had to say. 

Yet, more than 130 million girls are out of school around the world today.  Think about that loss of potential for these girls and society as a whole. It has been proven that keeping girls in school will have a ripple effect throughout their community by delaying an early marriage, childbirth and allowing girls to enter the workforce to escape poverty.

Photos of me with the kids in Kenya during the LifeStraw Follow the Liters Campaign. 

Girl Up, an advocacy group run by and for girls, supports United Nations programs promoting the health, safety, education, and leadership of girls in developing countries. Girl Up also is a tremendous resource providing facts and information on the unique challenges that girls around the world face.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls
LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

How LifeStraw is Saving the Planet and Lives

For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it. – Marcus Samuelsson

Today, March 22 is World Water Day, a day designated by the United Nations to bring attention of the importance of water. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water affecting their health, wellbeing, education and livelihoods. Water is life and in my opinion access to safe water is a basic human right. Water is so critical to life and wellbeing that it was added by the UN as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) which commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes measures to protect the natural environment and reduce pollution.

In my work, I’ve had several opportunities to write about water and have recently witnessed firsthand the impact of brining safe water to communities during a trip to Western Kenya last month with LifeStraw.

In light of this important day, I wanted to share with you a few shocking facts about the lack of safe water around the world, ways that single use plastic water bottles are threatening our planet and ideas on how you can help. Please feel free to share this post and help spread awareness of this critical issue.

LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

Demonstrating washing hands with safe water

LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

Trying out the LifeStraw Community Filter

LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

The youngest child at the school, age 3, takes her first sip of safe water

Did you know….

World population impacted by unsafe water: 

  • Globally, 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. By 2050, the world’s population will have grown by an estimated 2 billion people and global water demand could be up to 30% higher than today. (UNESCO-United Nations World Water Development Report 2018)
  • Today, around 1.9 billion people live in potentially severely water-scarce areas. By 2050, this could increase to around 3 billion people.
  • 2.5 million children miss school every day around the world due to waterborne illness
  • 29 percent of the global population (2.1 billion people), and 42 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa, lack access to safe drinking water services. (UN)
Conservation/Environment Global Health Global Issues Humanitarian Kenya SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION

How to Help Syrian Children From Losing Their Childhood

Seven years later, civil war continues to loom in Syria destroying the world they once knew and tearing families apart. Millions of Syrians are living amidst unimaginable violence and uncertainty. 12 million people, over half of the pre-war Syrian population, are either internally displaced or have had to flee the country in search of safety. Furthermore, over half of all Syrian refuges are children and 2.8 million of these children are out of school. For children under age 8, war is the only life they know and their childhood has been taken away from them forever.

As a mother of two children, my heart is torn apart knowing about the dire situation for the children and families in Syria. SOS Children’s Villages has been on the ground providing a safe home, care for children and support for vulnerable families for more than 30 years. SOS began emergency relief programs in 2012 and currently operates in Aleppo, Damascus and Tartous. I have personally seen SOS Children’s program in Ethiopia and have been a huge supporter of their work ever since.

In light of the ongoing crisis in Syria, I am sharing a guest post written by Abeer Pamuk, a former SOS Children’s Village team member in Syria as well as more information on what SOS Children’s Villages is doing on the ground right now to help. 

Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises Humanitarian SOCIAL GOOD
LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

What a Week in Western Kenya with LifeStraw Taught Me: Water is Life

I rose with excitement and anticipation to the pre-dawn sound of the birds outside my hotel room in Kakamega, Western Kenya. Although the sky was still an inky black, the world outside my window was alive with noise and commotion as drivers rolled into the parking lot thumping African rap music and fellow LifeStraw staff for the LifeStraw Follow the Liters Campaign began to start their day. The smell of breakfast being served two floors below crept through the cracks in my door. Despite not having a huge appetite in the early hours of the morning, I knew that the omelette and perfectly ripe mango I had that morning at 6 would have to fill me up until dinner time.

I jumped out of bed, untangling myself from my mosquito net and quickly dressed in my uniform for the day. A blue LifeStraw t-shirt, a long pair of gray cargo pants, closed-toe hiking shoes, sunscreen, hat and ponytail. Today was to be my first day out in the field and I didn’t want to be late. Despite utter exhaustion, jet lag and concern that I had only slept a little over an hour the night before, I could hardly wait. It was the start of our campaign to reach the one millionth child to receive safe drinking water. Little did I know what a massive operation this would be and how incredibly inspired I’d feel by the end of the week.

Given the size and scale of the campaign, our international team of 130 LifeStraw staff and volunteers were divided up into 15 teams with the goal of reaching 3-4 primary schools per day all in different parts of Western Kenya. My team was called “Team Crocodile” and was lead by Rebecca Masoni, the local Area Coordinator for LifeStraw. We also had local Sub-Country Coordinators Vincent, Patrick and Dorice (known as Mama LifeStraw) and Dehli-based Raju, myself, and mother and daughter pair Detria and Sophia, from California. Over the course of the next five days, our team alone would reach 15 primary schools and 11,923 school children throughout Vihiga, Hamisi, Khwisero, Butere, and Lurambi counties in Western Kenya. 

By 6:30 am, the parking lot was jammed pack with a motorcade of SUVs, drivers and enthusiastic LifeStaw staff and volunteers all setting out to start the day. Some of the teams had already departed as early as four in the morning to reach some of the most remote schools. We were lucky to have the region surrounding Kakamega meaning our daily drive to reach the first school would only take about two hours.

As we left our base, we set off into the rising sun leaving behind the chaos of early morning in Kakamega. Markets of fruits and vegetables stands were being set into place. Clumps of shoes, clothing and homewares were laid out on colorful blankets across the dirt ground. Motorcycles of entire families and buses packed to the rim were scurrying around. Children in their school uniforms of baby blue and white, pink and green, maroon and navy blue, were walking alongside the road heading to school.

After a half of hour, the paved roads ended and we began our trek along the bumpy, pot-holed dirt roads of rural Kenya. The roads that always remind me of what it is like to get around in the developing world. The urban landscape began to fade and the beauty of rural, Western Kenya greeted my hungry soul. The lushness and greenery such a delight to see after so many months of colorless winter back at home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We passed several single-plot farms growing maize and tea surrounded by traditional mud huts interspersed by small rural towns of nothing more than a few shacks and rundown buildings. Women walked side by side gracefully balancing 20 liter jerrycans of water on top of their head while farmers worked the fields. Children frantically waved and yelled “Mzungu!” (foreigner) as our car passed them by along the way. As the morning dew began to lift off the horizon, the beauty of the landscape took my breath away. It was spellbinding.

The arrival

An hour and a half later we reached the entrance of our first school, the Khanirir G. Jeptorol Primary School in Hamisi. A faded hand painted wooden sign stood proudly at the gate beckoning us to enter. Our caravan of three SUVs slowly drove up the dirt path to the school, to the sound of laughter, cries of joy and song. As we got out of the car, a large cow bell was rung and out came 500 excited school children dressed in green and pink uniforms, running out the open doors of the school rooms thrilled to meet us.

As much as we ached to say hello and greet the children, I quickly learned that proper protocol is of utter importance in Kenya. The first thing our team had to do was go inside to meet the Head Teacher and cover a few formalities. We briefly introduced ourselves and went over the plans for the next two hours. At the first school, we would be installing five LifeStraw Communities. Each LifeStraw Community can serve 100 children and five would serve the entire population of the school.

While our drivers began installing the LifeStraws, our team assembled inside a large circle with the children surrounding us, for introductions which of course involved song and dance. This was my absolute favorite part of the presentation!  It is hard to put into words the feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of joyous children singing, dancing, clapping and laughing together as one. By the end of the week, I couldn’t get the songs out of my head and still wake up in the middle of the night singing them.

Since I had such a hard time capturing my experience into words, I created this short video of some of the footage I took during the week. Every time I watch the video it makes me smile. Hope you can get a sense for what my week was like by viewing it

Global Health Global Issues Kenya TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Kakamega Rainforest, Kakamega, Kenya

The Journey to Reach the One Millionth Child with Safe Water in Kenya

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”. –  Lao Tzu

I left for Kenya on a Thursday afternoon feeling the normal pre-trip jitters of an exceptionally long 24 hours of travel ahead. I was flying from Minneapolis to Amsterdam with a five hour layover, and then I had another eight hour flight to reach Nairobi. I knew that it was going to be a long, exhausting journey yet I was exhilarated all the same to be off on a trip into the unknown.

I boarded my first flight with anticipation wondering what was in store for me when I finally arrived in Kenya. I had been chosen to join LifeStraw’s Follow the Liters campaign to reach the one millionth child to receive safe drinking water. I had a packet of detailed information about the program and the campaign but that was all I honestly knew. I was traveling alone and would meet up with ten of the 130 members of the the LifeStraw team in Amsterdam to continue our journey.

LifeStraw, a part of the Vestergaard global health company, began the Follow the Liters program four years ago in Western Kenya after realizing they could be a catalyst for positive change throughout the region. Children were missing many days of school due to waterborne diseases and illness caused by drinking unsafe water. Some were even dying. The need was immense, and LifeStraw had the answer.

With over twenty years of experience working on global health issues in Kenya, Vestergaard understood that Western Kenya was the perfect place to launch the campaign given the fact that it is one of the most populous, rural parts of the country which is in dire need for safe water. At the end of 2014, 158,000 school children were reached during the first Follow the Liters Campaign. Four years later, we would be reaching one million kids! I could hardly wait to be a part of it.

Giving Back through Retail

LifeStraw is not a pure one-for-one program (like TOMS shoes) because the needs of the retail market and local market on the ground in Kenya are quite different.

For each LifeStraw product sold in retail markets in Canada and the U.S, one child receives safe drinking water for a year. It is not a “buy one give one” model but instead a comprehensive program implemented and adapted for the needs of the local market. For each school LifeStraw serves, they provide ongoing training, education and follow-up for a minimum of five years. It is a long term commitment that employs local staff from the community to ensure sustainability of the program.

Global Health Global Issues Kenya SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
LifeStraw Follow the Liters

I’m Heading to Kenya with LifeStraw and Here is Why #Lifestraw1million

“For it is in giving that we receive”. – Francis of Assisi

Sometimes life takes an unexpected curve and you just have to go for it. Back in December, as I was preparing for the busiest time of the year for me and my family I received an email telling me about an opportunity to join LifeStraw, a water filtration social enterprise owned by Vestergaard, on their upcoming trip to Kenya in February on a special project: To reach the one millionth child to receive safe drinking water.

I dropped everything I was doing that December day and applied for one of three spots to attend as a storyteller and volunteer on the trip. I hoped for the best and left for the holidays returning right after the New Year to receive the exciting news that I was selected to join the 2018 Follow the Liters team to Kenya!

As I prepare to leave for the trip today, I want to tell you a little bit more about LifeStraw and the what I will be doing for the next week in Kenya. I am thrilled to be going and doing the work I love so much. Traveling, volunteering and doing good! Making a difference has become so important to me throughout the years. I have been blessed with so many opportunities to travel and have realized how inequitable the world can be. Giving back to my family, friends, community and those around the world in need is a critical aspect of my life. I look forward to making a difference over the next week.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Health Global Issues Kenya SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL

#IStandForGirls: Kurandza’s Mission to Help Girls in Mozambique Go to School

“I’ve always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation.” Queen Rania of Jordan

Kurandza (which means “to love” in Changana, the local language ) is a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. Founded by Elisabetta Colabianchi in 2014, Kurandza works to empower women and their community through education, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development programs in Guijá, Mozambique.

Elisabetta was first introduced to Guijá, a small village in southern Mozambique, when she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer at a local hospital. Her main role was to counsel HIV-positive women on the prevention of HIV transmission to their children. During her work she realized that many patients would abandon treatment because they could not pay for transportation to the hospital to pick-up their medicine each month. Elisabetta and her good friend, Percina Mocha who lived in the community, started an income generation project for the HIV-positive women, with the goal of teaching them a skill that would earn enough income to pay for the monthly transportation costs to the hospital. The impact was enormous and sparked the impetus for Elisabetta to do more.

In the Fall of 2014 after returning to the US, Elisabetta founded Kurandza to continue supporting the community through a variety of educational, business and sustainable development programs. Her good friend Percina works as the Country Director of Kurandza in Mozambique and is responsible for managing all of the programs on the ground.

This month, Kurandza has launched the #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 100 girls to school in Mozambique.  

What is the campaign?

In the month of September the goal is to bring-on 100 purpose-driven individuals who support girls education, empowerment and gender equality to become monthly donors and will afford an education to girls in Mozambique.

For $20 per month (or $240 a year), someone can join the movement and give a future to a girl in Mozambique. The $20 pays for school fees, uniform, backpack, school supplies, school books, photocopies for exams, and transportation to get to school.

I have just signed on to support a girl’s education. It is something I have always wanted to do especially as a mother of a ten-year old girl who has all the opportunity imaginable simply based on where she was born.

Why girls education? 

I had the opportunity to interview both Elisabetta and Percina (who was the first girl to graduate from high school in her community) to learn more about the campaign and the impact an education makes on a girl. Here is what they had to say.

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

The Global Emergency Response Coalition Aims to Fight Extreme Hunger

Three years ago I was on a trip of a lifetime. I joined a global team of journalists for a two-week reporting fellowship in Ethiopia where we covered the progress Ethiopia has made in newborn and maternal health. The trip was life-changing in so many ways. It opened my eyes to extreme poverty and hunger. I realized how much I take for granted: Access to electricity, running water, safe drinking water, food, health care, education and opportunity. The basic necessities that people need to survive.

I made a promise to myself as a global citizen and humanitarian that I will never turn a blind eye. I will continue to advocate and use my voice on my blog to bring awareness to issues happening around the world especially ones that are not covered as much by the press. 

 

On July 18th, eight of the world’s leading U.S.-based international relief organizations joined forces for the first time to launch a joint fundraising appeal, the Hunger Relief Fund, to the American public to respond to an unprecedented hunger crisis and to save millions of lives. The Global Emergency Response Coalition (GERC) was formed in response to starvation threatening more than 20 million people in Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and neighboring countries.

The Global Emergency Response Coalition is comprised of CARE, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision. Partners including BlackRock, Google, PepsiCo, Twitter and Visa are working with the Global Emergency Response Coalition to help raise awareness and funds during the two-week appeal. The PepsiCo Foundation and BlackRock also will each generously match donations up to $1 million.

Children in Turkana County, Kenya dig for water in a dried up riverbed. Photo credit: Save the Children

Tragically, children are impacted even more by the crisis. Over 1.4 million children in these countries are severely malnourished and at risk of death without immediate help. In 2011, we faced a similar multi-country food shortage crisis and the international community failed to act in time. Over 258,000 people died in Somalia alone in which over half were children. We cannot let this happen again. Although there has been some media coverage, public awareness of this global crisis is low and there is simply not enough funding to meet the level of urgent need our organizations are facing on the ground.  

Food Security Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD

TO THE MARKET Celebrates World Refugee Day with the Launch of New Products

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods. TO THE MARKET is an amazing, creative social enterprise that showcases handmade goods made exclusively by proud and passionate artisans who have overcome the perils of abuse, conflict, and disease. By assisting local partners around the world in bringing these goods “to the market,” the organization takes an active role in equipping the survivor’s they employ with economic independence, while raising awareness of the challenges that they face.

I have featured TO THE MARKET’s products on my “Gifts that Give Back” page on my blog and have stayed in touch with Jane over the years to see what new initiatives they are working on. In honor of World Refugee Day (June 20th) and World Refugee Awareness Month (all of June), TO THE MARKET has launched a small collection of products in partnership with Art of Hope, a non-profit providing services to Syrian refugees in the Middle East.  I asked Jane to tell me a little bit more about the new product line and how we can use our purchasing power to make a difference. Here is what she has to say.

This was taken in the slums of Dehra Dun, India and shows Jane Mosbacher Morris (Founder of TO THE MARKET) talking with a mother of a polio survivor. Her son, the polio survivor, is able to work, allowing the family (including the mother pictured) to be supported. Photo credit: Neil Ruskin

Today is World Refugee Day, a day serving to bring to light the hardships faced by millions of displaced persons and acknowledge their perseverance. Our world faces an unprecedented number of displaced persons, 65.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to natural and manmade disasters (1). Of this population, a significant number of refugees come from Syria (1). Over 1 million registered Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon, with over half below the age of 17 (2). Displaced persons often experience greater threat of physical violence, psychological traumas, disability and death.

The stark realities endured by the majority of displaced Syrians, and countless others across the globe, can often leave those of us reading this post thousands of miles away feeling helpless as to whether or not we can make a meaningful difference. But with today’s interconnected society we can, within even a matter of minutes, through support a new collection launched by TO THE MARKET and Art of Hope at the beginning of June.

In an effort to alleviate some of the trauma and psychological wounds forced upon Syrian refugees, Art of Hope provides Syrian refugee children based in Lebanon with therapy, counseling, and trauma-relief through various art therapy workshops as well as teaching them English through the arts. The organization also provides women and teens sewing classes, arts/crafts, and psychodrama workshops, as well as English courses while helping them cope with emotional challenges. In the absence of any educational, vocational, and psychological support for the refugees, Art of Hope’s help is sometimes the only support they will receive and it makes a tremendous difference.

Art of Hope released its first capsule collection using the drawing and hand-written letters of their Syrian refugee beneficiaries from Lebanon. Printed on 100% organic cotton, each bag is handmade by female human trafficking survivors in TO THE MARKET’s artisan network and then handprinted by a Syrian refugee child. 100% of the sales of the Art of Hope and TO THE MARKET collection will directly benefit Art of Hope’s programming on the ground in Lebanon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are some photos from the new collection. To see more details or to place an order, click here.

To The Market Art of Hope

Rula’s Drawing Tote Bag: This 100% organic cotton sheeting tote includes a screen print of a beautiful drawing originally done by Rula, an 11 year old Syrian refugee from Daraa, Syria who now lives in one of the most impoverished slums of Beirut, Lebanon. Rula suffers from anxiety and PTSD after fleeing her war-torn city in Syria.

To the Market Art of Hope

Rula’s Letter Toiletry Bag

To the Market Art of Hope

Aya’s Letter Tote Bag: This 100% organic cotton canvas tote in black includes a screen print of a letter originally written in English by Aya, a 16 year old Syrian refugee from Homs, Syria who currently lives in Lebanon. 1

Want to learn more? Please visit TO THE MARKET  (www.tothemarket.com) and Art of Hope (www.artofhopeglobal.org).

References

  1. Figures At A Glance [Internet].  Available from: http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html. UNHCR.
  2. Syrian Regional Refugee Response Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal [Internet]. Available from: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=122.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

Moeloco “Dream Crazy”: Buy One, Give One and Change a Life.

“When you truly are on purpose, the people, the opportunities and the resources you need will naturally gravitate toward you”.   -Jack Canfield

Have you ever had a dream that seemed impossible and almost crazy?  Kathy Wong, an entrepreneur from Australia did. After a career in business, Kathy came out of retirement to start a social enterprise named Moeloco which is a combination of two words, “Moe” derived from the Hawaiian word Moehani, meaning “dream” and “loco” is latin for “crazy”.

“Moeloco is my dream crazy. This dream began when I realized how disconnected humanity had become” says Kathy Wong, founder of Moeloco, a social enterprise dedicated to changing the lives of children living in extreme poverty. When Kathy learned that over 300 million children lack shoes, her entrepreneurial spirit and loving heart sprung to action and she founded Moeloco. Kathy chose flip-flops as her vehicle to fuel her social enterprise. In Australia and other parts of the world, flip-flops are a fun reminder of freedom and inspiration. Kathy jumped on that theme and designed each colorful flop-flop to leave a positive message in the sand such as “Be Happy” or “Love”.

Kathy’s mission is to build a heart-centered community who realize that their consumer dollar has enormous potential and power for positive social impact. Each purchase creates a ripple effect starting with the consumer and positively impacting the lives of underprivileged children and their community.

For each pair of flop-flops, Moeloco will donate one pair of covered canvas shoes to a child living in poverty through their collaboration with the Hope Foundation, an Ireland-based non-profit working to help the street and slum children living primarily in Kolkata, India. Each pair of donated shoes protects a chid’s feet, and also helps change their future by ensuring they can attend school.





Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

“The Story of US”: How Humanity Unified is Supporting Women Farmers in Rwanda

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”. – Desmond Tutu

Do you ever feel like the connections we make in life sometimes seems like fate? The more I work in this tiny niche of social good travel bloggers, the more amazed I am by the incredible friendships and network I’ve made online. I’ve met countless inspiring bloggers and humanitarians online through blogging and social media. One such person is Maria Russo, founder of the award-wining online media platform for travel and social good, The Culture-ist and the non-profit Humanity UnifiedIt all happened because I follow her on Instagram where I noticed the amazing photographs her organization was posting on women and girls during a trip to Rwanda.

I commented on the photos and began a relationship online that resulted in an interview  and a post on her and her husband Anthony’s work as the founders of Humanity Unified. I was instantly drawn to Maria and Anthony’s passion for making the world a better place by starting at the grassroots level by improving the lives of women and girls in Rwanda. I have been working with Maria ever since.

This past International Women’s Day (on March 8th), I held a fundraising dinner to support Humanity Unified and I was elated by the results. In one night, we raised over $400! Although that may seem like a small amount to you and me, in Rwanda that money goes a long way. Roughly 70 % of Rwandans are substance farmers who rely on their harvests for income and with unpredictable weather, environmental disasters and climate change, a good or bad harvest can make a tremendous difference. Humanity Unified is trying to change this reality by empowering rural communities to rise out of poverty through education, food security projects and economic opportunities. They start by investing in women.

Humanity Unifed

Photo credit: Anthony Russo

Since 2015, Humanity Unified has been working in Rwanda with their partner Aspire Rwanda, a local NGO that empowers poor women to rise above poverty. The two organizations share similar missions dedicated to poverty alleviation through education, food security projects and economic opportunities.

Humanity Unifed

Photo credit: Anthony Russo

Humanity Unifed

Photo credit: Anthony Russo

Currently, the organization is empowering 110 women through a farming cooperative project that will ensure each woman earns a self-sustaining, livable income after completing a one-year intensive educational program.

The program provides the women with the skills and knowledge necessary to triple the cooperative’s yields over the course of one year. The 100 women enrolled in the cooperative, most of whom earn less than a dollar per day, are also attending workshops on gender-based violence, women and children’s rights, nutrition, positive masculinity (which includes male partners) and workshops designed specifically for single and widowed women. The program also provides training in cooperative management, financial planning and effective agriculture methods.

Food Security Gifts that Give Back Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls

Kiva: Be Bold for Change, Invest in Her

“Kiva is a simple concept that can change a person’s life.” – Oprah Winfrey

I learned about Kiva years ago after reading the life-changing book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  This book could not have been more timely in my life as after reading it, I immediately began investing in women at Kiva and also using my voice as a blogger and social good advocate to help improve the lives of women and girls.

Kiva is an international nonprofit founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. What I love about Kiva is the brilliant concept of using small micro loans to empower people in the developing world to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. These are normally people who do not have access to traditional bank accounts and Kiva’s micro loans provide the missing link that they need to succeed. Kiva’s loans not only improve but change thousands of lives and what a greater gift than providing opportunity and empowerment, especially to women.

In honor of International Women’s Day this Wednesday, March 8th, Kiva has launched an exciting campaign called “Be Bold for Change, Invest in Her”.  The ambitious goal is to crowd fund $3 million in loads for thousands of women from March 1-8Kiva is offering 10,000 new visitors the chance to lend the equivalent of $25 on Kiva for free as part of the campaign.  You can choose which woman you want to support – a woman starting or growing a business, going to school, accessing clean energy or investing in her community. 

invest_in_her-preview

 

 

Individual loans of $25 are collected until that woman’s loan request is fully “crowdfunded.” It doesn’t cost new visitors a thing and they can be part of achieving the campaign’s overall $3 million goal alongside Kiva’s 1.6 million individual lenders. Furthermore, 100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes to funding loans. Kiva covers costs primarily through optional donations, as well as through support from grants and sponsors.

Gifts that Give Back Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls