Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Happy Holidays, Inc.

Monday, December 27th, 2010

With Hanukkah and Christmas in the past and Kwanzaa and New Years Day fast approaching holiday cheer and charitable acts are in full swing, along with the dollars fueling these two year end activities. Playing off of these charitable and cheerful feelings, the (RED) Campaign swings into full force at this time. The (RED) Campaign coordinates the marketing of “(RED)” branded products, such as Starbucks coffee merchandise, GAP t-shits and Nike shoelaces to “give up to 50 percent of their profits to the Global Fund to invest in HIV and AIDS programs in Africa.” In addition to the (RED) Campaign’s obvious ambiguity in regards to the amount of money actually given to the Global Fund, and the claim that the campaign is funding “HIV and AIDS programs in Africa,” without a clear description of what HIV and AIDS programs are actually being funded, the Global Fund is notorious for its lack of financial transparency. The Global Fund along with the (RED) Campaign is often questioned about its efficiency and efficacy, particularly in light of the huge media and marketing campaign that pulls in millions and millions of dollars from often clueless, though well-intentioned customers.

Not wanting to be totally Grinch-like, I must sing some praises of the (RED) campaign. For one, it has one of the most well known and ubiquitous charitable advertizing campaigns ever launched and sustained across a wide variety of products.  It has not only substantially impacted, and even changed the face of the philanthropic world, but has had an impact on the business world that fuels the campaign as well. And it cannot be denied that the campaign gives money to a large foundation whose goal it is to end HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in African countries. And finally, buying a (RED) product will further benefit its stated mission in some way.

Regardless, there are two major things that make the (RED) Campaign inherently problematic. First, with such a powerful presence across a wide range of outlets around the world, shouldn’t the campaign do, give, devote, make, change, and affect more? And if it does, how do we really know?

And second, isn’t promotion of mindless consumerism ($200 iPods, overpriced T-shirts and Coffee, and running shoes made God-knows where by what age worker) contrary to the goal of public health in Africa, the ultimate goal of  the (RED) Campaign in the first place?

In fact, it may be true that goals and intentions of the (RED) Campaign are honorable.  But as consumers and producers in the developed world, we should be sure that our hard earned dollars, euros, yen and pounds, our charity to the less fortunate, and our holiday cheer make it to people and organizations that will use those things to the most effective and fullest extent. Although buying a red coffee cup, a red T-shirt, a red iPod, and red shoelaces are easy and fun ways to give, be sure of what you are giving and to whom you are giving it.


P.P.S. Check out SCOUT BANANA’s own holiday campaign, TI(RED) for more information!

Ending Charity: alone, is not the answer

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

“Giving in its purest form expects nothing in return.” – Anonymous

There are a lot of confusing buzzwords being thrown around these days: ending charity, dead aid, patient capitalism, impatient optimists, and investment over aid. What does it all mean?

My initial thoughts on this subject were spurred by zyOyz founder Steve Jennings’ repost of an article titled: “Charity alone not the answer to tackling poverty”. Well I agreed with the article’s basic premise that just giving money is not the only solution or the best, I was troubled by the article’s absolute statements that business models and capitalism will save the world.

The article, reposted from the Financial Times, notes the work of the Acumen Fund founded by Jacqueline Novogratz, which invests in small businesses with a social impact termed as “patient capital.” It has become a highly successful model, however Novogratz is quoted as saying: “We need creative approaches to reinvigorate capitalism and make it more inclusive.” The most inclusive business model that I know, with high degrees of success, is the cooperative model based on needs of those involved, inclusion, and participation. Looking at history, capitalism has generated exclusion: great amounts of wealth for many people, but it has also perpetuated extremely flawed systems that create great degrees of poverty for many people. The evidence is in any major city where the consequences of capitalism lay bare the desperation of good people who are left with nothing.

At the root of the article, “Charity alone not the answer to tackling poverty,” is the long-running debate on whether investment is more effective than aid. Professor Bill Easterly made popular the fact (through his book, “White Man’s Burden”) that over $1 trillion in aid has been given to Africa over the last 50 years with limited positive results, Dambisa Moyo has termed this “dead aid” and calls for a complete end of aid to Africa. Others like Bill and Melinda Gates, who have given vast amounts of aid (which they often call “investment”) to Africa with their foundation, label themselves as “impatient optimists.” They are hopeful for the future and want more done at the present time.

However, there is a problem with their impatience that many have critiqued. Impatience tends to push solutions that are ineffective. Ian Wilhelm gets further into this topic in a blog about “irrational aid.” In the post he writes about Alanna Shaikh’s critique of ineffective aid, such as outdated pharmaceuticals and medical equipment that has no use in the field. This argument is countered by Isaac Holeman’s disagreement that well that aid may be irrational, it provides immediate personal stories of need to bring in more donors. I have to agree with Alanna in saying that this irrational, possibly impatient, aid does more harm and basically no good.

How have we now moved from decrying the failures of charity and aid to highlighting the benefits of business models and the capitalist system back again to smiling about greater benefits of monetary investment in people and ideas? Where is the line drawn between investment and aid? As far as I can tell it is mostly semantic. Isn’t aid when transparent, effective, and driven by best practices an investment? Giving an investment is essentially the same as giving aid or charity.

Investment is the buzzword used by social enterprises, microfinance, and has become the new fad in international development organizations. I think that it is important to make a distinction between what is effective and what is not. Aid can be very effective and investment can be very ineffective. The reverse is also true. Where does effective aid change from being a type of investment? When experts talk about the broken aid system do they forget that the broken aid system is merely a reflection of the broken financial system. The same interests and individuals who have run financial systems have run foreign aid systems.

The real issue in this debate need not be if businesses are better than charities or who’s money is better spent. What is most important needs to be the question of, “How?” The systems, structures, and practices that implement aid and drive investment need to be cooperative, inclusive, needs based, and people-centered – in one word: effective. If you are looking for a return on investment (ROI) or accolades for your donated or invested dollars, then maybe you should reconsider why you give?

Global Health is Everyone’s Responsibility

Friday, September 11th, 2009

People young and old across the US have connected with seven different communities across the African continent to support locally initiated health projects. Using the vibrant color of bananas and the enthusiasm of youth, a new nonprofit has grown to support the coming revolution in African health care.

It all began with one individual, Fr. Joseph Birungi, who had the dream of providing access to basic health care in a remote area where he worked. His dream was transferred on to me through his stories of those who died because they did not have access to basic health care. At the time I was a 14 year-old who knew little of the world beyond Michigan’s borders, but I was inspired to do something. Just entering high school, I was full of naive optimism with a goal to figure out how I could make an impact in the world. Although I was youthful, naive, and optimistic I had an incredible mentor, my mother. She helped me form basic assumptions that laid the foundation for my understanding of "global health as everyone’s responsibility. "

One assumption that grew from my optimism was the belief that everyone had the potential to make a difference in the world. From Fr. Joseph to myself to my mother, the chain of individuals who embodied this grew to include hundreds of families, church congregations, school assemblies, and individuals from across the country working to fund an ambulance. These individuals, linked by a common cause, were able to raise over $67,000 in less than three months for the health center in Uganda.

It is easy for many people to take for granted the small things: clean water from a sink, medicine readily available in your cabinet, adequate food sources, etc. In the summer of 2002, I was able to traveled to Uganda. During my one-month stay I met and lived with the people who would benefit from the ambulance project. The people I met were so friendly and, even in their poverty, they wanted to share what little they had. I have seen that all people of the world share the same needs and wants. Everyone needs food, shelter, clean water, and necessary health care. We all want to know happiness, health and love. Parents everywhere want the best for their children and children want to learn and grow. But not everyone gets the same chance for success. And so keeping in mind the interdependent and similar nature of our world it is not so difficult to see "global health as everyone’s responsibility."

As I graduated from high school with my classmates so did SCOUT BANANA. My friends began expanding our work into Chapters at colleges and universities across the US and Canada. This allowed our outreach to grow along with our ability to support more local projects. We became seriously focused on community-based solutions and empowering young people in the US to take responsible action when "making a difference" in Africa. Just because you have the means to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. With an expanding support base and the desire to empower young people and community leaders we decided to pursue 501c3 status in order to better serve as a resource. Utilizing privilege in the US to connect communities in Africa with inspired students, SCOUT BANANA has been able to raise almost $200,000 to date and engage over 50,000 young people in partnering with African projects to provide access to basic health care.

SCOUT BANANA believes that global health is everyone’s responsibility and that everyone has the potential to make a difference. We look at global health issues systematically and our solutions are focused on revolutionizing structures as well as shifting paradigms of development thinking in regards to education, power, and privilege. We seek to create lasting social change in African health care and believe that solutions come directly from communities in need. SCOUT BANANA is dedicated to empowering community solutions as well as young people who want to responsibly make a difference in Africa. By connecting communities in long-term cooperative partnerships, we will build a movement dedicated to fundamental social change in which global health is everyone’s responsibility and every individual’s human right.

SCOUT BANANA is a nonprofit organization that works to provide access to basic health care in Africa. Focusing on community-based solutions and empowering community leaders as well as young people who want to make a difference in Africa, SCOUT BANANA is supporting the innovation in African health care. The organization connects student Chapters with local health project in Africa.

Learn more about the Chapter network & apply to launch a Chapter at your school HERE!

Cross posted from’s Global Health Blog: HERE Published September 09, 2009 @ 05:00PM

Announcing Official Nonprofit Status!

Friday, January 16th, 2009

16 January 2009


East Lansing – To suggest that college students armed with bananas could create anything wholesome and family-friendly may raise a few eyebrows.

But to suggest that college students and bananas are the backbone of a dynamic, progressive organization that has raised more than $150,000 to date and inspired countless people to improve basic health care in Africa? That may raise more eyebrows.

Eight years ago, Alex Hill was going door-to-door to raise funds for a health center in Uganda. Today, along with an army of colleagues sporting banana-yellow shirts, his organization, SCOUT BANANA, has become an official nonprofit that supports 10 health care projects in 10 countries within Africa.

With its new status, SCOUT BANANA has a new education program in the works that will create curriculum that increases knowledge and awareness about the African continent. The program includes an interactive education website, curriculum and resources for elementary and high school classrooms, and an internship program for university students to participate in on-the-ground health care projects.

Current programs of SCOUT BANANA are thriving and growing, including the new academic journal, Articulate: Undergraduate Scholarship Applied to International Development. SCOUT BANANA continues to serve as a hub that brings together communities, academics, activists, community leaders and young people to ensure that global health is everyone’s responsibility and every individual’s human right.

SCOUT BANANA started in 2001 as a project that delivered an ambulance to the St. Ambrose Health Center in Uganda by raising over $67,000 through the support of hundreds of families and over 60 community organizations. SCOUT BANANA, which stands for Serving Citizens of Uganda Today Because Africa Needs A New Ambulance, became the acronym of Hill’s Boy Scout project.

SCOUT BANANA will spend its next phase building a youth movement of individuals who will are compassionate, competent, and collaborative agents of change. “It’s not just about donations anymore,” states Monica Mukerjee, a staff member of the organization. “It’s about research, collaboration, and bringing Africa to the forefront. By inspiring others to be dedicated to Africa, SCOUT BANANA is fueling long-term change and growth in health care and development.”

The organization invites all supporters, interested public, and close friends to their Nonprofit Launch Party on 21 February 2009 at the Gone Wired Cafe (6pm) for music, food, fun, and to celebrate the launch of the nonprofit!

To learn more or make a donation, visit For additional information, contact the Executive Director, Alex Hill, at or (810) 516-6547.


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