New Humanitarian Hotline Brings Hope, Transparency to Iraq

By Ali Reza

It is no secret that the Middle East has been ravaged and all but torn asunder by war and international conflict—and the country of Iraq has born one of the heaviest burdens of all. As innocents throughout the nation have suffered, organizations like the United Nations have attempted to send much-needed food and humanitarian supplies.

These acts of goodwill have arrived with accompanying anxiety, however: A common fear is that humanitarian gifts will be diverted, squandered, or—worst of all—intercepted by violent extremist groups, such as ISIS.

But now, the United Nations has provided a much-needed tool to mitigate these problems—a humanitarian hotline that can be used to report cases of diverted or intercepted humanitarian aid. Those in Iraq who fear that humanitarian gifts have been commandeered can call the hotline and file a report, confident that someone will investigate the problem.

This may seem trivial—investigating an interception is hardly as meaningful as preventing it in the first place—yet it is a communication channel that has never existed in Iraq. As such, it is—if nothing else—a step in the right direction.

The State of Humanitarianism in Iraq

 

There remains an acute need for humanitarian relief in Iraq, with more than 3.1 displaced Iraqis in the region and a number of well-meaning organizations seeking to help and support them. The problem is, these non-profit organizations all provide different telephone numbers and contact information; meanwhile, when Iraqis receive aid, they often don’t know exactly where it’s coming from or who they can contact about potential problems.

A large number of Iraqis use cellphones—78 percent, to be exact. Tools of communication are not at all rare, then, yet—according to one NGO/UN-sponsored report, Iraqis still live in an “information vacuum,” which hampers their ability to cope with the catastrophes that have befallen their land.

For internally displaced people (IDPs), then, there is not just a lack of information, but also no real way to communicate needs. These Iraqis have myriad problems and generally lack for resources, but their biggest issue may be the lack of any real way to communicate these shortfalls with those who could potentially help.

The Answer: A Call Center

There is no way to address all of these issues or completely bridge this communication gap overnight, but there the United Nations has taken a bold step forward with the expedient launch of a new call center, which will be jointly run by various UN agencies. The goal of the call center: To provide IDPs with information, to hear and respond to complaints, and to relay feedback and urgent needs to the applicable humanitarian organizations.

The call center was launched just over a month ago, funded by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), in conjunction with several other bodies. The center provides one number—6999—that encompasses the entire humanitarian response system, and will hopefully bring some simplicity to a frequently confusing system.

Though the hotline currently comes with a charge, intense negotiations with a number of mobile providers has ensured that, at the end of August, the hotline’s services will become completely toll-free for the Iraqi people.

A Slow Start, a Hopeful Future

Again, this is all a step in the right direction, though it’s not quite a home run: Thus far, traffic into the call center has generally been slow, though the on-the-ground Iraqi team has noted that the call center is still in its pilot stage and has not been widely publicized in Iraq. Additionally, the hotline can only address a limited range of issues; sexually-motivated violence and abuse, for instance, are outside the scope of its powers.
For the first time, though, there is an easy way for Iraqis to ask questions or voice complaints about the state of their own humanitarian need—a way for them to navigate a bewildering relief system. And given how much these folks have been through, even a small step like this one feels significant.

How Nonprofit Organizations can use Mobile Apps

Nonprofits Can Benefit from Mobile Technology to Advance Their Cause

By Amanda C
Edited by Ali Reza

Mobile technology has changed the way that many businesses operate and engage with customers. Smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices have put a wealth of information at users’ fingertips. It is easier than ever to find what they need and stay connected. For nonprofit organizations, mobile apps can serve a variety of purposes and help them to raise awareness and support for their cause.

Creating a Mobile App

One option for nonprofits is to create an app specific to their cause. They can either have an in-house developer design it to meet their needs, or it is something that can be outsourced. The most important thing to remember about developing an app is that it should serve a purpose for users. It is not cost effective or advantageous to have an app simply for the sake of having one.

  • Up-to-date Information. Apps can be used to instantly deliver information to users. Nonprofits can share details and reminders about upcoming events so that attendees are kept informed about exactly what is going on. Details can include locations and times along with maps, activities, tips, and other essentials.
  • Raise AwarenessAn organization’s app could be used to raise awareness about a certain cause or condition. It could focus on impact, warning signs, solutions, and how users can get more involved or be more proactive. For example, the Red Cross uses its app to share advice for dealing with emergency situations and administering first aid.
  • Promote Change. Another use for apps is to give people options and information that allows them to create changes. For instance, a way to locate stores that offer organic, gluten-free, or environmentally friendly products. They may share videos and images that share a message and encourage people to take action. Or they could be a resource for valuable information pertaining to a specific cause or topic. Organizations can also increase engagement by allowing users to interact with one another.
  • Support Fundraising.The option to solicit donations will depend on the platform. Some allow for in-app donations while others support links that take users to an outside site where they can donate. However, this can make it easier for users to find out how they can provide financial support and actually make donations in a fast and easy manner.
  • Increase Involvement.There could also be features that allow users to register as a volunteer for events, track their personal information and activities, or share information with others. Organizations can use apps to convey special promotions and coupons to users as well that are only available through the application.

With these features, organizations gain access to a wide range of analytics. This can help them to better understand their customers and users and make improvements not only to the app but also to business strategies and products. It provides valuable insight into business and customer engagement.

Using Existing Mobile Apps

If nonprofits don’t want to create their own app, they can partner with companies who have developed apps that would benefit their cause. One such app is Check In For Good. Users download the app and when they check in at businesses that the nonprofit has partnered with, the business makes a donation. The nonprofit can set up a page that educates the public about their cause and connects people with businesses that support the nonprofit. Both organizations gain exposure and awareness.

Another great option is Charity Miles. Users raise funds for nonprofits simply by being active. Through walking or running they can earn up to 25 cents per mile and biking earns 10 cents per mile. The more miles they log, the more money gets donated to the nonprofit they have chosen to sponsor. This is a great way for nonprofits to fundraise while also encouraging people to continue being active.

When used effectively, mobile apps can be a wonderful way for organizations to increase awareness and build stronger connections throughout communities. They can disseminate valuable information and give users ways to get involved and provide support.

How to Help the Earthquake Relief Efforts in Nepal

By Maryam A (Contributor) 
Edited by Ali Reza

On April 25, 2015, the country of Nepal was struck by a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake. It destroyed buildings and homes, trapping residents under the rubble. It triggered a landslide on Mount Everest. More than 7,000 people have died, but there are many more who are fighting to survive. In the event of a devastating crisis such as this, countries from around the world step up to help those in need. The United States is joining in to help as well by sending much needed supplies, medical help, and personnel to support efforts to find survivors, treat the injured, and build stable shelters.

Although the United States is thousands of miles away, there are still ways that citizens can support these relief efforts. There are many non-profits that work internationally and are raising funds to provide essential supplies and help for the residents of Nepal. With cities in ruins, they are in need of food and clean water for survival. Many buildings have been destroyed or are not safe to return to, especially with lingering aftershocks. That means that residents need to find other shelter. The injured need medical care and supplies in order to heal. And the more ground forces available, the more quickly survivors can be located and saved from beneath the rubble.

Make a donation

One of the easiest ways to support the relief efforts in Nepal is to make a monetary donation. There are dozens of charities that are using these funds to send food, water, medical supplies, shelter supplies, clothing, and more to residents. You can donate online by going to their website, send a text to a designated number, or mail a check. Organizations include UNICEF, the Red Cross, Action Against Hunger, AmeriCares, Global Giving, Save the Children, the Salvation Army, World Vision, World Food Programme, and many more.

Every little bit helps, so don’t worry about the size of the donation. These organizations are appreciative of anything that people are able to give. Before donating, make sure that you are supporting a legitimate charity whose funds are directly providing for those in Nepal. Do some research to find out how the organization is helping and how donations are being used, especially if it is not a well-known group.

Volunteer

You can contact a local organization to see if you can be of assistance by volunteering. They may need people to help assemble supply kits before they are shipped overseas or to help with raising awareness of fundraising efforts. Many organizations are asking for monetary donations versus material goods, but you may be able to find some groups who are asking for food, clothing, hygiene items, blankets, or other necessities to send. Talk to non-profits in your area and ask how you can best be of service to them. They may have a variety of activities that they could use assistance with.

Depending on your qualifications, you may also be able to become part of a relief team that is headed to Nepal. Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and many religious organizations are sending teams over to provide help. The military is also sending assistance. These are more specialized areas of service, but there may be ways that you can help. You could also direct your donations to support these groups and their missions.

It will take a long time for Nepal to recover from the effects of the earthquake that it endured. While immediate assistance is needed now to reduce further devastation, there will also be a need for more long term help to support them in rebuilding. Following the news and keeping up-to-date on progress can allow you to find other ways to support relief efforts in the future. Once they have begun to rebuild, there may be supplies that you can donate for distribution or other services they could benefit from. For now, look toward causes that you feel strongly about where you know your efforts will make a difference. Every little bit counts.

Why Volunteer? [ Video]

Video by Pearson
Transcription by Ali Reza

Folks as Pearsons asked their volunteers why they chose to give up two weeks of their time to volunteer in South Africa. Below is their response.

Video Transcription:

(Volunteer 1) – I decided to volunteer probably wanting to put my hands on some real work. There is a lot of talking about education, how we should approach different problems, how to solve certain problems, and after 4 years of being theoretical, I just saw this opportunity to become fully involved.

(Volunteer 2) – I have always wanted to do a charity project like this particularly in Africa. I was really interested in what true north was doing because I truly believe that early childhood education is fundamental for laying a good foundation for education through our lives and I wanted to be part of this particular project.

(Volunteer 3) – When Pearsons when they explained this project to us I decided to go for it and I like the fact of (knowing) what’s happening on the other side of the world and maybe that was my chance …to do this.

(Volunteer 4) – Philanthropy and give back to the community and helping others is truly what it’s all about.

(Volunteer 5) – I was in south Africa probably about 12 years ago working on a volunteer project for two summers in a row working with teachers specifically, I had a really great experiance and this was an opportunity to come back to south Africa and also work with students this time which I didn’t get to before.

(Volunteer 6) – I think it is a very good experiance. I don’t just give, I think I (also) learn from them a lot.

(Volunteer 1) – This is the moment. Now or never

5 Reasons to Donate to a Charity

Everyone Can Make a Difference in the World

By Maryam Alavi
Edited by Ali Reza

Charitable giving is one way that everyone can make a difference in the world. There are thousands of charities to support virtually any cause you can think of. From medical research and saving animals to protecting the environment and raising awareness, there are so many issues that could benefit from increased attention. Your donation could be in the form of money or goods and there are always opportunities to get involved through volunteering as well. If you have been considering donating to charity but haven’t taken action yet, or it has been a while since you last donated, here are five reasons to get involved:

  1. Every little bit helps.

No matter whether you have a lot or a little to give, it all makes a difference. For someone who is struggling to make ends meet, that pair of shoes, sweater, or can of green beans helps them to get by. Conducting research can be very expensive, but when a breakthrough occurs, it can be priceless. You may think that your spare change isn’t much, but combine that with the spare change of hundreds or thousands of other people and it all adds up. Those last few dollars might be what pushed the study to the next level. And you never know when that research will benefit your or someone you love.

  1. It can give you a sense of purpose.

Many people go through the motions each day but wonder if they’re really making a difference. By donating to charity, you gain the satisfaction of knowing that you are part of something greater. Your contributions are changing people’s lives. Helping others can boost your mood and give you something to look forward to, especially if you choose to volunteer. You can see firsthand where your donations are going and how they are being used. Many people also find donating to charity to be very fulfilling.

  1. It teaches goodwill.

You are setting a positive example for your children and others around you. Your donation can inspire them to support charity as well. Talk to your children about the organizations that you choose to support and how they are making a difference. You can even let your children pick an organization that they feel strongly about and save up their money or donate old toys or clothing in support. Start developing these good habits in your children early on so that it is something they continue as they get older. The more people who donate, the greater the change that can occur.

  1. You are creating change.

Without support from society, change would happen much more slowly. It is through goods and financial support that these organizations are able to help people improve their lives, can find new treatments and cures for different diseases, and raise awareness of issues impacting our communities. Every time you donate, you are helping them get closer to reaching their goals. You are also directly and indirectly creating change in your own life from the impact that your donations make.

  1. Donations may be tax deductible.

Many charitable donations are tax deductible. Keep a list of your donations and always get a receipt when possible for proof. Depending on the amount or value of your donations, you may have to fill out a separate form with your taxes detailing your contributions. This is just one way that you can benefit by donating to charity. The non-material benefits can be much greater and more rewarding, however.

If you are ready to donate, check out local organizations or branches of larger programs. Look for those that focus on a mission that you are passionate about to bring more meaning to your contributions. You may pick a charity that has helped you or someone you know, or just something you feel strongly about supporting. There is always a need for goods and financial support and every little bit helps, so start making a difference today.

Tips for Helping Friends in Need

Friendship is one of the great joys in life. Finding others with whom you share similar interests and enjoy spending time with. People who push you to become the best version of yourself and live a life you love. But part of friendship is sticking together through the good and the bad. When a friend is in need, you want to be there for them and help them to get through the situation. But how can you achieve this?

  1. Listen

Sometimes all your friend may be looking for is a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. You don’t have to know just the right words to say because they aren’t expecting you have all of the answers. They want someone who will let them get what they have to say off of their chest and be a sounding board as they work through their problems. Explaining the problem to you can help them to gain more perspective and look at things from a different angle. Try to avoid interrupting or being judgmental. Just let them talk and be willing to sit and listen.

  1. Offer Insight

In some cases your friend might want your advice and insight into their situation. Hear them out and then give them your take on things. You might offer stories from similar situations that you have experienced or tactics that you have tried. Together you can come up with a plan of action or a solution. Keep in mind that it is their choice how they use the advice that you provide, so don’t try to force it on them. But many people value their friends’ opinions and advice and will take it to heart as they work through their challenges.

  1. Ask How You Can Help

What better way to help than to ask what they need? If you are unsure of what you can do to be supportive, simply ask. Find out if they need someone to watch their kids, prepare a meal, help with a project, or just provide companionship. If they are unsure, reassure them that you are there when they need you to help however you can. They may need you to do something that you hadn’t even considered, so sometimes the best way to be supportive is to be honest and upfront in asking what they need you to do. Even just the gesture and knowing that you care can boost their confidence and be a comfort. They will know that they are not alone and you have their back.

  1. Stay Positive

When your friend is going through a hard time, keep a positive outlook. Take their mind off of things by making them laugh or providing a distraction. Make plans to do something fun together and enjoy each other’s company. Focus on the bright side and keeping their mood up. It is hard not to smile or laugh when surrounded by others who are in good spirits. This time away can be a good mental break for them.

  1. Be Sensitive

In your efforts to be encouraging and helpful, don’t forget to be sensitive to their situation. Try to avoid bringing up topics that could make things awkward or make them feel uncomfortable. If they are struggling financially, be respectful of this and come up with things you can do together that are free or inexpensive. If they are ill, educate yourself on their condition and ways that you can be supportive. Try not to be too intrusive or overstay your welcome. You can usually take your cues from your friend about how to proceed or what they may need.

Your kindness and friendship does not go unnoticed. Even if your friend may not immediately or publicly acknowledge it, know that they do appreciate your care and concern. When you find yourself in need, they will be there by your side as you were for them. Friendship is about give and take and figuring out what works best for both of you.