Friday, July 31, 2015

Article Review: "Giving More Globally, and Less Locally"

In a recent New York Times article, we find that despite an increase in overall philanthropy in the United States, global giving accounted for only 4% of the total $358 billion donated in the past year. Some suggested reasons for the low amount were:
  • No major natural disasters in the past year.
  • Causes like Ebola left potential donors feeling helpless.
  • A "desire not to turn our back on our neighbors". Essentially, we connect with and give back to causes that seem 'close to home' for us.
Researchers and professors are looking into what factors can encourage people to give more globally. One such professor, Peter Singer, a philosopher out of Princeton, favors the idea of "effective altruism". "Effective altruism" is about large scale impact, measurable improvement, and addressing an often overlooked cause.

Training the women of the Farmers of the Future Program, a prime example of effective altruism

This kind of giving can radically improve and even save lives around the world from perils that many would not even imagine in the United States. While it is important to give and volunteer locally, our donations can go a lot further in places far from our own homes.

Sound familiar? It definitely did to us. At Eliminate Poverty NOW we've been working on "effective altruism" for quite a while, and that'll continue with your support.  We're continually amazed at the impact we have by working directly at the local level with wonderful partners.  Despite modest budgets, we've positively impacted thousands of lives over the last 5 years.

You can feel great about a donation to Eliminate Poverty NOW.  One hundred percent of your donation goes to work directly in Africa to help change lives.  And the support you provide is more than just a donation. It's an investment. The work we do is designed to grow and sustain itself in the people and communities we support. Now that's effective altruism, and with your help there is so much more we can do.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The EPN 2014 Annual Report and 990

Hi all! Here we are, halfway through 2015, and we have done so much in the past year. This is just a brief post to share some of that progress, in the form of the 2014 Annual Report and 990. Programs like the "Songhai Women's Capital Fund" and "Farmers of the Future" have steadily increased in both funding and reach. We're pleased with all we've accomplished in 2014 and the future looks bright.

If you click the following links, you can take a look at the full Annual Report and 990. In the meantime, here's a brief excerpt from the Annual Report:

In 2014, Eliminate Poverty NOW completed its fourth full year of operation. We continue to sharpen our focus on the mission of empowering Africa’s extreme poor to lift themselves out of poverty. We place special emphasis on empowering girls and women, using a combination of education, training and funding to create opportunities to boost their income –today, tomorrow and for years to come.
Two young friends we made while working with Dov Pasternak in the Sadoré Village
If you compare the projects featured in this year’s annual report to those of prior years, you’ll see many similarities. It’s not by accident. Breaking the shackles of extreme poverty takes patience and perseverance. We have plenty of both. Some projects will take years to achieve sustainable change. In the case of Farmers of the Future, with its goal of changing agricultural practice in an entire country, it may take decades.

The success of such ambitious projects lies squarely on the shoulders of our local partners. EPN is blessed to work with remarkable people doing remarkable work. Superlatives like this are overused and therefore often overlooked. So we’ve started to feature our partners on our website under the heading of “EPN Heroes.” As you read their stories we think you’ll agree that they are, in fact, extraordinary.
Dov Pasternak, one of our good friends and our first of many EPN Heroes, showing Judy some of his work

You can continue reading on the website here, but let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

5 Things You Need to Know About Kenya's School System: Part 2

In our last post, we shared some information about Kenya's school system that makes the work done at Little Rock all the more amazing. You can check out Part 1 of that post here, but we'd like to continue with 2 more points today that really impressed us about Lilly's work in Nairobi, Kenya.

4. Many students have to learn a whole new language just to learn in school.

That language is English, and many students from Kibera do not start off speaking English around the home. The "mother tongue" in most Kenyan homes is Swahili, while the language of instruction in school is English. As you can imagine, putting a kid straight into the school system in Kenya without knowing English creates a huge disadvantage. The Little Rock School intervenes here in a great way, getting young kids comfortable speaking, reading, and writing in English before they go into the public school system where English literacy is essential.

5. Special needs students are not served by the Kenyan public school system.

No special needs children have access to the public school system in Kenya. A typical teacher in a Kenyan classroom might be responsible for 100 students (think of a large university lecture hall in the United States). As such, there's no way that a teacher could provide the personalized attention that special needs students require.

This point in particular is what really makes Lilly's work go above and beyond. She opened the doors of Little Rock to special needs kids in 2006. They are "doubly disadvantaged." They deal with extreme poverty as well as deafness, Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy, or autism. The schooling they receive at Little Rock is unique and vitally important. Today, one third of Little Rock's preschoolers have special educational needs, and Little Rock offers the only inclusive preschool option in all of Nairobi, a city of 4 million people.


Eliminate Poverty NOW focuses support primarily on the students beyond preschool. As students move on to eighth grade, Little Rock offers test prep tutors, funded by Eliminate Poverty NOW. This tutoring program drastically improves the chances that students earn high marks on their secondary school entrance exams and qualify for some of Kenya's best secondary schools.   Once qualified, we provide 4-year scholarships so students can attend.   To date, EPN has funded 26 scholarships and hopes to add 10 more this coming year.

You'd think that after a year of intensive test preparation, scoring well on the entrance exam and qualifying for a scholarship, the rest would be easy.  But students from Kibera have huge cultural adjustments to make in secondary boarding schools. They are away from home for the first time, sleeping in a bed for the first time, and dealing with the challenge of being "the kid from the slums" in schools made up largely of students from well-to-do families. So Lilly and EPN added an additional tutoring and mentoring program for Little Rock Scholars to ensure their success. And it's working.

Of our 16 scholars who have completed at least one year of secondary school, half are in the top 20% of their class, several are in the top 5%, and one is in the top 1% of her class.  Not bad for a group of kids from the slums!!

As you've seen from these facts about the Kenyan school system, children from Kibera face many challenges before they even get into the classrooms. Hopefully these posts give a clearer picture of how heroic Lilly's service is. Students lucky enough to attend Little Rock are going on to do great things in school, and we are hoping to see great things well beyond! With your continued support, we can keep on working with Lilly to make a difference in Kenya. Leave a comment below, and donate for a Little Rock Scholarship here!

How has this information on the Kenyan school system inspired you? What came as a surprise for you? Share your thoughts below, and share Part 1 and Part 2 with friends!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

5 Things You Need to Know About Kenya's School System: Part 1

For those of you who may have missed it, one of our last posts highlighted our EPN hero Lilly Oyare. Her school, the Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre, provides children in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya with pre-school education, plus a wide range of activities for primary school students including after school tutoring paid for by Eliminate Poverty NOW, and scholarships to secondary school. 

If you are anything like me, you might need some background on the differences between Kenya's educational system and our own to really see what Little Rock is doing, and why the school is so important.

So just to give a fuller picture of what makes Lilly's work so amazing, in 2 parts, here are 5 Things You Need to Know About Kenya's School System:

1. Primary school, even public ones, can be very expensive. 

On paper, Kenya may be closer than any other Sub-Saharan nation to universal primary education. Primary school fees were technically abolished in 2013. However, many small fees make it difficult or impossible for poor families to keep up with the cost of schooling. Parents often can't afford the school uniforms, textbooks, transport, meals and supplies. All of these are required for students to attend school, and without them, some students may never get into primary school, and others eventually drop out.

2. Secondary school is even MORE expensive than primary. 

While primary school is at least free by law, secondary school is not. In fact, it is quite expensive. Only 55% of primary school graduates continue on to secondary school.  For those who do, tuition, room and board, and additional fees account for about 55% of household expenditures for the average Kenyan family.  

3. Beyond primary school, students must qualify for secondary schools, and compete for scholarships.

To qualify for a slot in secondary school, students must demonstrate that they have sufficiently learned the basic skills in primary school. Data show that 77 percent of private school candidates qualified for secondary school, while only 45 percent of students in the public schools qualified. As in many cases globally, family wealth and test scores are related. Children who attend private primary schools have the best teachers and resources and are much better prepared to compete for the next-level scholarships. This makes an uneven playing field even steeper for students raised in poverty. 

We share these points to say Lilly's work is great in itself, and certainly inspiring. But we really began to appreciate what she is doing at Little Rock after better understanding the education system in Kenya. By providing high quality early childhood education, Lilly ensures that many of the children living in Kibera learn the crucial skills necessary for academic success in primary school and beyond. 

What questions about Kenya's school system do you have? Do you see the work of Lilly, Little Rock, or EPN in a new light? What other thoughts do you have? I Share in the comments below!

As we mentioned, there is still much more to come-the transitions for young students from Kibera can be quite challenging for reasons like language and culture barriers...we'll explain more soon! But be sure to share your thoughts on this post, and look out for our next post as we share a few more thoughts on Lilly's work in Kenya's school system.