Saturdays are for Service

The age-old, yet notably profound, saying of “practice what you preach” is one that often stumps many nonprofit organizations and do-gooders alike. In the efforts of day-to-day life or ensuring that a company runs, this mentality can often get lost amongst the errands, paperwork, and email chains.

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At UniversalGiving, that is why the vision to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life” is not just a parroted goal, but an integral part of the company culture. This past weekend in particular, members of the team made their way to serve at the Northridge CommUNITY Garden in the Bayview. The garden itself is a part of the Northridge Cooperative Homes, an organization that seeks to provide safe and affordable housing to those looking to improve their quality of life. Two times per month, individuals from this community work in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco and its volunteers for a ‘Park Beautification’ project.

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“I wasn’t sure what to expect when we showed up on Saturday, but working for Habitat for Humanity ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences so far this summer,” remarks CSR Intern Sheridan Wilbur about her day at Northridge. “Everyone was a stranger at first, but by the end of the shift, I had exchanged phone numbers with the coordinator, Laurel, listened to the program leader’s upcoming adventures in Yosemite, and heard about how one woman got herself out of alcohol addiction and now is following her passion in tech and sports. I left inspired and felt more connected to the San Francisco community.” Team member Angel Sun agrees, exclaiming that she “…[feels] connected and energized when serving the community and making our city better!”

During the day, volunteers completed tasks such as weeding, transplanting roses, removing debris, spreading mulch, and harvesting fruit from the community’s orchard. The shift concluded with a group lunch, where participants were able to talk to their experiences over rice, salad, and even some harvested plums. “Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite things to do — I get to be outside, work hard, and contribute to an important project,” says Mindy Bush, manager of UniversalGiving’s Corporate Client Services. “Most impactful for me, however, is the spirit of community that I feel. I loved having the time outside of work with [other team members] Katie, Sheridan and Angel and getting to know them all better. At the end of our shift, I felt inspired by all of the individuals who chose to be a part of the work that day!”

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The program is a part of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco’s Neighborhood Revitalization’ campaign, which strives to bring the organization’s work into neighborhoods where its houses have been built. With additional projects focused on improving the health and well-being of the Bayview and East Palo Alto areas — such as home repair and school renovation — the organization seeks to make the Bay Area a more comfortable and community-based place. Now that is the epitome of “practice what you preach.”

From the Bay Area? Want to learn more about volunteering with Habitat projects like the one mentioned in this article? Head to www.habitatgsf.org for Neighborhood Revitalization opportunities and more.

How Far Do People Walk for Water?

This is a guest blog from Drop in the Bucket! This video is a relatable representation of the time it takes for many Africans to collect their daily water. The average jug full of water can weigh about 40 lbs when full. The burden of fetching water is more commonly placed on women because in about two-thirds or 64% of households women collect water for the family. There is a strong need for clean and safe drinking water since nearly 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment. While this video highlights collecting water as an “African” problem, we must remember not to generalize because most African’s  communities do have access to water.

We must do all we can to assist those who have to walk hours to collect water. We can help is through supporting the construction of water pipelines for indigenous groups in Tanzania here.

“The video is titled “How long do people in Africa walk to get water?”. The video attempts to frame the water crisis in a different way by setting the long walk for water, that many people in Africa do every day, in an American location.

The video one was directed by Nathan Karma Cox and shot on location in Studio City, CA at Black Market Liquor who generously allowed us to shoot during the day before they opened. The video was produced by Cory Reeder and features music by Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga who played all of the instruments on the track including kazoo. Vocals were provided by Stone Sour guitarist Christian Martucci and the graphics were created by Rodrigo Gava from Gava Productions.” –Drop in the Bucket

NGO Spotlight: Empower and Care Organization

Empower and Care Organization (EACO) is a Community Based Organization run by Ugandans to address the limited educational and economic opportunities that exist for vulnerable groups of women and children in Mukono County, Uganda.  EACO’s vision to implement activities that provide opportunities to the reduce poverty and HIV/AIDS in the Mukono community.

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EACO interventions focus on poverty reduction and address the effects of HIV/AIDS for a majority of vulnerable women, particularly widows and those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as vulnerable children, youth, and the elderly.

The Need: EACO seeks to help children attend school in Uganda. Education and poverty go hand in hand, and many of young people don’t have the opportunity or fees to go to school, let alone afford other basic necessities of life. Under this project, ACO provides school fees and materials, medication, and food for needy families.

EACO also leads WASH Projects to deliver trainings on hygiene promotion, construction of latrines for the schools, and repairing the 69 damaged boreholes in the Mukono communities. Additionally, they provide education on the links between water, sanitation and health, and the nature of and threats posed by environmental diseases,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe importance and main elements of hygiene-promotion and the complexities of delivering safe water and sanitation in an emergency.

EACO wants to make clean water accessible within 1 kilometer for 100% of the people in rural Mukono. By constructing and repairing fresh water wells throughout rural areas, EACO will bring relief to thousands of residents, including those in surrounding communities, significantly improving the health and wellbeing of the residents.

The vision and philosophy of EACO is based on the belief that every human being is a unique individual and that we all have a right to good health and basic needs and should access means to a comfortable life in one way or another.

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EACO believes that the first priority is that people should have a sustainable life.

However, almost equally important is that an individual’s life should have meaning and that they should develop independence. This is being achieved through care, then empowerment and support. This begins with infrastructure to give the Mukono communities clean water and latrines and stop the spread of disease. It is only then that communities can benefit from education. With improved health comes the ability to be employable, to generate income and escape from poverty.

To learn more about opportunities to donate to or volunteer with with EACO, which is a vetted NGO partner of UniversalGiving, check out their website!

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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: Nepal Orphans Home

Nepal Orphans Home (NOH) is many things to many people, but it is one thing to all: a lifeline extended by a warm smile, without politics, without judgment, simply with compassion.

With help from a widespread and deeply committed donor base comprised of everyday people working hard for a living and giving what they can, and sometimes really cannot, afford, NOH attends to the welfare of children in Nepal who are orphaned, abandoned, or not supported by their parents.

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NOH is the face an abandoned baby sees smiling down at them, the person that baby feels holding and feeding them. They are a child’s extended family during a medical crisis they would otherwise have to face without cash in a country operating on a pay-for-cure basis without insurance. They are the extension of a remote village where droughthas claimed the last of the food, where runners enter the village saying there is a truckload of rice and other staples where the road ends, waiting for them to come and get it.

NOH is the provider of education for 260 women in their community, free of cost but paid handsomely in return by the smiles, confidence, laughter, and the overall wellbeing of the community.

NOH is the buyer of chemotherapy and pain medication for terminally ill children whose families cannot afford it; they are the smiling presence in the ward, celebrating birthdays and granting last wishes.

NOH is the daily hot and nutritious lunch given to children in an “untouchables” village, who are attending the school built by NOH, taught by teachers whose salaries NOH supports.

NOH was the first face that many remote Nepalese children saw coming to their rescue days after the earthquake in 2015.

NOH provided shelter to hundreds of Kamlari (indentured servants) following their rescue and brought back those who wished to return to their Kathmandu homes to regain their childhood in a loving and secure environment.unnamed

NOH is a family welcoming in children, that for one reason or another have found themselves without anyone, with a loving embrace, good cheer, and daily reminders that they are supported to achieve their dreams. It is a family where every member supports each others’ goals and where everyone comes together to achieve them.

NOH is this and so much more, administered by a Board of professionals, dedicated to helping those in need with their expertise, compassion, and resources.

To learn more about opportunities to become involved with Nepal Orphans Home by supporting a child’s education or volunteering in Nepal, search for them on the UniversalGiving website.

NGO Spotlight: BiblioWorks

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BiblioWorks: strengthening communities through literacy and education

BiblioWorks is a nonprofit that promotes literacy and education in Bolivia. Their mission is to provide communities in need with tools and resources to develop sustainable literacy and educational programs through schools, libraries, and cultural institutions.

BiblioWorks was created in 2005 by a former American Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, Megan Sherar, and her brother. They fell in love with the country and decided to address the inadequate infrastructure interfering with Bolivia’s access to some of the most critical things on earth: literacy and education. Literacy and education are the first steps towards progress for every community in every country around the world.

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Today, this non-profit organization is managed in Bolivia by a team of dedicated Bolivians who understand the needs of both the organization and each individual library. The local team also helps BiblioWorks stay connected with the various communities to make the libraries lively and useful; they work closely with the local authorities to focus on the needs that people express in every community in which they intervene. After more than ten years of dedication, BiblioWorks is proud to run a network of fourteen libraries in the city of Sucre and in the surrounding countryside.

BiblioWorks is convinced that literacy and education are best spread by a fruitful exchange among cultures, identities, and origins; and therefore welcome volunteers from all across the world to work with them in their varying libraries. It is a great way for people to share their differences and learn from one another. When a volunteer comes from another country, their stay in Bolivia is an opportunity to know more about a new culture and learn Spanish as well. It is also an amazing chance for the children to be confronted with diversity.

Volunteers play a great role and make a direct and personal impact on the libraries theyimage.do
work with. For example, if a volunteer has some dance skills, they can set up a dance workshop. Additionally, as most of the volunteers are fluent in English they can provide the kids with basic English lessons. Often, what is considered simple or usual for a volunteer can have a great value for a child and can genuinely impact their lives. When volunteers come from abroad to BiblioWorks’ libraries, everyone benefits from the experience.

The BiblioWorks libraries would not exist without the plurality of actors that participate in the life of their organization; from the board in the United States to the team in Bolivia, from the volunteers coming from across the globe to the kids attending the libraries.

If you are interested in donating to BiblioWorks or participating in a volunteer trip to Bolivia, search for them on UniversalGiving.

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.