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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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.

My Volunteer Experience in Tanzania

By Nicola Da Silva 

The phone buzzed and it was my mom. “Guess what? Nic, Andrew, and Lex booked a trip to Zanzibar, Tanzania and invited me to join. We wish you and Daniel could join to – any chance of that??” Sometimes you get invitations to events and you weakly offer to try your best to make it happen and other times you get an invitation to something and you know that no matter what you will be going! This was one of those. I don’t know why I felt so strongly about going on this trip, but as soon as I knew about it, I couldn’t think about anything else. I started making plans the very next day and everything fell into place perfectly in the 3 weeks I had to pull it off.

I also decided to contact UniversalGiving and see if they could set me up to do some volunteer work while on vacation. Amazingly they helped me find Embrace Tanzania. I emailed them and they got me in touch with Selestin, who is based in Zanzibar and manages the volunteer effort there. 2 days before I left on the trip I emailed Selestin and told him I was coming and would love to have a look at what they  were doing in Zanzibar and see if I could help and also get them connected with Universal Giving. Selestin replied straight away and gave me the address and his telephone number. By the time I checked into the hotel, he had already spoken to them to help organize a day I could come see the different volunteer sites.

On Monday April 28th, my mom and I stepped out of our hotel and into a cab and went to Bububu, Zanzibar. Selestin met us there and showed us around the building where volunteers stay and then Selestin, his colleague Edward, my mom, the cab driver, and I went for lunch. We chatted about the different volunteering options and how my mom and I could get involved. Next stop was the orphanage where Mama Suz looks after about 30 children. The house is a school in the morning; then some of the children go home and others stay at the orphanage. Some children are orphans and others have parents in the sober houses nearby.

I could see that Mama Suz tries her best to look after all these children, but I also noticed that she was conscious of the state of the building and the lack of beds for all the children. We met the kids and then had a “business meeting” in the shade of the tree. I explained what UniversalGiving does and that I would get her connected with them and then asked what her ideas were. Wow – she has such amazing plans and knows what’s important. She said, “these children are orphans and the best thing for them is to have a stable home.” She wants to buy a house so that the children feel secure; buy a bus and have other children in other villages attend her school and pay school fees; and have the school fees as an income so she can afford to look after the children in the orphanage. I loved the idea and we started chatting about what she needed for that to happen. We figured out that the best thing would be for her raise money to buy a piece of land and have a volunteer project set up to build a house for her and the children.

The next step would be to raise money for the bus and get the new children from other villages enrolled in her school. She may need to get more volunteer teachers or hire some more teachers. I offered to do all I could to help her with this dream… and to be honest ever since I got back a month ago, all I can think about is how to help Mama Suz and the children have a home.


Inspired by this amazing story? Click here to change a child’s life by volunteering in Tanzania!

NGO Spotlight: Plan International USA

Here is a guest blog from Plan International sharing the story of Christina from Sierra Leone.

“The schools of Sierra Leone reopened in May after a nine-month closure due to the Ebola epidemic. Currently, schools are on break and only the students who have not passed their exams are attending.

One student is Christiana, 18, a member of Plan International’s Youth Advisory Panel. She is engaged in Plan’s project to stop child marriage, teenage pregnancies, and sexual violence against girls.

The Ebola epidemic, which hit Sierra Leone in the past year, has led to a dramatic increase of all these issues. Schools were closed for a whole academic year and used as holding centers, quarantines, treatment centers, and camps.

“Many of my friends have had to leave school because of Ebola,” said Christina. “Some are pregnant, others have been forced into marriage. I feel very sad that they are not here with me in school anymore.”

Christiana described how poverty in Sierra Leone contributes to the vulnerability of many children, who get abused by teachers and other staff at the school.

“Children are forced to work for free after school hours at the teachers’ farms or are sometimes forced to perform sexual acts,” she said. “Those who refuse are threatened with violence or receive failing marks in school and cannot proceed to the next level.”

Christiana has personally experienced this kind of treatment.

“When I was younger, my teacher forced me to work at his farm until late at night,” she said. “I was so tired when I got home that I could not do my homework.”

As she got older, Christiana was exposed to sexual extortion from the principal at her school. He used the fact that Christiana had been disowned by her family and did not have anyone who could pay for her school fees.

“I am from a village far from here,” she said. “My parents are poor. They were given money from an older man in Freetown who I was forced to marry when I was 16 years old. He forced me to have sex and when I refused, he and his family assaulted me severely. I managed to escape back to my village after four months.”

Christiana’s goal was to move back home and start school again. But her family would not accept her because she had broken the marriage and they would have to repay the man in Freetown. Christiana was disowned and forced to stay with friends. She started school again and the principal offered to pay for her tuition at first.

“I was happy that he would help me, but then he started to ask for sex,” she said. “I refused and then he started harassing me. He insulted me and said horrible things about me in front of my classmates. He threatened me that I would not get my marks.”

She did not know what to do and there was no one at school to talk to. When she reported the incident to one of the teachers, nothing happened.

“All the male teachers protect each other,” she said. “I was so frustrated! This headmaster abuses a lot of girls in the village, and makes many of them pregnant.”

Christiana decided to try to stop the abuse of girls at school. She got in contact with Plan‘s project for girls’ rights and started to inform the other girls and told them to say no to the teachers’ suggestions.

“But I was getting increasingly harassed by the principal, who didn’t like what I was doing,” she said. “In the end, he threatened to assault me, so I had to move from the village and change schools.”

Plan supported her move and now Christiana lives with a female teacher in a new town, where she has started school again. She is still an ambassador for girls’ rights and wants to contribute to changing the lives of girls in Sierra Leone.

“I have chosen to advocate and be a spokesperson because I have experienced the problems that affect girls in this country,” she said. “I advocate for my friends because I do not want anyone to experience the same difficulties that I went through. I pray to our government that they stop sexual violence in schools, child marriage, and teenage pregnancies. We have laws against this. Make sure they are put into practice.”

*Christiana’s name has been changed to protect her identity. “
Plan International USA

Plan International USA is part of the Plan International Federation which works side-by-side with communities in 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children. Plan develops solutions community by community to ensure long-term sustainability. Our solutions are designed up-front to be owned by the community for generations to come and range from clean water and healthcare programs to education projects and child protection initiatives.

Help protect a girl from sexual exploitation here.

NGO Spotlight: Achungo Community Center

A special guest Monte Fisher, the executive director of Achungo Community Center tells the inspiring story of Michael and how Achungo began.

I initially became involved with the U.S. non-profit, Achungo Community Center, out of my love for Africa and for children. I had no idea what my first steps should be, so the first thing I did was to go to Kenya to visit with the Kenyan founder and director, Michael Nyangi. As soon as I got to know him and he began to tell me his story in his quiet, unassuming way, I felt that he had more integrity and compassion than almost anyone I’d ever encountered. And I wanted to work with him any way I could.

kibera2Let me tell you a little bit of his story. Michael grew up in very rural Southwest Kenya in extreme poverty. His mother was one of three wives of his father who died when he was seven, so there was no household income.  They survived from whatever they could manage to grow on the land around their hut. 

With help from friends and family paying his expenses, Michael made it through high school and moved to the slums of Nairobi to find work.  One of his early employers saw his potential and began to help him set aside money for college. In 2003 at the age of 22, Michael Nyangi graduated from college with a CPA for Kenya. As he began his dream job in a bank, he would walk through the slums of Kibera where he was living.  One day he saw a woman with a baby by the train tracks and, afraid she was given up on life, he gave her what money he had — about six dollars. That scene repeated itself some days later with another woman and her baby. By the end of the week, he saw those two women sitting together. They had made a fire and had used that money to purchase corn. They were roasting it to sell — they had a business going! A light bulb went off for Michael Nyangi in this discovery that a little help went a long way toward changing their lives.

He quit his job and focused full-time on helping the women of the slums of Nairobi with microfinancing and micro-enterprise development. Over several years that work became a 15-person office of microfinance known as Lomoro. Along the way he attracted the attention of an NGO and in 2008, at the age of 27, they brought him to New York to speak before the UN General Assembly on poverty eradication. The following year, Amnesty International had him speak at their conference on poverty in Italy. The Amnesty International site still has information about Lomoro’s work in Kibera.   p1040432

Meanwhile, he was going back to his village (over 250 miles from Nairobi) on holidays and noticed small children living on the street. He took them into his home and began to take care of them. By 2005 with a few dozen kids he decided that they needed a decent education, found a few widows interested in helping, rented a shed and the first school of Achungo was born.

Watch a video about Michaels Story.

I began working with Michael in late 2010 and we have built 2 primary schools with about 400 students (the second school is still filling out) in addition to 50 graduates that we support in nearby high schools. I never cease to be amazed at how he hires staff with the same love and respect for these children that he demonstrates. Their school experience is such that these orphans and destitute children are delighted to be in school and feel loved and cared for.

And I am thrilled at the results.  We are one of the top primary schools in the county and have some of the top performing high school students in the county. Kenya administers an exit exam at the end of 8th grade that determines if and where a student can attend high school. Our three years of eighth-grade graduates have had a 100% passing rate where the national rate is well under 50%.

michaelWe found Clements on the street scrounging wood to survive and within the year he became the top math student in the county. He is now in one of the top high schools in the county (Orero Boys) and has been the top student in his class both years so far.  Erick Otieno has been with us since first grade.  His father had died and the household was left without income, so we took on Erick. He graduated in 2015 and last year was the top student at Orero Boys high school, with scores of close to 100% across the board.  The headmaster and some teachers from Orero have visited Achungo both years to find out where these exceptional boys had been taught.

I visit Achungo now twice a year, typically with a team from the U.S., and all of us fall in love with these children. They seem the happiest children on Earth. And it is a constant delight to me that we can help them progress from lives lost in a survival struggle to a place of real excellence, achievement, and hope.

Provide food for Achungo’s orphans here. Or view the eight other opportunities to give to Achungo here.

Click to read why people in poverty must be part of the solution.

Watch the full story of Achungo.

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.