At the end of Stephen Lewis' Massey Lecture at UBC, a university student stepped to a microphone. He confessed that he was overwhelmed by the enormity of the obstacles that many Africans face. "What can we do that will actually make a difference?" he asked.
There was a twinge of hopelessness in his voice. It's a feeling many people share. After all, for decades we have seen images of famine, disease, and crushing poverty in Africa. What we rarely see are the success stories: the young HIV-positive woman rejuvenated by antiretroviral treatment, the teeming schoolrooms or the bountiful harvest due to better supplies or techniques.
There are good reasons for careful scrutiny of aid and development projects. But there is no excuse for apathy.
And when it comes to avenues for action, we are spoiled for choice. The Tyee has collected some suggestions. Our list is by no means exhaustive. If you want to recommend an organization (particularly if it is based in BC), or if you want to suggest an action we can or should take, please add a comment at the bottom of the page.
Here are five things you can do:
Support an Organization
The Big NGOs
Some people worry that large nongovernmental organizations waste money on needless bureaucracy. The opposite is usually true: economies of scale work in foreign development, also. What's more, the big NGOs often have branch offices around the world (including in Canada) and they are eager for participation and public input as well as money.
NGOs with offices in Canada
Oxfam Canada is a non-profit international development organization that supports community programmes in food security, health, nutrition and democratic development with an emphasis on working with women.
UNICEF is a UN agency that focuses on community-level services to promote the health and well-being of children.
Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize for their programs in areas of conflict, disaster, or long-term hardship.
Engineers Without Borders Canada works in partnership with developing communities around the world to help them gain access to the appropriate technologies they need to improve their lives.
Canadian Network for International Surgery works on injury prevention programs and surgical training in several African countries.
Canadian Students For Darfur is led by Clement Apaak, the student president of Simon Fraser University, and seeks to raise awareness and funds to help with the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation supports grassroots organizations in Africa that focus on the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its victims. The FAQ page on the Foundation website suggests other things you can do, such as raising community awareness or volunteering in Africa.
One Sky is based in Smithers, BC, and focuses on issues of sustainability, conservation, and resolving social conflict.
Funds at Tides Canada Foundation that work in Africa
Tides Canada is a national public foundation based in Vancouver that exists to foster partnerships between resourceful donors and leading-edge charities that will mobilize lasting solutions locally, nationally, and internationally. Some non-profits, charities, and groups of concerned individuals partner with Tides Canada to raise funds for particular projects. Here is a list of groups that do some of all of their work in Africa.
To make a tax-deductible donation online by credit card to any of these funds:
- Click here to go to Tides Canada's secure donation page
- Enter your donation amount and hit 'Make a donation'
- Choose the particular fund from the drop-down menu.
- Your charitable tax receipt will be emailed to you immediately, and will come from CanadaHelps.org.
To donate by cheque, please make cheques out to Tides Canada Foundation - Name of Fund, and mail to Tides Canada Foundation, Suite 680 - 220 Cambie St., Vancouver, BC V6B 2M9. Cheque donations of $50 or more will receive charitable tax receipts. Credit card donations can also be made over the phone at 1-866-843-3722.
Genocide Intervention Fund aims to increase public awareness about genocide and support government policies, organizations and initiatives designed to help prevent and stop genocide:
Dignitas International Fund supports a project dedicated to providing dignity for children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS in resource-poor settings. Their first project is in the Zomba district of Malawi:
ASEM Canada Fund supports orphans, victims of poverty and HIV/Aids infected and affected children and young adults supported by the Centers of ASEM Mozambique.
Human Rights Watch Fund supports Human Rights Watch, an international non-profit that strives to uncover violations of human rights by abusive governments and during armed conflict, and to support the development of international human rights law.
SOLID Fund (Saltspring Organization for Life Improvement and Development) supports community based grassroots development projects assisting those affected by HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa (online donations are not offered for this fund through Tides Canada - please follow info on their website to donate).
Buying fair trade
YFC Fair Trade Sports : Fair trade sports items where proceeds go to youth related projects in Sierra Leone.
Ten Thousand Villages: Non-profit store marketing developing world artisans, guided by fair trade principles. Stores in Kamloops, Kelowna, Langley, Penticton, Powell River, Sidney, Vancouver, Victoria, and West Vancouver.
Bridgehead: Fairly traded, organic, and shade-grown coffees from small-scale farmers.
Global Exchange Online: online source of globally conscious gifts, where you can shop by region or by product.
Drop off locations
Mennonite Central Committee BC has a blanket drop off at 31414 Marshall Road, Abbotsford.
Write a letter
If politicians receive the message that constituents are concerned about an issue, it affects their policies. Here is what Senator Mobina Jaffer says: "Canada is doing great work in Sudan now because the Prime Minister got 1000 letters from concerned Canadians. That's all it took."
So write and demand that the government set yearly benchmarks to reach the promised foreign aid level of 0.7% GNP. Send an email to support the export of generic drugs to African countries. Fax a local politician to say that your vote in the next election will go to the politician who promises to seriously address global inequality in wealth and health. Whatever you think is important -- put it in writing and send it off.
Here are some addresses to get you started:
The Right Hon. Paul Martin [email protected] Prime Minister of Canada House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6 Fax: (613) 941-6900
Hon. Pierre Pettigrew [email protected] Minister of Foreign Affairs Lester B. Pearson Building 125 Sussex Drive Tower A, 10th Floor Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2 Fax: (613) 996-3443
Hon. Aileen Carroll [email protected] Minister for International Cooperation 200 Prom. Du Portage Gatineau, QC K1A 0G4 Fax: (613) 953-5469
To find your Member of Parliament click here.
This is only a small sampling of what's available. Please add your own ideas, charities, products, and stores below.