|Dinner with Prof. Alan Fenwick and others.|
It is hard to believe that I have been in Rwanda for three weeks already! Today marks the beginning of my fourth week here, and I am just as excited as I was when I first arrived. One of the many things that I enjoy about my job here is the opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world. I assumed when I first arrived that most of my encounters would be with Rwandans or American ex-pats. Yet, through various meetings and fellowships, I have met people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Kenya, the United Kingdom and many others.
Alan Fenwick was someone who I had the opportunity to meet during my first week here. Alan is a Professor of Tropical Parasitology at the School of Public Health at the Imperial College in London, England. Alan also directs the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), which is a collaborative project to assist countries in sub Saharan Africa control schistosomiasis, intestinal helminths and other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease that leads to chronic ill-health and affects more than 200 million people in developing countries, 85% of them in sub-Saharan Africa. SCI is supported by organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Geneva Global and others. When Alan and I were talking over dinner about philanthropy and the huge need that exists in countries like Rwanda, he mentioned an organization called Giving What We Can. This organization was started by ordinary individuals to eliminate poverty in the developing world. To that end, the now 101 members have pledged 10% of their income, which equates to over 30 million dollars! The interesting thing to note is that these individuals come from all walks of life, they have different religious beliefs but one common purpose, to use their income to effect socio-economic change.
I know what some of you are thinking, "I have a limited income, I can't afford to give 10% to charity, I'll leave that to people like Bill Gates!" The beauty of this project is that it provides a breakdown on some of the spending done in developed countries like America on items such as ice cream (11 billion) and cigarettes (50 billion) each year. Now hopefully most of my readers don't smoke, but if we put something like that into context, its almost alarming how much is spent on that bad habit. As part of my job for Pfizer, back in the states, I talk to my clients about smoking cessation on a regular basis. One of the things that they are always astounded to hear is how much patients spend on cigarettes. Its almost ridiculous to think of low-income patients spending over $5000 each year on cigarettes yet these same patients can't afford to pay for their own health care. The point is that people spend money on the things that matter to them. If anyone disagrees, think about what matters to you, is it up-to-date hairstyles? Do a quick calculation of how much you spend at the hair salon each week and multiply that by 52, yes, you've really spent that much on your hair in a given year! (I have been guilty in the past of spending a lot of money on my hair, more than I am comfortable disclosing to the public)
Now my purpose in writing this isn't to judge anyone's spending habits, but to draw attention to the fact that we can all do more. Whether you give already through a local church or organization, your money matters and should therefore go towards causes that matter to you. Check out the Giving What We Can website to get ideas on the scope of the problem and ways that the international community can join together.
If anyone is interested in donating money, here are some organizations to consider:
Organizations close to my heart:
1. A-M Agape Blessing Ministry
2. Charity Water
3. World Vision Africa
Organizations working to alleviate poverty and improve healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa:
1. The Access Project
2. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
3. Giving What We Can
4. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
6. Rwanda Works
7. William J. Clinton Foundation
It is an important practice to take the time to research organizations thoroughly before giving any money, to make sure that they are financially accountable.
1. Give Well
If you have any organizations that are close to your heart, please list them in the comments section below, and remember to always give what you can ;)