Friday, November 30, 2007

Stack Elected To National Poverty Board

from the Leesburg Today

By Margaret Morton

In another honor for veteran Loudoun County Family Services employee Susan Jane Stack, it was announced today that she has been elected to the National Community Action Partnership board of directors.

Stack was nominated by her colleague Karen Velez, who heads up the county's Holiday Community Coalition program.

"I'm very excited to get it," Stack said today. She said she was surprised to have been selected because the vote for national board is conducted by the more than 140 executive directors of CAPs in the region. She was particularly surprised because she thought it likely a representative from one of the states with large numbers of CAPs would have been elected.

Stack was one of four nominated for the seat.

One of the main aims of the NCAP is to cut poverty in half across the nation. Stack recently was instrumental in organizing a Loudoun Cut Poverty In Half Conference with that aim in conjunction with the Town of Leesburg and the Human Services Network. Stack said today, her job and those of her fellow board members to work toward that goal along with all the CAPs they represent across the county.

Stack will represent the six-state Region III, which covers Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

The director of community resources for the department, Stack currently serves as the executive director of Loudoun's Community Action Program. The programs were established in the 1960s as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, with a goal of providing services that give people a "hand up out of poverty," by operating emergency food programs, homeless shelters and Head Start, day care and community development programs.

Some CAPS are nonprofits, while Loudoun's is housed at the Department of Family Services. Nonprofits that provide many of the same services are invited to submit proposals to the Loudoun CAP for funding by the Community Action Advisory Board, which is comprised of public officials, Loudoun residents living in poverty and members of the public at large.

Fair Trade labels: A boon for farmers

from the Daily News

Organic farmers in this hilly, central region of Sri Lanka are convinced that they have a simple fair trade model that could be replicated in other parts of the world.

“What we have created is the most sustainable model of fair trade and organic food in the world,’’ insists Sarath Ranaweera, founder of the Small Organic Farmers Association (SOFA), speaking with IPS. ‘Fair trade’ international trading partnerships help disadvantaged producers, farmers and farmers’ societies to get better prices for their products, while ensuring quality and environment-friendly products.

They bring suppliers (farmers/producers), traders (exporters and retailers) and consumers together in an equitable partnership where the consumer pays a premium for the product and part of the premium goes back to the farmer/producer for his social welfare and uplift.

Last month SOFA received a fillip when the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO), a leading standard setting and certification organisation approved it as a model of good practices.

“SOFA is a great model that we could use to replicate in the rest of the world,” said Christophe Alliot, deputy director of France’s Max Havelaar, the French member of FLO, after a field visit.

Products that carry the fairtrade certification guarantee that producers in the developing world get a better deal, according to Alliot.

Alliot and two of his colleagues from FLO partners in New Zealand and Britain were in Sri Lanka attending a two-day meeting of the NAP (Network of Asian Producers), a grouping formed two years ago under the FLO umbrella to provide a voice for Asian producers. During the Sri Lankan visit, the FLO team decided to visit Ranaweera’s project in the hills and was astounded with the model.

“It is quite amazing how these farmers have combined biodiversity and organic food production,” said Alliot in the backdrop of efforts by FLO to look for a sustainable model that would convince doubtful consumers that producers are actually benefiting from the premium price.

In fact, Ranaweera, whose SOFA initiative follows his own entry into the production and marketing of organic food through his company Bio Foods (Pvt) Ltd, is an acknowledged expert in fair trade and travels around the world talking with consumers and convincing them that producers benefit from FLO.

“Fairtrade wants to use our model as the organisation is under attack in the rest of the world. I am constantly being asked to speak to consumers on how fair trade benefits farmers.

Consumers, at international gatherings, ask us to show proof that the money (premium) is actually going to producers,” said Ranaweera, who has degrees in food science and technology, and agriculture in addition to experience as an international consultant in tea processing and research. FLO, he said, was planning to send a team to work with a group of undergraduates from the University of Peradeniya in Kandy to formulate a workable model based on the SOFA initiative.

W.R. Punchibanda, 64, is a typical hill farmer who grows tea, coffee and spices on his sloping 2.5 acre land but earned little till SOFA came along.

“Around 1980 I would pluck some tea leaves from the garden and sell it to the local shop for a few Sri Lankan cents per kilo to buy bread or some food. In a month, we would get about Rupees 50 (four US cents) from tea,” he said, seated in his simple brick house surrounded by a rich assortment of shrub jungle, fruit trees and vegetation — and leeches on rainy days.

But when Ranaweera came along and sold the concept of SOFA to farmers in Kandy and adjoining districts in 1998, Punchibanda — now the president of a SOFA affiliate — saw his tea earnings rise to rupees 2,000-2,500 (22 dollars) per month.

“That’s not all; SOFA has done a lot of welfare work (using the Fairtrade premium) looking after members and their families and taking care of the community.” Ranaweera argues against the common fair trade practice of getting producers to double as marketers so as to get the best possible price and shut out the middle man.

“Our model has proved that producers need not be bothered with selling and marketing, as long as they are guaranteed a price and assured markets.”

SOFA, with more than 2,000 farmers and some 30,000 dependants in the production chain, is the first ever Fairtrade association of spice producers and touted as the most sustainable farmers’ organisation because it gets the Fairtrade premium direct to its coffers.

Tea, for example, receives a premium of one Euro per kilo in the price tag if sold in Europe and this money goes straight to the producer. “Our model is simple and sustainable. Our company takes care of the marketing and quality certification, while the producer (farmer) gets a minimum guaranteed price set by SOFA.

The farmer need not worry about marketing or quality certification; he has his buyer and assured price,” said Ranaweera. Bio Foods spends millions of rupees every year on quality certification for Fairtrade labels (carried on every pack) and other requirements.

“Small farmers involved in organic food production don’t have resources to prove it by certification which is costly. We try to help them by reducing the certification fees (to qualify for Fairtrade labelling) or partly fund them,’’ said Alliot.

U.S. anti-poverty group recruits Ottawa social housing supporters

from the CBC

Hundreds of Ottawa's social housing tenants have been joining a U.S.-based anti-poverty activist group, and their eye-catching protests have led at least one housing official to criticize the group's approach.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn) hung work orders for unfinished repairs to public housing from clotheslines at city hall Friday as part of its latest action.

Erin Albright, a social housing tenant and one of 400 Ottawa residents who pay $10 per month for full membership with the group, said she collected 45 work orders after talking to only six Ottawa Community Housing tenants.

"That shows you the state Ottawa Housing is in," she said. "I'm not done collecting work orders, and I'll keep going."

The event follows on the heels of the "cockroach carnival" the group held last week to protest infestations in Ottawa Community Housing buildings, using cockroaches collected by tenants.

Ottawa Community Housing head Ron Larkin calls the group's approach too confrontational.

"If they want to help, and I believe they do, then it's a matter of refocusing that group," he said, adding that he and Ottawa Community Housing chair, Coun. Diane Holmes, want to meet with the organizers.

Acorn was started by labour organizer Wade Rathke and a group of women on welfare in Little Rock, Ark., in 1970 with the goal of winning power for low- and moderate-income people.

The first three full-time Acorn organizers arrived in Ottawa in January 2006.

Since then, it says it has recruited 2,700 members and affiliates in Ottawa and led a number of campaigns, including the two recent protests and another that convinced the Prestige Hotel in the Vanier neighbourhood to stop renting rooms by the hour in an effort to reduce prostitution and crack use nearby.

Albright said the group's success stems from getting people involved who live with the problems.

"Acorn is acting more often and more frequently and hitting the politicians and embarrassing them in ways that other groups weren't willing or perhaps able to do," she said.

Sometimes confrontation is what's needed, she added, and she does not plan to stop using that approach.

'70 Million Nigerians Live Below Poverty Level'

from All Africa

Daily Champion (Lagos)

By Abiodun Adelaja

Over 70 million Nigerians are living below poverty level, Dr Otive Igbuzor, Country Director of ActionAid, Nigeria has disclosed in Abuja.

Presenting a paper at the maiden House of Representatives and Civil Society Forum, Igbuzor lamented that majority of Nigerians are wallowing in abject poverty in the midst of plenty.

Nigeria, he added, remains one of the 20 countries with the widest disparity between the rich and the poor, stressing that the chunck of the nation's wealth is in the hands of a few powerful individuals while the majority wallow in abject poverty.

Igbuzor who spoke on Legislature/Civil Society Partnership for Governance and Development, said that effective collaboration between the legislature and civil society organisations can ameliorate the situation.

He said what the citizenry expects from the legislature is formulation of legislation that alleviate poverty in the land as well as ensure equitable distribution of wealth.

"Partnership between the legislature and civil society organizations offer a space for participation, mutual respect, accountability and growth and development", he stated.

Flagging off the one-day interactive session, Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, said the National Assembly would be willing to take inputs from civil society groups in the formulation of laws.

He stressed that the lawmakers alone do not possess all the knowledge required to discharge their responsibilities as the group's inputs at all levels of governance is imperative.

"We need to build the capacity of Nigerians to dialogue with government, question the activities of their representatives, participate in the law making process and the development of government policies and at the end hold public officials accountable for their actions", the speaker declared.

He however lamented that long years of military dictatorship adversly affected the psyche of the average Nigerian towards participatory governance.

"The impact of Civil Society on the development of democracy and good governance cannot be overemphasized. The history of Nigeria's transistion from dictatorship to a democratic nation cannot be complete without a substatntial mention of the contributions and sacrifices of members of civil society organizations", he stated.

Earlier in his welcome address, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Eziuche Ubani, said the forum was intended to close existing gap between civil society groups and lawmakers towards effective legislation.

He said the issues now before the federal legislature require greater input from the citizenry through civil society groups.

"We have examined our calendar. The range of issues that would dominate our legislative agenda in the next three years are such that require the inputs of the Nigerain people. Such include electoral reforms, prison reform, further simplification of public procurement process, constitutional amendment, reforms of the public expenditure process, reforming the public health system, environment including understanding the impact of climatic changes, land rights, water management, accountability and access to public information etc.

"It is equally instructive to note that the drive to realize the millennium development goals with 2015 as target has equally made the engagement between the legislature and civil society groups in Nigeria imperative.

Most illegal immigrants near or below poverty line, study shows

from Phoenix Business Journal

by Mike Sunnucks Phoenix Business Journal

A new study released Thursday shows illegal immigrants in Arizona and elsewhere in the U.S. are toiling at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

The report by the Center for Immigration Studies found:

* 73 percent of Arizona's illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children are living in poverty or near poverty.
* The average household income for illegal immigrants in Arizona is $34,800, compared with $68,800 for citizens.
* 69 percent of illegal immigrants in Arizona do not have health insurance.
* 32 percent of Arizona households headed by illegal immigrants receive some kind of government welfare assistance (usually aid for dependent children born in the U.S.).

The Arizona numbers are similar to those in California and nationally.

Most illegal immigrants move to Arizona, California and Texas from extreme poverty in Mexico and Latin America. They often work in low-paying, labor-intensive jobs in construction, food service, landscaping and agriculture.

The CIS report estimates there are more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., including 579,000 in Arizona, 2.8 million in California and 1.7 million in Texas.

For some in Managua, home is a garbage dump

from the San Antonio News Express

By Bonnie Kavoussi
Special to the Express-News

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Near the historical center of this country's capital city, along the lake, lies a giant garbage dump. Although many people burn their trash outside their homes, this is where the rest of the garbage of Managua ends up. It is such a large dump that the locals have a name for it — La Chureca.

Piles of tires, cardboard, bags, paper, torn clothes and dead animals stretch for miles beyond sight. Then, an abandoned boy rises from the muck. Naked and covered in dirt, he wanders through the leftovers of a city larger than San Antonio. That is when one realizes — this trash dump is what he and some 2,000 others call home.

During my two-week stay last June with my friend Renata Barreto and her family, I was struck by how widespread the poverty was. Every time Renata's family would drive me around, I'd glimpse the faces of the poor and wonder about their life stories. Even as I grew more thankful for the comfortable estate where I was staying, I became determined to experience Nicaragua on the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

So, one Saturday, I decided to explore the streets of Managua in the same way that Express-News reporter Vince Davis drives the streets of San Antonio every Wednesday, looking for a story. Since I had the fortune of shadowing Davis as an Express-News intern on a few of his reporting trips, I knew the basics about how to find a story and interview people.

Renata's aunt, Karla Grace Montenegro del Carmen, gave me the name of a trustworthy taxi driver who drove me around the streets of Managua for 21/2 hours. He was an excellent judge of which places were safe to stop at and which weren't.

Before the trip, Renata's grandmother, Gloria Montalvan, had asked, "Which parts of Managua do you want to see?"

"The poorest parts," I said immediately.

"Then you should go to La Chureca."

Remembering that suggestion, I asked the taxi driver to take me to the trash dump.

Our arrival must have been a sight to behold — a cab slowly driving through mountains of debris as hundreds of people paused from picking through the trash to stare up at us.

Throughout La Chureca, clusters of shacks dot the landscape. They're made of cardboard, plastic, plywood, metal, mattresses — all material dug up from the piles of trash surrounding them.

In one complex live 15 family members. They have made these few shacks, each spanning several square yards. The family has lived in La Chureca for 20 years.

The first question that might come to mind is why any human being would willingly live in such conditions. Reyna Isabel Arbizu, 49, explains, "We moved here because we didn't have work. We don't have to pay anything to live here."

Santo Ramón Aguirre Ríos, 42, the taxi driver who drove me to La Chureca, says that they have access to everything they need to survive right there.

In a perverse sort of way, Ríos is right. A hose next to this family's shacks provides water to bathe in and to drink. In the piles of trash surrounding them, there are leftover clothes to wear, leftover food to eat. But is it possible to maintain one's dignity while living off everyone else's leftovers?

Celia Gutierrez Arbizu, 19, says that the adults in her family work in La Chureca from 6 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, seven days a week. Their mission: to find recyclables in the trash heaps and sell them to a nearby facility. This work is the only gainful activity available to most residents here.

"When we don't work, we don't eat," says Celia.

At the end of the week, according to Celia, they earn only 50 córdobas — far less than $3.

The family has hardly any clothes. Reyna, using an old sewing machine, has sewn together the few articles they do have from torn-away cloth.

Stray chickens wander around the shacks, as they do around all of Managua. These chickens will hopefully provide food for them — the freshest that they can find. Otherwise, they dig through the trash for food and smell it to see whether it is good or bad to eat.

It is a gross understatement when Celia says it's boring to live in La Chureca. There's no protection from disease, let alone any form of entertainment. They walk around barefoot as pieces of glass dot the ground.

There is a doctor in La Chureca, but he charges too much money for the family to afford. Manuel Villareyna, 5, is currently suffering from pneumonia. Elias Villareyna, 5 months old, already has a severe rash along his neck and buttocks and sobs from pain. No one in the family knows what has caused Elias' rash.

Their only hope for health is not in medicine or a health-care system, but in God. Andre Gutierrez Arbizu, 27, prays, "By the grace of God, we won't get sick."

On a wall outside the main shack hangs a campaign poster of Daniel Ortega, the socialist president of Nicaragua. It claims in bold letters in Spanish, "United, Nicaragua triumphs! Reconciliation, peace, work, well-being!"

The people here are the poorest of the poor. Everywhere in Managua — even in the suburbs — there is poverty, but nothing like La Chureca. Here, human beings are reduced to eating the same food as stray dogs. It is as if society has discarded not only unwanted things in this dump, but also unwanted people.

Nonetheless, there is still a glimmer of hope in this trash heap. That hope is education. All the children in the family attend the Colegio Cristiano de Esperanza — the Christian School of Hope — for free. The children speak positively about the quality of teaching there. They all wish to attend college someday.

Manuel Villareyna, 5, hopes to become a doctor when he grows up. His mom, Celia, smiles and says, "He wants to be able to cure me when I get sick."

Even though they wear trash, eat trash, and live in trash, the children refuse to believe that they are trash.

Victoria Villareyna, 6, giggles when a photo is taken of her and shouts, "Take another one."

Gazing into the camera, she hugs her siblings tightly, determined to show that even though her family does not have much, they still have plenty of love.

Bonnie Kavoussi, kavoussi@fas., is a former member of the San Antonio Express-News Teen Team. She's currently a freshman at Harvard University.

Speech not enough: poverty advocates; Affordable housing, minimum wage key to tackling issue

from The Sudbury Star

Diane Guertin rolled her eyes when she heard the provincial government pledged to reduce poverty in its Thursday afternoon throne speech.

"We've been hearing that same thing for about 20 years," she said. "There hasn't been any improvement in all those years."

Guertin should know. As a single mother raising two girls, she hovered around the poverty line working two jobs to make ends meet.

Now on Ontario Disability Support Program, Guertin said she was lucky to get into co-op housing a few months ago with her daughter and granddaughter.

"We had to stay in a friend's basement for a little while while we waited. There was just nowhere to go," said the 49-year-old.

Guertin is also on the front lines of the poverty battle, offering her services as a volunteer cook at The Samaritan Centre on Elgin Street.

"I do it because I love the people. This is one way I can help them," she said.

If it were up to her, the government would ensure Sudbury had an adequate supply of affordable housing. The minimum wage should also be higher, she said.

"How do you support two or three kids on minimum wage? You can't," she said.

New Lt.-Gov. David Onley read Thursday's speech from the throne on behalf of the Liberal government.

It outlined a plan to establish government targets for reducing poverty, including a $45-million dental plan for low-income families.

A new cabinet committee will begin work developing poverty indicators and targets and a focused strategy for making clear-cut progress on reducing child poverty," Onley said as he delivered the speech in a packed legislative chamber to open a new session.

The speech pledges to boost the minimum wage to $10.25 by 2010, increase child-care spaces and increase the new Ontario Child Benefit to $1,100 per child.

"There is going to be a focus on poverty," said Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci. "It's an investment in making Ontario a much stronger place."

His government's "creative" and "collaborative" approach to fighting poverty is going to make a difference, he said.

"Now, we have to be realistic in what our expectations and outcomes are," Bartolucci said, adding there will still be people living in poverty four years from now.

"I think, over the course of the next four years, you will see a very, very, very intense action plan on the part of the provincial government to make a difference," he said.

If politicians are serious about tackling poverty, they would make sure organizations fighting the issue had stable funding, said Tammy VanLimbeek, Elgin Street Mission administrator.

"We don't want funding for initiatives, but stable funding," she said. "Poverty is a long-term issue."

The normally 24-hour mission almost had to close its doors for the overnight hours of the winter season due to a funding crunch.

Community generosity, especially from Cambrian College students and staff, helped the agency reopen its doors at night.

The mission is located at The Samaritan Centre, along with the Blue Door Cafe, the Corner Clinic and First Steps to Freedom.

Jane Ansamaa, program director at First Steps, said the city needs more transitional housing.

Transitional housing provides shelter for homeless people, as well as support so they can gain independence and be successful when they find their own home.

"You can't put a person who is homeless in a home without giving them life skills," Ansamaa said. "Simple things like how to clean the house, shop for groceries and cook a meal."

The Ontario Works rate needs to be increased and people need to be given an opportunity to get the skills to get a job, Ansamaa said.

"There is nothing done to give them an opportunity to succeed," she said.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas said she was "truly, truly disappointed" with the throne speech, calling it an "opportunity missed" to do something about poverty.

The Liberals could have provided some "concrete action that people agree will make a difference in the lives of people living in poverty," said the NDP MPP.

For example, the minimum wage should immediately be raised to $10 an hour, she said.

"Those people need that money now," she said.

Bartolucci said the Liberals campaigned on their timeline to increase the minimum wage, and they are going to stick to it.

Thousands of people are on the waiting list for subsidized housing and more needs to be done to provide child care, Gelinas said.

"Those people cannot wait for a committee to meet and do a report and start thinking," she said. "Those are things that could happen right now and none of that was in the throne speech. That was really disheartening."

Face of poverty

Poverty in Greater Sudbury

14,250 families lived below the poverty level in Greater Sudbury in 2005, down from 14,790 in 2000;

the child poverty rate in Sudbury was 22.3 per cent in 2005;

13,454 Sudburians visited local food banks in March 2006, up from 13,000 in 2005 and 11,000 in 2004.

Source: The Sudbury Community Foundation's 2007 Vital Signs report.

The aisle less taken

from the Worcester Telegram

Fair trade gifts capture holiday spirit for shoppers


There are as many options for gift giving this season as there are philosophies about shopping.

While some are comfortable buying gifts from department stores and online retailers, others have personal and political reasons for preferring less popular venues.

A shortage of expendable cash is one reason Donna Nothe-Choiniere of Hubbardston rarely shops at department stores. Fortunately for her, handmade gifts and shopping in surplus and second-hand stores better fit her philosophy that it is the amount of time, not money, that makes a gift most meaningful.

She pays attention to the interests and needs of the people in her life all year round, plotting to find or make them each something personal for the holidays, whether the ideal gift is something she finds at a fair in the summer and hides until December, or spins and knits herself.

Her husband, Joseph, and their adult sons, Jonah and Ethan, are accustomed to unique gifts from shops, and scarves and vests hand-knitted of handspun yarn from the Choinieres’ sheep and angora rabbits.

“Our first Christmas together, he bartered for a spinning wheel (for a gift for Donna) and I bartered with a woman for yarn to knit him a sweater,” said Mrs. Choiniere. One year, she said, she bartered with a poet, trading a shawl she made for a poem for her husband.

Little has changed over the many years the Choinieres have been together.

“I bartered two Romney (sheep) fleeces for two Shetland (sheep) fleeces, so someone is getting a gift from a Shetland fleece this year,” said Mrs. Choiniere.

Even if money were plentiful, said Mrs. Chioniere, she would avoid discount chain stores and shop in locally owned places to help their owners stay in business and to preserve their uniqueness.

To the Rev. Robert Duebber, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Westminster, the perfect gift serves two purposes — making the recipient happy and helping people in dire circumstances.

The church usually holds a fall sale offering fair trade merchandise to the community. The merchandise, which the church usually buys through A Greater Gift of SERRV International, consists of items made by craftspeople worldwide who are paid a fair wage for their products. Founded in 1949 and originally named the Sales Exchange for Refugees Rehabilitation and Vocation, the nonprofit organization SERRV International has long outgrown its name by expanding its training and fair trade marketing and distribution assistance to craftspeople and farmers in many developing countries.

The church sale also introduces purchasers to A Greater Gift, a nonprofit fair trade company that helps train artisans and pays part of the purchase price for items when placing orders so artisans can buy or raise the raw materials they need. The company abides by the International Fair Trade Association Code of Practice, a spokeswoman said.

Fair trade clothing and food such as coffee, tea and chocolate sold in this country sometimes bears a Fair Trade Certified label.

Beginning last year, said Rev. Duebber, the Women’s Fellowship expanded its fair trade sales to include Beads for Life, which are necklaces, bracelets and other beads made from used magazines, as it is doing again Dec. 9.

“They’re beautiful beads. They’re a lovely, lovely gift,” said Rev. Duebber, who has bought some for friends.

The colorful beads that look like hand-painted gems were first brought to the church through Women’s Fellowship Treasurer Sandra M. Thibodeau, who read about them in a magazine. She learned that women of war-torn Uganda, whose sons and husbands had been killed in the 19-year civil war, make the beads and string them into bracelets and necklaces to pay for food and, in the most successful cases, for their children to go to school.

A nonprofit agency purchases the beads and sells them on behalf of the Ugandan women.

“It’s just heartwarming,” said Mrs. Thibodeau. “The beads are just beautiful and you’d never believe they’re made out of slivers of magazines.”

Melinda B. Miller of Gardner has spread Beads for Life shopping to Sterling, where she teaches at Houghton Elementary School.

“I had worn a couple pieces last year and (teachers) said, ‘Oh, I love them,’ ” Ms. Miller said.

She purchased some of the jewelry with help from Mrs. Thibodeau last spring, and sold more than $1,000 worth at the school.

The bracelets, necklaces and earrings sell for $5 to $30.

This week, she set up shop at the school again because school staff members want to shop between classes for Christmas and other occasions. Ms. Miller said she feels particularly good about the bead sales because she knows a local child who was adopted from Africa, and has learned of the poverty and deprivation there.

“It hits home,” she said.

The Flatt family of Princeton is well-acquainted with fair trade shopping. As shoppers crowded into malls the day after Thanksgiving, the Flatts shopped at Heifer International’s Overlook Farm gift shop in Rutland.

“I think when you say fair trade it’s more important to think of the other side, that it’s not unfair,” said Ann E. Flatt.

Her husband, J.P. Flatt, said that when he shops he always thinks about whether the worker was fairly paid for what he is buying.

Mr. Flatt said he shops international fair trade and also buys from producers who make and sell their own products locally, rather than purchasing mass-produced gifts from department stores. “Local is more likely to be fair trade,” he said.

“We give our family members certificates for flocks of animals,” Mr. Flatt said, referring to the Heifer Project. The Heifer Project sells certificates starting at $20 to provide a starter flock of animals to a poor family, such as chickens for eggs and meat.

Mr. Flatt’s daughter, Carine F. Newberry, formerly of Princeton and now of Oakton, Va., said she gives Heifer Project certificates to her children’s teachers as gifts, showing them the livestock purchased in their names.

In addition to supporting her belief in fair trade, Mrs. Newberry said she enjoys purchasing handmade items because she understands the personal work that goes into them. “I feel a connection to these workers,” she said.

Tom Tompsen, director of International Students and Scholars at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, said he likes the personal feeling of buying handcrafted gifts from a fair trade organization, which he describes as one that has cut out much of the corporate middleman and has paid a fair wage to the crafter.

For the third consecutive year, WPI is hosting a fair trade sale from fair trade gift retailer Ten Thousand Villages. Usually, said Mr. Tompsen, the sale is held earlier in the fall, but this year it is being held in December to give it more of a holiday feel. The sale will be at the Campus Center Lobby at WPI, 100 Institute Road, Worcester.

Where you can find local
fair trade shopping

• Heifer International’s Overlook Farm Gift Shop, 216 Wachusett St., Rutland. The shop sells musical instruments, gloves, hats, home decor, cards, music, chocolate and more from this country and far beyond. Shop hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

• The Women’s Fellowship of First Congregational Church of Westminister will sell Beads for Life after the 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. services Dec. 9 at the church, 138 Main St., Westminister.

• The International Student Council of WPI will sponsor a sale from Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade gift retailer, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 3 through Dec 7 in the Campus Center lobby at WPI, 100 Institute Road, Worcester.

Where you can find online
fair trade shopping

TransFair USA
Global Exchange's Holiday Gift Section
Fair Trade Federation
Lists mail order and online catalogs for fair trade products at
SERVV International
World of Good
Ten Thousand Villages
Equal Exchange

FDI Recognized As Poverty Eradication Tool

from Jones Bahamas

The policy of creating an atmosphere for foreign direct investment – as done by successive Bahamian governments – has been recognized by the heads of Commonwealth countries as a tool for economic growth and poverty eradication.

The policy of creating an atmosphere for foreign direct investment – as done by successive Bahamian governments – has been recognized by the heads of Commonwealth countries as a tool for economic growth and poverty eradication.

In a communiqué issued following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala, Uganda, the heads also stressed the importance of creating an atmosphere that encourages domestic investment as well.

"They recognized that improvements in the business environment and overall regulatory framework which reduce investor costs are crucial to promoting private investment," the communiqué said.

"They also called for an increased focus on developing domestic financial markets and providing opportunities for domestic investors. Heads of Government encouraged the use of home country incentives to promote investment in least developed countries (LCDs), small states and other developing countries."

The communiqué said heads recognized that improving access to financial services for the poor and vulnerable is "an essential element in the fight against poverty and called for continued efforts to integrate them into the formal financial system."

The heads spoke of the importance of "micro-finance" and "micro-credit" in providing access to capital and inclusive financial services for people living in poverty.

Another matter of importance for the heads was the continued facilitation by the Commonwealth Secretariat of dialogue between the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Commonwealth countries on the issue of "a global level playing field and transparency and information exchange in tax matters."

The heads called for constructive engagement on the outstanding issues.

The CHOGM communiqué also documented the heads’ concern at the recent increase in frequency and intensity of natural disasters and their often devastating social, economic and environmental impact, particularly on Small Island Developing States.

The heads encouraged small states to continue to implement "outward-oriented development strategies" to help them overcome their vulnerabilities.

"Heads of Government further welcomed the newly formed Small States Network for Economic Development, set up under the auspices of the government of Malta and the World Bank, and expressed the hope that the network would be an effective tool in fostering sustainable economic development in Small States," the document said.

Small states were urged to build their economic resilience by making appropriate interventions in four areas: macro-economic strategy; micro-economic market efficiency; good governance, and social cohesion.

The heads recognized that an important element in development strategies for small states is the operation of the labour market, and urged small states to implement measures on both the demand and supply sides of the labour market to address youth unemployment and the migration of the highly skilled.

Geldof unveils African trade plan

from The BBC

By Konstantin Rozhnov
Business reporter, BBC News

Poverty campaigner Bob Geldof and Africa advocacy group Data have introduced an African Trade Initiative ahead of the EU-Africa summit.

Its aim is "to ensure that Africa is able to grow through increased exports and regional trade".

But Data argues European Union is "rushing" Africa into "potentially unfair" trade agreements.

Mr Geldof also told the BBC that the developed world had failed to deliver its promises on Africa.

"The initiative emphasizes the urgent need for further opening of EU and US markets to African products, reform of subsidies that harm African producers and enhanced aid for trade commitments that address Africa's supply-side challenges," Data said.

Trade agreements

Among other things, the African Trade Initiative highlights EU efforts to introduce new trade deals with former Europe's colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Critics of the EU's trade agreements are gambling with livelihoods in the developing world
Peter Mandelson and Louis Michel, EU commissioners
These Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) are set to replace earlier preferential trade agreements that linked the EU and a lot of its trading partners but have been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization and expire at the end of the year.

Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda accepted EPA earlier this week.

Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, and Louis Michel, the EU development commissioner, have written in The Guardian that "critics of the EU's trade agreements are gambling with livelihoods in the developing world".

Aid for trade

But opponents argue EPA could damage some of the world's poorest countries, as their markets will be opened to unfair competition from EU.

It's time for the Old Economies to come to Africa
Bob Geldof
"The African countries that have signed will get 100% access to EU markets, but in return they have had to agree to specific tariff reductions on EU products," Data said .

Mr Geldof also said that "we should not enforce trade liberalization on the poor".

Trade is the key to deal with the extreme poverty, but it is not happening because Africa's commodity-based economies are not attracting enough money, he said.

Mr Geldof thinks the developed countries should protect Africa through "aid for trade" scheme as US did for Europe after the WWII, and it will "stop people dying on our TV screens".

The Old Economies used to be afraid of China, and now "people are excited about prospects of China and India", he said.

Reaching out

The Star Malaysia

Story and picture by ANNE HASLAM

A Unicef-funded NGO’s efforts to help a group of people trapped by the ravages of HIV/AIDS have proved successful.

SINASAMY*, 45, is lying weakly on the sofa in his Paya Nahu flat in Sungai Petani, Kedah. He had been having a fever for a while and severe abdominal pain, and his testicles and lymph nodes are swollen – all signs that suggest the onset of full-blown AIDS. Having tested positive for the HIV virus in 1995, he has only now started showing symptoms of the disease.

Although an intravenous drug user for most of his life and having been in and out of jail for the last 25 years, his wife and children bear no anger towards him. In fact, when asked about it Nagamah, 41, said she could not be angry when he was already so sick. She goes about her chores cheerfully while tending to the needs of her husband in their two room Government flat where they live with their three children, Primala, 20, who is mentally retarded, and 19- and 17-year-old Rakesh and Sarala who are working in a factory. Primala has never attended school and the other two dropped out in Year Six due to poverty.

Sinasamy seems to have no regrets that his prolonged use of drugs had led him to this situation. “At least I got the virus from using drugs and not from prostitutes,” he boasts. His two working children continue to feed his habit by spending some RM100 every month on drugs to lessen his pain. They don’t want to see him suffer and would rather buy the drugs than pay the RM20 taxi fare to the hospital, which they say they cannot afford. Because of his continuous drug use, Sinasamy has defaulted many times in his treatment, taking only paracetamol for his fever and pain.

Besides Sinasamy, there are at least eight other registered cases of HIV/AIDS in the Paya Nahu flats, four of whom, including a child, have since died. They suffered the same fate due to their ignorance and apathy to their condition.

This, however, may only be the tip of the iceberg as Paya Nahu is a high-risk area where poverty and ignorance have forced many to turn to drugs as a form of escapism. An informal survey by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) shows that there were more than 500 drug addicts in the area and one, who is now in a rehabilitation centre, was arrested 36 times.

The Paya Nahu flat residents, who total around 3,000, were former slum dwellers who were relocated by the state Government. About 60% are Malays, 30% Indians and 10% Chinese.

Over a year ago, Prostanita, a Unicef-funded NGO, started reaching out to the womenfolk in the area by organising monthly sessions to educate them on HIV/AIDS as well as empower them to make good decisions and choices.

Chairwoman Dr Meera Koay said the women, among them 40 single mothers, had a poor educational background and lacked knowledge of HIV/AIDS, which made them a vulnerable group. The women were targeted as they are vital links to their families.

“We started by educating the women on the dangers of HIV/AIDS. We also taught preventative measures and safe sex to wives of HIV-infected drug addicts and are also empowering them through learning skills so they can become self-supporting,” said Dr Meera.

The former Kedah deputy health director said the sessions for the womenfolk included small group discussions with question-and-answer sessions and was a place to share their real life stories in an open and non-discriminatory manner. Many of these women were afraid to come out and talk about their problems for fear of stigmatisation, which was one of the topics at a recent session.

Sadly, the poverty situation in Paya Nahu has made the residents apathetic and Prostanita had to become the link between them and the health services. The organisation’s 15 members often had to make arrangements for hospitalisation, and on one occasion a member had to call for an ambulance when an HIV-infected person refused to go to the hospital despite being severely ill. Prostanita also arranges for HIV blood testing from time to time.

Part of the organisation’s work at Paya Nahu is to make home visits to the HIV-infected families and offer emotional support and counselling, at the same time tracing defaulters who stopped treatment. They also help with poverty eradication by getting the residents the necessary benefits from the Social Welfare Department and other relevant authorities.

The women-to-women programme has proved successful as those who received training at the sessions are disseminating the information to friends and neighbours in the flats. Prostanita is able to reach 35 women directly as they regularly participate in the sessions.

To attract the women to the sessions, activities like cooking and make-up classes as well as medical camps are held and the women are also given gifts as incentives for their attendance.

“We estimate another 100 women and between 600 and 700 children are reached indirectly and will benefit from the sessions”, Dr Meera said with the hope that Prostanita’s ongoing efforts in Paya Nahu will bear fruit.

School leaver Kogila Gunasegaran, 19, who has not missed a session since the programme started, said she has benefited greatly and was now using the information and knowledge to reach out to others. Kogila, who helps her mother at a food stall at the flats, said she speaks to everyone she meets about the HIV/AIDS virus and since attending the talks and sessions, is more confident to share what she knows with others.

Dr Meera was grateful that Unicef had chosen to fund Prostanita’s activities for low-income residents. A representative visited the area recently to shoot video footage for a programme.

Poverty Coalition addresses the "working poor"

from My Kawartha

Bill Huskinson tells a story he believes says it all about the war on poverty.
"It's about a man who stood on a riverbank, watching dozens of people float by, struggling in the water."

"He was trying to rescue them. He kept going in and pulling people to shore, one by one. But, he couldn't keep up; there were too many."

"As the people were swept away, the rescuer was getting more upset, until somebody said to him, 'Why don't you go up the river and see how these people are ending up in the water in the first place?'"

Mr. Huskinson chairs the City of Kawartha Lakes Poverty Coalition, which is made up of representatives from various community service groups.

"The biggest problem is politicians," he said. "Politicians at every level of government, including this one [at the City] have a significant apathy on issues surrounding poverty."

Mr. Huskinson is no stranger to hardship and desperate times, having seen them firsthand as a child of the Great Depression.

"I still carry memories of the Depression with me," he said, "even though there were good things that came out of it."

The Coalition is made up of representatives from community service organizations (such as the United Way) and health and employment professionals, including the City's social services department.

Its mandate is twofold - to raise awareness of poverty issues and to take action to alleviate them.

"I think there is still a stigma attached to being poor," Mr. Huskinson said.
"Most people are not in any kind of relationship with a person who is disabled or impoverished. There is still the idea that if you are poor, then you must be lazy."
"But, it's not easy to get good jobs here. A lot of people are working low-paying jobs and they are beaten right down. They can't get ahead. Poverty is a state in which people don't have the means for a quality life."

Mr. Huskinson pointed out that while housing developments continue to sprout up around the city, it is "filling a demand" for an income level that can afford such homes.

But, such development, he said, is not addressing the lack of affordable housing for a growing number of people who need just that. Because they can't afford a decent place to live, many are forced to live in squalor and sometimes pay exorbitant rents for the 'privilege.'

"I blame a lot on landlords," he said. "There are a lot of people who are making big money [as landlords] and we still have these appalling pockets of slums. It contributes to the cycle of poverty. Sometimes I wonder if we have an 'underground' lobby of landlords who don't want to see anything done."

A retired firefighter with 30 years' service, he told a horrific story of a fire in Lindsay.

"It was about 25 years ago. We had a double house fire on Glenelg Street. Back then, we didn't have student residences like we do now, and students would live in the older houses. When we got there, the houses were fully involved. In one of them, there were four or five students on the second floor."

"But, there were also four kids who were living in the attic."
"Those four kids died that night. I will never forget that fire, and hearing the cries of those kids. They were crying out, 'please help me; please help me.'"

The horror of that night stayed with him, he says, and he remembers it now, when he sees areas of the city that are slowly decaying.
Mr. Huskinson said the attics of older homes are often still rented out. "You see a light in the window, so you know." And, he's glad the Ontario Fire Code has now forced landlords to make older buildings fire safe.

Many of these same houses are now the addresses of the poor, he added.
Mr. Huskinson said he firmly believes politicians need to get more involved in the fight against poverty, and he would like nothing better than to meet with landlords.
"I think it would be terrific to sit down with them and see what solutions they could offer," he said. The Coalition also plans to meet with Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Barry Devolin and MPP Laurie Scott in the near future.

Mr. Huskinson said an estimated 40 per cent of families who use area food banks have children who are affected by poverty. And, the Toronto Star reported last week that a study conducted by the health department in 2000 showed 60 per cent of children aged one to six years lived with a single parent, low-income home.

"Poverty is growing everywhere, not just here," Mr. Huskinson said, adding the inability to 'get ahead' in life; the constant struggle, slowly destroys incentive and hope. He said he believes an estimated 1,000 families in the city have "no earned income."

And, although they may be on social services, he points out that is not "getting ahead."

Penny Barton Dyke, executive director of the United Way City of Kawartha Lakes, says the organization funds 14 non-member agencies and she agrees that poverty is a growing problem in the community.

At a national conference last year, she learned poverty is among "the top three issues in every province, number one in some."

"We (at the United Way in the city) have taken a leap of faith in that we are sitting down at the table with some of the organizations dealing with poverty, to get a feel for what they're really faced with," she said. "It's not just about doing fundraisers."

Ms Barton Dyke said affordable housing is a premier issue for people, and that job losses such as those at Fleetwood Canada and, more recently Promens Inc. means the numbers of "working poor" are increasing.

"Families who were struggling before will be worse in the next three to six months, especially if these people don't find other jobs," she said.
She said she recalls when there were six to eight food banks started in the city, and now, there are "many more."

"The numbers of people using the food banks have gone up, because people are hungry. And, they are hungry because they don't have enough money...more and more people are struggling to pay their bills and feed and clothe their families."

She agreed with Mr. Huskinson, who she described as "a champion" of poverty issues, that decent, affordable housing should be a priority for the city. She described a place one agency found for a young mother and her children to live.

"But, it turned out the toilet wasn't working properly. The feces were actually coming out of the toilet and running down a wall into the room where the children were playing.

"There are places here...where the conditions are deplorable," she said.
"Poverty is a long, systemic problem. You can't just keep band-aiding it. We need to get community groups and politicians on board so they can help get to the root causes of it. Thank goodness the utility companies, for example, have the Winter Warmth program, which the United Way also supports. It saved 100 people from losing their homes last year by helping them pay their heating costs."

Ms Barton Dyke said many people are just a step away from poverty, because they can't manage to save for an emergency.
"A major car repair, or a fridge breaks down, and it's disastrous for them," she said.

Ms Barton Dyke said a recent national study showed one in six Canadian children live in poverty.
"One in six children? Canada is considered a rich country. We're not doing something right."

This year's campaign, she added is at about 40 per cent of its target of $365,000. "We have a long way to go. But, poverty is an example of why it's so important for us to reach that goal. Single parents, seniors losing their homes, people with special needs; seeing it firsthand left us stunned."

The Poverty Coalition will hold its next meeting in January.
Mr. Huskinson said he welcomes any landlords who would like to discuss affordable housing concerns to contact him at 324-4432.

Sooner Lions Club helping others with microlending

from The Norman Transcript

Microcredit and microlending is a growing movement not only in America but around the world.

And from those who've gotten involved, it's making a real difference in the lives of those who simply need a loan to get their startup businesses off the ground.

In Norman, the Sooner Lions Club has decided to get involved with the leading microfinance organization This group allows people to get involved through their Web site and choose an entrepreneur, usually in a third world country, and loan them money.

"People that are loaning the money will loan from $25 to $50 and those borrowing the money will get between $600 to $4,000," said Ted Smith, program chairman for the Sooner Lions Club.

Smith said he first became familiar with microfinance and Kiva after seeing a program about it on PBS. He further familiarized himself with microbanking by having a speaker at the Lions Club who talked about a book by Phil Smith and Eric Thurman called "A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking and the Business Solution to Ending Poverty."

The book, as noted in a number of positive reviews at, demonstrates that microbanking is making a major difference not just in the lives of readers but in the lives of those who are being helped by the process.

"Myself and a couple of other friends had gotten involved with Kiva and thought it'd be a good use our money," Smith said.

The group invested $1,000 that was loaned through Kiva.

And now, with a Kiva loan committee having been in place for three months, Sooner Lions Club committee members, President Ron Aughe, past president David Donaldson, second Vice President James Tittle and Membership Chair Bruce Roberts and Smith all have committed to make sure the money gets to those in need.

"Currently, we've made five loans of $50 each to a farmer in Togo, a car repairman in Uzbekistan, a grocer in Kenya and a farmer and miller, both in Cameroon," Smith said.

As for the Sooner Lions Club, Smith said they will make five $50 loans in January.

The loans, Smith said, are usually paid off within a year or so.

"Kiva loans have a 99.99 percent repayment rate," Smith said. "To date they've loaned over $46 million."

He added that he hopes the club can lend more money to Kiva in the future.

Aughe, meanwhile, said he has learned a lot about Kiva through Smith's involvement and is pleased his club can get involved.

For more information on microbanking and efforts to end poverty using this method, go to For those interested in getting involved in the Sooner Lions Club, call Ron Aughe at 364-1182.

European Aid Still Trumps Tourism in Colombia

from Deutsche Welle

The Colombian government has launched a charm offensive aimed at luring international tourists. But it's no easy task as violence, drugs and poverty remain even as the country has entered a relatively peaceful time.

Cartagena, its graceful city center hugging the Caribbean coast, is a colonial-era jewel encircled by modern day poverty and persistent violence. Home to more than 1 million people, the city illustrates the complex situation faced by Colombia as it tries to return to normalcy after decades of armed conflict.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization met in Cartagena this week and Colombia officials were eager to change perceptions of the country. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, whose law-and-order policies have brought some stability to the country, bore the message that his country was ready for European and American tourists to arrive and open their wallets.

"You are visiting a country that has suffered greatly, but has a tremendous amount of hope," he said.

Real world problems

But even as delegates met, the reality of life outside Cartagena's heavily-guarded convention center seeped in and painted a bleak picture of life with few public services and no police protection.

Between 2 million and 3 million Colombians have fled their homes to escape ongoing paramilitary hostilities and are living in extreme poverty in the suburbs of cities such as Cartagena. Newspapers also regularly carry reports of murders and other drug-related violence.

Uribe said he knows it's news like this which has kept the number of Europeans who visit Colombia each year small: about 125,700 arrived in the first nine months of 2007. Most came from former colonial power Spain.

"Terrorism puts a stop to all our possibilities," he said referring to fighting between left-wing guerillas, right-wing paramilitaries, the military and drug lords. "Without terrorism, we'll have tourism. Without terrorism, we'll be happy."

Some positives, many problems

The Colombian government points to statistics which show that in recent years the murder rate has been cut in half and kidnappings are down 75 percent. The country is also experiencing an economic boom officials hope will help bring in tourist dollars and help meet an ambitious goal of attracting 4 million foreign tourists to the country by 2010.

The economy had 6.8 percent growth in 2006 and is headed for 7.48 percent this year. In Cartagena, luxury hotels are springing up and it's become a routine stop on the Caribbean cruise circuit.

But even as the tourist industry proclaims its slogan, "Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay," and luxury hotels spring up along the country's beaches and growth heads to 7.48 percent this year, the government acknowledges that parts of the country are not safe for visitors.

EU aid a lifeline to locals

While the Colombian government said that eventually tourism will improve people's lives, it will remain dependent on international development aid.

The European Union will provide 160 million euros ($216 million) in humanitarian aid to Colombia between 2007-2013. But unlike the United States, which focuses on giving money to fight Colombia's illicit drug trade, the EU will direct aid directly to victims and non-governmental organizations which help them.

European donors are a lifeline for many local aid organizations in the country, but money -- from both tourism and the government -- doesn't always appear as promised, said Maria Amparo Gomez, a Dominican nun who runs a school in Cartagena.

Police crack down on homeless activity, advocates question motives

from the Nashville City Paper

By Amanda N. Maynord,

Metro police say 454 people have been charged with “quality of life” violations downtown since the department began an initiative focused on cleaning up the area in late July.

Although police officials refrain from labeling individuals as homeless, the persons charged have been homeless or chronically homeless.

“There’s been a consorted effort by the police department since the summer to strongly address quality of life issues downtown,” said Don Aaron, Metro Police spokesperson.

Quality of life violations include public drunkenness, indecent exposure and trespassing.

Police officials said despite criticism from homeless advocates that police are “picking” on the homeless population, they are attempting to help many of them and prosecuting any persons who break the law.

“We don’t categorize people, we don’t go out looking for a category of people,” said Cmdr. Andy Garrett of the Central precinct. “We go out looking for violators.”

Garrett said his officers are arresting or giving citations to chronic offenders, usually for public drunkenness, indecent exposure or trespassing.

Homeless advocates say the increased prosecution is only compounding the issue of homelessness, not helping it.

“We’re committed to a positive relationship with the police department — at the same time, their current policies… are resulting in an exacerbation of poverty through a waste of tax dollars by giving people citations and jail time for trying to survive,” said Matt Leber, organizer of the Nashville Homeless Power Project.

He claims that pressure on the police department from the Nashville Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit management organization aimed at improving downtown, and businesses has led to the “quality of life” initiative.

Garrett said he had received complaints from tourists, residential citizens and businesses.

Cindy Demuth said she has been homeless since April and was arrested a month ago for trespassing while sleeping in a parking garage downtown.

“I was just trying to stay dry and warm,” Demuth said.

She said because she didn’t have identification, she ended up spending the night in jail and now, because police are spending more time downtown, it’s become increasingly hard to find a place to sleep.

“You can’t sleep anywhere anymore,” she said. “I actually have a pretty OK spot where I am now, but the hard part is if it rains.”

Garrett said he wants to help those chronic offenders — people who have been homeless for several years — “break the cycle” by providing them information on social services in town and transportation to shelters.

“We’ve got to help these people to break this cycle,” Garrett said. “If we don’t, they’ll die on the streets and I don’t want to find another body on the street.”

Since August, police officers have offered to assist 668 individuals out of the downtown area by referring them to a Metro social service agency or transporting them to shelters like the Nashville Rescue Mission or Room at the Inn.

Out of those, 558 declined the assistance.

“People don’t realize when they give food and clothing and money to somebody that’s living on the street they’re enabling them to die on the street,” Garrett said. “I don’t want to find the next body frozen under a wool blanket somebody gave them — it breaks my heart.”

Leber said he agreed that police are simply doing their job, but he wishes someone would publicly recognize that the initiative “is wasting tax dollars when we could use half that money to house double the amount of people.”

Police officials said they’re watching closely a bill proposed by Metro Councilman Walter Hunt that would ban “aggressive” panhandling — defined as the personal solicitation of money that “would cause a reasonable person to believe that the person is being threatened with imminent bodily injury.”

The Homeless Power Project accused the Council of carrying an anti-homeless and anti-poor agenda when the bill came before the Council for the first time this year at its last meeting.

The bill is up for a second reading at next week’s Metro Council meeting.

Group offers hope to inner-city enterprise

from Business Edge

Vancouver program backs micro-business at street level

By Monte Stewart - Business Edge

Sylvain Delorme used to inject himself with needles.

Now, he removes them from the back alleys of Canada's poorest neighbourhood.

A former drug addict and alcoholic, Delorme is part of a growing group of entrepreneurs who are trying to help themselves and revitalize Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside at the same time.

He owns and operates Damage Rubbish Removal and Cleanup Inc., which disposes of dirty needles and unwanted furniture, removes debris from construction sites and other premises, and spray-washes the neighbourhood before crews come in to shoot movies and TV shows.

"At the start, (areas) smell like urine and then smell like lemon," he says.

Delorme, 40, is one of about 75 entrepreneurs helped annually by the non-profit Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS).

The group aims to help poor residents of Vancouver's inner city - many of whom, like Delorme, have been homeless at times - turn their talents into micro-businesses.

"My business plan was no-barrier employment for people on the Downtown Eastside," says Delorme, who hires street kids and young at-risk adults to help him when he has enough business. "I'm giving opportunity to people that don't have any and people that normally would not be hired on the spot because of their hygiene or their presentation."

EMBERS provides low-cost business training and support to individuals. It recently received $190,000 in federal funding through the Department of Western Economic Diversification to assist entrepreneurs such as Delorme.

Services and programs include courses on how to start a company; business coaching, which includes advice on how to prepare business plans, apply for loans and launch, market and operate firms; financial literacy; mentorships that last up to three years; and business support services that include access to phones, computers, bookkeeping and mail.

In conjunction with Vancity Credit Union, EMBERS also offers a plan that matches a participant's savings three-to-one. Participants save up to $600 and receive a maximum of $1,800. The money essentially serves as a grant and does not have to be repaid. Vancity has provided $85,000 to the program.

"EMBERS is about building assets," says Delorme. "It's very difficult for me to put together $10,000-$15,000. For most of us in North America, it's the same. We're a payday away from living on the street."

He started his firm in 2005 after experiencing burnout as a street worker with the Downtown Youth Action Centre. But he has struggled to keep his firm rolling - literally.

The business operated for about eight months until the engine in his "clunker of a truck" expired, he says. "I stopped the business for another seven months and I just started it back a few months ago."

He acquired two other clunkers, one from a friend and the other from a tow-truck operator.

He's now generating about $3,000-$6,000 per month in revenue. "(Business) is poor right now," he says. "I struggle."

Marcia Nozick, executive director of EMBERS, says her group is starting to make a difference for people who want to improve their lives. She says EMBERS has helped launch about 111 firms since she started the program in 2001.

"We're giving a hand up - not a handout," says Nozick. "We're helping people to, really, help themselves."

Nozick says EMBERS tries to fill in the gaps for many programs that don't offer support to entrepreneurs when they are getting ready to launch. Some participants do not start businesses because they find an entrepreneur's life is not for them, but others - like all business owners - seek to fulfil their dreams.

"It's not just having a job and working for somebody," said Nozick. "They're doing what they want to do."

Now, she dreams of expanding EMBERS to include a loan program to help micro-businesses grow larger. She would also like to see similar programs set up across the country.

The Western Economic Diversification contribution comes from the $5 million it contributed to the Vancouver Agreement, a federal-provincial-municipal pact that channels funds into economic diversification, health and housing programs designed to ensure long-term economic growth on the Downtown Eastside.

Ottawa and the province initially each contributed $5 million and Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberal government added another $3.75 million.

The City of Vancouver provides in-kind goods and services, including space in city-owned buildings, zoning and development cost compensation, incentives for the preservation of heritage buildings and capital-cost assistance.

Through the deal, Western Economic Diversification is also funding the building opportunities program, which helps companies on the Downtown Eastside that have five employees or more.

Cathy Chalupa, manager of urban sustainable communities for Western Economic Diversification, says the two social agencies work together to help Downtown Eastside clients.

"Change happens slowly," she says. "We think (EMBERS) is a good driver."

Western Economic Diversification has helped a similar program known as SEED in Winnipeg, and, through the Western Canada Business Service Network, has helped fund "community futures" corporations that include women's enterprise and francophone development organizations, primarily in rural areas.

Michael Steeves, co-ordinator of the Toronto-based Homelessness Action Group, says Ottawa must develop many more programs such as EMBERS.

He suggests the programs should include a screening process to ensure participants have the wherewithal to develop companies, while established businesses must provide mentors that can guide them through the startup process.

"We're talking big picture here," he says. "You'd want them set up so that they're not just creating dependence or make-work stuff, but are actually getting people on their feet and can sustain them over the longer period."

An offshoot of the Out of the Cold program that provides food and shelter at Toronto-area churches, the Homelessness Action Group lobbies government to provide affordable housing and attempts to get charitable groups to develop non-profit housing.

It also tries to educate people about the importance of ending homelessness.

"We get out on the street, too, and do demonstrations around poverty and housing, but we're not going to hit people over the head with our posters and placards," he says. "But we will go and see the politicians and pressure them to do the right thing."

With the right coaching, Steeves says, impoverished young people would probably have some pretty good ideas on what they can do to make a living.

But he believes any entrepreneurial program is only a small part of the solution necessary to end homelessness.

Poverty is hazardous for Belgians' health

from Expatica

BRUSSELS - There is an ever widening health gap between the rich and the poor in Belgium. People from lower income groups suffer more from chronic illness, handicaps, depression and sleeping disorders. People with a low level of education have fewer healthy years in their life and they don't live as long either.

This is evident from the 2007 Annual Report on Poverty and Social Exclusion, presented Thursday by the University of Antwerp. The difference in the health situations between rich and poor can partly be explained by lifestyle. Poor people tend to smoke more, drink too much alcohol more often, and have worse diets. Another explanation is that poor people live under more stress.

Although the Belgian Health Care System has an excellent reputation, a growing number of Belgians are unable to pay the portion of doctor fees that is not covered by the insurance. Some 17% of poor people say that they postpone medical care because of the cost. Over recent years, medical costs have risen. For poor people, health care weighs heavily on the family budget.

10.7% of the population in Flanders live under the poverty line. Last year it was 11.3%. For Belgium as a whole, 14.7% of the population live under the poverty line (compared to 14.8% last year).

What is the poverty line?
The poverty line for an individual is €850 gross per month. For a couple the poverty level is €1,233 gross per month, and for a single parent with two children, the level is €1,315. Noteworthy is that the number of single parents that live under the poverty line in Flanders has increased from 27.6% to 35.1%.

The 2007 Annual Report on Poverty and Social Exclusion also shows that prevention campaigns often do not reach poor people.

While the number of poor people in Flanders is not growing, the gap between the rich and poor is getting bigger.

The researchers at Antwerp University are calling for more structural measures to help lift people out of poverty.

The current welfare payments are lower than the poverty level. A single person living on full welfare gets some 20% less than the poverty level.

Bugweri Aspirant to Fight Poverty

from All Africa

New Vision (Kampala)

By Moses Nampala

Godfrey Nabongho, an spirant in the Bugweri county by-election, has asked the people to vote for him, saying he will fight poverty through afforestration.

"My immediate priority when I become MP would be to mobilise the community to grow particular species of trees that can easily fetch you money," he told a rally at Buyanga trading centre.

Nabongho also promised to offer seedlings for free.

He said he would lobby for electricity and install rice and maize milling machines in the county.

Lack of electricity, Nabongho noted, had forced the villagers to sell their agricultural products at give-away prices in the raw form, since they could not process them.

The race has attracted seven aspirants including National Resistance Movement's Kirunda Kivejinja, Forum for Democratic Change's Abdu Katuntu and Shaban Nkuutu of the Uganda People's Congress party.

The Supreme Court declared the seat vacant after agreeing with Katuntu's petition that Kivejinja, the Minister for Information and National Guidance, bribed and intimidated voters during the February 2006 race.

Voters will cast their ballots on December 12.

A new idea how to end the 'Circle' of poverty Local social service agencies learn about volunteer approach

from the Wooster Daily Record


WOOSTER -- Representatives of social service agencies and individuals alike gathered Monday to hear details of a new approach to ending poverty.

Scott Miller, of Move the Mountain Leadership Center in Ames, Iowa, said it is possible to dramatically reduce poverty by bringing community resources together and forming relationships with those in poverty.

The current social services system might move a few people out of poverty but is not set up to make a large impact, he said.

"It hasn't gotten any better," and it won't until the community works its way into people's lives, Miller said.

Before founding Move the Mountain, Miller worked for an agency whose statistics were less than impressive. In a five-year period, just 10 percent of the people the agency helped actually got out of poverty -- and most of those people got out because they married someone with a job, Miller said.

"Even if the (Wooster) community decides we don't want to use circles, these ideas can be used in different ways" to help families, Miller said.

The basic premise is to match one person in poverty with a "circle" of volunteers. That circle would include several allies or volunteers who encourage and stick with the person. That also would include a coach, who is a trained professional who knows the social services system and can provide advice. Ad-hoc allies, such as those who help fix computers or plumbing, for example, and peers help complete the circle.

A good pilot program would have 25 circles for families who have a reasonable likelihood of succeeding.

"You can bring in more difficult situations later once you have the full community program going," Miller said.

Allies generally spend an average of 18 months getting to know the person or family, but there is no end date, so if allies and families become friends, they can keep working together as long as they want, Miller said.

The hope is the families who succeed in moving out of poverty will go on to help other families move out of poverty, as well.

"Everyone gives back. Reciprocity is a big word," Miller said.

A full-scale Circles program would include several layers of teams to help recruit and train allies, provide resources and keep focused on the bigger picture.

"When people are locked in poverty, their thinking becomes (locked in) the tyranny of the moment," Miller said.

Poverty in the U.S. also is very isolating, when compared to the Third World, where poverty is more likely to be a universal experience, he said.

"Being in poverty is so scary and so lonely," Miller said. Once people are moved from that sense of isolation, depression and other effects are likely to ease.

Circles has had measurable success, although a large-scale study has not been done yet, Miller said.

Between 80 and 90 people attended Monday's information session at St. James Episcopal Church. Among them was Carla Unkefer, the chief operations officer for Community Action of Wayne/Medina Counties.

She said the Circles concept addresses current barriers to ending poverty that she's observed in her work.

"One of the barriers is the lack of time to build relationships ... and the lack of enough money," Unkefer said.

Agency staff generally have too many families on their caseloads to be able to spend much time on any one case, she said.

"Our staff has to move on. But the people in the community can work with them," Unkefer said.

And Circles "forces a breakdown" in the isolation that nearly all families face, she said.

Brenda Linnick, executive director of United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties, said most social service agencies would be glad for the help.

Local drive aids Rwanda

from The London Free Press

London schools donated thousands of books for pupils in the African nation.

A London woman is gathering schoolbooks for children in poor areas of Rwanda after a trip there that changed her life.

Hannah Priamo, 62, first visited Rwanda two years ago after her friend Cathy Emmerson moved to the country to work in an orphanage.

"You meet children, families and see the need," Priamo said yesterday.

On her visit to the African country, Priamo and her husband Tony brought suitcases of clothing and medical supplies at the request of her friend.

They also bought school exercise books and hundreds of pens to give to children who never had their own supplies before, she said.

Many children in Africa share an exercise book or a pen among four or five students, Priamo said.

Priamo works with Emmerson, who lives in Rwanda, on the non-profit organization PREFER -- Poverty Reduction, Education and Family Empowerment in Rwanda.

Priamo packed a crate yesterday with thousands of books for all different grades and subjects that will be shipped to Rwanda.

She contacted the London District Catholic school board, French immersion schools and French schools around London and Woodstock to fill the crates.

People were very generous with their donations and sent a variety of books for kids in the French-speaking country, she said.

"I literally received thousands."

She felt the books were needed "so that these children will actually have a better chance of making it in school.

"Education is the future to anything, anywhere in the world," Priamo said.

Many of the children grew up in families without parents since the 1994 genocide that claimed 800,000 Rwandans, Priamo said, so teaching the kids family values is just as important as education itself.

The program initially started with a goat project where the animals were given to single or no-parent families in the local community.

Priamo sends back whatever the program needs, from clothing to medicine to schoolbooks.

No starvation death in last 3 years, says government

from Rediff

The government on Friday said no state in the country has recorded any incidents of deaths due to starvation during the last three years.

"No incident of starvation death has been reported by any state or Union territory, including the national capital, so far," Minister of State for Food and Public Distribution Akhilesh Prasad Singh told the Rajya Sabha. He was replying to a question whether many cases of death due to starvation have been reported from various parts of the country and even in the national capital during the last three years.

The minister said the government is allocating foodgrains at subsidised rates for people living Below the Poverty Line, Above the Poverty Line and under Antodaya Anna Yojana and Targeted Public Distribution System for maintaining food security in the country.

In another reply, the minister said the government did not agree with the recommendation of the Abhijit Sen Committee that suggested reintroduction of the universal PDS with uniform central issue price.

"The introduction of universal PDS may result in the PDS losing its focus on meeting the needs of the poor," he said.

Singh said the TPDS was introduced in 1997 aiming at the underprivileged sections of society, as the earlier universal PDS did not adequately focus on the hungry and had an urban bias.

Allocations of rice and wheat for the BPL and AAY families are made at 35 kilograms per family per month, while they vary for APL households.

Poverty fight starts at home

from the Fiji Times

About 200 youths from all over Fiji converged on Lautoka for the Youth at Risk 2007 seminar.

Part of their program was to sign a petition for a "stand up against poverty" banner to eventually reach Africa.

This youth-driven project aims to achieve a Guinness world record by creating the globe's biggest banner for Make Poverty History

The joint banner will be a huge show of support for the world's poor and a call for world leaders to make poverty history, especially in African countries.

In every region of the world Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America and the Middle East youth organisations are creating Banners Against Poverty.

These banners will be displayed over October 16-17 as part of Stand Up and Speak Out against poverty as well as for the Millennium Development Goals.

After October 17 national banners will be joined together to form a global Banner Against Poverty.

The banners creatively express people's demands for the world to take action to end extreme poverty and are an expression of the White Band, the global symbol for action against poverty.

In more than 30 countries massive banners are being created by students, trade unionists and citizens who want to artistically express their demands for an end to poverty.

Everyday 30,000 children die as a result of extreme poverty.

To tackle these problems:

- Richer countries should increase aid and ensure it is used effectively;

- trade must be fair;

- debts of poor countries must be reduced;

- governments in poor countries must be accountable, and

- climate change needs to be tackled.

In Pakistan more than 1.2-million people have signed a 10-kilometre banner that will be displayed in Bahawalpur.

In Ghana, students have joined individual banners to create a large banner that will be displayed at the Independence Square in Accra.

In Canada, local chapters of the Make Poverty History campaign have created a banner that will be displayed in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

Fiji Council of Social Services executive director Hassan Khan said instead of following the world trend of signing banners, youths in the country could be more active by doing something practical to eradicate poverty where they lived.

He said they could make better use of their time by being involved in farming initiatives to provide local fruits and vegetables for the hotel industry in Fiji as there was not enough local supply.

I mean what is the relevance of this banner to Fiji.

"Even the civil society organisations like ours did not know about this banner signing initiative but even if we did we would have suggested something else be done like farming," he said.

Mr Khan said some people were just making money or having free meals out of researching and discussing issues related to poverty but were really doing nothing to help the poor.

"It would have been a better idea to have local initiatives rather than adopting overseas ones that meant nothing to the local communities," he said.

"There are grassroots program that could better utilise funding in their projects that would improve the lifestyle of people in Fiji."

Mr Khan said there were people travelling business class by plane to overseas conferences, sleeping in five-star hotels talking about poverty in Fiji and they simply had no idea about the problems, struggles and stories of the poor as well as what they were talking about.

"Some even publish books and make money yet not a single cent goes to the poor from the profit, these people are just hypocrites," he said.

Ministry of Youth director Josefa Matau, at the official opening of the Youth At Risk seminar 2007, told young people at the seminar they represented one of Fiji's biggest windows of opportunity for national growth, development and prosperity.

"And this isn't something that's being realised here in Fiji alone but all across the world as leaders begin to digest the findings of the World Bank report titled Development for the Next Generation."

Mr Matau said Fiji's provisional census results indicated that the youth population has risen by 6 per cent since 1996.

"Youth now make up 26 per cent of Fiji's population and can become a potentially creative, stronger and therefore a more productive workforce," he said.

Mr Matau said the three-day seminar was about exploring and highlighting issues that could affect young people and proposing solutions and plans to counter them.

This year the focus was on health including overcoming the challenges and adversity of HIV/AIDS particularly as many of those affected and at risk of being affected were youths.

He said the announcement of the 2008 Budget last week cemented the restructure of the Ministry's Youth Development programs under the National Youth Service Scheme.

Mr Matau said the ministry would target the development of annual school leavers and job seekers to improve their competency skills as well as their employability through a customer and a market oriented approach.

He told youths the future was really in their hands.

"You just need to take ownership of your own development and that of your peers.

"Stop looking to others to do things for you, come out of your shells, interact and network to tap into the window of opportunities that your peers as a group represent."

Today 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day.

Eight hundred million people go hungry every day.

Targets for the Millennium development goals include that all children should complete a full course of primary schooling as 133 million young people cannot read or write.

There is the aim to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education as two thirds of the world's illiterate people are females.

Another goal is to reduce mortality for children under five years as more than 11 million children under five die annually from preventable diseases.

Fiji too needs to wake up and work towards reducing poverty.

It must start from our leaders and trickle down to individual members of our families, where everyone realises the value of hard work.

Only then will we, as a nation, be able to improve our lifestyles for ourselves and that of our children's.

Everything begins at home.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fair-trade finds place in rarefied world of luxury goods

from Yahoo News

by Claire Rosemberg

Fair-trade and green-friendly goods are becoming increasingly popular with lovers of luxury, with distinctive products as much as politics driving demand, according to French fashion and consumer experts.

"People are not buying fair trade to help the planet," said Eric Fouquier, who heads the Thema agency specialised in new "alternative" consumption patterns.

"Luxury items simply have become industrial and are now so common that consumers are seeking goods that are out of the ordinary."

His view echoed others who discussed the growing appetite of consumers for products that respect global environmental concerns on a panel at Paris Fashion Group, a forum of fashion industry specialists.

Young French entrepreneur Francois Morillon, whose Veja organic sneaker brand made of cotton and rubber from Brazil, is making waves in top boutiques, also reckoned politics was far from being the leading factor in his success story.

"Apart from a small number of activists, people don't buy for social or environmental reasons but because they like the product," he said of his 2003 business that went from nothing to 45,000 sneakers a season, made in collaboration with Brazilian co-ops.

"We set up our brand because we want to favour change," he said, "but it's the exceptional quality of a product, the fact that it's original that sets it apart, that makes it a luxury good."

It was like a Hermes leather bag, he said, where the owner knew exactly how it was made.

But Isabelle Laville, whose consultancy Utopies specialises in fair-trade practices, said consumption patterns had changed over the past 12 to 18 months with social and environmental concerns becoming part and parcel of the luxury sector.

Celebs such as Hollywood's George Clooney and Leonard DiCaprio, or rock star Bono, too had favoured sustainable development by speaking out for ethical causes, she added.

"Customer demand is changing," said Sylvie Benard, the head of environment for the world's biggest luxury conglomerate LVMH. "Our customers today are as demanding about luxury as they are about respecting the environment."

Benard said LVMH, which owns Moet-Hennessy drinks, Louis Vuitton leather goods and a bevy of perfume and fashion brands, had been striving for the past 15 years to bolster its green credentials by reducing waste and carefully sourcing animal hides for its top-end leathers.

Moet et Chandon champagnes had halved water consumption over six years while the flagship Vuitton store on Paris' Champs Elysees now used 60 percent less electricity than others after revamping its lighting system.

The company too aimed to help its partners in emerging nations such as Vietnam or Burkina Faso -- which supply ingredients for perfumes and cosmetics -- to develop viable economic projects, she said.

Blues Musician Gives the Homeless a Voice

from Knowledge Plex

Mighty Sam McClain is a man who understands a bit about misfortune.

The veteran bluesman, who sings with a powerful voice at once soulful and sweet, has lived one of those lives in which good luck often seemed to pass him by.

It is this life of experience, faith and resilience that lends extra meaning to McClain's words and vocals on the compilation album Give Us Your Poor, part of a fund-raising campaign to bring attention to the many faces of homelessness and poverty in America. Give Us Your Poor is a non-profit charity based at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. The CD, several performances and a documentary film are all bringing focus to the cause.

McClain, who has made his home in New Hampshire since the early '90s, worked with Jersey boy Jon Bon Jovi to contribute "Show Me The Way" to the Poor CD. The song is not the one of the same name done by '70s rocker Peter Frampton; it's a first-hand account of a guy seeking guidance from inside and from above to overcome hard times.

The Give Us Your Poor CD also features contributions from an eclectic group of performers, from Natalie Merchant to Keb 'Mo, from Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger to Sweet Honey in the Rock.

"There are such myths, such hogwash, about the homeless in this country," McClain said earlier this week, as he rehearsed for upcoming shows throughout New Hampshire and in Russia. "We want to believe these are bums. Lazy bums. These are people with jobs. Trying! Trying! This is a hard, hard world sometimes. And we need to shine light on that."

McClain knows all about that hard world.

Born in Louisiana in 1943, he found joy in singing in his mom's church choir when he was 5. By the time he was a teenager, though, McClain was being abused by his stepfather and finally escaped the only way he could - through a bedroom window. He found himself homeless

but not hopeless; he began to work for a regionally popular R&B performer. By 1966, McClain found some success with a solo recording of Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams."

Success didn't build on success, though, and for the next three decades McClain found himself working menial jobs, sometimes selling his blood to raise cash, and gradually becoming a part of the nation's homeless invisibles.

McClain doesn't dwell on the near-misses of his life. Instead, he sees them as proof that his survival was part of God's larger plan.

"There was a gradual, humbling process. I can remember seeing guys so desperate they were eating out of garbage cans, and I'm thinking, 'How can you be eating out of a garbage can?' " he said. "Then later, it's me eating out of a garbage can, and there's my answer. You eat out of a garbage can because you're hungry."

As a man born in the pre-civil-rights deep South, McClain has also experienced racism, both subtle and overt, throughout his life. His former wife and current wife are both white, which has caused much antagonism. He recalls arriving in Alabama in the early 1970s and walking down a street with his then-wife, a simple act that was so distressing to locals that they stopped their cars in the middle of the street to glare.

By the early '90s, McClain was collaborating with Boston-area musicians, and he eventually settled in Newmarket.

He also finally found the path to a notable career. One amateur music reviewer on wrote that McClain's delivery "moves you at the gut level." It's a voice that conveys an understanding of the blues that only comes firsthand.

"What I've been through, it's made me who I am, what I am," said McClain. "It's all about being humbled, being thankful and realizing that this earth is just a giant room, and life in this room isn't always easy. We need to help each other out."

(Give Us Your Poor is available at music stores and online, as are McClain's solo albums. Mighty Sam McClain performs Saturday at the Blow Me Down Grange Hall in Plainfield at 7 p.m. and Sunday at the Stone Church in Newmarket at 7 p.m. For more information, check