Category Archives: Blog Action Day

Eliminating Extreme Poverty: Possible Personal Contributions

I’ve been going through my older posts systematically in the last couple of weeks and taking the time to write an updated post on the many topics I touched upon since launching this blog in 2008.  It’s interesting to see how some things have really not changed in the last nine years, how some have completely changed, and how others still have morphed into something that straddles the line between the 2008 me and the 2017 me–like some thoughts on extreme poverty.

I had for one completely forgotten about Blog Action Day, something I was super enthusiastic about when I first started blogging but have, since then, stopped participating in.  It took me a little while to remember that it was a decision I took in order to blog more organically; in other words, rather than forcing out a post on a chosen topic, I preferred blogging about things that happened to me or around me, as an extension of the conversations I was having “in real life”.

I did, however, write one post as part of October 2008’s Blog Action Day about poverty that made me pause and think.  I could feel how, on the one hand, I had forced the post out of me, and on the other, how true it remains to what I still believe today: that eliminating poverty needs the full participation of every single person, and that addressing poverty’s root causes will help solve other issues as well.

In short, I had written that, while giving people money and food and donating to various organizations as Sun YouthRenaissance and The Old Brewery Mission does help, it doesn’t solve the causes of poverty, be it at the level of the structures of society or at the level of each person, both poor and not poor.

What about now?

These days, though, I am much more interested in what we can do at the grassroots to help alleviate poverty.  The first is an attitude change.  For example, a person living in poverty is still worthwhile, is still a dignified human being, and still has amazing capacities.  They don’t need us to “save” them, but they do need to be given the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

I would like to give almost the same three suggestions that I gave nine years ago in this regard.  The first is to sponsor a child so that he or she can get an education. You can go through an organisation or find a school that accepts direct donations, such as Zambia’s Banani International Secondary School.  The second was to go for a period of service, however short it may be, to assist efforts at the grassroots to provide children with a solid education.  I would suggest, in 2017, that those who cannot offer such a period of service consider mentoring young ones right here at home.  The third suggestion was to contribute to microcredit schemes (more on the topic here and here).  The updated version of that advice would also include to buy, as much as possible, local.

Final thoughts

But ultimately, I think that the real, sustainable answer to poverty on a global scale is figuring out how to redistribute wealth in such a way that no one person is ever again to be found in abject poverty, no any one person is able to have so much money that they just don’t know what to do with it.  And while it might seem like a huge challenge that you and I, mere inhabitants with no international influence, cannot possibly address, our day-to-day choices will contribute to changing the patters in our society that contribute to the current massively unequal distribution of wealth.  It’s only a matter of taking our rightful place as protagonists of change.

{ Sahar’s Blog is all about being in a constant state of learning.  So it only made sense for me to go back to all my previous posts and see how my thoughts on certain topics have changed over the last nine years.  In this new, ongoing series of posts, I’ll be rereading some of my older posts and reflecting on the same topic in light of what I’ve learned since then.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how things have changed! }

Health for all, gender equality, animal rights etc: which cause to choose?

October 15th was Blog Action Day, and its theme was poverty. It’s a great cause and, energized by the experience of engaging in elevated conversations with people from around the world about this important topic, I spent the last couple of days talking about it to all the poor souls I encountered.

One encounter in particular made a big impression on me. The person I was speaking to – let’s call him Joe – listened to me patiently, asked interesting questions, encouraged me to continue pursuing my interest in this cause, and then, as I expected him to ask me how he could get involved, told me that while poverty was an important issue, it wasn’t his cause and hence he couldn’t spend time or energy on it.

The first thought that ran through my mind is: “How can you not want to dump every single other wannabe cause you might have and help with this one, one of the biggest scourges of modern day society?”

It was very tempting to engage him in a duel I was certain to win, successfully converting him to the cause of poverty. I resisted the temptation because at that very moment, I had a flash of insight.

First of all, there is no such thing as a cause that is better than others because, at the end of the day, all these causes are the consequence of injustice. As long as we can’t figure out a way to eliminate injustice, none of our causes would be resolved. In different ways, we are all working towards the same goal.

Maybe this is why there are so many good people doing so much great work and yet none of these issues are getting resolved. We are all rowing like crazy to reach the same goal (albeit different manifestations of it) but because we aren’t rowing in sync, we are expending a lot of precious energy to go nowhere.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: what unifying force can bring us together so that under the umbrella of unity, we can finally make justice reign in our world and resolve all the issues behind the different causes that stir and inspire us?

Let’s help this woman break her piggy bank

From a fellow blogger:

FOR EVERY COMMENT ON THIS POST, I WILL DONATE $1.00 to Ethiopian Orphan Relief or our local SLR voucher program (Donations split 50/50–and I suppose I must set some limit!) For every comment sharing what you are doing or will do to fight poverty, I will donate $2.

Will you write a letter to your sponsored child? Email your state representative? Take some extra food to the food bank? Repeat this same challenge on your own blog? Get involved in something, let me know, and watch my gift grow. Game ends Friday at midnight PST. The real challenge never ends.

Visit the site and help break a woman’s piggy bank!

Blog Action Day: the stats

12’720 sites contributed to Blog Action Day, with a combined 13’422’856 RSS readers (plus countless single visits). Pretty insane, no?

Blog Action Day: A Personal Perspective

I have two very different types of experiences with poverty.

On the one hand, having grown up mainly in West Africa, I have seen people who truly are hungry on a daily basis. When you these things, you can turn your head away, or you can choose to act. My parents chose to act and so did I.

But somehow, the situation in Africa wasn’t as hard as the one here in North America. While people were hungry and life was difficult, Africans have a wonderful sense of community; the love that binds them together is very strong. And this has a profound impact on the way hunger is dealt with. For example, instead of some people dying of hunger, they choose to share their food so that everyone is a little or very hungry.

You don’t see things like that happening here. We choose to go to expensive restaurants and buy ourselves designer apparel, and choose to turn our heads away when we see someone begging on the street. We make more than enough money, then grumble when we have to pay taxes or rationalize our way out of giving to charities.

I’d say that the real problem isn’t poverty in itself, but rather that we choose to let it continue when we have the means of making it disappear for good. Future historians will probably scratch their heads and wonder why, in the era of the Internet, more wasn’t done to eradicate poverty.

One way to do this is to look away from the negative images typically portraying poverty – not to make it something to be ashamed of. Because poor people don’t have anything to be ashamed of other than belonging to an uncaring society. The stereotype of the poor individual living off financial aid while doing nothing more than watch TV all day is the exception, not the rule.

Blog Action Day: More interesting posts

I am not getting much else done today, but I have to say that my understanding of poverty and my vision of what can be done has been increasing. Here is another roundup of the most interesting blog posts I have read related to Blog Action Day 2008.

Out of poverty with dignity: Sounds like another great plan to me!

Donate your piracy savings to reduce poverty: An absolutely brilliant idea! You know you download. Don’t deny it.

How to make yourself happier during the economic crisis: The title might seem to go against the entire idea of Blog Action Day, but do read it; you might be pleasantly surprised.

Eradicating poverty through human ingenuity: A great post about what poverty is, how it is affecting individuals around the world as well as how we can help eradicate it.

Madagascar: No, not the animated movie, but the actual country. A personal account of poverty in Madagascar.

More to come… Posts are popping up by the minute!

Blog Action Day: A little does go a long way

Poverty exists everywhere in the world, but its face changes from continent to continent, from country to country, from region to region. The very definition of poverty also changes; some people consider themselves poor because they can’t go overseas during the holidays, while others consider themselves poor because they can’t afford to eat more than once a day.

But I’m not here to paint a depressing picture that will make you want to cry out in despair. There is more than enough of that going around, and while it helps raise awareness, it doesn’t do much more than that. To be bolstered to act, one needs to know that what one does actually amounts to real change. And that’s why I’d rather talk about what can be done at the grassroots to help eradicate poverty.

While giving people money and food does help to get them fed and clothed, and donations to such organizations as Sun Youth, Renaissance and The Old Brewery Mission do help, this doesn’t solve any of the causes of poverty. There are many such causes unfortunately, including corporate & personal greed which created and maintain an unjust distribution of the world’s wealth. A more personal cause of poverty is a person’s lack of capability to get out of his or her situation of poverty. In layman’s terms, it means that a person lacks the skills and knowledge to get out of his or her situation. This however doesn’t have anything to do with the person’s capacity to acquire such capabilities.

There is unfortunately no one magical solution to solve the problem of poverty. However, there are certain principles that should guide us which can make our efforts more efficient.

First and foremost is the concept of human dignity. Poverty doesn’t mean a lack of humanity; poor people deserve the same respect as rich people, if not more, since they have survived terrible conditions. Neither does poverty mean a lack of capacity; it just means that these capacities haven’t been brought out and honed.

The concept of human dignity is directly linked to the second concept. Ever heard of the expression: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, feed him for life”? The concept of human dignity implies that the person we want to help is able to help himself once certain conditions have been met.

Two of the three activities I’d like to suggest to you are directly linked to this lack of capabilities. The first one is to sponsor a child so that he or she can get an education. You can go through an organisation or find a school that accepts direct donations. One such school would be Banani International Secondary School in Zambia.

But money isn’t the only thing that is lacking; there is a scarcity in human resources on a continent that has been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Many teachers have died since the beginning of the epidemic, and, combined with the brain drain, this has created a big shortage in teachers and educators. If you can go there for a short time (3 months) or, even better, give an entire year to serving the children in Africa in a school somewhere, you would be helping the next generation acquire precious skills.

Unfortunately, one might long to go but not be able to; good thing there are other ways to help! The third suggestion I have is to contribute to microcredit schemes. To learn more about microcredit, you can watch a great, inspiring and uplifting documentary by PBS on the subject, which you can find here.

In short, microcredit means that you are going to be lending someone a sum of money that is ridiculously small by North American standards; within a set amount of time, the person you have lent this money to will develop her business and eventually pay you back. I’m purposefully using the feminine because most of the successful recipients of microcredit loans have been women (around 80%). And if you’re wondering how many people actually return the loans, well, let’s just say that the return rates are the highest in the world; they are well above 90% (you can read more about microcredit here and here).

How does one go about lending money to an African entrepreneur? One way of doing so is through organizations such as Kiva, which is one of the few person-to-person lending sites currently in existence. It makes the experience all the more interesting in that you know exactly where the money goes, who receives it, what happens to it and you get feedback on that person’s success.

There is probably a lot more you can do; if none of the suggestions above appeal to you, then good for you! This means that you now have the exciting challenge of finding something else to do that will make your tickle your noodle.

Yes, I did just write tickle your noodle. Maybe my capacities need some further honing, too.

Blog Action Day: Some interesting posts

So I have just spent the last hour reading up on what other bloggers have to say about poverty, and I have to say, I’m really impressed. It’s heartwarming and encouraging to know that there are so many people who care out there.

Here are (for now) some of my favorites. I plan to waste – euh, I mean, spend – more time on the Blog Action Day official website, so do check back for another list of favorite posts later during the day.

Using Social Media to Fight Poverty: Going beyond Blog Action Day

The Promise of Africa: Me, have a biais for Africa? Naaaaaah! This is a great post just because it’s great, and not because it’s related to Africa, I promise!

Blog Vs Poverty: Lovely acerbic humor pondering amongst other things on why a celebrity studded concert didn’t solve the poverty issue. Isn’t celebrity the answer to EVERYTHING?

A tale of two crises : a great post about worldwide poverty and the current credit crunch. “Above all, the message of trade unionism is that if we get together – if we act collectively – we can change things for the better. We can solve the credit crunch and we can solve global poverty.

Poverty Reading Roundup: So in case you haven’t had enough of reading blogs, here are some books you can pick up to read more on poverty. I read Nickled and Dimed by the way, and it’s an amazing book.

Blog Action Day: an Introduction

Things aren’t going well. Surprise, surprise.

So how can we change them?

As Al Gore explained quite eloquently in his book The Assault on Reason now more than ever we need to be well informed and be part of the political process if we want things to change. One great way is through the Internet, where a constant transparent exchange of ideas is taking place without any filter than the one the author chooses to use. And, by increasing the number of voices talking, we are able to get rid of the filters.

Blog Action Day is one way of lifting the veils off various topics, this year’s being poverty.

Bloggers Unite: On October 15th bloggers everywhere will publish posts that discuss poverty in some way. By all posting on the same day we aim to change the conversation that day, to raise awareness, start a global discussion and add momentum to an important cause.

Why? Every blogger has a unique voice, audience and perspective. By speaking to their readers on topic about an important issue we can discuss global issues like poverty in a new and hugely multi-faceted way. And from discussion springs action.

What can I write about? The best thing a blog can do is to keep their post on topic. Audiences visit our blogs because they enjoy the style, personality and topic of the site. So it makes sense that the best way to get through to these audiences is to use that same style, personality and topic to talk about Poverty. For example:

  • A Design Blog might analyse a set of charity posters and how they convey their message.
  • A Tech Blog might look at pro-poor technologies and projects.
  • A Political Blog might examine the relevant agendas of leading candidates.
  • A Sports Blog might look at recent charity activities of a major sports franchise.

So take a minute to check out http://blogactionday.org/. Take another couple of minutes to post something on your blog or to post a note on your Facebook profile (and you know you have no excuse not to do THAT!). And keep checking my blog: there is more coming up as part of Blog Action Day!

88 Ways to Take Action Against Poverty Right Now

October 15th is Blog Action Day, and already blogs are teeming with ideas of what we can do to help combat poverty. I’m all about grassroots projects, so this particularly appeals to me.

I have taken the liberty of posting a list of 88 ways to take action again poverty right now. While there are some items on the list I don’t find as efficient as others, I think that everyone can find at least one thing they can do.

So do take a look and contribute to diminishing poverty today!

  1. Eat meatless meals 2x a week. Donate that grocery money to a local food bank.
  2. Be homeless for a day/night.
  3. Stop putting off adopting a child through an organization like Compassion International (or adopt another one).
  4. Make a loan on Kiva, or buy a couple gift certificates and give them away to friends.
  5. Get a group together to go door-to-door collecting canned foods for your local soup kitchen/shelter.
  6. Take a homeless person to dinner and actually sit/talk with him.
  7. Stop being lazy. Find a way to do your job better so that you can save an hour a day, or be that much more productive.
  8. Stop buying junk to make yourself look pretty and donate it to homeless people and hungry people.
  9. Make flyers to stick in the local library.
  10. If you have a musical instrument you no longer use, donate to the still-struggling musicians and students in New Orleans, who are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. A few great organizations that will accepts musical instruments are Tipitina’s Foundation (www.tipitinasfoundation.org) and The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund (www.nomrf.org/donations.html).
  11. I’m interviewing a Capuchin monk vowed to Poverty about his work with Detroit’s poor for my blog, and I’m trying to arrange a fund raiser with my author and PIVTR radio station friends.
  12. Find a gripping picture or video having to do with poverty and publish it on the Web.
  13. Stop drinking Coke and bottled water for a day and save on plastic. Will save a lot of plastic if each of us does it for only one day.
  14. Share your skill or knowledge, so they can improve their knowledge to increase their life/prosperity.
  15. Visit an orphanage.
  16. Stop being lazy.
  17. Give comfort to the poor.
  18. Donate.
  19. Check your closet and make sure that anything you have not used last winter is taken to a charitable organization. Ask your friends and neighbors and volunteer to pick up the clothes, launder them and deliver them to those organizations. They will do no good in your closet and a world of good to someone in need.
  20. On one day only eat food that you have asked someone for directly or for the money you need to buy it. Pay attention to the feelings.
  21. Have a “sponsor me” day. Donate money to a poverty relief cause for everyone who leaves a comment on your blog that day.
  22. Designers for Blog Action Day group on Flickr. Submit your designs: http://www.flickr.com/groups/bad2008design/
  23. Organize a Hunger 101 Program for a local youth group. Our Girl Scout community learned about what they could do to help the working poor in our community. http://spedr.com/da5f This inspired them to organize several Take Action events: http://spedr.com/krfw
  24. Add the “Women Rock” badge to your website or Facebook page.
  25. if any of us knew or aware about any organisation which can help educate them, like, skills centre, entrepeneurship centre..u know, stuffs they do to help these pople actually do something to improve their life, we might try to collect name carsd from these organisations (NGOs or ministries), and walk around and passed these cards to them, with of couse, maybe some donations of any supplies.
  26. Skip a weekly trip to the grocery store and donate the money saved to a food bank. I do this once a year for my family of 5. For that week we only eat what is left in the pantry or fridge. By the end of the week, pickings are slim and we get a sense of what it feels like to not have the luxury of tasty, well balanced meals every night.
  27. Make a personal fundraising page in 5 minutes on Firstgiving.com. Raise money securely online for any US-based nonprofit committed to ending poverty in the US or around the world. Here’s an example page: http://www.firstgiving.com/bapbwm.
  28. Have dinner on the floor and make it a very small meal (like chicken broth, watered down milk, and maybe a small piece of bread?) Talk about the blessings you have and that the meal represents those who don’t get to eat “big” on a daily basis.
  29. Volunteer at a soup kitchen!
  30. Play freerice.com!
  31. If you have take out coffee, skip it for an entire week, donate the savings!
  32. Give 5 bucks to a homeless person who looks hungry!
  33. Talk with your children about poverty and who it affects.
  34. Save your old stuff and sold it for charity
  35. Support charity organization in your country. Reducing poverty may start in your nearest region.
  36. Do something to touch 3 people or to reach out to 3 people and get them to pay it forward.
  37. Give a gallon of water to each of 3 people who need it?
  38. Give a $10 gift certificate to each of 3 homeless, single mothers so that she and her children can have one hot meal at a fast food restaurant?
  39. Ask 3 entrepreneurs to each make a donation to 3 people or causes?
  40. Holding perhaps daily or weekly community classes for imparting knowledge from our side and educating the local masses is something we all can do by coming together at grass root level.
  41. Avoiding overconsumption.
  42. Contributing to relief funds which can assist this cause.
  43. Host a 1 day famine and collect donations. With the donations, pass it to a Welfare/Poverty Organization.
  44. Plan a pot luck/BBQ or a get together inviting close friends and neighbours, to bring awareness and also to raise funds for a shelter home. Funds can be used to purchase the necessary groceries for the home.
  45. Pray for the comfort and safety of the world’s poor. Pray for the strength, wisdom and courage to help each of them find prosperity.
  46. Combat corruption!
  47. Don’t just talk to your kids about poverty – get them involved by having them go through their toys and clothes to find concrete things to pass along. The next time they want you to buy something for them – talk about what that money could buy for someone who had no food… then follow through and donate the money you didn’t spend.
  48. Donate your time and expertise to teach a class to those trying to find a new way to earn a living.
  49. To add to the previous suggestions, rather than just donate money to homeless people, why not use the money you would use on yourself for a coffee to buy one for someone else. If you get coupons for free beverages or meals, keep them with you and give them to someone in need.
  50. As you find organizations to which you like to donate food, clothing, etc., spend some time volunteering for that organization. Contribute to the organizations you are already supporting in other ways.
  51. Educate others. If you are a teacher, talk to your students about poverty. Get their opinions. Inspire them. If you work in other areas, strike up a conversation with your colleagues in the lunchroom or lounge. Get educated so you can answer questions and provide information that might spur others into action.
  52. Visit The Hunger Site every day and click the link to feed the hungry. It’s fast and it’s free and there’s absolutely NO excuse not to do it every day you’re online!
  53. Be compassionate.
  54. Invite friends to watch documentaries how poverty destroyed ones life,family and their future.
  55. Do not waste water on that day.
  56. Express your love and compassion for one street child by having an enrollment conversation with her.
  57. Ask your child to share her food with the child of your maid on that day.
  58. Make a list of five items you haven’t used for long and have no plans to use them in future either. And distribute them among local poors with all humility.
  59. Compose a poem on the theme ‘Making Poverty A History’ and get it published in a local magazine or paper. Also, ask your baby to recite the poem in her school.
  60. Talk to your five relatives about the poverty issue and invite them to come up with their suggestions to eradicate poverty.
  61. Organize a drawing competition for kids on the poverty theme and exhibit their works in a local school or community centre.
  62. Do not overeat on that day.
  63. Save electricity on that day and contribute the equivalent savings to a local charity.
  64. Contribute your one day salary to a child rehabilitation centre.
  65. Get a few friends, gather all your unused items, sell it and buy something a meal for the poor in your neighborhood.
  66. Si tan solo los gobiernos hicieran mucho mas por este flagelo, la pobreza se reduciría en un 70% por no decir 100%. Observo como a algunos gobiernos que han prometido en sus campañas electorales que acabarían con este mal, luego de llegar al poder y por motivo del oro negro les entran grandes cantidades de dinero, ¿y que es lo que han hecho con el, en vez de ayudar al pais? Financiar con ese dinero (que se supone es del pueblo), proyectos políticos solo para sus intereses personales… da tanta tristeza ver cuanta gente tirada por la calle, sin tener que comer, o donde dormir, mientras estos señores se gastan el dinero de tantos ciudadanos, comprando poder para satisfacer su ego.
  67. Travel to a poor country or area. Look for ways to make a difference on the ground there.
  68. On your next off day from work, go to a homeless shealter and help serve food to those who are there, talk with them, listen to their stories, you will find that they were at one time, alot like yourself.
  69. Let’s learn to love and respect one another, and to give to those who have less.
  70. Pictures. It’s one thing to say that the milk my son spilled at lunch this afternoon was more than some kids get. But some people don’t see how real that is unless they’re looking at a picture.So, I’m looking for them.
  71. Talk about poverty.
  72. To most Americans, it’s not real unless we see it. I’m going to be revamping my blog so that poverty is prominent, and I’m talking about it more often.
  73. Don’t stop at the generalities. War, famine, corruption, etc. all happen, and should be resisted. However, let’s dig deeper and go into the specifics. Not just talking about thousands of people dying of thirst … let’s talk about a real person.
  74. Pull out the hearts of the readers, and make them confront what they know is right and wrong.
  75. Instead of video games and other toys, give your neighbors and friends gift certificates for classical music lessons. For every $1 spent on music education, by my calculations, you get a $4.57 return on your investment from age 4-22 and that investment can never be taken away from you. Throughout one’s lifetime it pays much, much more. Take the money you save and give it in music lessons to the next person.
  76. Go to your school board meetings and demand better music education. The arts are part of the core curriculum of “No Child Left Behind” and as I’ve been telling people for a few months now, the less we have to pay for health care and crime, the more we have to spend on food and shelter and doing good for our neighbors.
  77. The more intelligent we are and the more productive we are, the more fruitfully we can spend our time, and the more we can produce to give away.
  78. The reason why poverty still exist in Indonesia is because people is giving cash money to the poor at the streets and those money usually being used for things that usually destructive/not good (buying drugs, etc.) In order to stop poverty, the government already got their program to fight it but it didn’t go successfully for people still think that they are better off at the streets and there’s this what-so-called ‘mafia’ that organize these poor people at the streets.
  79. In order to fight this, the people started to give food/meal/clothes to the poor instead of cash money so it would stop the process.
  80. I think in order to stop poverty is to give what the people really need, not just giving it away for the sake of ‘being kind’ ;)
  81. Fund educational programs for women.
  82. Ensure that women have legal protections.
  83. Educate people about the plight of women around the world.
  84. Educate yourself on one aspect of poverty that affects women, whether it’s educating yourself on what’s going on with rape or abortion legislation in your own local area, or finding out what you can do to help women in other countries attain the basic human rights they deserve, by doing research on organisations that help women and contributing to those organisations in some way.
  85. Do a campaign of creative advertisements for public awareness and a call to action. Do a poster, do an ambient campaign, write a radio or TV spot.
  86. Breadline Africa is launching a Blogger Bake Off to help raise awareness and funds. If you want to do something on Blog Action Day, you should turn your talking (which is very worthwhile) into action: donate to a charity. Organisations that use funds directly in poor communities will be using your money where it can do the most good: at the grass roots level.
  87. Educate yourself.
  88. Prepare a space in your home for the poor to stay as needed.

Whatever you do, I suggest you do it out of solidarity rather than charity. You’ll feel much better doing it because you want to rather than because you feel like you must :).