October 29, 2008

Why Become An Adult Literacy Tutor?

If you've ever considered becoming an adult literacy tutor but have to make a decision, listen to one volunteer's story of why he got involved. Remember, the decisions you make can change many lives.

Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County

October 28, 2008

Are You Taking Action?

During my weekly Internet video stroll, I stumbled upon this interesting clip on YouTube. It's about someone who is Standing Up and Taking Action for Poverty. Enjoy!

Read on for more information at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTP6CtSGzik.

October 15, 2008

Poverty Is Being Lost In A Sea of Green

This post was written by Rizwan Tayabali, a management consultant who works with different non-profits, social enterprises and individuals helping them create financial sustainability. He has started an initiative called the Urban Survival Project which is aimed at helping vulnerable young people survive education, jobs, small business and life.

Nothing about poverty is cool. It is tough, brutal, painful and cyclical. But it doesn't affect most of the people who can afford the technologies to be reading this, so for many of us it's always been easy to ignore. A hidden evil lurking in 'third world' countries. The saddest development is that even the little attention poverty had when it was simply the most pervasive of the global problems that didn't affect us directly, is being washed away in the tide of interest surrounding the Green movement.

Green has gone from cheap and homemade to cool and chic. From 'tree-huggers' to corporate speak. It is becoming iconic, and a status symbol that brands are associating themselves with. It affects the world we all live in, and therefore directly impacts our own personal interests - and so we take it seriously. Better still, it also costs most of us nothing more turning a few lights off and maybe going easy on the heating... which basically saves us money and again furthers our own interests while making us feel good about ourselves. More and more I see it turning into a McCarthyism thing. Show a disdain for eco-friendliness and you're an instant pariah. Can't argue with that of course. We need sustainability. Maybe we'll even save the planet before it's too late.

My question though is - Why isn't poverty like this? Why is it perfectly acceptable to show no interest in poverty at all? Global poverty is basically left out of sight, and kept out of mind. The pictures have become just that. Glossy prints of someone else's pain. An artist's rendition of reality instead of calls to action. As for local poverty, I regularly hear people righteously blaming the victims for their own situation... these 'people' should stop being so lazy, go and get a job, stop with the pregnancies, get off the streets, and on and on.

The problem is that unlike Green, the only way we can really impact institutional poverty is by redistributing a bit of our money either through donations for global causes, or through paying higher taxes for local ones. And giving away 'hard-earned' money is a concept a little too close to the bone. Nothing cheap and cheerful about it. So we look at poverty in ways that help justify our lack of action. We make like its not there and give it a wide berth. Ignorance is bliss.

But ignorance we can tackle. And making a difference starts with awareness, so I'm going to use a 'rich' country like the UK as a case in point and share 5 facts about poverty that you probably didn't know, but really, really should...

  1. Poverty has two definitions: Absolute and Relative.
    Absolute poverty also known as 'extreme poverty', is defined as living on less than $1.25 per day. The world bank estimates that 1.4 billion people currently live under these conditions. Relative poverty is used when talking about developed countries and currently stands at about $30 a day for a single adult.

  2. Poverty in the UK is defined as any income that is 60% or less than the average household income. 13 million people in the UK live on less than this.
    Doesn't sound too bad? This threshold works out at about £450 a month after tax and rent for a single adult, and worse still, just about £1200 for a family with two children. £300 per month per person, to cover all their other bills, travel, food, and living. That's one big night out plus a pretty cheap suit, if you want it in context. A full fifth of the UK population survives on less than this. Think about it.

  3. Over half a Million people in the UK are homeless
    100,000 families in the UK are classified as homeless. That's families. Not just individuals. That the Government knows of. Because they only count those who've applied to be classified that way and then succeeded in being recognised as 'officially' vulnerable. Crisis estimates another 400,000 hidden homeless. People don't end up homeless by choice and they don't stay that way because they are lazy. The causes are brutal, and the effects are devastating. Resulting clinical depression and mental health impacts are a major reason why many never make it back. Over 70% of homeless people suffer mental health issues but are 40 times less likely than the rest of us to be registered with a GP. You don't get far without an address.

  4. Children are not exempt. 3.9 million children in the UK are affected.
    Half of these children are in workless households, which means the UK has a higher proportion of children living in unemployed families than any other EU country. It doesn't get much better for young adults. 1.2 million young people of working age are not in employment, education or training (NEET). In London alone, that's 25% of 16-18 year olds with nowhere to go.

  5. Ethnicity only makes things worse. In the UK overall, 40% of people from ethnic minorities still live in poverty.
    This is twice the rate for White people. Some migrants like Indians and Black Caribbeans, most of whom originally came from middle class, English speaking backgrounds, have closed the gap with about 25% living in poverty, but for the others it is much much worse. 55% of Bangladeshis, 45% of Pakistanis and 30% of Black Africans are in 'low-income households'.

Anyway, I know this has been a long post, but I didn't just want it to be another pontification on the state of the world today. So thanks for reading. I hope the facts make you think, and even if they've opened your eyes just enough to share this post and pass it on to your friends, we can both say we've made a small difference...

Photos for Poverty - Blog Action Day

This post was written by Chanelle Carver, founder of Literacy 'n' Poverty Project, activist, volunteer and consultant for socially conscious organizations.

I virtually volunteer writing articles for a website called Collective Lens that "promotes social change with your photos. Upload a photo and help bring awareness to important issues around the world. You can inspire others to become involved."

They're also participating in Blog Action Day 2008 and posted a short blog with some GREAT photos on behalf of those who can't help themselves.

I encourage you to go check it out. The Many Faces of Poverty

One Person at a Time

This post was written by guest blogger Maureen Lee, a wife, mother, author for Just Show Up and Board member of Ideal-Way.ca (a nonprofit organization for special needs individuals.

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Nelson Mandela

Every now and again, I pull out my clay jar. I've been working on it for most of my life, and I suspect it'll never be done. I started it when I was a child. Since then, my jar has undergone many changes. Thanks to many hours of painstaking, backbreaking work, my clay jar has morphed from a tiny lumpen mass of brown goop to a breathtaking vision of loveliness.

I've shaped, molded, and finally perfected my jar. Or at least, my vision of it is clear and unobstructed. Now, as I stand back and survey my creation, my fingers get itchy again. Scratching the surface isn't good enough. I need to get into the corners and scour deep within it. After all, this is my Dream Jar Secret Hiding Place. Kind of like the jars you keep in your kitchen that hide money or important documents. Only, this jar contains my Big Dream.

In an earlier post, I talked about my penchant for performing in front of my bedroom mirror. But, like my imaginary tiny lump of clay, the dream of being a stage performer was really the first blush of a much grander fantasy. When it comes right down to it, all of us just want to do something of substance. We want to make a difference in the world.

Well, today is Blog Action Day - a day when over 7,000 bloggers will unite to "stand up against poverty," so to speak. It's an initiative to "change the conversation." To change the tired voice within that whispers in one's ear, "Me? What can one person possibly do to change the world?"

On October 17-19, 2008, Stand Up Against Poverty - International Day for the Eradication of Poverty will be in full swing. "This year, the main focus of Stand Up is Take Action, to ensure governments worldwide hear our demands to end poverty and inequality. Last year, more than 76,000 Canadians took part in more than 500 Stand Up events across the country. They were part of a mobilization against poverty that had more than 43 million participants worldwide."

I read that "a number of surveys have found that children at the lower end of the socio-economic scale had poorer health and developmental outcomes than children in the middle, and that children at the top of the socio-economic scale had better results still." In developing countries, "98% of children with disabilities receive no education, and 26 million people with an intellectual disability live on less than $1 a day."

Sometimes our knee-jerk reaction is to pull back in horror. "It's too big...too pervasive...so what in the world will it matter if one person performs one action?" I can hear my own voice whimpering in the dark, the covers pulled over my head.

"Simplify, simplify," said Thoreau. "One step, one action, today, is all it takes!" What is the one step, one action, I could begin putting into motion? If I have a passion for children - specifically special needs children - but I'm overwhelmed, confused, frozen in place by too much information, maybe I could join an organization that's focused on helping to change attitudes, to educate, and positively improve, mainstream social attitudes. Group lobbying, or sending out e-mails, faxes, letters to the government. Give blood, or organize a free lunch/food distribution. Many organizations have campaigns that focus on making poverty history. The Stand Up Against Poverty website has a list of "actions/activities aimed at development/welfare; petitions and communications/popular education; and mass action/popular mobilization/dissent."

As for me, my clay jar is only half full, I realize. I still have a long way to go, and time is running out. Today, though, I can take one step. It's time to "take action to end poverty and inequality, one person, one step, one heart, at a time."

See also:
Dawn Ontario Disabled Women's Network Ontario
Grow Up Free from Poverty
One Campaign Music Video

The Blogosphere Takes on Poverty for Blog Action Day

This post was written by Chanelle Carver, founder of Literacy 'n' Poverty Project, activist, volunteer and consultant for socially conscious organizations.

It's Blog Action Day!

A day the blogosphere unites to discuss the same issue. Not two or three, just ONE.

One issue that affects over a billion people throughout the world. One issue that has caused pain and heartache for millions of families, children, men and women alike. That issue is POVERTY.

No matter how you define it, the truth is poverty exists. There are families living below and above the poverty line who face great challenges that many may never have to endure.

When was the last time you had to decide which of your family members gets a new winter coat? Have you ever skipped a meal just to have enough food for your children? Thankfully, I have yet to bear the burden of deciding which of my kids will eat and hopefully, I won't have to. But like the saying goes...Never Say Never.

For two months straight while in college, I ate Quaker Oats Oatmeal 3 times a day. And I STRONGLY dislike oatmeal but it was affordable and bills had to be paid. My gourmet dinners and "smell so good, wake me up in the morning" breakfasts came to a screeching halt. I was mortified, more so because three guaranteed meals a day is a dream come true for some families. Even if it is oatmeal. This saddens me greatly.

What if the shoe were on the other foot...

...and specifically, my foot? What if I needed to live on less than $1 a day? The mere thought frightens me. Have I taken all that life - and my mother - has given me for granted? Let's face it, I've spent more than a dollar a day when I was unemployed!

I don't know. What I do know is that ALL OF US can do something to end extreme poverty. Do something to make things a little better for others in developing countries OR for the developing neighborhood 5 or 10 miles from your current residence.

Let's bump it up to $2 a day
. Or $3 or $5. Now we're getting somewhere. Donate to charity, test your willpower and try living on $1 a day, volunteer with your favorite nonprofit...the list goes on. The possibilities are endless.

So friends, I make my final point:

Do Something! Find your own fabulous way to make social change a reality. Just don't sit back, sob or get angry about the poor children with flies on their face you see on the commercials. They can't hear your cries and in reality, your tears may mean little to them.

Share you stories with others and let them know how they too can help end extreme poverty. If you want, tell us your story in a comment. Remember, sharing is caring. :)

October 8, 2008

Celebrating our One Year Anniversary

Instead of focusing on what's wrong with the world, let's celebrate the good. One year in the making and we're still going strong!

On October 8, 2007, Literacy 'n' Poverty Project embarked on an incredible journey. A journey that would bring together our community in hopes of inspiring others to speak out for change and to Take Action.

We made a commitment to make this world a better place for all by offering each of you an outlet to talk about the issues affecting your communities and to share ideas and experiences that can help create lasting change...to make social change a reality.

We've discussed a number of issues like global poverty, health and adult education, highlighted random acts of kindness, and even addressed relevant topics like the Millennium Development Goals and Social Entrepreneurship.

As a result, organizations like Women for Women International, Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs, Third Relief International, CODENI, Infante Sano, and Cultural Canvas Thailand have all been featured on this blog because they have taken an active role in the movement by creating social change in their own way.

Though rest assured, just like these groups our work is far from complete yet we've made great progress over the past twelve months and hope we will continue to do so in the years to come. Each day brings a new challenge that inspires and motivates us to work harder, smarter and more humbly for each of you.

So from this day on, let us celebrate every October 8th as a day of recognition for all who are making a difference. Let's celebrate the day that we (and we mean YOU too!) made a commitment to make social change a reality.

October 3, 2008

The World will be Talking about Poverty

October 15, 2008 is the annual Blog Action Day and this year's theme is, guess what...POVERTY! So fitting a subject for Making Social Change a Reality and we definitely will participate.

So what exactly is Blog Action Day?

"An annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion."

Why do we care?

Poverty impacts our global society and our blog is all about discussing the issues, sharing ideas and experiences to create social change on a global scale. It would be a crime not to get involved.

What's in store for this year?

"In 2008, the Blog Action Day theme is Poverty. Bloggers are free to interpret this as they see fit. We invite bloggers to examine poverty from their own blog topics and perspectives, to look at it from the macro and micro, as a global condition and a local issue, and to bring their own ideas, views and opinions on the subject."

How can you participate?

1. We're inviting guest bloggers to contribute to this important discussion on October 15th. Email blogs@literacyandpovertyproject.com for more information.

2. If you have a blog and want to devote October 15th to discussing Poverty, register here to participate. There's currently over 5,000 blogs registered with a readership exceeding 10 million. You can also check out their Resources page in case you're stumped for topic ideas. Just awesome!

October 15th is the day folks. It's another day we get the chance to make social change a reality.

Will you participate?