Category: Philanthropy

Salesian missionaries complete rebuilding 10 rural schools after 2015 Nepal earthquake

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Salesian missionaries in Nepal are still hard at work with long-term reconstruction efforts after the devastating 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal in April, 2015, with a second earthquake following just weeks later. The United Nations reported that more than 1,300 schools were destroyed during the earthquakes.

Today, thanks to Salesian missionaries, 10 rural schools have been rebuilt and equipped.

Children and youth from Sankhu, within the district of Lalitpur, were able to return to school at the beginning of the new school year. The school also has a kindergarten so that even the youngest children in Sankhu can access a quality education.

Among those present at the school’s inauguration were the head of the village development committee, Dhurva Ghimire, and the head of the Salesians in Nepal, Father Augusty Pulickal. Salesian missionaries living and working in Nepal for more than 25 years have been engaged in long-term reconstruction efforts, helping communities to rebuild homes and schools as well as offering important training to increase the capacity of communities to deal effectively in the aftermath of disasters.

The Nepal Don Bosco Society entered into an agreement with the government of Nepal for the reconstruction of 12 public schools in areas most affected by the earthquakes, 10 of which have been built. Salesian programs are also helping to train teachers and supply school materials in order to offer quality education for children.


Uganda: A major country of refuge for families and children

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Uganda hosts over 1.29 million registered refugees and asylum seekers, making it the third largest host country in the world, in addition to being the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa.

Of the total 1.29 million refugees and asylum seekers:
– Over 830,000 are from South Sudan, 350,000 are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 41,000 from Burundi, and 60,000 from Somalia, Rwanda and other countries.
– 61 per cent are children.

In Uganda, refugee children have access to universal primary education, pre-primary and secondary education, vocational training, and tertiary institutions. In the first six months of the year, gross enrollment in primary schools among refugees increased to 72 per cent from 58 per cent in late 2017. However, due to limited resources and infrastructure, many children continue to remain out of school.

Refugee children in Uganda continue to face serious protection risks, including family separation, physical, sexual, and gender-based violence, psychosocial distress, and other forms of violence. Among refugee households, 31 per cent reported having at least one orphan, 10 per cent reported at least one unaccompanied minor, and 25 per cent reported at least one separated minor.

The Government of Uganda, with support from UNICEF, vaccinated over 167,000 children against measles, provided Vitamin A supplementation to nearly 450,000 children, psychosocial support services to over 20,000 children, and promoted access to early childhood education for over 44,000 children.

[UN Children’s Fund]

Cherishing our connections to other people and cultures

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We all belong to the world in concentric circles of relationship — some more distant and others close, some with people different from us and others with people more similar.

Our lives and our relationships are well-served when we can lift our unconscious patterns into the light of day, embrace our shared humanity and vulnerability, and allow gratefulness to lead us into new ways of being and relating. …Recognizing that we are in relationship with our larger human family and our Earth in every moment no matter what we are doing, we are called to consider relationships in their widest possible arc.

Gratefulness supports us to experience deep appreciation for the blessings of our vast web of relatedness. …Typically, when we think of being more grateful in relationships, we focus on trying to remember to express gratitude for the things that people do for us or give to us that we appreciate — the unexpected kindnesses, the perfect gesture of support, the thoughtful gift, the fabulous meal. Getting better at offering this kind of gratitude is surely a worthy aspiration.

Cultivating a deeper recognition of gratitude for the existence of the people in our lives, not so much to them for something tangible they have done or given, is a different type of focus. …The people in our lives are true gifts for both us and the world as a whole, impacting us in ways that we can scarcely fathom.

Not taking people for granted is a foundational commitment in how we live gratefully in relationship…We recognize that people are distinct from who we are, individuated by who they are always in a process of becoming.

May our interconnectedness and inextricability keep us compassionate. May perspective keep us humble. And may our capacity to recognize, appreciate, and acknowledge the true blessings and gifts of all others grow more luminous and generous every day.

[Excerpt of article by Kristi Nelson]

Warren Buffett donates $3.6bn to Gates’ and family charities

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Warren Buffett is donating roughly $3.6bn of Berkshire Hathaway stock to five charities including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest contribution in Buffett’s plan to give away his fortune.

The donation will boost the total amount Buffett has given to the charities to more than $34.5bn since the 88-year-old billionaire pledged in 2006 to give his shares away. Buffett’s largest previous annual donation was $3.4bn in 2018.

Four-fifths of the donations go to the Gates Foundation. The rest goes to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named for Buffett’s late first wife, and charities run by his children Howard, Susan and Peter: the Howard G Buffett Foundation, the Sherwood Foundation and the NoVo Foundation.

The Gates and family charities typically sell Buffett’s shares to finance their activities, reflecting his desire that money be spent.

Following the latest donation, Buffett will still own about 15.7% of Berkshire, despite having given away 45% of his 2006 holdings, and have roughly 31% of its voting power. Buffett remains the world’s fourth-richest person, worth $87.5bn according to Forbes magazine.

[The Guardian]

A privilege to serve those in need

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There have been a lot of heated conversations around refugees, everywhere in the world.

Let’s all “change places“ and put ourselves in the situation of refugees, having left behind everything– their homes, family members, friends, and belongings in search of a safe haven. I am sure it is a threatening idea, but it can happen to any of us. Peace is not to be taken not for granted.

As doctors, we care about the health and well-being of our patients, regardless of their socio-economic, ethnic background, race, gender, nationality, or religion. Refugees are the same as any of our patients back home. The only difference is that they are much more vulnerable.

It is not only a responsibility. It is a privilege to serve those in need.

Within one year, I volunteered with SAMS on two medical missions to Jordan, and will be joining them again next month. I can hardly express the joy and satisfaction I experienced and the breadth of knowledge and experiences that I acquired during these missions. When we see and treat patients in one of the facilities in Jordan or elsewhere it is not about “refugees,” a vague and anonymous group of people far away. It is about faces and names, about the Ahmads, Arwas, and Mohammeds we meet. It is about those individuals with unique stories of hardships, resilience, hopes, and dreams.

We know that by volunteering, we can not move mountains, and we cannot wipe away all their pains. However, we can alleviate their suffering and address their health problems.

[Read full article by Dr. Bettina Seitz, Volunteer for Syrian American Medical Society Foundation]

MacKenzie Bezos, worth nearly $37 billion, will give half her fortune to charity

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The newly minted billionaire MacKenzie Bezos has signed the Giving Pledge, which encourages the world’s richest people to dedicate a majority of their wealth to charitable causes, either during their lifetimes or in their wills.

The initiative was launched by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010 and has so far attracted the support of 204 individuals and families. 

MacKenzie Bezos became one of the richest people in the world following her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos earlier this year. She ranks 22nd on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Her personal fortune is now worth an estimated $36.6 billion. Her former husband leads the global rankings with a net worth of roughly $114 billion.

MacKenzie Bezos said in a letter announcing the move that “I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. …My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty,” she said in the letter, which was published Tuesday.

MacKenzie Bezos was one of 19 new Giving Pledge signatories announced on Tuesday. The group also included Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, Paul Sciarra, the co-founder of Pinterest and Brian Armstrong, the CEO of Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange.

“The generosity of this group is a reflection of the inspiration we take from the many millions of people who work quietly and effectively to create a better world for others, often at great personal sacrifice,” Buffett said in a statement on Tuesday.


Google offers tech aid to take on humanitarian crises

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Frontier technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence have revolutionized Google’s business, and now the tech company is looking to share the wealth with those that need it most: people on the front lines of humanitarian crises.

From among 2,600 applicants, 20 winning nonprofits and social enterprises walked away from Google’s AI Impact Challenge with access to a pool of $25 million in funding, expertise from “Googlers,” and a shot to mitigate humanitarian challenges in their local communities.

“We want to see if we can help make the world a better place by bringing the best of Google,” said Jacquelline Fuller, vice president of Google, and president of the company’s humanitarian arm, “We look at issues and see where do we think we could have a differential impact. And so some of those areas include economic opportunity, the future of work, thinking about how to bring digital skilling to millions across the globe.”

This year’s winners include the American University of Beirut, which is developing a tool to help Middle Eastern and African farmers save water; Eastern Health of Australia, which uses machine learning to identify patterns in suicide attempts for more effective prevention; and Hand Talk, a startup that is using AI to translate Portuguese into sign language for disadvantaged, deaf Brazilians.

Fuller said the project helps unite tech companies, civil society, and governments to ensure “everyone has access to the benefits of this technology, and that we are applying it to the problems that really matter most to humanity.”


Polio vaccine now introduced worldwide

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By the end of 2017 Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, backed by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Norway and the United Kingdom, had helped more than 75 million children to be immunized against polio with IPV. (Nepal was the first Gavi-supported country to introduce the vaccine in September 2014.) Today, every country worldwide has now introduced the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)  which protects children against polio.

“Introducing IPV into routine immunization programs is a critical milestone on our journey towards a polio-free world,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization and Chair of the GPEI Polio Oversight Board. “It’s also vital that we use the infrastructure that has built up around polio immunization programs to ensure that all children receive other nationally-recommended vaccines. Achieving universal health coverage means making sure that all children, rich and poor, receive the same protection from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Polio is a highly contagious viral infection, mainly affecting children under the age of five, which can lead to paralysis or even death. Only three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – remain endemic to wild poliovirus. Thanks to global efforts and vaccination, since the beginning of 2019 only fifteen cases of wild poliovirus have been recorded in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Moreover, Nigeria, the third endemic country could be declared polio-free by the end of the year. Polio cases have fallen by 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases to 33 reported cases in 2018.

[GAVI Alliance]

Poorest countries bear the brunt as aid levels fall for second successive year

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Experts have warned that the fight against global poverty has taken a backward step after new figures show foreign aid has fallen for a second successive year. Aid levels dropped last year by 2.7% from 2017, with the poorest countries worst hit, according to figures published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Bilateral aid – direct, country-to-country assistance – to the least developed countries fell by 3% in 2018, with support to the African continent down 4% and humanitarian assistance dropping by 8%.

Toni Pearce, Oxfam’s head of advocacy, said: “The overall fall in aid globally is a worrying trend that risks exacerbating poverty and inequality worldwide. Cutting aid to the poorest and most vulnerable countries is a step backwards in the fight to end extreme poverty.

“With refugee numbers at their highest since the second world war, disasters like Cyclone Idai devastating lives, and food crises looming in Yemen and elsewhere, the fall in humanitarian aid is particularly alarming. Vulnerable people across the world rely on this essential lifeline when disaster hits.”

Angel Gurría, the OECD secretary general, also expressed concern: “This picture of stagnating public aid is particularly worrying as it follows data showing that private development flows are also declining. Donor countries are not living up to their 2015 pledge to ramp up development finance, and this bodes badly for us being able to achieve the 2030 sustainable development goals.”

Only five of the 30 development assistance committee (DAC) members met or exceeded the longstanding aid target of 0.7% of gross national income target: Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the UK. Turkey and the UAE donated 1.10% and 0.95% of their gross national income.

[The Guardian]

Extreme Poverty: Bad, but better

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The World Bank has used an international poverty line, originally the “dollar a day” line, since at least 1990 to monitor global poverty. In recent years, the line has come under criticism for being too low in value.

When the World Bank convened the Commission on Global Poverty in 2015, 10 percent of the world was living in extreme poverty. We might be entering the hardest stretch in the march toward the end of extreme poverty, which is increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

A recent World Bank report breaks new ground. To construct a more complete picture of poverty, it presents two new sets of poverty lines. The first are poverty lines at higher thresholds—$3.20 and $5.50 per day (in 2011 Purchasing Power Parity dollars)—reflecting typical national poverty thresholds in lower- and upper-middle-income countries. By these criteria, more than a quarter (at the $3.20 line) and almost half of the world’s population (at the $5.50 line) were poor in 2015.

The report also introduces a societal poverty line that increases in value as a country gets richer—a global poverty line that reflects the variation in national poverty lines observed across the world. It is a recognition that poverty is a deeply social and relative experience, so it cannot be detached from the social context of the individual. A refrigerator may be a luxury in a poor country, but it is essential to basic functioning in rich countries. When judged by the relative standard of the society in which they live, almost 3 in 10 individuals were living in poverty in 2015.

The new measures are not without flaws, and lack of timely, high-quality data to monitor poverty in all its forms everywhere remains a challenge. Despite these limitations, close observers of the World Bank would agree that the latest report breaks the mold. It stays centered on its core mandate of monitoring global extreme poverty, while offering a rich menu of complementary indicators that are relevant to a growing world and that encompass poverty in its multiple forms.

When asked about the state of the world, Hans Rosling, the data guru, was fond of quipping: “Bad, but better.” Similarly, this year’s Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report shows that while remarkable progress has been made in reducing extreme poverty, much remains to be done to eliminate poverty in all countries, in all aspects of life, and for all individuals.