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New York Times Magazine Examines Individual-Initiated Foreign Aid Projects

A New York Times Magazine article by the newspaper’s Op-Ed columnist Nicolas Kristof examines a “revolution” that is “just beginning” and “might be called Do-It-Yourself Foreign Aid, because it starts with the proposition that it’s not only presidents and United Nations officials who chip away at global challenges. Passionate individuals with great ideas can do the same, especially in the age of the Internet and social media.”

Kristof highlights the experiences of several individuals trying to improve the lives of people in the developing world. Projects mentioned in the article include: Sustainable Health Enterprises, an organization founded by a Harvard Business School graduate that will begin manufacturing low-cost banana-fiber sanitary pads in Rwanda early next year; Run for Congo Women, a program founded by a woman from Oregon that holds fund-raising runs around the world to support women in the Congo; and a school in Nepal – started by a New Jersey woman – that also plans to offer students health and dental care.

Kristof addresses the scale and potential impact of the projects, writing “entrepreneurs fail sometimes. And anybody wrestling with poverty at home or abroad learns that good intentions and hard work aren’t enough. Helping people is hard. It’s also clear that sanitary pads won’t save the world. In the best case, Sustainable Health Enterprises will spread and make it easier for girls to go to school and women to work – but it will be only an incremental improvement.” The article goes on to note the efforts of a couple in Seattle who “founded One Day’s Wages, which asks people to donate a single day’s pay – 0.4 percent of annual income – to various causes and organizations that they have vetted and put on their Web site” (10/20).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.