Current Event-Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)

By Molly Dietrich

western-saharaThe last colony in Africa was not conquered by Europeans, the invasion was by another African country. About 80% of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), formally known as Western Sahara, went under Moroccan control after the Spanish withdrew from the area in 1976. The Sahrawi Polisario front fought for their land through guerilla warfare until a ceasefire in 1991. The conflict is physically illustrated by the “sand berm” or wall built by the Moroccans that stretches 1,700 miles across the length of SADR.

Today, people of SADR are experiencing human rights violations including the torture of Sahrawi detainees and violence against Sahrawi women. Sahrawi refugees have taken shelter in neighboring countries – 165,000 Sahrawi people are in Algerian camps, and 26,000 are in Mauritanian camps. This is a significant amount of SADR’s population which was 587,000 in 2016. The living conditions for these refugees are terrible.

Although the Sahrawi struggle has lasted about 40 years there is a newly ignited international awareness with the admittance of Morocco into the African Union (AU) this January. The conflict is at the top of the AU’s agenda and international powers are pushing for a solution. Unfortunately, Morocco continues to refuse to recognize SADR. Although there is currently a ceasefire, tension is high and Sahrawis believe there is potential for a renewed conflict.

The United States currently supports the Sahrawis in their fight for self-determination.

UniversalGiving stands in solidarity with the Sahrawi people and we ask you to remember how important it is to support emergency response efforts around the world.

“The World Factbook.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.


Challenging, Heartfelt Times

By CEO Pamela Hawley

Today, our world seems filled with challenges. Most conversations start with the state of our government, fear for our future, our families and freedoms. We’re facing a tough time in our country and the world. But we must hold to constructive hope.  

We must hold to what we can do, in our hearts, minds and actions.

We’ll take on one area in this discussion. The U.N. recognizes more than 65,000 refugees — but we know there are many more. So, we need to support refugees, human rights, basic freedoms, at home and everywhere. But it doesn’t stop there.

Further, we need to also support host countries. For example, in Lebanon now — more than 50% of students in the schools are Syrian. It’s nearly breaking the Lebanese systems. We need help with refugee absorption, including financial stability, healthcare, and neighborhood integration. It also includes refugees simply feeling welcomed, and host countries feeling they have new friends and partners to strengthen their communities. 

Border host countries don’t decide how many refugees they take in. People just flow over the borders. People in serious need, people who face daily threats to their lives and children — every day. You don’t put a quota on that. You have to accept them, and you do. So, these countries need support, too. They have amazing courage as the make-up of their country is changing every day.

So, at UniversalGiving, we’ll take a strong tack on all the above that focuses on what you can do in a small way. People are so overwhelmed and we want to help lift the oppression. We can be a positive force that uplifts people. What we suggest allows people to make a difference right now: small acts, such as simply smiling at others, helping someone across the street, or even cleaning up after someone spills something! That is an action, and it’s free to all, and immediately “givable.” On the same front, what you do with your hands is equally important. You can take simple, practical, profound actions. You can tap on a new neighbor’s door from El Salvador and write a note to welcome them if they have newly arrived. You can cook a meal for a new teacher who has arrived from Sri Lanka.

We can be depressed and scared and angry — and you pass those thoughts on to someone. Or you can pass on peace. What you do with your mind can have a profound impact. Therefore, we can bring a peaceful mind to every conversation, and a peaceful action in every moment of your day. We can expect the best, and act for the best, for a better world. 

Social Entrepreneur Fights Mafia

This is a guest article from about Dario Riccobono, leader of anti-mafia movements including the “sticker campaign” and his nonprofit AddioPizzo Travel.

“While the movie The God Father has become a cult in many countries, it has done Italy and Sicily much damage by glamorizing one of their worst social plagues. The mafia is often perceived to be mostly about gangster’s lifestyle. Instead, it is essentially about economic, political and cultural control of a territory through an intensely localized grasp from which all other pathways of power flow. Given its long history with mafia culture, Italy is at the forefront of the anti-mafia movement. It has long been understood that fighting the mafia is not only the responsibility of public prosecutors and the police but of every citizen. The anti-mafia movement in Italy is large and well-organized. Libera, the main anti-mafia organization is the only Italian NPO to feature in the top-100 list compiled by the Global Journal of Philanthropy. The last few years have seen the emergence of several social entrepreneurs working towards a similar objective but adopting different methods.

Dario Riccobono is one of the social entrepreneurs who grew up in a mafia-affected area. He was touched by the anti-mafia movement and later decided to create a new approach to solve the problem from a different angle. Dario was born in Capaci, a small town, sadly known by everyone in Italy as it is the place where Judge Falcone was killed in his car in 1992 (the mafia blew off the highway when he was traveling with his wife). A large social movement was shaped as a result of this tragedy and the anti-mafia movement became a strong player in Italy’s civic society. Important victories were obtained, such as a confiscation law, passed by a popular referendum, to make all goods confiscated from the mafia available to non-profit organizations for free to be used for social good. However, mafia infiltration in all aspects of the social and economic life remains a problem.

To be able to assert its rule on Sicily and control the territory, the mafia has collected a local “protection” tax (called Pizzo in Sicilian dialect) for decades. This is still largely collected across the whole of Sicily, even in large cities such as Palermo. Those opposing such a levy, or those calling the police on them, would have their premises burnt and their families threatened. Police would often turn a blind eye to this phenomenon, focusing instead on more violent crime.

Darios’s new idea began by leveraging the power of consumers in fighting against the Pizzo. AddioPizzo (goodbye Pizzo) began working in Sicily in 2004 under the slogan “a society paying the pizzo is a society without dignity.” By leveraging the strong sense of “honor” and “dignity” shared by many Sicilians, AddioPizzo began to reframe the concept: not only the pizzo-paying business, but anyone who purchases goods from them, is a tacit accomplice of the mafia. Addio Pizzo began by rallying over 1000 signatures of people who pledged only to buy products or services by businesses who would not pay the pizzo. As the percentage of those paying was over 80%, he created a demand for pizzo-free products. As too many people have lost their lives fighting individually against mafia , Dario understood that the only way out of this eradicated cultural and economic model is to involve every person in understanding that even buying a product sold in a shop that contributes towards the mafia’s racket means to be involved with mafia. Consumers’ behavior has an influence on society and it was time for this behavior to shift. Dario was among the first members of AddioPizzo, bringing together individuals who refused to pay the pizzo into a movement working towards change in Sicily.

Dario’s role as a leader and social entrepreneur became overt as in 2009 he created a spin-off of Addio Pizzo called AddioPizzo Travel. Dario understood that the mafia was becoming a global economic giant, and it could be fought only if the same mindset shift among citizens and consumers happened outside of Sicily, in the rest of Italy and beyond. As Sicily is part of a common European market, in which goods and people are free to circulate, Dario understood the power of including non-Sicilians in the fight against mafia. This struggle needed to spread to as many regions and countries as possible and at the same time focused on the younger generation, which has the highest potential to win this fight against the mafia in their lifetime. He began therefore to focus on tourists and schools.

Tourists visiting the island can use Addio Pizzo Travel as a tour operator as well as a cultural mediator. They will organize a holiday in which every hotel, car rental, restaurant, etc is part of the network and is certified mafia-free. They will also offer the opportunity to join one or more specific tours which present Sicily through the lenses of the anti-mafia: they will show you how the movement began, take you through the first businesses to rebel, to the houses of the first young people who said no to the mafia and lost their lives because of it. You can explore the economic power of the mafia, or the political one.
The same offer, albeit age-specific and more in depth, is offered as an option for schools. Rather than visiting only the historical or artistic heritage of Sicily, Addio Pizzo Travel makes sure that young people and their teachers are made aware of the power of the mafia and that they become actors of change in their own communities.

Addio Pizzo is a powerful movement which is anchored in Palermo and focused on local change. Addio Pizzo Travel, on the other hand, has the power and ambition to become a global player by creating awareness of the mafia infiltration in the economy to more and more people and to empower them to begin by leveraging their power as consumers through an anti-mafia brand. This could be extended to other areas of Italy in which a similar illegal levy is raised by organized crime (Calabria, Campania) but also to other countries with similar problems but lack of civil society involvement in fighting it.”

Read more here!

“Dario Riccobono.” N.p., 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

NGO Spotlight-Christian Care Foundation for Children with Disabilities

Serving “Differently-abled” Children in Thailand-written by Yen Lao Executive Directorpicture2

Instead of “disabled,” we identify the orphans we serve in Thailand as “differently-abled.” This goes towards our mission of rehabilitating children with disabilities so that they may one day live full, independent lives. To achieve this mission, the Christian Care Foundation for Children with Disabilities (CCD) tries to bring medical attention, education, mental and physical stimulation and love to as many children living in government run orphanages as possible. Through the help of our donors, we employ physio-therapists and teachers who go into the children’s institutional homes to provide therapy and care as needed. We also accept volunteers from all over the world to assist our staff as well as provide the children with more love and attention.  Our volunteers commit to a minimum of 3 months so that the children we work with are not subjected to volunteers constantly coming and going.

CCD’s commitment to the children we work with lasts a lifetime. We provide basic needs for young children, get school-aged children into mainstream education and provide job training/placement upon graduation from high school or college. CCD is in the process of constructing a vocational training facility to prepare some of the grown children in our care to enter the workforce. The vocational training facility will complement our independent living homes where some of our “graduates” now reside on their own. It has been extremely rewarding to see children who came to us as infants graduate college and live independently. We hope our donors will help to grow our programs for those transitioning into adulthood as this is the final step in our mission to help “differently-abled” children live independently.picture1

Taking a holistic approach, CCD also work with parents with “differently-abled” children through our Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program. The CBR program hopes to stem the flow of children being abandoned or surrendered to the government by providing parents education on how to care for children with disabilities. Parents are taught how to advocate for social services and how to provide physical therapy as necessary. These services are brought to the parents in various locations around Thailand. CBR brings a community of parents of “differently-abled” children together and creates a local social support network with the hope of making the care of “differently-abled” children seem a little more manageable. Thus, parents feel enabled and confident that they can care for their children at home. This, of course, is the best care any child can receive.

UniversalGiving has been a wonderful platform for CCD to raise donations and recruit volunteers. We hope that you will join us in our mission to serve “differently-abled” children in Thailand.

Random Acts of Kindness Day

Spread your kindness and take our quick RAK Day survey. It’s fun!

Walk down the street and smile at a stranger. He’ll smile at the next stranger passing by, and then the whole street is smiling. And no one knows why.  — Juliana Margulies

This is one of UniversalGiving’s CEO Pamela Hawley’s favorite quotes!

Pamela believes “The only reason why we need to smile…is simply to give joy.  Give joy to ourselves and to others…it’s one of our main reasons for being.  And while people may not know why you are smiling, they’ll soon find out:  It makes the world go around with peacefulness, graciousness and lovingkindness.  That’s reason enough. :)”

At UniversalGiving we are celebrating Random Act of Kindness Day with lots of smiles! If you want to join us and make people all over the world smile, check out our giving opportunities. And don’t forget to take this fun survey (you could be featured on UG’s social media!)

If smiling is not enough, here are more ways to spread kindness on Random Acts of Kindness Day!

A Story of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness

This week is all about kindness at UniversalGiving. We are celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Week by going out of our way for both people we love and strangers. This week engage in purposeful acts of kindness. Uplift friends, community members, and people around the world. One random act of kindness can make someone’s day! Spread your kindness globally with these giving opportunities!

Daily Challenges for Random Acts of Kindness Week ! #RAKWeek2017

Monday, Feb. 13: Notice the positive things around you! Give someone a genuine compliment.  

Tuesday, Feb. 14: Call someone you love and let them know that you appreciate them. Tell them how much they mean to you.

Wednesday, Feb. 15: Leave a kind note, or a flower on a strangers car.

Thursday, Feb. 16: Pay for the person behind you in line.

Friday, Feb. 17: Bring a treat to the office to share with your co-workers. Maybe cookies or donuts!

Saturday, Feb. 18: Give books  to students who can’t afford them in Guatemala. Or chose another giving opportunity to spread kindness to people across the globe.

For the kindest among us who need additional ideas for random acts of kindness click here.