HopeMob unites people all over the world to help people in need one story at a time. Find out more about this group and the people they support.Read More
WATERisLIFE has a really innovative ad campaign you may have seen recently. They are more than just the ad, however, and offer some really innovative projects and solutions for delivering clean water to the world.Read More
Music is a powerful force. Robert Gupta and Street Symphony use it to bring relief to the mentally ill and impoverished. Find out more about this wonderful organization and how you can help.Read More
Alexander Mark was feeling like he had to do something. He wanted to make a difference, but didn't feel like the opportunities in school offered a true chance to do so. He decided to start his own company.
Alexander had designed t-shirts for contests and had a passion for having his own line someday. Using his design skills, he decided his company, One Hundred, would support global clean water initiatives with the profit. For each t-shirt you purchase the proceeds go to support groups on the ground. In a recent drive, One Hundred raised funds to support the International Lifeline Fund in creating boreholes in Uganda. They've now gotten two funded.
Alexander's drive and passion are inspiring. It's a reminder that making a difference means you don't have to necessarily be boots on the ground, but can use the skills you have to inspire change. Access to clean water is a huge problem. As it says on One Hundred's site, 1 in 7 people are without. One Hundred is a great solution for improving those numbers. Support them and buy a shirt today.
I'll end with this quote from One Hundred's blog post on what happens after a well is dug, because I agree with their thoughts on charity:
We here at One Hundred believe that charity doesn’t end when a school is built, or a well is dug. True charity needs to be long term, with commitment to extended education programs to help empower those most in need of help to help themselves. Clean water is the beginning; what happens after that is up to all of us.
Here's wishing Alexander and all those at One Hundred all the best.
In the last several years, you may have noticed a change in how people are working to help others. Rather than just giving money to a cause or showing up with aid, there's a movement to help others by investing in ideas locally. Microfinance falls into this category.
What is Microfinance?
Simply put, microfinance is an economic system that allows people like you and me to invest in who may be too poor or are in areas where financing isn't readily available so they can realize their vision. It was a concept first introduced by Professor Muhammad Yunus in 1976, who won a Nobel Prize in 2006 for Microfinance. The idea was to help create social change through these microloans. It allows people who don't qualify for traditional bank loans get the money they need for their businesses.
One example of this effort is a site called Kiva. Kiva was started in 2005 and has now made $337 million dollars in loans. These loans come from people like you and I. They can be for any amount you choose and to people from all over the world. Kiva states they have a loan repayment rate of 98.94%.
Should I Do This?
That's really up to you. As with any financial investment there is risk as well as reward. Remember, these are loans, not donations. You get the money you invest back. So rather than donate one time, you can make a loan, take the money you get back and re-invest in another project. Your 'donation' becomes an organic thing. You are helping people in a way that doesn't breed more dependence. You're investing in their abilities and giving them access to the resources they need to be successful.
Using sites like Kiva make it simpler than ever to connect with those thousands of miles away. You receive updates on their progress and you can see as they repay the loan. Some have raised issues with how the monies are used at times. Rather than used for new ideas or projects, some have used the money as aid or dowries, as examples. But, to me, the risk of this happening is outweighed by the benefit I feel it could provide. There are also issues with loan rates, flow of credit, and the like, but I believe a microfinance matures, these will be worked out.
William Kamkwamba is proof that one person determined to bring change can be irresistible. At the age of 14, because he was faced with terrible famine and drought in his home country of Malawi, he had to drop out of school to help provide for his family. As William says in the video, "this is a future I cannot accept." Rather than despair and face this future, he went to the library and found a book called 'Using Energy' and decided to build a windmill so he could provide light and energy for his house.
William's family thought he was crazy. The villagers thought he was crazy as well. 'Here we are in a drought and he's building a windmill?!' This didn't stop him. Lacking materials, William gathered what he needed at the scrapyard across the street. Using the diagrams in the book as a guide, William used a tractor fan, wood scraps, and a bicycle to build the windmill and help realize his dream.
After building the windmill, William figured out how to wire his house and power 4 lights and 2 radios. Villagers were soon lining up to power their cell phones. Then reporters showed up and William started gaining attention not just in Malawi, but in Africa, then the world. By the age of 19, William was on the stage at TED Global in Tanzania talking about his creation. In that video, a very visibly nervous William says the next one he builds will be to pump water for irrigation.
William builds the second windmill and is overjoyed because it means that his family will no longer have to travel to get water. They have water at their house. All of this without the utility companies we have here, realized by a teenager who believed. He did the hard things. Having an idea is easy, but making it come to life is definitely the hard thing. You will have detractors, you will have naysayers, but they are only short-sighted and become believers because of you. William realized this.
The story of William Kamkwamba should serve to inspire any citizen in the US to action. We live in a country where resources are easily available for us to do anything. William's family was in a life or death situation, as they faced drought, starvation and a very bleek future. But, as William said, 'This is a future I cannot accept.' He was determined. He remained positive and focused even though people were dying around him. What he built was a different life, not only for himself, but for the villagers. They now have water and electricity, two things we take for granted on a daily basis.
A villager in Malawi, who knew no world outside his village, has become recognized as a thought leader and inspiration to others. Here are some of his accomplishments since first building the windmill:
- Spoke at TED Global
- Spoke at Maker Faire Africa
- Presented at classes at many colleges, including MIT
- Spoke at TED in the US
- Wrote a book about his experience
- Went back to school and finished high school
- Now attending Dartmouth College in NH, class of 2014
William's life is completely different than if he'd resigned himself to his fate. Amazing! Looking at what William has done makes it really hard for us to say, 'If only I could...' The power is in you. You just need to get out of its way. Thank you, William.