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Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

It’s Been a While (Updated)

In Business, Computers, Development, Internet, Philanthropy, Poverty, Public Education, Technology on December 30, 2008 at 4:11 am

UPDATE: I have decided to try my hand at the Twitter-like micro-blogging service. I have named it Tefilah, the Hebrew word for prayer, to emphasize the focus of the site. Feel free to join and try it out. Hopefully we will be able to grow it to a vibrant community of Christians.

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So it has been a while since I have written anything… I’ve wanted to write something for a couple of weeks now, but just couldn’t decided what to write about. I still don’t really have any idea, but I thought I would give it a shot and see what I come up with. I guess I will just go over a list of some possible projects I have been collecting in my head for the past few months:

Twitter-like Site     In case you have never heard of it, Twitter is an online micro-blogging service where you can keep your friends, or “followers” as they are known on Twitter, up to date about what you’re doing, where you are, or anything really. Your status can be updated via web or text, and it places your update in a timeline of all of your followers. For example, if I wanted to tell my followers that I was coming home to Puyallup for break, I could update my status to say “Jaryd is writing.” That would be added to my friends’ timeline, or even sent to them as a text or email if they have set their account to do so. The thing I really like about Twitter is that it is a non-obtrusive way to keep people up to date with what you are doing, thing, or where you are going.

But if Twitter is fine, why start another site just like it? Well it wouldn’t be just like that. The main difference would be that it would be used for prayer support or letting others know you have received an answer to prayer. It would be a non-invasive way to ask others for prayer support, or just keep people up to date on things that God has been doing in your life.

Honestly, it wouldn’t even be that difficult, thanks to the open-source software Laconica. All I would have to do would be to rent a server, install the server, and it would take care of pretty much all of the work. I would have to do a lot of work to get it up to the complexity of Twitter, though. I would love to be able to help people all over the world connect and support each other through the power of prayer.

I also would like to adapt this cool project called TwittEarth. It displays tweets (the name for status updates on Twitter) on a 3D globe showing the location of the user. It is a pretty cool way to look at the activity of individuals on a global scale. One last thing I would like to do is set up a daily verse for users to meditate on, or let others know what kind of meaning it has for them.

Mideals     I have written about this before in an earlier post, but I thought I would come back to it because I really do like it. The idea is that it is a commerce site in the style of Amazon, but users can set priorities on what aspects of a product or company are the most important to them. A user can set the order of importance of price, environmental impact, where it is made, the organizations the company supports, etc… Then a user could search for products or companies and the site would calculate which products match the user’s priorities and present them accordingly.

People talk about about what they feel is important, but at one point you have to put up or shut up. This could take away an excuse that keeps people from aligning their spending with their values.

University Microcredit Network     This was the focus of the last post I wrote, and I still like it. I believe microcredit will be one of the most fundamental tools the human race has in defeating poverty. As fundamental as the hammer for constructing houses, or the cornerstone of a foundation. Microcredit gives the tools to those that really have the incentive to use them.

I feel that the microcredit model of poverty reduction fits very well with college students. Microcredit is built around the fact that a little money can go a long way, and little money is something that college students do have. According to census.gov, there were 20.5 million students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States (including under-graduate and graduate). I’m willing to bet that each student could donate $1 to microcredit programs and development programs.

Many microcredit program loans range from as little as $50 into the thousands of dollars. But for the sake of calculation, let’s say the average loan is $100. That makes for 205,000 loans made for the people around the world to better their situation, and most importantly the health of their family and the education of their children.

That’s just with $1 from each college and university student in US. That doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me.

I will keep thinking over these to see if any of them speak to me enough to carve out some time to work on them. Let me know what you think about them, or any ideas you have in the comments!

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University Microcredit Network

In Development, Economy, Philanthropy, Poverty, Public Education, Whitworth on November 3, 2008 at 3:51 am

I went to a special lecture last week about microcredit and its powerful impact on the developing world. From wikipedia:

Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to the unemployed, to poor entrepreneurs and to others living in poverty who are not considered bankable. These individuals lack collateral, steadyemployment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit. Microcredit is a part of microfinance, which is the provision of a wider range of financial services to the very poor.

Basically, the working poor apply for small loans, usually starting around $100, to buy capital and start making greater profits in their businesses. The loans are repaid with very low interest, and then the borrower can then take out a larger loan to grow their business even more.

The reason that the borrowers need a special microcredit bank is because traditional banks will not give them any loans because they lack the usual paperwork, such as deeds and titles, collateral, and even a credit history; Thus, the banks see the poor as a credit risk. But, according to World Vision, 96% of the loans in their Microenterprise Development Program are repaid on time.

Organizations like the Grameen Bank, Kiva, and World Vision are taking the chance to help people escape from poverty. I would encourage everyone to take a look at these organizations and consider donating as much as you feel comfortable with. Even $25 can change the life of farmer.

What does this have to do with the University Microcredit Network? Well, the UMN is an idea I’ve been considering for a few days since the lecture. Since microcredit is all about small sums of money (which is college kids have), why not tap into the vast resource of poor, but activist-minded, age group of college students? If every university in the United States collected enough money for one $100 loan… well, it would be a lot! Better yet, what if universities and colleges built this into their budgets? Just a miniscule $1000 could provide much need start-up money for several businesses. And it is a drop in the bucket for many schools!

The UMN would be the eyes, ears, and hands for organizations like Kiva and World Vision. The purpose: collect money and educate students. There are a lot of lives that could be changed with small donations from poor students.

Heck, if people really couldn’t donate, what about investing. Places like MicroPlace (owned by eBay) offer up to a 3% return on investments. Good way to make a few bucks. (But I like places like World Vision where the funds are returned to the pool – a revolving door fund, if you will.)

Blog Action Day – Poverty

In Development, Economy, Internet, Politics, Poverty, Public Education on October 15, 2008 at 7:38 pm

I must admit, Blog Action Day has snuck up on me. I was quite busy at the beginning of this week, and I haven’t thought much about what to write on the issue of poverty. One thing that does come to mind is a recent lecture I attended. David Oliver Relin, author of Three Cups of Tea (I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to understand how one man can reshape the world through education). In his presentation, he discussed what he believed to be the best weapon against terrorism was to destroy ignorance with education. Through education, poverty and suffering (huge factors in the development of terrorist groups) will be removed. While I question this stratagem’s ability to fight current terrorist groups, I see the great value in the future accomplishments. Why do terrorist groups target the United States and its allies? From my point of view, it seems to be ignorance, misplaced blame, and zealotry. To be honest, the US has spilled our fair share of milk in the region, but the primary reason for their own situation is because some groups want to keep it that way. They don’t want to change, whether voluntarily or by military force.

Okay, but what does that have to do with poverty? In case you haven’t noticed, terrorism and poverty go hand in hand. Terrorist groups seek out suffering people to mold into their own gorilla force. Mr. Retin showed us some interesting, gladdening, as well as terrifying images. One was of a radical madrasah setting up a disaster-relief camp for victims the major 2005 Kashmir earthquake. There were tents for shelter, tents for food, and a tent for radical teachings. Here is an excerpt from an article on the earthquake and the aid delivered by terrorist group Jammat-ud-Dawa:

The Jihadi aid campaign

Meanwhile, long before the arrival of army regulars, international aid agencies, or emergency search and rescue teams, an alternative volunteer army was reporting for duty in the earthquake zone: the Jihadis. Bearded young men converged on towns close to the epicentre, after threading their shiny white mini-vans or military vehicles through boulder-strewn roads. More trekked by foot across rockslides, carrying picks and shovels. 

Yahya Mujahid, a Muslim militant chief, said he ordered his guerrillas to put aside their Kalashnikov rifles and hired 100 mules so they could get relief supplies up to the heights and carry out the injured. 

The efforts won accolades from anguished survivors. No one else was on the spot to help locals unearth the injured and administer first aid, shroud and bury their dead, or dish up dates and hot soup so they might break the Ramadan fast at dusk. These aidworkers appeared extremely organised. In Muzaffarabad, a garrison city and the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a big banner was erected over a tarpaulin spread with prayer-mats and quilts. It identified the energetic do-gooders as Jammat-ud-Dawa. 

This group is known to be a spin-off of the banned religious militants, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and is widely seen as the fundraising and recruiting wing for Islamist warriors who cross into India. 

Musharraf, under pressure from the Americans, outlawed Lashkar as a terrorist organisation in 2002 because of its links to al-Qaida. The name change has allowed Jammat-ud-Dawa to continue building its religious seminaries, to train preachers for mosques, and dispense medical care to the indigent. But will they be able to muster support and force their way onto the national political agenda?

Before Pakistan’s army was there, before the internal community could respond, there was Jammat-ud-Dawa. They delivered aid; they were the ones that helped the victims in their time of need. Support had been won for the group, and a negative view of the government and the international community was fostered. Not exactly a win for the war on terror. I know that US aid couldn’t possibly have responded before locals did, but I am using this as an example of something we must prevent in the future.

Flying in aid wouldn’t help us fight current terrorist organizations, but it would help prevent new soldiers and groups from being created. When it comes down to it, fighting terrorism is a big public relations campaign. There is an image of the western world in the minds of people, and that image determines whether they throw their support behind them, or us. We need to keep pushing in on current organizations so we can make sure they never blow up a bus full people again; at the same time we need to fight poverty and ignorance. What we do today determines what we won’t have to do tomorrow.

Note: This is a first draft, but I wanted to make sure it was posted in time for Blog Action Day. Let me know what you think in the comments. Look for revisions in the future.

Extremely Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

In Development, Poverty, Video on October 5, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Please take the time to watch this short video about XDRTB. You can watch the video at the official website and learn more about this pandemic, or watch the clip below. As humans, we can’t take action on every issue that impacts the world; we tend to focus on things that hit closer to home. It makes sense, it’s human nature. But I feel the least we can do is at least know that it is happening. This is the same idea that the creators of Invisible Children had: to spread the knowledge of it. For no one to know that a tragedy has happened makes it more difficult for healing to begin. So let us know the pain, know the faces of suffering, that our brothers and sisters are going through all over the world.

Warning: There are graphic images in the following video.

Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

In Development, Economy, Internet, Philanthropy, Politics, Poverty, Video on August 21, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Just wanted to let you guys know that I will be participating in Blog Action Day 2008 this year.  What is Blog Action Day?  From the site:

Global issues like poverty are extremely complex. There is no simple, clear answer. By asking thousands of different people to give their viewpoints and opinions, Blog Action Day creates an extraordinary lens through which to view these issues. Each blogger brings their own perspective and ideas. Each blogger posts relating to their own blog topic. And each blogger engages their audience differently.

That’s the basic premise of BAD: to listen to thousands of different perspectives on a single issue in order to understand it more.  Poverty is a complex issue, but after October 15th, I’m hoping to be a little closer to the answer.

Here is a little video summing it all up.  Enjoy!

Think tank

In Development, Economy, Politics, Poverty, Public Education on July 20, 2008 at 7:06 pm

One of the ideas I have been mulling over in my head for a while is starting up a think tank.  From Wikipedia:

think tank (also called a policy institute) is an organization, institute, corporation, or group that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economy, science or technology issues, industrial or business policies, or military advice. Many think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the US and Canada provide with tax exempt status. While many think tanks are funded by governments, interest groups, or businesses, some think tanks also derive income from consulting or research work related to their mandate.

To me, the beauty of a think tank is that often they can remain quite disconnected from other parties and advocacy groups if careful enough.  The best way to form solutions is to step back, look at the whole situation, and form a logical, and amicable, solution.   Step 1 is where most groups, governments included, fail.  They are too involved in the politics of the issue (they ought to be), and because of this entanglement form decisions that look good, rather than based on logic.  For example, a politician would have a difficult time being elected saying that a recession is a perfectly normal part of economic growth, and that the trick is to balance growth with recession.  Instead, politicians claim that they are the only ones that can break free of economic troubles and send the economy sailing.

This is just saying what people want to hear; it has nothing to do with reality.

A think tank has the potential to solve global issues through gathering data, studying the trends, and applying controlled changes.  But I wouldn’t want to limit a think tank to economic policy.  There’s no reason why you couldn’t gather the best and brightest in their respective fields and tackle all sorts of problems.  Here’s a few:

  • City planning
  • Education
  • Human rights
  • Economics
  • Peace
  • Criminal justice
  • Public relations

If you have anything that you think should be added to the list, leave a comment.

I’m going to start a think tank.  Join me.

Not Feeling Well

In Africa, Poverty, Whitworth on May 1, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I participated in fast to raise money for missionaries in Uganda. This is how it works:

  1. Student signs up
  2. Students meal card is locked out of Saga from 5 AM Wednesday morning until 5 PM Thursday evening.
  3. The money that would have been spent in Saga is donated to the missionaries

I didn’t get a chance to sign up (I forgot), but I decided to fast anyway.  I thought it went until 5 AM, so I set my goal then.  I went 36 hours with only drinking water, and I was feeling pretty awful this morning.  I was light headed and I felt sick to my stomach so I decided to eat some oatmeal around 11:00 AM.  I’m feeling much better since then.  It feels good to eat.

Christ’s Words in Action

In Africa, Economy, Philanthropy, Poverty on April 15, 2008 at 3:58 pm

This is Christ’s words in action  Please watch and comment on this amazing video.  8:06

An Unexpected Question

In Philanthropy, Poverty on April 5, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Two days ago, I got a message from one of my friends on facebook (in the interests of anonymity, I’m not going to use their name).  It was nice to hear from them, but in their post they wrote:

Is you being conservative a joke? Or are you serious? I would think you to be a liberal or maybe a moderate[.]

I was fairly surprised, and a little disappointed – more in myself than anyone else.  I suspected that I knew why they might consider me moderate, or God-forbid a Liberal.  But I wanted to to hear their reasoning for why they thought my being conservative was a joke.  So I wrote back:

Nope, it is most definitely not a joke. Conservative through and through. I’m curious, why would you think me to be liberal or moderate?

I wanted to see exactly why they thought me to be a leftist.  They replied:

because liberals usually believe that people who need help are in that place because of environmental factors, and reasons beyond their control and conservatives tend to feel that people are in the positions they are because of how hard or not so hard they work… Like homeless children. NOT THEIR FAULT. Homeless crack addict, maybe grew up with no family and started using to not feel the pain at the sad age of 12. THEN liberals also usually believe that the government shoudl provide programs liek homeless shelters, rehabs, etc. to help all these people. Where as conservative believe that everyone should pick themselves up by the boot straps… even if you don’t have any boots.[…] hahah i’m actually kind of conservative on a lot of things but kind of liberal on a lot of things as well…. But I heart you no matter what you are. hahha.

That is pretty much what I expected to hear (well, read, actually).  The old myth that conservatives don’t want to help anyone and that liberals have a monopoly on humanitarian work.  At first, I drafted up a long, well-thought out response, but in the end I decided against sending it to them.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. You can tell by the posts from the other party that they aren’t interested in debating (I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing; this is only facebook after all).  Their first message was just general wondering.
  2. I was worried that my response might come off as arrogant or long-winded – I wouldn’t want to read a three page response either.
  3. I didn’t want them to feel like I was attacking them or their beliefs.  It’s not my place to to barrage them with my own opinions.
  4. A short response would probably work best.

So, for these reasons, I wrote this shorter response:

That is one of the myths that I hope I am dispelling by example. It isn’t the amount of humanitarian aid that Conservatives and Liberals disagree on (the exact amount is controversial, yes, but they both agree there should be some amount), but rather the way in which money should be collected. Liberals are (usually) more for government programs set in place that gets its funds from taxes, while Conservatives usually support organizations through personal donations, such as a church. That is the big difference.

And I believe your view is too narrow. When it comes to Americans, I would say that a large portion of the people on welfare (or other comparable programs) are lazy. Disregarding children and the disabled, many people in America have ample opportunity to improve their situations, but choose not to do so. Regarding other parts of the world, I think everyone can agree that they might not be as blessed as the US is.

Just a thought to ponder: Who does a vast portion of the humanitarian work overseas (and in America as well)?

Christian organizations. And in my experience, Christians tend to lean a bit to the right.

I tried to address all of their points without going overboard.  Too which they replied:

well… i’m throwing out there that according to my social work book people on welfare lack opportunities to better their situation. My teacher said that the REAL myth is that people on welfare are lazy and the TRUTH is that people just WISH it was that way. Or something. Take what you want from it…. I was just surprised that’s all. Plus, I think their should be government run programs for people rather than organizations. Because, what if you’re not christian? or something…

I thought that they might disagree with my welfare point more than any other, so I kind of had my response in hand:

I totally agree that there should be programs in place to help people in bad circumstances out, but that we need to not get too carried away. And I know that not all, or even most of people on welfare are ‘lazy,’ but there is a big enough portion to screw it up. I don’t see why anyone should be on welfare for two years, but there are plenty of people who are.

And I believe that most organizations don’t require the people being helped be Christians. World Vision is a Christian organization, but they help anyone regardless of race, sex, religion, etc…

My response is the end of this discourse so far, but I am sure that they will respond shortly.  But I have a few questions for you.

  1. Do you think I handled this situation well?  Was I too critical?  Should I have maybe been more conversational, and less debate driven?
  2. Do you agree with my case or theirs?
  3. Any general thoughts on the issue?  What’s your stance on the balance of humanitarian work?  Does either side of the spectrum get it right?

Also, sorry for such a protracted post; but I thought I owed it to you after such a lengthy cessation in my posts.

More Ways

In Christmas, Development, Economy, Poverty on December 3, 2007 at 4:26 pm

I’m sorry to keep bringing up ways that you can spend your money, but I want to make sure you know about all of your options to make the greatest impact this Christmas.  I think the best thing you could do would be to invest in the World Vision Microenterprise Development program.  You make a small, one-time investment, but your money keeps on giving.  Once it is loaned out to an entrepreneur, they use to the money to increase production/buy new equipment etc… then they repay the loan with interest, and it recirculates back into the loan program.  So your one time donation could provide countless businessmen and women with greater opportunity to feed their families and strengthen a village.