Five Days in Haiti: A Relief Effort

Just this past month, members of the GENESIS Network and I traveled from the Boston area to Haiti to deliver hundreds of water filtration systems, medical supplies, and emergency relief support to communities in Port au Prince, Carrefore and Leogane, Haiti.  The trip was made possibly by AquaSafe of Australia and Olyset Net of Japan.  These two communities and the Haitian community of Miami, FL donated supplies that the team and I delivered to Haiti.

To help document my thoughts and emotions, I kept a journal during the five days in Haiti to share upon my return.  Here are some notes from my journal:

Day 1:
Bumping along the crippled roads outside Port au Prince, my eyes drifted from one sea of dilapidated refugee tents to another. But beneath the rubble of crumbled homes lay Haiti’s true disaster. It is not one caused by an earthquake, nor by any other natural occurrence. 

Day 2:
How could such a country, swarming with NGOs long before the recent earthquake, have fallen into such a state of distress? There are more international organizations per capita in Haiti than in any other country. But what have they accomplished? The Haitian people remain repressed under a regime of corruption, left adrift in the pocket-lining clientelism of a squandered leadership supported by an aloof international community.

Day 3:
“We are slaves to our government,” our local liaison, and former government official, stated as we sat around dinner reflecting on our own relief work. “The cycle of corruption among our leaders cannot be stopped without drastic change or without a true representative of the people…someone who cares for the people.” The majority of aid programs presently in Haiti may just as well be making direct deposits into the accounts of those now in power.

Day 4:
Today I realize that, absent of any earthquake, Haiti would still be in dire need of relief – specifically, from the political disaster its leaders have brought upon their people.

The nation’s leaders have driven their country to shambles by using its people as a personal expense account while the good intentions of local and international efforts run around picking up the pieces, all the while creating and deepening dependencies on foreign aid. Haiti does not need any more quick-pitch answers but, rather, real solutions to what are now systemic issues of neglect. Every effort must be made to improve education, professional training, and lending and investment capital opportunities.

Day 5:
Back from Haiti.  The Haitian people have been abandoned by their government, yet they remain united. As  NGOs and foreign aid agencies move toward longer term programs that can educate, train and empower the nation back to power, this is a significant variable that bodes well for future prospects.

It’s been a few weeks since the team and I have returned from the trip.  I must say that the experience was truly emotionally and personally rewarding.  I’m eager to hear reader feedback about Haiti relief.  How can we continue to help the Haitians?  How would you like to be involved?

Please share your comments.

Adam Swartzbaugh
The GENESIS Network

How can GENESIS and other NGOs help sustainable development in Haiti?

Operation Hydrate Haiti project photo

Robert Moreau

Research Analyst/Outreach

 Currently, the GENESIS Network has started a relief and development program in Western Haiti. Partnered with Aqua Safe Straw, Operation Hydrate Haiti is working to bring filtration systems to nearly 1,000 people in need of clean drinking water. The project, with 85 percent of funding completed, has thus far provided

  • Hundreds of filtration systems, with nearly 120,000 gallons of drinking water provided.
  • Hundreds of pounds of first aid supplies and medical equipment
  • Clothing and tents

Locations visited by GENESIS in a recent trip were a nunnery in Port-au-Prince, a school in Carrefour, and a group of orphanages in Leogane.

The project, as noted, is a short-term aid measure, providing water until more sustainable development solutions are implemented. And as the focus turns from immediate relief to building for the future, aid groups can play a strong role.

Long-term development in Haiti: Relief strategies and the role of NGOs

Before the earthquake, Haiti boasted 4,000 to 10,000 NGOs active in the country, one of the highest per capita ratios in the world. The international relief effort has added to that number, with 318 groups being registered on the United Nations’ database.

The March 10 Miami Herald piece that noted these figures also revealed a culture of sometimes intense competition among aid groups, including disputes between workers of who does what.

“On a charter flight to Miami, competing doctors get into a shouting match before takeoff…at a search-and-rescue operation, one international team claiming ownership of the effort asks another to leave-although the departing group has the equipment to do the job.”

The incredible international aid relief campaign has donated over $2 billion, almost all of it to NGOs. But with disorganization, can aid groups make a meaningful impact? Indeed, there have been calls to have aid groups reigned in favor of more focus on the Haitian government.

One criticism of the aid effort has been misdirected resources.  Another has been that short-term aid creates temporary jobs for Haitians, but little in terms of long-term development. Nathan Hodge, in a February 12 piece for Wired, describes the concern

“The rapid influx of NGOs and international organizations creates a unique mini-economy, with a demand for drivers, fixers, translators, security and other services. In the short-term, that’s not a bad thing. It provides well-paying jobs for those with the right skills. But it often draws desperately needed talent away from critical sectors of the economy…and it’s a poor imitation of trickle-down economics.”

In the effort to rebuild Haiti, there is no shortage of organizations that can potentially make an impact. But disorganization, accountability concerns and competition are barriers to a structured effort, and initiatives should focus on helping Haitians create long-term self sufficiency.

coffee co-op farmer, nothern Haiti

One possible major project is a revival of the country’s coffee industry, a potential strong export. During the 18th Century Haitian coffee thrived, but since independence the industry had long been plagued by disaster; during the military dictatorship and U.S. boycott during the 1990s, Haitian farmers burned coffee trees for charcoal.

However, coffee remained the country’s chief agricultural export through the 1980s. The industry would enter a brief period of resurgence in the 1990s when a USAID program organized small farmers into a cooperative producing Haitian Bleu, a new fair trade-certified bean that had a very strong initial run in North America and Europe before consistency issues and corruption-plagued export processes took their toll. In recent years, most of this crop was destroyed by hurricanes.

In spite of the difficulties the coffee-making industry has faced, Haitian coffee remains a favorite among many. Revival proposals have included bringing back Haitian Bleu as well as nurturing other taste profiles, emphasizing the need for training and equipment for Haitian farmers and noting the success of the SPREAD Project in Rwanda.  

As noted by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Haitian economy “will have a simple structure in the coming years” and rebuilding agricultural areas along with re-establishing a manufacturing sector are necessary for Haiti’s recovery moving forward. One approach that could make an impact here is the use of micro-financing loans to promote small business.

Moving forward

Operation Hydrate Haiti has done a successful job providing filtration and other supplies to those in need. However, as noted, it is a short-term relief initiative, and promoting ongoing development in the devastated country is of critical importance moving forward. GENESIS, along with other organizations, looks forward to a role in helping Haiti build for the future.

Reader questions: What are your thoughts on the role of NGOs in Haiti moving forward? In what ways are they a help or hindrance, and how should efforts be coordinated? What roles could GENESIS have in promoting sustainable development in Haiti? All comments and questions are welcomed.

Robert Moreau is Research Analyst/Outreach for the GENESIS Network. A 2008 Master’s graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Regional Economic and Social Development, Moreau has been working for GENESIS since July 2009. His work has included freelance newspaper pieces and a newsletter published for a Lowell-area social services agency in 2008

How education can make a difference in Ghana

By Robert Moreau

Research Assistant/Outreach

map of Ghana, UNGEI

Currently, GENESIS is undertaking an education support initiative in West Mamprusi, Northern District, Ghana. The Center for Youth and Women Empowerment’s goals are to make school supplies available for students to reduce drop-out rates, provide support for children and parents, and promote education for adolescent girls. Through these steps, GENESIS hopes to help create change in one of the country’s historically poorer areas.

 Currently, Ghana is making great strides in its development, “[emerging] as a leading country in the Western and Central Africa region” as noted by IFAD’s Rural Poverty Portal. The most recent poverty figure in the country is 28.5 percent, almost half of its former figure in the beginning of the 1990s.

 Education is a critical reason for this decline; since the government abolished school fees in 2005, enrollment has increased sharply, going from a 59.1 to 68.8 percent net primary enrollment from 2004-05 to 2005-06. However, a poverty gap persists in the rural north.

In rectifying this situation, education for women is crucial. Ama Achiaa Amankwah, in an August 2008 piece, notes “the impact of women in Ghana cannot be underestimated” as they “form over 52% of the country’s population.” Women are guaranteed legal equality, but social and economic pressures tied to a traditional social role as homemakers, as well as a lack of potable water and sanitation facilities have impaired education for girls. As of 2004, the adult literacy rate for females was 75% of the male rate, while for youth it was 86%. Gender parity rates for primary schools have improved since the abolition of school fees, though there is still work to be done.

 Ghana has done much to improve educational access and emphasize girls’ schooling, though there is still work to be done. Through projects such as GENESIS’ Center initiative, NGOs and philanthropists can help make a positive impact.   

Robert Moreau is Research Analyst/Outreach for the GENESIS Network. A 2008 Master’s graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Regional Economic and Social Development, Moreau has been working for GENESIS since July 2009. His work has included freelance newspaper pieces and a newsletter published for a Lowell-area social services agency in 2008

21st Century Aid: How can social media build humanitarian movements?

By Robert Moreau

Research Analyst/Outreach

social media landscape

Early on into the second decade of the 21st century, new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are unlocking a revolution in how people understand and interact with the world.  A 2008 online poll by We Media/Zogby found that almost half of respondents used the internet as their primary news source, with a majority in the 18-29 demographic. The rise of the internet and Web 2.0 has brought with it immense opportunities for increasing awareness of local and global issues, but also concerns about traditional journalism’s future as it tries to adapt.

More notable about social media’s rise is how it is going beyond simply reporting news to complementing and even creating movements, as activists are using its power to unite people. And as the examples of UNCHR’s innovations and the ongoing Haiti relief effort reveal, it is transforming how humanitarian aid campaigns are conducted and moving potential volunteers into direct action.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the UN agency coordinating refugee aid. Today, it is active helping 34 million refugees in 110 countries, with a staff of around 6,600.

Afghan refugees, deported from Iran

UNHCR is emerging as a leader in new media and networking; according to Claudia Gonzales, former head of Public Relations and Special Projects for the agency, “in the two years I was working there, I saw the transformation of an entire organization and the way they communicated about the refugee crisis…from being an organization that was conservative to be the leading organization that is using social media in the United Nations.” UNHCR’s presence today includes over 1 million followers on Twitter, putting it in the top 200 for subscriptions. It also has Facebook and Myspace pages, a Youtube channel, and Flickr gallery, enabling it to communicate information.

Two of UNHCR’s recent notable campaigns are:

  • Its 2008 World Refugee Day campaign, which featured a YouTube video calling for viewer responses, producing $1 dollar per posted response. A “Give Refugees a Hand” Facebook application released one day before World Refugee Day added users three times faster than a typical app. Google, MSN, and others promoted the campaign on their home pages.
  • The Gimme Shelter campaign, launched in December 2008 and featuring a series of short films by Ben Affleck set to the tune of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and filmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An example can be seen here.  A  Facebook Gimme Shelter Cause page was also created.

The real success of UNHCR’s social media effort, Gonzales notes, is the fact that communication is a “two-way street” where “the UNHCR team engages in a conversation…where they want to know what people are saying,” even using online communities to test outreach ideas. She also says that learning how to engage potential supporters with a message of hope is important. “The tone matters…how do you actually make sure you are bringing up the refugee issues into people’s minds in a way that is human?” Through means such as enabling refugees to share their stories directly, UNHCR has met with success.

The Haiti relief effort: New media’s maturation moment?

The impact of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti is still being felt today, as the country tries to regain its footing. On

Haiti aid volunteers

 February 22, Haitian President Rene Preval stated the death toll “might reach 300,000 people” with various issued estimates ranging from 170,000 to 270,000. The Al-Jazeera article Preval was quoted in also noted 1.5 million people still live in tent cities in Port-au-Prince, and over $2 billion total combined from private donors and the United Nations being pledged for the country’s reconstruction.

Immediately after the disaster and in the absence of official sources, social media played a critical role in giving the world a view of what was going on in the country, and who needed help. Rich McKinney, in a January 17 posting on Social Media Storm, noted that “Untold news stories have been published of people who are still alive and trapped under rubble and able to text, tweet or post to Facebook their location, and their desperate need for help,” then noting a NY Daily News story describing how a medical plane was able to be landed through Twitter.

Traditional media outlets also relied on online content, with the BBC tweeting from the ground and CNN using citizen-created iReports, as well as citing blog postings and twitter feeds as material for news stories.  As Dallas News noted in a January 30 article “many believe the Haiti relief efforts have elevated social media from bit player to starring role” as a global communication medium during a major event.

ICT use also enabled alarmed watchers of the tragedy to make an impact as donors and even volunteers. Two major examples are:

  • The Red Cross’s Haiti text message campaign, which raised $7 million in its first two days, has been at the forefront of a historic mobile giving drive. By January 21, over $30 million had been donated to Haiti relief efforts, leading Verizon’s Jeffrey Nelson to call it “the largest outpouring of charitable support by texting in history-by far.”
  • The formation of Crisis Camps, where computer experts have volunteered to create maps of areas struck by the quake, as well improved family locator and information services. The first Crisis camp was launched at USC, and the concept has spread as far as Canada, Colombia and London.

Though social media has its limits as to what it can do, there is no doubt that it has made a tremendous impact in enabling the humanitarian aid campaign for Haiti.

The GENESIS Network: harnessing new media’s potential  

Genesis education initiative, Ghana

Since its founding in 2008, the GENESIS Network has actively sought to create a new standard for using social media to make a positive difference in the world. With four current initiatives-in Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, and Haiti-GENESIS “uses social networking to develop international human rights projects…[including] building schools, economic development and orphan protection.” By using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative project analysis, it also presents a measure of accountability that surpasses other sources.

With the launch of its new website, GENESIS is working to take its model to the next level, guided by these five principles:

Networking: People are our greatest resource. GENESIS brings individuals, organizations and companies together to develop and collaborate on a wide range of projects. As we expand our network of people, we likewise expand the network of resources from which any one person or project may draw.

Resource Sharing: GENESIS brings people together to meet, connect and share resources all in one spot.

Local Empowerment: We enable people to better use the resources they have or are given. They in turn teach others and the cycle continues.

Sustainability: We seek long-term solutions to problems by addressing the root causes and eliminating them through people and resources.

Transparency: We’re always happy to see the results of our hard work. Project transparency and responsibility are our top priorities.”

Moving into the future, GENESIS is working to build on its successes, expanding and improving its scope of projects and its ability to use social media to ensure that potential donors and volunteers are connected with those who need their help the most.

Reader questions: Moving forward, what are your impressions of GENESIS thus far? How has using the network enabled you to build connections and gain confidence in where your donations are going? Where do you think it could improve? What would you like to see in the future? And what do you think of the new website? All questions and comments are more than appreciated, and go a long way in finding out how GENESIS is benefitting, and can further benefit, you.

Boston-area Non-profit Launches New Social Networking Website

GENESIS Network Hosts Website Launch Party

Boston, MA — March 3, 2010 — GENESIS Network, a nonprofit organization that develops humans rights projects to help at-risk children and communities around the world, announced this week that they will be celebrating the launch of their new cause oriented social network website with a party.

The website launch party will unveil social networking features.  People from all over the world will be able to connect with projects online anytime and contribute in any way.  The most recent project helped build a school in Thailand.  The current project is The Center for Youth and Women Empowerment in Ghana.

“The entire GENESIS volunteer community is thrilled that the new site will finally be live, engaging and interactive.  It’ll be an unprecedented experience in the philanthropic social media space.”, says Adam Swartzbaugh, GENESIS Network Founder.

The party is Thursday, March 4, 2010, 6-8:00PM at 28Degrees, in Boston’s South End. It is open to the public and cost free.  Attendees will include GENESIS volunteers, project leaders, business professionals, social networks and members of the local community.  Complimentary appetizers will be served.

Ja-Nae Duane, CEO of Wild Women Enterprises will also be autographing her new book, “How to Start Your Business with $100” at the event.  50% of book purchase proceeds will go to the GENESIS Network.

To sign up for the event click here:

EVENT TOMORROW: GENESIS director talks US foreign aid innovations

Robert Moreau

Research Assistant

adamswartzbaughOn January 27 at Park Plaza in Boston, GENESIS director Adam Swartzbaugh is giving a timely presentation on “how US dollars are being spent on foreign aid programs.”

The United States leads the world in giving abroad, with $122.8 billion total foreign aid donations in 2005. With the current relief efforts in Haiti, the topic of how funds are used to aid people “on the ground” is a focus of interest. Swartzbaugh’s talk will focus on how programs “are being shaped to accommodate a widening array of developmental environments” and how people can become actively involved in these efforts.

Joining Swartzbaugh is Todd McCormack, co-founder of Partners in Health. Started in 1987, PIH organizes “comprehensive and community-based” projects to combat disease and poverty in the developing world. Its work has expanded to seven countries, as well as supporting projects in Guatemala and Mexico. McCormack will be focusing on disaster relief programs providing aid in Haiti.

The presentation is sponsored by the Boston Rotary Club, and will be held at 6pm at Park Plaza in Boston.  For more information, email Adam at , or contact the Boston Rotary club at (617) 426-7133 and

We hope you can join us tomorrow for this event.

How can you avoid Haiti fundraising scams?

Robert Moreau

Research Analyst

haiti6 In the aftermath of the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, people all over America have mobilized to help its victims. Total donations, as of January 21, have exceeded $305 million. Methods of raising money have included newer methods such as online donations and an American Red Cross special text message program. 

Disgracefully, scammers “were out in full force within a couple of hours” after the quake, as noted by internet watchdog ScamBusters. Just two days after the earthquake, Symantec Corp. tracked three spam emails, including one claiming to be from the British Red Cross Society, down to using the organization’s real address. BRCS press officer Mark South noted it was “an unfortunately well-put-together fraud.”

With relief money still desperately needed and many wanting to find out how they can best help, the question becomes how potential donors can make sure their money is going to the right place. The Christian Science Monitor, in a January 15 piece, gives these five tips to “avoid scams and make sure your donations can make a difference.”

  • Stick to well-known, reputable charities.
  • Be cautious when donating online
  • Donate to organizations, not individuals
  • Check the charity out
  • Give money, not food, clothing, or equipment.”

Thief In addition, ScamBusters has a four-step list of steps you can take:

  • 1. Always use common sense.
  • 2. Never respond to an email request for a donation.
  • 3. Check to make sure any charity is legitimate before contributing.
  • 4. Do not open [email] attachments-they likely contain viruses or other malware.”

 CNN has a list of reputable charities involved with Haitian relief, and it is a good resource to use. Lastly, rather than open up an email, even if it looks to be from a reputable group, go directly to that organization’s website.

 Overall, the best way to avoid scams is to use caution. Send aid through organizations you are comfortable with, and do research on different charities that claim to be working there.

We at GENESIS urge everyone to get involved in donating to relief efforts for the people of Haiti, and to make sure your money is going where it’s promised.

1robRobert Moreau is Research Analyst/Outreach for the GENESIS Network. A 2008 Master’s graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Regional Economic and Social Development, Moreau has been working for GENESIS since July 2009. His work has included freelance newspaper pieces and a newsletter published for a Lowell-area social services agency in 2008

Reassessing Assessment: How does GENESIS have an advantage over Charity Navigator and other monitoring sites?

watchdogRobert Moreau

Research Analyst/Outreach

With a desire to donate contrasted by an unsteady economy and an abundance of non-profits and projects, philanthropists want to make sure their money is put to good use. In response to these concerns, sites such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar have surged to prominence and media exposure. 

While the increased scrutiny of what organizations do with charitable donations is a positive trend, these evaluators’ exclusive reliance on quantitative financial data says little about how people are helped on the ground, or other important components that make a project worth supporting.  Because of this, a merged assessment model emphasizing qualitative as well as quantitative  measurements is a better way to evaluate effectiveness.

The Charity Navigator controversy (or “is a Form 990 really THE definitive measure of success?”)

accountingCharity Navigator, online since 2001, describes itself as “America’s premier independent charity evaluator,” which “works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of over 5,400 of America’s largest charities.”  Its overview/about us section  notes accolades received from magazines such as Time, Forbes, and BusinessWeek, as well as its use on cable programs ranging from “The Factor with Bill O’Reilly” to “The Daily Show.”

Charity Navigator ranks charities that are given a tax-exempt 501 c (3) status, through their IRS Form 990’s. Four years of 990 forms are required by Charity Navigator for evaluation purposes.

From Form 990 information, Charity Navigator ranks charities from 4 stars (“exceptional”) to 0 (“exceptionally poor”), evaluating their Organizational Capacity (revenue growth, expenses growth, working capital ratio) and Organizational Efficiency (fundraising efficiency and expenses, program and administrative expenses) to come up with their final score. More information can be found here.

Rated charities can be found in nine broad categories, with their own subcategories: Animals, Environment, International, Arts, Culture, Humanities, Health, Public Benefit, Education, Human Services, and Religion. It also maintains several “Top Ten” charity lists.

The dilemma of rating organizations through financial scales, however, is that they do not necessarily tell the picture of the services they are providing.  As the Wall Street Journal explained in its December 19, 2008 article “Charity Rankings Giveth Less Than Meets the Eye”:

“Like stocks, charities are typically rated by their financial numbers or by qualitative characteristics such as corporate governance-or both. Unlike stocks, charities have no single measure akin to a business profit to determine successful performance.  There is a widespread search for such a number, but the challenges may be too daunting.  Meanwhile, some of the measures that are used may inspire bad actors to try to game the system.”

imagesCA6783O2An April 2007 posting on is far less charitable in the wording of its assessment:

                “The cornerstone of the rating is the program expenses divided by total expenses…this may be useful in weeding out the charities that are literally trying to scam you, but it is a backwards way to figuring out who actually helps people as effectively as possible…the quality of your plan is so much more important than the size of your budget.”

                The rest of Charity Navigator’s criteria are even more nonsensical. Charities are rewarded for having growing revenues (i.e., good fundraisers) and growing expenses (so apparently finishing a project or reducing costs is a bad thing)…maybe the “fundraising efficiency” metric would have some meaning if ability to raise funds were at all connected to ability to help people…but that’s just the problem. It isn’t, as long as donors have no sources of real information.

                The Gates Foundation…wouldn’t rely on this stuff in a million years.”

Indeed, Charity Navigator’s own ranking system is its self-admitted shortfall.  Charity CEO Ken Berger was quoted in a January 2009 article in Washington Business Journal as saying “I think what happens is that some people go to the site, they type in the name, they look at the stars, they leave” despite a website blurb explaining that users shouldn’t just take its ratings as the only guide.

Charity Navigator and similar evaluators, in summary, make an honest effort to educate prospective donors about the organizations they may send funds to. But relying on a blank financial statement or statements such as a Form 990 alone does not tell the whole story of how a project is making an impact.

So, after all this, the question can be asked: Is there a better way? Yes, there is…

The GENESIS approach: Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Assessment

ap1As an innovative social networker for development organizations, the GENESIS Network’s goal is to “[provide] a highly interactive environment wherein organization members, philanthropists, project community members and volunteers communicate and collaborate effectively,” taking advantage of social media technology to promote a more transparent and efficient system of accountability. More specifically, with GENESIS:

  • Users can create a customized profile enabling them to actively keep track of projects they support, with tools ranging from regular progress reports to quality assessment ratings from donors, project staff, and third-party monitors.   
  • Beneficiary pages enable donors to build a connection with the people they are helping. 
  • All projects are posted online, with all initial information ratings once approved. Regular updates on progress, including changes, successes, failures, etc. are a strong determining factor in assessing a high-quality rating to an initiative.
  • Project data includes a clear explanation of finances and where money is allocated, enabling philanthropists to make smart choices about where their donations are going.

Through combining a mix of quantitative and qualitative data, as well as leveraging social media through enabling constant communication between donors, project leaders, and others, the GENESIS Network is actively creating a new standard of assessment and accountability. 

For readers: What would you like to see from GENESIS in terms of promoting project accountability? What do you like about what the Network has to offer and where do you think it could improve? Any and all questions and comments are welcome.

1robRobert Moreau is Research Analyst/Outreach for the GENESIS Network. A 2008 Master’s graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Regional Economic and Social Development, Moreau has been working for GENESIS since July 2009. His work has included freelance newspaper pieces and a newsletter published for a Lowell-area social services agency in 2008.

Building Bridges: How charities are linking American interests to education abroad.

Robert Moreau  

Research and Outreach

Children helped by Kashmir Family Aid, a charity active in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir

Children helped by Kashmir Family Aid, a charity active in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir

 As noted in our last piece, philanthropy abroad also impacts important national issues for Americans. GENESIS’ schools, as well as similar efforts from other organizations, form an important part of the puzzle for curbing human trafficking-a modern-day slave trade that extends into and across the country.  Indeed, charity abroad with an emphasis on education can advance American interests in other ways as well. 

 One clear example is in the geopolitical hotspots of Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, where NGOs and philanthropists have worked to curb terrorism by building schools and sponsoring students. As Sam Carpenter of Kashmir Family Aid, an Oregon-based nonprofit working in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, noted in a September 19, 2008 American Prospect interview.

“there’s three types of schools [in the region]. There’s public schools provided by the government and private schools…but there’s another kind of school over there…called a Madrassa, and these are religious schools.”

“The estimates are between fifteen-and twenty thousand of them in Pakistan alone, and then there’s a lot of them in Afghanistan. The long story short is that the kids spend 10 to 12 years-they go in there at an early age, and they learn the Koran, and that’s great, but they don’t learn anything else.”

Bereft of skills, he stated, graduates do not have much opportunities. Carpenter estimated “about 15 to 20 percent are what we call militant schools” that actively prepare students for a career as a jihadist for pay “in our money $200 to $300 a month” considered very lucrative in the area. Though most families want to see their children attend public or secular private schools, he explained, many times the only available choice is a Madrassa education.  

Greg Mortenson, co-founder of Central Asia Institute

Greg Mortenson, co-founder of Central Asia Institute

Kashmir Family Aid, which as of 2008 has sponsored seven schools and 1,500 students, is one organization that has made an impact in the area. Possibly the largest known group active in the region is the Central Asia Institute (CAI),  co-founded in 1996 by Greg Mortenson and Jean Hoerni. CAI describes its mission as “to promote and support community based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan,” with the emphasis on girls as a strong potential agent of change in society who make up most of the world’s uneducated youth.

 CAI is actively involved with schools in nineteen regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, concentrated in the central and northern areas of both countries.  As of 2009, its total involvement was “131 schools…which provide education to over 58,000 children, including 44,000 girls.” Its work also includes the charity Pennies for Peace, actively involving students in American classrooms in fundraising.

Examples such as these as well as GENESIS’ own education projects show how working with underserved groups abroad ultimately creates a positive impact in addressing issues important to Americans. And it is because of these connections that GENESIS is increasing its scope with upcoming education and training projects in Africa (Ghana) and Latin America (Ecuador). GENESIS is also planning to expand its initiatives in the Middle East as well.

Through linking concerns in America to those abroad, charities such as GENESIS are building bridges in an interconnected world.

Slaves in our backyard. The illegal trafficking and trade of humans into the US and how GENESIS prevents it.

human-trafficking11_26 india posterRecently, GENESIS completed a major fundraising drive for its second school in Mae Chaem, Northern Thailand. The new building, which will provide education for 200 children in one of that country’s poorest areas, is also an attempt to rescue potential victims of a modern-day slave trade.

Human trafficking, the smuggling of persons for sexual and other forced labor, is “a heinous crime and human rights abuse. The most vulnerable members of the global community, those who have limited access to social services and protections, are targeted…for exploitation.” It is “now the third most profitable criminal activity, following only drug and arms trafficking” with around $9.5 billion in annual profits, as noted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The number of people trafficked worldwide annually is widely disputed, but the most commonly cited figure is the U.S. State Department estimate of 600,000-800,000. At least half of victims are children, and the most common destination for trafficked persons is into the sex trade.  

Southeast Asia, where GENESIS’ work thus far has concentrated, is the most active region in the world for traffickers; as noted by the International Organization for Migration, “between 200,000 and 450,000” victims are estimated to be trafficked within and out of the region annually. Trafficking in the region is linked to high levels of border crossing fueled by “economic and social push factors…[including] poverty, disparities in economic development, lack of education and job opportunities” among its causes. Irregular or undocumented migration accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all movement of persons, compounding the problem.

ShowImageBut where does the United States figure into the equation? Currently, we are one of the top three destination countries for human trafficking victims, along with Australia and Japan.  An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 persons are smuggled into the country annually. As the U.S. Department of Education notes, “cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and some U.S. territories.”

How, then, can building schools abroad make an impact? The causes of human trafficking and its growth are complex, but we note that providing opportunities for potential victims to lift themselves from poverty is a critical piece of the puzzle in fighting it. Indeed, the United Nations has emphasized education and development as ways to combat trafficking. For example, Article 9 (4) of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol calls on states parties to “take or strengthen measures…to alleviate the factors that make persons, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking, such as poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity.”

GENESIS’ projects complement activities from such organizations as the Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities (DEPDC) in Thailand and GABRIELA in the Philippines in emphasizing education as a preventative tool. 

By supporting organizations such as GENESIS that emphasize education and opportunity for children in poverty, philanthropists can make an impact on in fighting a modern slave trade and major human rights issue that impacts America as well as the world.