NGO Spotlight: Avivara – Improving Education in Guatemala

Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, ranking below its’ neighbors in terms of poverty levels, environmental degradation, economic opportunities and literacy rates.  

Guatemala suffers from ongoing discrimination against an indigenous Mayan population, lacks proper health care, nutrition, economic opportunity and overall, has little educational progress.  

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This is the unsettling reality of Guatemala’s 36 year long civil war, where over 200,000 people were murdered and nearly 1.5 million were displaced from their homes from 1960 and 1996 by an internal economic elite. 

While the civil war might be over, collateral damage from three decades of exploitation and oppression is continuing today, with over 60% of the population suffering from poverty and illiteracy.  As a result, Guatemala is faced with a vicious cycle that oppresses the poor, preventing them from better opportunities to escape these hardships.

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However, the non-profit, Avivara, works to empower children through education and as means of escaping poverty.  Public education in Guatemala is free, but it is not mandatory, and incurs high costs of fees, books and uniforms.  These setbacks make widespread education a challenge, but Avivara works to foster a culture of goodwill and collaboration to rise above the systemic poverty and violence.  

The nonprofit mitigates expenses by providing accessible and affordable education, working closely with the local community, and collaborating with teachers, students and communities to ensure they are providing authentic support.

Avivara targets students from poor, rural families who wish to continue their education beyond 6th grade to junior high and beyond, developing and administering programs and providing funding to improve the quality of education. In addition, Avivara opens access to education by offering after school support for students whose parents are often uneducated and unable to support them.

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Avivara works to improve the quality and access of education in Guatemala, but their service doesn’t end here.

They foster a sense of global interconnectedness, partnering between students in the United States and in Guatemala through their School-to-School Partnership Program.  This program facilitates relationships between students in both countries by providing a channel to communicate with and learn from each other; gaining empathy and a global perspective.

Avivara is making an authentic impact, committing to their values of interconnectedness and empowerment by serving those in need, and connecting them to those with more privilege.
To learn more about Avivara, check out their page on the UniversalGiving Website.

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Thinking About Volunteering Abroad? Here is Everything You Need to Know

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We had the chance to sit down with Mark Horoszowski, CEO and co-founders of MovingWorlds, to learn more about the “Experteering” movement, and share some best practice for anybody interested in volunteering overseas.

Mark Horoszowski

First… Why do people volunteer their skills abroad?

We see people go for any number of reasons. Graduate students looking for practical experience, young professionals looking to gain international exposure, career switchers looking for something new, and early retirees looking to give back are a few of the ones we hear the most common, but we’ve also seen people go Experteering in their country of origin to reconnect with their culture, and travelers do it as a way to gain a more immersive experience.

The common thing here is that there is shared value – people recognize that they can help, but that they can also benefit in the process. This is one of the reasons we encourage people to be a little selfish in their service.

 

What are the most common types of skills-based volunteer projects overseas that you call “Experteering”?

We typically see people enter one of the following project categories:

 

Training: Leading one-on-one and one-to-many sessions with an organization or group organizations to help teach a specific skill or tool. These are typically 1 – 4 weeks long.

 

Doing: Supporting an organization with a specific task that has a clear deliverable, like designing a new website, developing a marketing plan, creating an engineering schematic, or another skills-based project. These are typically 2 – 8 weeks.

 

Consulting: Immersing yourself in a specific opportunity or challenge area to propose a clear plan of action to the organization to help them grow, giving yourself enough time to learn community and cultural contexts. Typical length of 3 – 12 weeks.

 

Team member: Become a core team member for a specific length of time for a specific business area, like marketing, operations, engineering, etc. Typical length of 12 + weeks.

 

What kind of people can go Experteering?

Anybody, as long as they have demonstrable experience in a specific area. We’ve had videographers still in college go work on projects, and we’ve also helped place retired accountants.

 

What are 5 of the most popular do’s and dont’s of international volunteering?

  1. Do spend adequate time planning. We have an online training to help people prepare mentally for this type of trip.
  2. Do build a partnership with your hosting organization and team
  3. Do spend a lot of time trying to understand the cultural context of the country AND organization you’re going to support
  4. Do think about the LONG TERM impact. At MovingWorlds, we say that success happens one year after you leave… focus on developing the skills and competencies of others.
  5. Do take time to reflect on your experience. In fact, we recommend people engage a mentor or coach as part of their experience and take time to set goals, document their trip, and reflect on it once they return home.

 

  1. Don’t go in there and think you have the answers. If you want to help someone, shut-up and listen.
  2. Don’t ignore the importance of cultural differences, and how they affect communication.
  3. Don’t start without a plan. The number one reason trips don’t go well is because people don’t take adequate time to plan
  4. Don’t go before you know. If you haven’t talked to the people you’ll be volunteering abroad with, don’t buy a plane ticket
  5. Don’t rush it – this is an experience of a lifetime. Be picky about the organization you volunteer with and spend time planning to truly make sure it’s a transformative experience for all parties.

 

We have some other great tips in this article from Why Dev.

 

Why do many organizations charge you to volunteer overseas, and why is MovingWorlds different?

Many organizations charge you to volunteer because it’s how they make money. In other words, they’re not after your skills or know-how, they are after your dollars. In exchange, they can give you an interesting experience. But sometimes, this creates really bad incentives and major ethical dilemmas.

 

At MovingWorlds, we do things differently – our organizations never charge you to volunteer because they really need your skills. Often times, they even give you a free place to live while you’re overseas. One article about us said it best, “Voluntourism can’t solve real problems, that’s where Experteers come in”. Because of the care and attention we provide every match, we do charge a membership fee – fully guaranteed and refundable – so that we can support you in finding a project that matches your real skills. Beyond helping you find a project, we walk you through a complete process to help you make a real impact and provide plenty of resources to equip you for a life-enriching trip.

 

You spent a year traveling and volunteering around the world before MovingWorlds was even an idea… what’s one piece of more personal advice you would give to anybody volunteering overseas?

 

Be humble. Even if you’re going to volunteer your skills and think you’re an expert, be ridiculously humble. The cultural differences you’ll be working in are so vast that you’ll find it challenging to actually be impactful if you don’t embrace that. And not only that, but there is so much to learn from people you go Experteering with… provided you have an open mind.

Faith is a Living, Daring Confidence

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times” – Martin Luther 

Faith is a living, daring confidence.  Wow! What language from Martin Luther. And his life certainly had to thrive off of daring. It’s not often we think of someone having to take a stand, and in this case, he took a stand to create a new branch of Christianity, Lutheranism.

When the Roman Catholic church solicited more funds for building St. Peter’s Basilica, Luther wrote 95 Theses to protest and foment discussion. He felt it was using money to excess, and disagreed that the pope was the only liaison to God.  And due to the recent printing press, it spread all over Europe in two months, a communications miracle!

He meant it for discussion, but was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church, and ostracized by thousands. But he kept going.

Still, Martin Luther’s life had challenges. He felt distanced from God, separated from inspiration and connection to life. He was always searching for the Truth, and it was a struggle.  He became a monk, a theologist, leader of a church, and always, a sincere seeker of Truth.

So what is the point for us? Well, it’s not really about being Roman Catholic or Protestant!  But it is about claiming rights for yourself and others where you can. And, using technology to spread the word!

What do you need to take a stand for today?   Join UniversalGiving and support one of our causes to make a difference today.  Click on I Want to Give my 100%! to see which special one we chose for you!

With Gratitude for the Truth,

Pamela

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Born in Germany in 1483, Martin Luther became one of the most influential figures in Christian history when he began the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He called into question some of the basic tenets of Roman Catholicism, and his followers soon split from the Roman Catholic Church to begin the Protestant tradition.
Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony, in modern southeast Germany.  In 1501, Martin Luther entered the University of Erfurt, where he received a Master of Arts degree (in grammar, logic, rhetoric and metaphysics). However, in July 1505, Luther had a life-changing experience that set him on a new course. Caught in a horrific thunderstorm where he feared for his life, Luther cried out to St. Anne, the patron saint of miners, “Save me, St. Anne, and I’ll become a monk!” The storm subsided and he was saved.
The first few years of monastery life were difficult for Martin Luther, as he did not find the religious enlightenment he was seeking. Upon his return to Germany, he enrolled in the University of Wittenberg in an attempt to suppress his spiritual turmoil. He excelled in his studies and received a doctorate, becoming a professor of theology at the university.Through his studies of scripture, Martin Luther finally gained religious enlightenment.
In 1517, Pope Leo X announced a new round of indulgences to help build St. Peter’s Basilica. On October 31, 1517, an angry Martin Luther nailed a sheet of paper with 95 theses on the university’s chapel door. Though he intended these to be discussion points, the Ninety-Five Theses laid out a devastating critique of the indulgences as corrupting people’s faith. Luther also sent a copy to Archbishop Albert Albrecht of Mainz, calling on him to end the sale of indulgences. Aided by the printing press, copies of the Ninety-Five Theses spread throughout Germany within two weeks and throughout Europe within two months.
Luther publicly declared that the Bible did not give the pope the exclusive right to interpret scripture.   In January 1521, Martin Luther was officially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.Miraculously, he was able to avoid capture and began organizing a new church, Lutheranism. He gained many followers and got support from German princes. In 1525, he married Katharina von Bora, a former nun who had abandoned the convent and taken refuge in Wittenberg. Together, over the next several years, they had six children.
Martin Luther is one of the most influential and controversial figures in the Reformation movement. His actions fractured the Roman Catholic Church into new sects of Christianity and set in motion reform within the Church. A prominent theologian, his desire for people to feel closer to God led him to translate the Bible into the language of the people, radically changing the relationship between church leaders and their followers.

Addressing Global Fuel Poverty and Access Issues

This is a guest blog by Sally James; a mother and a world traveler!

One third of the world’s population lacks electricity and does not have access to either a gas or electricity supply that is sufficient to power their home.  Particularly, Africa is experiencing a significant energy crisis that seldom makes the headlines in the mainstream media, but has devastating consequences for individuals that are living with these issues.

Exploring Power Shortages

621m Africans, equivalent to two-thirds of the continent’s entire population, live their daily lives without access to electricity.  93 million Nigerians currently depend on firewood and charcoal for heat and light, despite the fact that Nigeria is one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, instead of turning domestic oil into a usable energy source for their own population.

Human rights violations from a lack of electricity are obvious, but less obvious consequences are significant economic burdens, continuing to keep much of the continent in financial poverty.  As a result, investment opportunities are undermined by unreliable electricity access and economic growth is stifled without access to basis equipment and tools they need.

To add insult to injury, education levels of children across the continent are falling without adequate light to study, and health clinics are unable to keep live vaccination cooled and refrigerated.

Therefore, lack of electricity also means a lack of health. The toxic fumes that are released by burning firewood and dung (the only affordable source of warmth for many Africans) kills approximately 600,000 people a year – half of whom are children.

The problem doesn’t end in Africa

A lack of access to gas, electricity, or another affordable source of fuel is not just a problem that affects developing countries. Large proportions of the Indian population also struggle to access a reliable fuel supply, while the UK reports more than 2.3 million households experiencing some form of fuel poverty.

According to the UK’s Warm Home and Energy Conservation Act, ‘Fuel Poverty’ is defined as when: “a person is living on a lower income in a home which cannot be kept warm at reasonable cost.”  In other words, individuals might have access to a source of energy, but the tariff they are offered is so prohibitively expensive they cannot afford it. As a result, their power source is shut off and rendered useless.

Conditions don’t improve significantly in the US, despite the World Bank reporting that the States have “100% access to electricity.”  The financial prohibitions to electricity access are similar in America as they are in much of Europe, and ‘fuel poverty’ is a significant issue that makes access difficult for many.

Modest Steps to Change

Many countries have signed up to a targeted goal of global electricity for all by 2030, but upon looking at current rates of access growth, it seems very unlikely that that target will be met. The sheer scale of the global energy deficit, particularly in Africa, means that it can be difficult for authorities to know where to start to tackle the issue.  As a result, widespread confusion on national power issues has allowed some African government officials to take advantage of ignorance by committing internal theft.  The US’ $120m went missing from the Tanzanian state power utility last year, without answers.

While the undetected theft was transferred through a complex web of off shore companies, millions were denied power access.

In conclusion, electricity access can and should be available to all.  Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the world’s most abundant and least exploited renewable energy sources, (especially solar power), but the government lacks the desire and incentives to uncover renewable energy benefits to increase public access.

 

NGO Spotlight: Made in a Free World

Every so often, stories break about the illegal, degrading working conditions of people who make things that we normally take for granted.  These stories are headlined with images of starving children working in mines, or with workers locked into tiny bunks after completing 12-hour workdays, and readers are reminded that their new clothes didn’t just come from a rack at the retail store.

Thanks to globalization, children who work in forced labor practices exist in a world so close to ours, and many times, we are reliant on their labor.  25% of the fish they catch is sold in Europe and North America, and a lot of the minerals used in household products are mined in Asia and Africa.

However, no one wants to think about the conditions in which their laundry detergent or t-shirts were made, but Made in a Free World wants businesses and consumers to adjust their consumption habits and stop seeing human rights abuses as “someone else’s problem.” This anti-slavery organization takes action to labor injustice by bringing public attention to the worldwide prevalence of child and bonded labor through partnerships with businesses and consumers.

Made in a Free World helps businesses and consumers understand the reality of their purchases by using their trademarked supply chain transparency tool, FRDM. Upon analysis, companies can use theses results to adjust their own consumption habits and reduce their slavery footprint.

Made in a Free World attacks the issue of slave labor from both the supply and demand sides to cultivate long lasting change.  They work to help free slave laborers and provide them with resources, but also to educate companies about the danger of working with suppliers who abuse labor practices.

Take the eye opening and interactive quiz on Made in a Free World’s website called How Many Slaves Work For You?  . The quiz asks users questions on consumption habits and often times, quiz takers are shocked to see their results.  Just because we can’t see injustices in another country doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, and we have to change the westernized “out of sight, out of mind” mentality starting here.

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By juxtaposing questions about personal consumption habits with habits from people in developing countries, quiz takers are reminded of their privilege.  It’s not meant to disenfranchise users, but to inspire them to make a difference and by contributing to Made in a Free World, the lives of these children can be directly impacted.

As a result, Made in a Free World has spread awareness to slave labor, and liberated children from back-breaking labor in developing countries with sustainable solutions.

If you want to learn more about Made in a Free World, you can check out their page on the Universal Giving Website.

70 Experts Share Their Best Advocacy Planning, Strategy, Skills and Training Tips

Learn from seventy great minds including our CEO Pamela Hawley about advocacy advice! Click here to read the original article on Connectivity.

By Ann Dermody

How would you like to have your own personal government relations or advocacy mentor on speed dial?

Even, if you’d been in the business for years?

Well, we’re about to give you the next best thing.

We conducted 70, (yes, 70!) interviews with some of the leading minds in the worlds of government relations, nonprofit, advocacy, public policy, and fundraising, and asked them four pertinent questions:

  • What advocacy skill have I learned over time, or do I wish I had my first day on the job?
  • Having tried a bunch, the best advocacy strategy I rely on is …?
  • When I’m planning an advocacy campaign, the first thing I always do is … 
  •  What would be the most useful advocacy training?

Just FYI, we asked them a bunch of other questions too, and we’ll give you the full picture of what they had to say soon (including epic campaign fails and successes) – but more of that good stuff later.

For now, here’s a taster of some of the best advocacy strategies, tips and tricks they’ve learned from many collective years toiling in the world of legislation and advocacy.

And when you’ve finished reading, don’t forget to download our great free eBook: The Advocacy Planning, Strategy and Skills Guide.

Finally, to everyone who took part, a big thank you!

And to everyone reading, this is one you’ll want to bookmark!

 

What’s the greatest advocacy skill I’ve learned over time, or what advocacy skill do I wish I had had the first day on the job?

A better understanding of how advocates use social media. In my job, I’m constantly checking Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds for the latest news and updates on client campaigns, but most advocates don’t have the time to stay this connected. Many advocates favor one channel over the other, and are often not checking their social media feed until later in the evening or on the weekends. So, learning how to communicate more effectively to my audience has been critical to ensuring a successful campaign. – Carolyn Weems, VP, The Herald Group

“Knowing when to be persistent and realizing that if your efforts for change do not succeed this year, there is always next year.” – Frank Harris, Director of State Government Affairs, MADD

I didn’t have an appreciation for the value of relationships. When you work on issues, you think ‘policy’ — which is important — but I didn’t realize or appreciate how important it is to not only have the right message, but to have the right messenger. You can be more acutely effective with the right messenger. – Chip Felkel, CEO of Rap Index

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Enthusiasm. If you are passionate about what you do, they will listen. People want to be around people who love what they do. Most people these days want to find a driving purpose for their life. So even if your topic isn’t their immediate interest, your enthusiasm might just persuade them to get involved! – Pamela Hawley, CEO, Universal Giving

I wish I could have had the public speaking presence I have had to develop over many years in my advocacy work. – Meredith Nethercutt, Senior Associate Member Advocacy, SHRM

Networking: specifically, knowing how to strike up a conversation with a stranger or butt into the middle of a conversation between three or four people. – David L. Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs, Public Citizen and Founder of First Person Politics

… social media experience. Members of Congress love to use social media and it can be an incredibly powerful and engaging tool. We now recommend social media strategies to all of our clients as part of their overall advocacy initiative.” – Lincoln Clapper, Director Sales & Marketing, Prime Advocacy

“Live social video streaming didn’t exist when I started at Greenpeace, but I wish it did!” – Ryan Schleeter, Online Editor, Greenpeace USA blog

Database and email management skills. Communication to our supporters is key. Once we’ve captured their emails then it’s up to us to engage, educate and inspire. It cannot replace face-to-face interactions but it allows us to control the message, and hopefully turn the mildly interested supporter into a fully engaged advocate. – Jason Amaro, Southwest Chapter Coordinator, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers 

I wish I had a better handle on logistics when I first started. Time management when juggling multiple campaigns and issues can be tough. – Mark J. Walsh, Campaign Director, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

There are a few great advocacy skills I’ve learned from my mentors over the years that I now carry with me every day.

  • Develop a solid team.
  • Be persistent, but patient
  • Issue campaigns are like marathons not sprints
  • Define the win up front. – Christine Hill, Deputy Legislative Director, Sierra Club

Listening. When you get your hands on an issue you believe in, it’s easy forget the other voices in the room. The false consensus effect can derail even the strongest campaign. People assume that one point of view is the same as everyone else’s, and too often, people build their campaign from that false consensus. I found that it is best to anchor your advocacy campaign in facts. – Gerry Gunster, CEO, Goddard Gunster

Read the full article here!

Human Trafficking

By Pamela Hawley

Lately, you may have heard a lot about human trafficking.  Human trafficking is stealing children away from their families. They are then often used in the sex trade where they grow up in terror and are left with only one option to survive. This is an experience that, in short, wrecks their lives.

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Here are some other little known statistics:

  • Expected years of schooling is 9 years. 
  • Child labor among children ages 5-14 is 16%.
  • At any given time, more than 12.3 million people worldwide are enslaved and forced into labor, bonded labor, child labor, sexual servitude and involuntary servitude.

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In some places, modern slavery is still a common practice. Let’s take a look at an example: Mauritania. According to the Global Slavery Index, the estimated prevalence of modern slavery in Mauritania is very high – 43,000 people or 1.058% of the population. The goal is 0. 

Now that you know something about this issue, you must do something.

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Help stop slavery. Click here. 

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Want to know more? Here is some Background on Sex Trafficking

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery, in which human beings are controlled and exploited for profit. “Sex trafficking” is a modern term. It was coined during the second wave of the women’s movement in the 1980s when female activists started protesting the exploitation of women and girls in prostitution and pornography. In this industry, perpetrators use force, fraud, or coercion to manipulate and establish control over individuals. According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking generates $150 billion in illegal profits each year. The two most commonly known forms of human trafficking are sexual exploitation and forced labor. Any instance in which an individual engages in a commercial sex act (such as prostitution) as the result of force, fraud, or coercion is considered sex trafficking. Sex trafficking also includes the commercial sexual exploitation of children or minors. Some examples include factories, “sweatshops,” brothels, “massage” parlors, online escort services. The most common industries associated with the trafficking of people include: agriculture, construction, garment and textile manufacturing, catering and restaurants, domestic work, entertainment, and the sex industry.

Background on Mauritania

Mauritania is a country in Western North Africa. In the Middle Ages, Mauritania was the cradle of the Almoravid movement, which spread Islam throughout the region and for a while controlled the Islamic part of Spain. European traders began to show interest in Mauritania in the 15th century. Mauritania is rich in mineral resources, especially iron and ore. France gained control of the coastal region in 1817 and, in 1904, a formal French protectorate was extended over the territory.

Today, Mauritania is the eleventh largest country in Africa, with about 90% of its land in the Sahara. The country’s capital and largest city is Nouakchott, which is home to 3.5 million people. Culturally, Mauritania is a special mix. The population is almost equally divided between Moors of Arab-Berber descent and black Africans, and this striking cultural combination is part of its appeal.  About 20% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. The country suffers from human rights issues including slavery and child labor. Mauritania was one of the last countries to pass a law abolishing slavery. However, this law has not been effectively implemented, resulting in a high number of modern slaves.