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Sustainability in Social Giving: Empower Youth to Embrace Global Change

Posted: Fri, November 07, 2014 | By: Misc./BBI

by Biba S. Kavass

October 8, 2014

Where there is a will, there is a way! This could be the mantra that epitomizes the strength and spirit of a nation that began with nothing and built itself into a powerhouse on a global scale. I personally believe that Americans are the most generous people on the planet—Farm Aid, Live Aid, Muscular Dystrophy Telethons, Global Citizens Festival, etc. There are a myriad of causes that we support and, even during economic downturns, the giving never stops. In fact, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, “Americans gave an estimated $335.17 billion in total charitable dollars from individuals, corporations, foundations in 2013. This marks the 4th straight year of increased giving by Americans.” [1]

For all their peace, love, and unity in the 60’s, the baby boomer generation refocused their energy towards wealth accumulation in the 80’s and 90’s and massive consumer spending. Meanwhile on a global scale, developing nations were becoming poorer every year. It was not until 2000 that the United Nations finally declared an initiative to promote global change with the signing by 189 countries of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The UN MDGs, an economic recession in 2008/2009, and continued military conflicts overseas finally moved consumer sentiment focus back towards less consumption and more empathy towards the needs of others.

Social giving is no longer relegated to corporations or the wealthy. With the advent of crowdfunding through the Internet, social giving has now become one of America’s favorite pastimes—funding humanitarian efforts, the arts, education, etc. Websites such as Kickstarter,, and provide the opportunity for the masses to participate in social giving with donations as small as $5.00. According to Forbes Magazine, global crowdfunding contributed over $6 billion in 2013 and there is a definable projected growth rate in this area for 2014.

Has global poverty decreased in the past decade? Yes. Has it decreased enough? No. There is no single, logical reason that one single child in the world should go to bed hungry or that millions live without electricity and running water in substandard housing. There is no single, logical reason that millions of people die each year from diseases that are preventable and treatable or that millions of children are uneducated. My generation, the baby boomers, are either already in retirement or close to retirement. Our main concern is securing our financial means to live out our retirement. It is now time for the younger generation to pick up the gauntlet and truly embrace global change so that every human on our planet has a chance at a decent standard of living. Giving for the sake of giving is not a long-term sustainable solution. Giving must be done in a way “that teaches a man how to fish for a lifetime.” In order to accomplish this goal, it is incumbent on us to educate our youth on the concepts of sustainability in social giving and empower them through involvement in advocacy, community service, and a true understanding of becoming a global citizen. William L. Brustein, Vice Provost for Global Strategies and International Affairs at Ohio State University, stated it quite succinctly in a 2013 article for the IIE Network:

“We must graduate globally competent students who are ready and able to make significant contributions to the marketplace once they have landed their first job. For students, global competence is an indispensable qualification of global citizenship, that is, the ability to work cooperatively in seeking and implementing solutions to challenges of global significance, e.g., economic, technological, political and environmental.” [2]

There are two organizations that exemplify the concepts of “sustainability in social giving” and “empowering youth to embrace global change.” One is a small orphanage in Jinja, Uganda, and the other is a global organization involving thousands of college, middle and high school students.

COISER orphans with chickens - for sustainability
COISER orphans with chickens - for sustainability

COISER Orphanage, Jinja, Uganda

Located near the source of the world’s longest river—the Nile, what began as the quaint fishing town of Jinja, Uganda, was colonized in 1907 by the British as an industrial center for the country defined by its access to waterways and the railroad. The lush and arable land lent itself naturally to an abundance of crops such as tobacco, sugar, cotton, and tea. In the 1950s, engineers transformed the area once again by building the Owens Fall Dam making Jinja the main regional source of hydroelectricity. Today, the city of Jinja, in the Busoga District, has a population of approximately 110,000. A major commercial and industrial hub with fertile soil, abundance of water and access to waterways and railroad, the city is also a mecca for tourists due to its geographic amenities popular with water thrill seekers. Despite this, the Busoga District is the 2nd poorest in Uganda. Without adequate infrastructure for the people, access to potable water, insufficient housing, healthcare, and education is almost impossible creating a situation of extreme poverty in the outlying rural areas of the city.

Even with a richness of natural resources, Uganda is a country besotted by poverty, disease, and civil unrest. According to the Foundation for Sustainable Development, the country is one of the 20 poorest nations in the world and approximately 50% of the population lives below the global poverty level. Health issues are extremely prevalent in Uganda and HIV/AIDS rates among young adults have been rising again. With a total population of 33 million, Uganda has approximately 2.5 million orphans of which 40-45% of these are due to loss of parents from AIDS. [3]

Amidst all the economic and developmental struggles in this region lies a beacon of hope—the COISER (Community Initiative for Self-Reliance) Orphanage. Home to approximately 25 orphans, at any given time, ages ranging from 4 to 15 years old, the orphanage is a mecca for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. Many of the children are also suffering from this ravaging disease. Since opening its doors in 2008, COISER has struggled with providing the basic necessities of adequate housing, food, clothing, education, and medical assistance to the children. Jeremiah Mikenga, Project Manager and Director, realized that getting by on donations was not going to sustain his dream of providing a home for these children who are often left on their own to survive once their parents have passed. So, in 2013, he “hatched” an idea to make the orphanage financially self-efficient. Based on similar successful models utilized throughout Africa, Mr. Mikenga asked for the assistance of the Brighter Brains Institute in Piedmont, near San Francisco, California, to aid in raising funds to build a sustainable poultry farm. The orphanage will begin their project with 200 chickens and plan on selling the eggs at market to pay all expenses for the orphanage. Active participation by the children will teach entrepreneurial skills and self-efficacy that will enable them to achieve later in life as they “age out” of the orphanage. Their goals are two-fold: 1) generate sufficient income to cover annual expenses of running the orphanage, and 2) generate overages to expand production over the next couple of years.

KIVA U, San Francisco, California

KIVA U was established in 2013 through a partnership with Citi Community Initiative to mobilize middle, high school, college students, and educators to participate as lenders in microfinance to promote a sustainable means of eradicating poverty and empowering people in developing areas through entrepreneurship. Students raise funds and then lend these funds through in amounts as small as $25.00 through either their local KIVA Club or as part of the KIVA U Lending Team. The majority of borrowers are individuals and/or groups in developing areas of the world seeking to start new businesses or expand existing businesses. Students are able to select specific countries and specific individuals and/or groups to lend to and then are able to follow the progress of repayment of the loan and the business venture. Once funds are repaid, students have the option to loan the funds out again to another individual or group which allows them to leave a legacy to future students.

Involvement in KIVA U serves as a catalyst for students to learn about geography, culture, history, politics, economics, and global issues. The organization provides curriculum utilizing project-based learning, toolkits to start and promote organizations at the middle, high school, or college level, collaborative opportunities with other schools, and a forum on Face Book to share ideas, stories, news, etc.

More importantly, KIVA U inspires youth to become globally active citizens in the fight against poverty through sustainable growth and a redirection of those in poverty to positions of financial inclusion and security. According to recent research on the global microfinance market, approximately 97% of microfinance loans are made to women in developing nations. Women are more apt to take profits from their businesses and invest them in housing, clothing, education, and healthcare for their children which in turn allows the cycle of intergenerational poverty to be broken. Women are also more apt to open savings accounts, start building credit, and reinvest profits into their businesses for expansionary purposes.

Launched in 2005, KIVA currently has approximately 1.2 million lenders who have loaned $619m to 1.4 million borrowers around the world. Loans are repaid by the borrowers at zero interest, and KIVA’s operating expenses are supported by donations. The average loan is $418 and the current repayment rate is 98.8%. [4]

Both organizations discussed above share one common goal—self-reliance. These are not individuals asking for a hand-out but a hand-up. They understand that in order to break the cycle of poverty, health issues, lack of education, and civil strife permanent and sustainable change must be made. Economic development through entrepreneurship creates employment which in turn creates income which in turn creates a better standard of living for all involved. This is the true solution to eradicating global poverty and this is the message that we need to pass on to the youth of today.

When giving in a logical and sustainable manner, we begin to see ourselves as equals, as global citizens, and humanity progresses because we come together with the power of wholeness instead of an individual. It is our world to protect and develop. The youth of today are our future of tomorrow. [5] If you can inspire just one person to take action then change will occur.

For further information on COISER Orphanage, go to

For further information on KIVA U, go to


[1] Giving USA: Americans gave $335.17 billion to charity in 2013; total approaches pre-recession peak. (17, June 14). Retrieved from

[2] Brustein, W. I. (2013). Growing globally competent students to achieve true internationalization. IIE Networker, Fall (2013), 35-36. Retrieved from



[5] Thought inspired by Peter Singer, philosopher, author, lecturer, and humanitarian. He is currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, New Jersey.

Biba S. Kavass is a high school teacher of AP Economics and Economics in Memphis, TN. She is the sponsor of the first KIVA High School Club in the state of Tennessee, founder of Microfinance in Action, and a fellow and Board member at the Brighter Brains Institute. (


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