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February 02nd, 2019

This NGO gives thousands of Kenyan youths a ticket to a better future. Support their efforts today.

type:Donation, Volunteering
by:Yair Oded

Kenya’s youth is in a challenging position. Research shows that 1 in 5 Kenyans between the ages of 15-24, who are eligible for employment, are unemployed. In turn, high unemployment rates increase these youths’ exposure to criminal activity, teen pregnancy, prostitution, and dire poverty. This puts an already vulnerable population at an even greater risk.

Since 2001, Raising Futures Kenya have been working tirelessly to provide the country’s youth with employment opportunities and guarantee their prosperity and well-being (as well as those of their families).

Through a network of volunteers, Raising Futures Kenya collaborate with individuals, other NGOs, and local government to provide training to young Kenyans in various fields, with which they could later on find employment or beginning their own small business (a process through which Raising Futures assist them).

The organization places special focus on children and teenagers with disabilities, who are still largely discriminated against in Kenya and often have no access to vocational training, education, or employment. Raising Futures collaborate with schools that specialize in education for children with disabilities and provide them with more resources to meet the needs of these children.

The organization also focuses on the advancement of girls, who also suffer from discrimination in education and employment, compared to male Kenyans. In fact, 72% of the program’s attendees are girls, who receive vocational training and support in launching their own businesses.

Raising Futures Kenya have thus far educated and trained more than 2,000 youths. 86% of their graduates are either employed or self-employed and 89% of them contribute to their family’s needs every month.

What’s more, is that an estimated 50% of graduates currently monitor and support others in their community, which through a trickle-down effect ensures the prosperity and improvement of others around them.

If you are interested in volunteering with Raising Futures, please visit their website.

If volunteering isn’t an option for you, please consider donating to their important cause.

Image credit: Raising Futures Kenya website.
January 28th, 2019
type:Donation, NGO, Volunteering
by:Yair Oded

As climate change exacerbates due to human activity and natural resources dwindle, both humans and animals suffer great habitat loss, and a growing number of wildlife species are at risk of extinction.

WWF is a United Kingdom-based independent conservation organization, whose primary goal is to “to create a world where people and wildlife can thrive together.”

Through a global network of members and volunteers, WWF work to encourage people to live sustainably and espouse practices that minimize their impact on the environment.

One of their main methods of operation is to apply pressure on and provide guidance to governments, companies, and organizations, working tirelessly behind the scenes to promote green and sustainable policies that would protect wildlife and natural resources and reduce carbon emissions. Just last year, WWF campaign successfully urged major banks across the UK to implement policies that would safeguard World Heritage sites.

Another successful campaign of WWF is one through which people may ‘adopt’ an endangered animal and thus learn more about the risks it faces as well as of actions taken to protect it.

From forests to oceans to freshwater and frozen environments- WWF maintains a presence across the globe, drawing public attention to conservation crises, educating communities and institutions about ways in which they can contribute, as well as aggressively pushing for sustainable policy reforms in order to mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate change.

VWWF also holds events (such as marathons, for instance) to raise awareness of their cause and help fund-raise.

Please visit their website to learn about ways in which you can contribute: either by attending events, volunteering, fundraising and campaigning for the organization, or donating.

Image credit: Luc Sanchez via Flickr
January 26th, 2019
by:Yair Oded

Faced with increasing rates of climate change related catastrophes, famine, terrorism, and migration of young individuals and families towards Europe, African nations decided to take matters into their own hands and save their citizens’ future.

Their solution? An 8,000 km wall of trees planted across the entire width of Africa, stretching from Senegal in West Africa all the way to Djibouti in East Africa.

The Great Green Wall initiative was established by 11 African nations along the Sahara Desert border- Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Senegal, with each country responsible to establish a plan to fund and organize the planting of this natural belt in cooperation with local communities.

The Great Green Wall, 15 percent of which is currently built, aims to stop the expansion of the Sahara desert, restore tens of millions of hectares of degraded land and employment sources, as well as absorb 250 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Decades of extreme weather conditions- in the form of worsening droughts and land degradation- combined with a steadily rising population explosion in various regions of the Sahara desert have led to severe shortages of farming and employment opportunities and poor access to essential resources. Frustrated and hopeless, many young individuals in the region either turn to extreme terrorist groups or attempt to migrate to Europe for a better future.

Already, the Great Green Wall has managed to tame and reverse some of these adverse phenomena, and spawned positive developments in the region. According to EURACTIV, for instance, “over four million hectares of previously degraded land have been restored with the planting of over 27,000 hectares of indigenous trees” in Senegal. The fruits produced by the trees have also contributed to the emergence of a whole new market along the green wall, which provides employment prospects for young people in the area.

The project has been endorsed by international bodies, such as the European Union and World Bank. At the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris last December, the member nations pledged to contribute $4 billion to the construction of the Great Green Wall.

It seems that as far as construction of walls is concern, the U.S. president should turn to his counterparts in Africa for some urgently needed advice.

As stated in the words of Dr James Wahonye from the University of Nairobi Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (during an interview for EURACTIV), “The problems in the Sahel should not be treated in isolation. We are in a global village and any threat, especially one of this magnitude, should get the whole world’s attention because it is just a matter of time before it mutates to the rest of the world.”

To sign their petition and pledge your support for the Great Green Wall, please visit their website.

Image credit: Adam Jones/Flickr via EURACTIV
The Missing Lost Migrants
January 24th, 2019
type:Donation, NGO, Volunteering
by:Yair Oded

On any given day, countless migrants seeking refuge in the U.S. find themselves in a race for survival as they cross the arid desert spanning between Mexico and South-western U.S.

One of the most dangerous crossing points is the Sonora desert, which extends from northern Mexico into Southern Arizona. Over the past two decades, the Sonora has become infamous as the death toll of migrants dying while crossing it increased exponentially.

As government agencies are failing (or unwilling) to provide sufficient aid to migrants in distress, and in some cases reportedly abuse those they ‘catch’, numerous organizations have set out to extend a helping hand to those whose lives are at risk in Sonora.

One of these organizations is No More Deaths (NMD). Since 2004, NMD has been operating as a nonprofit dedicated to saving the lives of migrants crossing the desert into Southern Arizona and advocate on their behalf.

NMD volunteers engage in a number of activities to decrease the number of migrants dying throughout their arduous journey to safety and ensure that their rights are acknowledged and respected.

Their campaigns include distribution of humanitarian aid (water, food, first aid kits, blankets, and clothes) along the remote Sonora areas in both Southern Arizona and mexico, provision of legal assistance to migrants applying for asylum or facing deportations, assistance with locating family members gone missing in the desert, and support of border communities.

NMD also document abuse of migrants by border patrol agents and government officials, work to increase public awareness of their plight, and actively promote human immigration policies and reforms.

Regrettably, the current administration (as well as various officials in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agencies in the area) is laboring to criminalize NMD volunteers who provide humanitarian aid on the ground for migrants in distress. Only recently, charges were pressed against nine different NMD volunteers who entered the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge in order to leave water and food for migrants.

Shortly before charges were pressed against him, NMD volunteer Scott Warren stated the following in an essay published in the South Atlantic Quarterly, “Humanitarian aid drops of water, food, socks, and blankets serve to acknowledge the struggle of migrants and force land managers and the public to recognize the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Simply put, the very presence of humanitarian aid forces land managers to publicly acknowledge a problem that they may wish to push into the remotest and least touristed areas of the desert, keeping it invisible to everyone but law enforcement personnel.”

Warren’s words highlight the importance and urgency of bringing the plight of migrants crossing the desert into the heart of national debate and public attention. Now is the time to ensure that migrant lives will no longer be viewed as expendable.

To learn more about their mission or how you can get involved, please visit No More Death’s Website. Their campaign can and should be supported from across the globe.

Image credit: Gregory Bull | AP
January 09th, 2019
type:NGO, Volunteering
by:Yair Oded

As Republicans and Democrats quarrel over the funding of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a rising number of migrants languish in detention facilities and are stuck in a perpetual limbo upon their release, dealing with a shattered and erratic immigration system.

It is easy to get caught up in the vortex of accusations and misinformation being hurled across the political realm concerning the issue of immigration. And as the president relentlessly depicts migrants as dangerous criminals seeking to inundate the United States, many seem to forget that the vast majority of those crossing the border are innocent human beings seeking shelter and safety. It also seems to escape us that while life goes on as usual for millions of Americans, such migrants suffer inhumane treatment on U.S. soil and have very little hope to cling to in the dark thicket of the American immigration system.

Reports abound of migrants suffering from undernourishment, abuse, disease under the federal and privately-run overcrowded detention facilities. Last month alone, two young children died from health complications while under the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.

Alas, those released from detention do not seem to fare any better- as they often grapple to find shelter and the proper tools to navigate the complex immigration proceedings and lodge asylum requests.

While the government is slow to respond to public places to alleviate the plight of migrants, privately run, non for profit organizations are toiling to fill in the gaps created by the chaotic immigration policies of the current administration.

One such organization is Freedom for Immigrants, a nonprofit NGO fighting to defend the rights of migrants both while in detention and upon release.

Through an extensive network of volunteers who carry out visits to immigration prisons and operate a national hotline, the organization monitors and reports on conditions and human rights abuses suffered by migrants in detention.

Founded by those who suffered themselves at the hands of the immigration system, the NGO also engages in community-based operations to assist migrants who were released from prison, develop alternatives for detention, advocate for their rights, and help them assimilate into the American society.

The organization’s mission is to utilize their support and monitoring efforts on the individual and communal level to advocate for and inspire change on a systemic, national level. Their end-goal is to see the abolishment of the immigration detention system.

One of the organization’s many initiatives is a virtual map of all immigration detention facilities in the U.S., which details the location, population, and information regarding each prison. Such a map could provide crucial data for individuals seeking to apply pressure on their local authorities and representatives, and monitor the plight of migrants as it unfolds in their own back yard.

Visit their website to learn more about their work and find out how to get involved and volunteer.

Image credit: Freedom for Immigrants
December 29th, 2018
type:Donation, NGO
by:Yair Oded

On any given day, we are flooded with a barrage of information which often makes it hard to take the time to focus our attention on a specific issue. This is particularly true of socio-political and environmental matters, which undoubtedly deserve our attention, but frequently get drowned out by the noise.

Film is an incredibly effective medium to bring such issues to our attention.

Films For Action is a non-profit organization which operates an online, free library containing over 4,500 documentaries, short films, and videos as well as thousands of articles revolving around social, political, humanitarian, and environmental issues.

The website contains documentaries covering a wide range of issues- war, peace-building, sustainability and conservation, refugees and humanitarian crises, and more, and serves as an arena for people from across the globe to become socially and environmentally aware. The movies are available in a wide range of languages.

Many of the films featured on the website cover issues that don’t always make the mainstream media. As such, they constitute an excellent platform for independent and emerging filmmakers and journalists who wish to expose their work to the public.

Visit their website to gain access to their ever-growing library of films and learn how to post your own work on their website.

Films For Action launched a donations campaign in order to sustain their operation and guarantee its survival. Please consider donating to this important cause and help spawn a future generation of activists.

Image credit: Films For Action
December 23rd, 2018
type:Donation, Volunteering
by:Yair Oded

Racism and xenophobia are on the rise across the globe. While hate crimes have always plagued human society, there is no arguing with the fact that a tide of nationalism and totalitarianism in various parts of the world contribute to a surge in violent incidents inspired by hatred.

In the U.S., hate groups (many of which have lost prominence in the past several decades) now feel emboldened by the new administration and its xenophobic rhetoric and policies.

In 2017 alone, the FBI reported a 17 percent increase in hate crimes, and dozens of new hate groups were founded across the country. This is particularly true of white supremacy and far-right groups, who currently account for 73 percent of lethal extremist incidents in the U.S.

Among the most notorious hate crime attacks in the past few years are the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre, during which 11 Jews were killed, the Charleston church shooting, during which 9 African Americans were killed, and the murder of Heather Heyer at the Charlottesville anti-fascist rally.

Alas, the atrocities that make the headline constitute but a fraction of the wave of hatred currently raging through the U.S., From defiling Jewish cemeteries to physically and verbally abusing racial minorities to inundating social media with racist vitriol- all have morphed into routine occurrences which together comprise an orgy of hatred.

While the current government seems only to flare up the inferno if racism, other individuals and organizations have taken it upon themselves to tackle the phenomenon. One such organization is Life After Hate, which for several years has been offering support to members of hate crimes who wish to abandon their life of hatred and reintegrate into society.

In addition to offering support to former members of hate groups, Life After Hate actively endeavors to spread information about the reality of hate-crimes in the U.S. and attempts to eradicate racism through education, lectures, and outreach.

One of its many programs, titled We Counter Hate, specifically aims to tackle hate speech on Twitter. Through advanced AI algorithms, the group identifies hateful Tweets and notifies the author that from now on every retweet of the post will generate a contribution to an organization that combats hate (using funds gathered by donation).

Please consider visiting their website to learn more about their programs and volunteer opportunities and donating to their cause.
December 07th, 2018
type:NGO, Volunteering
by:Yair Oded

First established in 1980 in the streets of Chelsea, NYC by a group of activists, the Anti Violence Project (AVP) works to protect the safety of members of the LGBTQ community and those affected by HIV.

Violence both within and towards the LGBTQ community and those suffering from HIV remains acute. Alas, in many cases victims of such violence find themselves without access to resources and aid. Often, even those who do reach out and seek help come to realize their pleas fall on deaf ears. And even in 2018, police brutality towards LGBTQ members is still rampant. Particularly rife among the community is domestic violence and hate crimes targeting LBGTQs. 2017, for instance, saw an increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ people; during this year, the highest number of anti-LGBTQ homocides was recorded (52 in only the first half of the year, affecting mostly black and Latinx individuals).

AVP set out to ensure that LGBTQ people and those suffering from HIV can lead a life of dignity, free from violence in their homes and communities.

The organization runs a support network for LGBTQ victims of violence; it offers counseling services, legal services, and operate a hotline through which victims may get help or report a violence.

AVP also offer volunteer opportunities in various local communities around NYC as well as training programs for individuals who wish to learn more about the impact of violence on the LGBTQ community and offer support to survivors of violence.

Visit their website for more information on their counseling, volunteer, and training services.

Image credit:
December 05th, 2018
type:NGO, Project, Volunteering
by:Yair Oded

As the refugee crisis in Europe exacerbates, the conditions in refugee camps (mostly in Greece) worsen. Unable to process the rising numbers of migrants and asylum seekers (often due to bureaucratic restrictions and a flawed asylum mechanism), the Greek government erects makeshift refugee camps which by now are overcrowded and inhospitable, and where refugees must wait for indefinite period of time until their case is reviewed.

One such camp, called Moria, currently holds 9,000 asylum seekers although its capacity is 3,000, where many of the migrants have thus far spent months waiting. Conditions in Moria are deplorable. In a New York Times piece from October, 2018, writer Patrick Kingsley describes the following about the camp: “The overcrowding is so extreme that asylum seekers spend as much as 12 hours a day waiting in line for food that is sometimes moldy. Last week, there were about 80 people for each shower, and around 70 per toilet, with aid workers complaining about raw sewage leaking into tents where children are living.” The dire reality in Moria has led to both a safety and mental health crises in the camp, with sexual assault, knife attacks, and suicide attempts occurring regularly.

Established in 2016, Refugee Support is a nonprofit organization working to alleviate the plight of migrants in refugee camps, as well as take some of the pressure off of the authorities and other NGOs as they grapple to handle the deteriorating conditions in the camps.

Untethered by bureaucratic chains, Refugee Support may offer quick and immediate relief to refugees; they do so through a group of hundreds of devout volunteers who operate in camps across Greece (and as of April 2017 in Bangladesh as well). Primarily, the organization provides food and essential supplies (including sanitation products) to refugees, acquired through donations, and distributed through warehouses and shops operated and maintained by Refugee Support volunteers. Each migrant (or migrant family) is allotted a certain number of tokens with which they can “purchase” goods. This way, migrants both get access to items they need and maintain a sense of dignity and ‘normalcy’ while doing so.  

Please consult the Refugee Support website to learn more about the conditions faced by migrants in camps across Greece, figure out how to donate (either money or items), and get more information about their various volunteer options.

Image credit: The Argus
December 03rd, 2018
type:Campaign, NGO
by:Yair Oded

Over the past few decades, abuse of domestic workers in Lebanon has become endemic. This is apparently the result of a Lebanese sponsorship program known as Kafala, according to which foreign nationals may come to Lebanon as domestic workers as long as they remain with the family that initially sponsored them; should they leave the household assigned to them, their status will be revoked.

In an increasing number of cases, domestic workers have reported unimaginable abuse suffered at the hands of their hosting families. Cases of abuse include withholding (often temporarily) payments, beating, humiliation, and sexual violence. In cases where migrants attempted to escape their abusive captors they often found themselves in limbo- without legal status or employment opportunities. Migrants who wished to return to their home countries through their respective embassies found themselves unable to do so since issuing a visa that would allow them to leave Lebanon would require paying hundreds of dollars in fines to the Lebanese government for violating their status (a sum of money that many of them simply don’t have available).

Kafala, though legal and widely used across the Gulf states as well as in Lebanon and Jordan, has been criticized internationally for its harsh restrictions; some have, accurately, referred to it as a gateway to slavery.

While the termination of Kafala may still be far off in the future, a growing number of individuals and organizations have taken it upon themselves to draw attention to the plight of domestic workers suffering at the hands of abusive hosting families and unable to help themselves due to the limitations of the Kafala system.

This Is Lebanon is an NGO committed to spreading testimonies of abused Kafala workers from across Lebanon. The organization publishes the harrowing tales of workers as well as the names and information of abusive patrons. This Is Lebanon’s content has been shared by prominent news agencies and human rights groups around the world.

If you or one of your loved ones is suffering abuse as a Kafala worker, or if you wish to acquaint yourself with the plight of domestic workers in the region and help spread the message- consult This Is Lebanon’s website.

Image credit: This Is Lebanon website.