Wednesday, December 17, 2014

EPN Heroes: The Introduction

Every culture has its heroes. The term "hero" describes individuals who display great courage in the face of adversity while striving to benefit others. The term "hero" often refers to narrative legends like Superman and Wonder Woman, mythical characters who use their superhuman powers to defend society against evil. Heroes also come up when we think of famous figures who have changed the course of history. We describe founding figures, human rights leaders, and people known from text books as heroes.

But we've seen other kinds of heroes, normal folks who commit themselves to extraordinary service. Dexter and I have been awed as we listen to John and Judy tell us about the people they've met and partnered with while striving to eliminate poverty in Africa.

These aren't our heroes! (Image by richies via Fanpop)
We hear about superhuman feats of compassion. The ability to experience another's suffering as your own is a gift, and we've seen it to be far more impressive than the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Many of our partners have given up comfortable lives to live lives of genuine self-sacrifice. Their heroic spirit of compassion is truly inspiring.

We've heard tales of superhuman feats of ingenuity -- champions of agriculture who are able to maximize every drop of water. These heroes teach women, men, and children vocational and business skills that lead to prosperity and community development. That ingenuity drives hope.

Programs like Farmers of the Future (the kickoff ceremony is pictured below) equip students to take on the economic challenges of their country directly. Agriculture becomes a tool for these students to provide food and wealth for their families and communities.

These kids from the Little Rock school are ambition in the flesh-working against all odds and taking full advantage of the opportunities that they have.
It is often difficult for those of us who are well-fed and well-sheltered to imagine life for the world's extreme poor. Every day can be a struggle to simply exist. However, you won't find people cowering in the face of adversity in places like the Millennium Villages or The Little Rock Early Childhood Development Centre or the Songhai Center. You'll find people with superhuman perseverance, striving for a better life despite the challenging conditions. 

We cannot keep these stories to ourselves. They need to be told. Each month you'll be introduced to an "EPN Hero" and read an amazing story about an amazing individual. They remind us that being a hero has little to do with extraordinary talent or ability, but rather with extraordinary commitment: the causes to which we commit, passionately and faithfully. Each one of these stories inspires us to do more to help others.  We hope they help you to realize your own heroic potential.

Friday, December 12, 2014

As the Year Comes to A Close...

As 2014 draws to a close, we are elated to share the many successes we've had this past year. When Jonathan and I first became involved with Eliminate Poverty NOW, we could not imagine how meaningful EPN's work would be to us, and how personally impacted we’d be. EPN has gained great momentum; we’re helping more people than ever before and initiating new campaigns with exciting potential. We’re making real progress in giving people the means to lift themselves out of poverty.     

To our partners, thank you for your remarkable passion and commitment. Whether in Africa or North America, you are central to our goal of eliminating poverty. We appreciate all of your collaboration and hard work over the past year.

To our Board of Directors and advisers, we are grateful for your continued service. We value your commitment to the work we do, your ever-present feedback, and your giving that allows 100% of public donations to go directly to project work in Africa.

And to all our friends who have volunteered and supported us in countless ways over the year, we can’t thank you enough. Your donations, page-views, emails, and letters are the fuel that keeps us going both in the United States and throughout Africa. Thank you all.

Check out our year-end highlights below, as well as our Annual Appeal letter. And if you haven't already, please take this opportunity to make a donation today. 2014 was a great year of progress. With your help we can make a lasting difference for even more deserving people in 2015.

2014 Year-End Highlights

Annual Appeal Letter

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Introducing the New and Improved Eliminate Poverty NOW website.

Hello All!

We're excited to announce the launch of the new website for Eliminate Poverty NOW. Jonathan and I have been steadily working to bring the site up-to-date, make it easily accessible on computers, tablets and phones, and take advantage of lots of fantastic images and video. With plenty of help from Helen, John, Judy, and a host of other people on our team, we're ready to unveil the new

Just a few of the site's features:

  • The blog is now fully integrated into the site, so you can go straight to our homepage for all our newest information.
  • All of the new projects are included, and will be continuously updated.
  • We are rolling out a new campaign to highlight people who mean a great deal to the mission and goals of EPN -- the EPN Heroes. We've given these Heroes a spotlight on the new site.

The site is chock full of information and other cool features so head to and check it out.  And please let us know what you think of the new site.  You can post your comments below.

PS.  Today there are so many combinations of hardware and software it's impossible to check them all out in advance.  If you experience any problem with the site please let us know.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Imagining a Better Future: Young People and Agriculture

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A police officer? A professional athlete? A lawyer or doctor? Professions like these seemed cool at one time, and then maybe lost their appeal over the years. What changed? Maybe it was adult understanding winning out over childhood musings, or maybe it was the influence of others around you - family, friends, or peers. But however you got to your current work, you had to envision at some point that it was a possibility. That imagination can go a long way in people's lives and careers.

Food Tank has a great article (which you can check out here) describing a rapidly increasing problem: youth unemployment. As the article indicates, the UN predicts that globally, there will be 74.2 million unemployed young people this year. In a number of cases, farming may be the best professional choice for them to own their own businesses and lift their families out of poverty. 

With new technological innovations in farming, young people are the perfect candidates to learn the vocational and business skills needed to become the farmers of the future. Agriculture provides great economic opportunities for a demographic having difficulties finding jobs in other sectors. Farming also provides communities with access to fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables. In short, farming is a path that can improve the lives of individuals and communities.

Share this article with your friends and visit the Eliminate Poverty NOW website to learn how EPN and the industrious youth of the Farmers of the Future program are working to make farming a path that young people dream about and a path they can stick with.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Benefits of Supporting Women in Agriculture

One of the ways we'll be using the Eliminate Poverty NOW blog is to highlight related articles and videos addressing issues important to ending poverty around the world. Here's a good example.

We love to highlight how agriculture is being used to empower women. The positive social and economic impact that women can make is huge. When women are financially empowered they help not only themselves but all those around them. The FoodTank (a blog dedicated to sharing how we can end world hunger) recently posted an article and video discussing how additional resources provided to women farmers is a big plus for society as a whole. Supporting women farmers helps families (women typically invest more in raising children).  Closing the gender gap in farming also improves global economies and dramatically cuts down on global starvation. Watch the short, but insightful video right below:

For all these practical reasons, supporting women farmers is at the very heart of the work we do at Eliminate Poverty NOW. Empowering women helps end gender inequality, reduce poverty and reduce malnutrition by improving the food options of families across Africa. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

Help us support women in agriculture by sharing this article and information, or by supporting women farmers directly. At EPN we invest in women farmers through a variety of programs:  the Farmers of the Future program, the Songhai Women’s Capital Fund, and the Élevage sheep raising program* to name a few.  We hope to provide as many women as possible with the opportunity to achieve their dreams in agriculture for their families and communities.

Do you know of other ways that women in agriculture benefit the world around us? Do you know of other creative ways to support them? Share your thoughts and comment below!

*Élevage UpdateThe program is active with 41 women currently participating.  In addition to the 40 funded by EPN, the women have self-funded participation for another five.  Since then, two have moved away and two have passed, bringing participation down to 41. Repayment of the micro-loans has been 100% and no one has voluntarily dropped out of the program, which are both good signs.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Spotlight on Support: Kent Place School Fundraiser Raises $3,500 for a Little Rock Scholarship

Students of Kent Place School with John and Judy

We feel really privileged to have so many wonderful supporters working with us to end poverty. It’s encouraging to know that while many people live in deep distress, there are also selfless women and men out there, committed to this cause on behalf of Africa’s poorest regions. And it's especially exciting when our youth--especially our young girls--put their passions to work and lead that charge.

Kent Place School, an all-girls school in Summit, New Jersey, emphasizes responsible living and charity and encourages those qualities in its students. So it's no surprise that Sophie Huttner, a Kent Place 8th grader, became passionate about empowering women through education and spoke about it during her recent Bat Mitzvah speech. John and Judy, the founders of Eliminate Poverty NOW, are members of the same congregation as Sophie and were introduced to her shortly after that speech. They had a conversation about the partners that EPN works with, including Little Rock. The Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre was founded to serve children from Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum. Sophie became so inspired by EPN’s work with Little Rock that she was moved to action.  She told her classmates and teachers about Little Rock and shared with them how she would love her school to help. And the Kent Place community responded in a way that neither we nor the students at Little Rock will ever forget!

Through a three-part campaign, Kent Place Middle School came together and raised a total of $3,500. And because Eliminate Poverty NOW matches donations raised by elementary, middle, or high school students dollar-for-dollar, Kent Place is responsible for raising $7,000--enough to finance two 4-year scholarships to secondary boarding schools! Every donation counts, but two entire scholarships from this single source is absolutely fantastic.
Whether they are neighbors, students, or children, our young people can play a big role in eliminating poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Projects like these, led by schools like Kent Place and students like Sophie, can change lives forever. Thanks to a group of caring and motivated  middle schoolers in Summit, New Jersey, two talented girls half way around the world in Kenya’s largest slum will receive the education they only dreamed of. Youth helping youth globally! We encourage all of you, our readers, to challenge your kids, and your kids’ schools to launch similar campaigns. No effort goes unappreciated, and no dollar amount is meaningless. Everything you do really matters.

And don’t forget to let us know what you are doing to support EPN. Not only will we match school campaigns dollar for dollar, but we will talk about your contribution right here in our blog! Together we can end poverty, and as Sophie and the Kent Place School proved so convincingly, it is NEVER too young to start!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Signing In

Hello EPN blog readers! I am Jonathan, and Dexter is my accomplice; we are the new “Social Media Ninjas” for Eliminate Poverty NOW. We want to take a moment to introduce ourselves and give you a bit of our backgrounds. We also want to let you know about some upcoming ideas we have cooking for EPN...but before all of that, we want to graciously shout out to Anna, who came before us, and paved the road for this blog with her dedicated content. As Dexter and I start working with EPN, we want to acknowledge how great her work was,  and say it is an honor to carry on the mantle.

As far as our backgrounds, both Dexter and I are originally from the great town of Huntsville, Alabama. We’ve been close friends since high school, and more recently started a company called Modern Scope, LLC. together (more on that shortly). Dexter did his undergraduate work at the University of Alabama, studying Religious Studies and History. He now works extensively with churches, charitable organization and small businesses throughout the south, helping them to better market themselves, with emphasis given to web and social media tactics. In his downtime, he really enjoys traveling, basketball and reading books about different religions. He’ll begin pursuing a Masters in Divinity in the next year.

I have a bachelors degree in Anthropology from Princeton University, and a Masters in Business Management from Wake Forest University. By day, I work as a consultant, but by the rest of the time, I’d like to consider myself a jack of all trades. I split time between traveling across the country on weekends, learning the trumpet, studying religion and history, writing musically and creatively, and exploring the depths of my faith.

I discovered Eliminate Poverty NOW through my daytime job as a consultant. I work with a firm called Philosophy IB. The founding partners are good friends of John and Judy’s. After hearing about John and Judy’s mission, I immediately wanted to help (as we hope everyone would!). It just happened that they needed some of the very services that Modern Scope provides, and so I got Dexter onboard and we all quickly started working together.

We have a few upcoming projects we want to shine a light on before ending this post, and it starts with the website. We are very excited to announce that we are rolling out a fresh new website for EPN in the coming days. Modern Scope is a PR company, with a focus on building social media platforms for organizations with an eye on the common good-exactly like EPN. But we also build websites, and we are coming down the homestretch with a major redesign for EPN. So be on the lookout for the relaunch announcement in the next month or two.

Secondly, as you can see, the blog is undergoing a few changes. As we take over the responsibilities, we will also be building out the blogging pages, adding some new themes (including FEATURE FRIDAYS), and trying to get you all connected.

Finally, we are looking to really get people excited about the social media pages; so share posts! Feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts, and reach out! We have been very happy to jump into supporting EPN, and want to jump into meeting all the organization’s supporters. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Signing Off

This is a personal post, from your friendly Social Ninja, Anna, to all of you. You may or may not know that I've been the blogger and social media manager for Eliminate Poverty NOW for the last two and a half years, and it has been great--John and Judy have been wonderfully supportive and delightful to work with, and I've loved being a part of improving lives. I have learned so much since my first post, where I introduced myself to all of you (if you're up to it, you can read it here).

The design on my t-shirt is an old book cover
for S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders." I really am a book nerd.
I've been pursuing a career as a school librarian for the past year or so, and I am very pleased to announce that I have been offered a full-time position doing just that! It's very exciting, but will require another Master's degree, and I have found my attention more and more divided. This doesn't feel fair to me, to John and Judy, to EPN, or to you, and so I've made the bittersweet decision to leave my position with EPN. I believe strongly in doing things to the best of my ability, and it's time for me to focus my energies on this new chapter.

That being said, I'll be keeping an eye on the EPN news, and I hope you'll all still be here, supporting amazing people and a wonderful organization. It's been a real pleasure getting to blog here and connect with all of you! And don't worry--I happen to know that John and Judy are going to find someone great to continue to bring you the latest and greatest EPN news.

All that's left to say is thank you. Thank you, Judy and John, for a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the important work you do. And thank you to all of you, for reading. It really means a lot.

I won't say goodbye, but I will say see you later. :-)

Friday, April 25, 2014

News from Lilly's US Visit

When speaking or writing about Eliminate Poverty NOW, we often refer to the exceptional partners we are lucky enough to work with. On that list is Lilly Oyare, founder and director of the Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. The students and family members that benefit from Little Rock all come from the nearby slums of Kibera.

John, Lilly, and Colin Jones, CFO of Euromoney Institutional Investor Offices

Usually we go to visit our partners in their homeland to gain visibility to programs we support. But this time, Lilly came here, with 2 members of her board! The motivation for the trip goes back two years, when Lilly traveled to London and raised $500,000 to purchase land and build a beautiful new school capable of doubling the number of students served. The new school opened in February 2013, but needs additional funding to support more teachers, furniture, school equipment, and operating costs to take full advantage of the new facility. So she came to the States on a two week "friend-raising-fund-raising" trip to build awareness and support. She was with John, Judy, and Helen in the NJ/NYC area for 5 days, and then continued on to San Francisco and Washington DC. While in the New Jersey/New York areas, it was a whirlwind tour that included the following:

At the Eden Institue for Autism Services
1.     Eden Institute for Autism Services in Princeton, NJ – This visit was to share a state of the art facility that provides life span services for autistic individuals. There was a tour of the facility and Lilly met key personnel while visiting the various classrooms and programs throughout the school.  Little Rock's special needs kids include several autistic children and the Eden Institute was happy to share their teaching aids and training materials.

2.     Congregation Agudath Israel, Caldwell, NJ – Lilly spoke to the congregation during services to share her journey to the Little Rock of today. There was a follow up Lunch and Learn that was well attended by those eager to hear more.

The Sanctuary at Congregation Agudath Israel
3.     Brunch with the Rabbani family and friends – NYC – Lilly spoke to a small gathering of friends who were interested in hearing about her journey to the Little Rock of today and their plans for the future.

4.     Dinner at the Craigs – Lilly spoke to another gathering of friends who have been strong supporters of Eliminate Poverty Now.  Many have funded Little Rock Scholarships for outstanding graduates of the school.  It was a special treat for them to meet Lilly in person and hear her remarkable story.

5.     Philosophy IB, Florham Park, NJ – Lilly spoke to a gathering of employees, customers, and friends of the owners of Philosophy IB, an HR consulting practice founded by Kaveh Naficy and Christine Lotze. They graciously opened their doors and their hearts to the inspiring work that Lilly does.

6.     Euromoney Institutional Investor Offices, NYC – Lilly spoke to a gathering of Euromoney employees at their New York offices. With its global headquarters in London, Euromoney has been a key contributor to the new Little Rock facilities.  Colin Jones, the CFO, is a staunch Little Rock supporter. He timed his visit to the US to coincide with Lilly's visit so he could introduce her and share his passion for Little Rock and its wonderful work with disadvantaged children.
Helen, Lilly and Little Rock board members Christine Omolo and Joyce Kingori at Euromoney NYC
It was promised that there would be no direct solicitation at these meetings. Even so, people spontaneously pledged 4 additional scholarships to secondary school ($16,000 total) and another $4,000 in general contributions! We are so thrilled with these results, and it was truly wonderful to see our friend and colleague, Lilly, gain even more support for Little Rock ECD.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

John Speaking to the National Council of Jewish Women APRIL 23, 2014

If you're in or near Morristown, NJ on April 23, 2014, you may want to attend the West Morris Section meeting of the National Council for Jewish Women. The event, put on jointly with the Sisterhood/Women's Network of Temple B'nai Or, is free and open to the public. John will be speaking to attendees about the work Eliminate Poverty NOW is doing in Niger.

John and Judy with Rachel Ruto, the wife of Kenya's vice president

Time: 7:30 pm, April 23
Address: Temple B'nai Or, 60 Overlook Road, Morristown, NJ

For more details, or to register to attend, please contact 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

GUEST POST: Reflections from Helen, "Africa Through Fresh Eyes, Part 2"

I joined the Eliminate Poverty NOW team a little over a year ago. Had I been asked before that if I would ever go to Africa – I would have said no, maybe, or probably not. Fast forward 15 months – and I’ve been twice!
FOF Overseas Team - John Craig, Helen Greenberg, Dov Pasternak, and Robin Mednick

The first trip in July 2013 to Kenya was life altering. Nothing could compare – right? Wrong!
I just returned from Niger, in Western Africa, to be part of the eyes on the ground team to the Farmers of the Future program - the largest project we support - the objective of which is to change attitudes toward farming and encourage the adoption of intensive farming practices in the country of Niger.

One purpose of our trip was to visit the Sadore Village and the Farmers of the Future pilot sites to witness their progress. We were to meet with Professor Dov Pasternak, the FOF visionary whose dream is Farmers of the Future; our local team – Hamani Djibo and Sidi Mohamed, and our Canadian charity partner, Robin Mednick of Pencils4Kids. The only way I knew these people before that time was through photographs and conference calls. The other reason we were going was to speak to a number of government and agency people about the prospect of up-scaling Farmers of the Future to a total of 15 sites from the present 4.

 John Craig, Sidi Mohamed, and Dov Pasternak         
I was a bit nervous in anticipation of the trip – after all, I was going to one of the poorest countries in the world with a reputation for unrest, so far away from home with reportedly unreliable communication infrastructure, and then throw in a little fear of the unknown. But I let go as I did last year for my trip to Kenya and Uganda. I was going with seasoned travelers who had been there before, so I put my trust in them.
Robin Mednick, Hamani Djibo, and Helen Greenberg
In the weeks prior to departure, with the help of the local team, we put together a jam packed agenda of meetings which included visits to the village sites, meetings with local government officials and ministries of the national government, and other NGOs for funding possibilities.

My reflections of this trip can be broken down in two parts: the team and the project.

Meeting everyone face to face was exciting. The warmth and camaraderie was immediate. I was seamlessly enveloped as though I was part of the group for years. Another marvel was to see these people in action. Each has a strong personality bringing different strengths to the table, but, interestingly enough, those differences mesh -  making them work together like a well-oiled machine. In my opinion, Farmers of the Future couldn’t be in more capable, determined, dedicated, and passionate hands.
Helen and Robin with women from the Sadoré village

Meeting with the mayor of Liboré

Wedged in among the high level meetings it was imperative that we visited the villages where there are thriving women’s tree nurseries, vegetable gardens, and mother plantations. It was gratifying to see the progress (which I had only seen in photos – not doing them justice) that the women have made since John and Robin’s last visit in December 2012. The mothers in these villages are headed toward elevating the standard of living for their families by raising high yield, high nutrition, and high income producing crops. Now they are able to feed their families and send their children to school. Dov describes poverty
as a magnet – these women are moving out of its gravitational pull.

We met with the First Lady of Niger, the Agricultural Minister, the Leader of the 3 “N” initiative (Nigeriens feeding Nigeriens), USAID, and the Swiss Cooperative among others. We were warmly welcomed by all, and left knowing we had their support toward the scale-up of our program. We were riding high all week.

I came away from this experience with a new understanding for the strength of the human spirit – what motivation can accomplish, an appreciation for the gentle, kind culture of the Nigerien people, and a renewed sense of hope for the work I do.

John, Helen and Robin with the women gardeners at the FOF site