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.

Education in Guatemala-Avivara

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.

NGO Spotlight: Develop Africa Small Business

In many parts of Africa people are living on around a dollar a day. Living at this type of poverty level makes it difficult to survive.  For a small business to stay afloat, they often need some sort of financial aid. However, for people living in Africa it can be extremely difficult to secure a loan because they often lack collateral.

Microfinance can help these individuals who cannot secure a loan. Microfinance is providing loans to impoverished and disadvantaged individuals. A typical microfinance loan is less than 200 dollars. These loans are often used to purchase supplies or ingredients needed to make a finished product to sell to the customer. It turns out that millions of people worldwide are positively affected by microfinance.

Develop Africa is giving out interest-free loans with the help of your donation. They call these loans booster shots because they will help a small business expand. In addition, the NGO will provide business training to these individuals. Develop Africa’s goal is to make individuals self-sufficient. They aim to specifically help talented youth and women entrepreneurs.

Develop Africa is, in turn, helping to not only alleviate poverty but to help stop the poverty cycle. This program empowers entrepreneurs to provide for themselves in the best way they see fit. If you want to give back, visit UniversalGiving!

NGO Spotlight: Pandas International



Pandas International (PI) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit to help the magnificent Giant Panda. Unlike other organizations, which serve many animals, Pandas International is exclusively devoted to the Giant Panda. As part of PI’s mission, they work closely with Chinese scientists, doctors and keepers to determine what types of support are most needed. In particular, PI has been assisting the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas (CCRCGP) by providing both funding and personnel/sponsors to support Chinese research focused on how to more effectively respond to health and habitat challenges – both known and unknown.

At the CCRCGP’s Dujiangyan Giant Panda Research Center, Pandas International supports research that focuses on several areas including pandas rescued from the wild who are sick or injured so they can receive medical care and rehabilitation. Another major focus area is senior and disabled pandas, serving as a panda “nursing home” where pandas are able to receive specialized geriatric care. For elder pandas, it is important to ensure that, as they reach their twilight years, they are provided with the necessary care to keep them comfortable and as healthy as possible. At the Dujiangyan Base, the older pandas are housed in a separate wing where the staff prepares special meals such as formula with ground bamboo (since they are not able to chew due to tooth decay and loss.) Formula helps them live a healthy life and meet all of their nutritional requirements. Once such geriatric panda, Hero Father Pan Pan was the oldest CCRCGP Panda living at Dujiangyan. Sadly, on December 28th, 2016, he died after a battle with cancer. He was 31 years old, sired over 30 cubs and is related to over 170 pandas (estimated to be one quarter of the panda population today). The staff at Dujiangyan began studying the elder Pan Pan’s health and behaviors to be better equipped to not only help him but other elder pandas as well.

The Dujiangyan Base also supports the CCRCGP’s important efforts to both raise awareness with and educate the public about the need to support Giant Panda Conservation. The base includes a Giant Panda Rescue and Education Center.  The Center includes interactive displays that help to inform the public about the lives of Giant Pandas.  There are also exhibits that provide a look at how Giant Pandas are rescued and brought to the panda base for treatment.

Pandas International supports the Dujiangyan Base and Staff by supplying formula for sick and elderly pandas and supplying vaccines and other medications to both prevent and treat panda related diseases.  PI also sponsors technical experts and scientists who travel to the base to conduct training sessions and assist with research projects.  In addition, PI assists in sponsoring conferences and studies to raise awareness and better understand the challenges that Giant Pandas face during their lives including diseases and how to treat them, the re-introduction program into the wild and how to assist in “reconstructing” panda habitats to support efforts to increase genetic diversity.




NGO Spotlight-Let Kids Be Kids

Speak for those without a voice!

Along with “advocating for those that are sick, homeless, displaced or looking for assistance with making their lives slightly better” Let Kids Be Kids uses their voice to support animals who cannot speak. Michael Barrett Miller, Co-Founder of Let Kids Be Kids writes about a cause he is passionate about!

Support “Endangered Species” across the globe! 

Let Kids Be Kids, Inc. financially supports, volunteers, and advocates to protect endangered and threatened species across the globe. We were very involved with the passage of Washington State Initiative 1401, which passed with a greater than 70% margin in every county. It is now a crime in Washington to sell or trade elephant ivory, shark fins, parts of elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, sharks, rays, and pangolins.

Our involvement with organizations like the Woodland Park Zoo, Audubon, Earthwatch, Save the Elephants, and others in the United States, Australia, and various countries around the world allow us to advocate for animal protection and animal rights at different venues. We stress conservation, preservation, and education in an attempt to build empathy for our fellow creatures, who are often in dire situations. Depending on the geographical location, the Gray Wolf and Arctic Fox are considered threatened or endangered. The Lowland Gorilla is severely endangered with the realistic potential of ceasing to exist in the wild.

screenshot-2017-01-24-19-00-20Another way we promote empathy for endangered species is through the photographs and videos that we distribute on many social media sites, articles, and blog posts. By June I will have completed a collection of photographs that will be included in a book entitled “Friends.” This will be our fourth book on the work of Let Kids Be Kids, Inc., “Advocacy for those Seeking a Voice” as described on our website.

We are extremely thankful for the wonderful work many people do to ensure these amazing animals are allowed to continue to share the planet with us.

Support Let Kids Be Kids! 

Sustainability Spotlight: Kickstart International

Have you traveled to Africa? When we hear this word, most of us think of the elephants and the giraffes of the savannah, the peaks of Kilimanjaro, or the beaches of Cote d’Ivoire. These amazing sights make it easy to lose track of the small-scale farmers that make up 80% of those living in poverty. These families often find that hard work is not enough to combat low rainfall and water shortages. How do you make use of the water you have? And how do you create sustainability? Kickstart International brings irrigation tools and techniques to Sub-Saharan Africa to rejuvenate these farmlands.

Kickstart International (Kickstart) began when founders Dr. Martin Fisher and Nick Moon started to question traditional techniques in addressing poverty. They wanted to combine new technology that would address the problem with marketplace sustainability. Their collaboration resulted in the creation of products that were made exclusively for poor, rural African farmers. These tools would increase the crop output, resulting in a more sustainable income for the farmers. However, these tools were not handouts – Fisher and Martin were determined to sell low-cost, high-quality irrigation pumps at an affordable price so that families and communities could raise themselves out of poverty.

For over 15 years, Kickstart has provided over 1 million people the opportunity to feed, clothe, and educate themselves while still having some money left over to save for the future. In total, they have sold over 287, 435 pumps. Kickstart is currently working in 16 countries in Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, and South Sudan. The organization focuses on these four areas: increasing incomes, enabling food security, empowering women, and increasing resilience to climate change.

The Time Is Now. Click Here to Watch Kickstart’s Video about Innovation and Action.

Kickstart International.jpgIf you would like to learn more about Kickstart International’s innovation, you can check out their page on the UniversalGiving website!