Monday, October 17, 2011

Invisible Children, Advocacy, and President Obama's Action Against the LRA

The year 2005 was an incredibly significant year for me. In 2005, I resigned as a chief of my tribe, I had my eyes opened in a life and career altering way to the issue of extreme poverty, and I was first exposed to an organization called Invisible Children.

My friend Dave Williams, who at the time was working with me as a leader in a summer-long character based leadership development program in Orlando Florida, shared a website with me. On the site, I was exposed to the brutality of child-soldiers in northern Uganda, and I saw the beginnings of one of the most impressive grassroots advocacy movements of young people I have ever witnessed, and I was thoroughly inspired. Less than a year later, representatives of Invisible Children visited the campus of WVU, and dozens in Morgantown and thousands around the country participated in a global night commute in solidarity with children in northern Uganda.

This organization, has catalyzed thousands of young people to take action against global atrocities like the work of Joseph Kony and the LRA in Uganda. I have met many people who trace back their beginnings of advocacy, justice, and community service work to their exposure to Invisible Children. Some of my closest friends have participated multiple times in some of this organization's awareness campaigns. These campaigns were designed to bring more than awareness. They awoke a desire in many for a different kind of world. 

Invisible Children, through one of their campaigns, came on Oprah Winfrey's radar, and because of that, came on the radar of millions. They have partnered with many other organizations and agencies, and have encouraged people to write their congressional representatives to take action to end the reign of terror caused by the LRA in Africa. It was because of Invisible Children that I wrote my first letter as a concerned citizen to Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, my state's Senators at the time. They encouraged a lobby day in DC that saw over 1000 grassroots lobbyists travel to our nation's capital to advocate for a bill of which Invisible Children played a strong role in its initiation.

And now, President Obama has authorized 100 military advisors to travel to Africa to help local militaries bring an end to 26 years of terror, atrocities, and the abduction of 1000s of children who have been forced to become soldiers. I believe that Invisible Children has played a huge role in encouraging young people to participate in our government's processes, and I believe that for many, it has restored a belief that they can make a difference in this world, they have a voice that can be heard, and they have a role to play as citizen participants in our government as well as in bettering this world.

Today, remember that you have a voice, and you have an incredible opportunity to good in this world, and to help make the world a better place--don't take it for granted!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nuru International Partners with Sevenly T-shirts To Support Rural Farmers On World Food Day

As part of observation of World Food Day, through October 16, Nuru International is proud to partner with the Sevenly T-shirt Company to raise funds and awareness for Nuru’s agricultural program in Kuria Kenya.  For every Sevenly shirt sold, the t-shirt company will donate $7 toward Nuru’s work to equip poor farmers with the tools and knowledge they need to lead their communities out of extreme poverty. Sevenly’s mission is to raise funds and awareness for the world’s greatest causes, and at Nuru folks are excited to be featured for their campaign this week in conjunction with World Food Day.

Nuru’s agricultural program is a linchpin for it's holistic model. We based this model on an incredibly successful model that we witnessed from one of our partner organizations, One Acre Fund. At Nuru, we pursue a holistic approach to international development that capitalizes on synergies developed by simultaneously attacking multiple issues that lead to systemic extreme poverty. For example, most families in remote, rural areas farm their own land. We train farmers to increase their harvest using the best agricultural means available. An increased harvest means they will have enough food to feed their families and surplus to sell; with the money earned, families are then able to save for the future and afford healthcare interventions for their family, education for their children, and necessities for their home, like a latrine.

This year, millions of families in East Africa are suffering because of a horrible drought, but amid the drought, Nuru farmers who have participated in our agriculture programs, while producing a lower yield this season, still have enough food to feed their families, pay back their loan of inputs, and generate revenue from the sale of surplus maize. In a recent blog post, Nuru’s CEO, and agricultural program manager, Jake Harriman gave further detail about what these interventions mean for farmers in Kenya. Since Nuru’s inception, it's  agricultural program has enrolled over 2000 families as well as loaned or sold over 40 tons of maize seed and 400 tons of fertilizer. Farmers have seen an increase in yield of 250% and Nuru boasts a 98% repayment rate on loans disbursed.

It is incredible that Nuru  is able to participate with Sevenly’s T-shirt program during the week of World Food Day, because this offers many an opportunity to take tangible steps to alleviate hunger as part of a greater vision to end extreme poverty in remote rural areas. Will you join us in our efforts to engage more people in this work? Here are a few suggestions from the World Food Day website. Join with Nuru, and take a tangible step toward a world in which people who live in extreme poverty have the choice to determine their future.

Also, if you would like to buy this Sevenly t-shirt, you only have a few hours left...sales discontinue at 12PM EST Monday October 17th.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Global Handwashing Day

Today is global handwashing day! Now you may be thinking, "What's the big deal about handwashing?" That's probably because you have had the idea of washing your hands with soap drilled into you from a very young age. Remember when you were first learning about this though? Remember your parents telling you that you always needed wash your hands after you go to the bathroom and before you eat to make sure you got rid of dirt? 

I can remember arguing with my parents that my hands weren't dirty because I couldn't see any dirt on them, but through them educating me about germs as well as programs in my school, I learned that there are germs and bacteria which I can't see that I need to try to remove from my hands too.

Handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections which take the lives of millions of children in the developing world each year.  This habit, could save more lives than any vaccine or other medical intervention, and could cut the number of lives lost each year to diarrhea by almost half!

There is a ton of publicity around initiatives to provide clean drinking water to our global neighbors who are living in extreme poverty, but there is also a huge need for interventions like handwashing stations and the use of soap after going to the bathroom and before eating. Water and sanitation hygiene, according to Unicef, is a key ingredient necessary to make international development possible. At Nuru, our holistic approach to tackling poverty has enabled us to tackle several problems at once and overlap solutions between different program areas. A great example emerges in handwashing. Our water and sanitation team has been developing low-cost handwashing stations that can be constructed, and sold to individual families at a very low cost, and then revenues generated from the sale of these stations can be used to maintain and grow our water and sanitation program. At the same time, our community health workers travel through villages and reinforce the concept of handwashing to save lives by visiting individual homes and providing education on why handwashing is important. As they travel, tehy also bring soap and other commodities to these homes and sell them for a low cost. This easy access to soap, along with handwashing stations, and education on why both are important when it comes to reducing sickness and the mortality rate of children under five are making a huge difference in the communities where Nuru works!

The video I shared here is a recording of testing an early prototype handwashing station for durability. To read more about this prototype click here. Global handwashing day is focused particularly on educating children, not only because of their great risk, but also because young people can also be incredible agents for changing behaviors. Their energy and enthusiasm is even more contagious than the pathogens on their hands. Today, as we celebrate global handwashing day, may we together take action to help others, especially children, to live healthier lives!