Geldof to advise UK Conservatives

Musician and activist Bob Geldof is lending his expertise -- if not his vote -- to Britain's opposition Conservative Party as adviser to a working group on global poverty, new party leader David Cameron said. Cameron, who won the Conservative leadership with a promise to broaden the party's appeal, sought Geldof's assistance in developing policy.

Geldof's participation comes despite his friendship with Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and a history of antagonism with former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The two clashed in the 1980s when her government initially refused to waive a tax levied on the Band Aid charity single -- recorded to raise money for African famine relief. The government eventually backed down.

Geldof organized the 1985 Live Aid concerts and last summer's Live 8 shows, staged to pressure leaders of the G-8 group of wealthy nations to act against poverty when they met for a July summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

"I don't care who I have to get to, to make this agenda work," Geldof said. "They must know that I am in no one's pocket, that I am not beholden to anyone.".

The international aid agency ActionAid said the Conservatives must prove their commitment to development after cutting Britain's aid budget when last in office. "The last Conservative government slashed aid as a percentage of national income by more than half and were at the forefront of globally promoting a damaging free trade, one-size-fits-all, privatized model of development that poor countries are still paying for today," said Steve Tibbett, policy chief at ActionAid.

Britain's Department for International Development confirmed that aid as a proportion of the national income fell under the Conservative government from 0.51 percent in 1979 to 0.26 percent in 1997, when Labour took office. The 2005 figure is 0.4 percent.

Associated Press


Uncle Sam Wants More of Your Money

Americans, particularly at this time of year, open their wallets to all manner of good causes. But donating to Uncle Sam's foreign-aid efforts isn't very high on the list.

In September, officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development unveiled what they considered to be an inspired idea: augment the billions of taxpayer dollars already allocated for foreign aid by asking individual Americans to give money for development projects.

The first needy case put forth was Iraq. USAID unveiled the Iraq Partnership to allow Americans to "contribute directly to local development projects in Iraq" and "help put desks in classrooms; provide water pumps to farmers; and improve medical services throughout the country."

The general difficulty of doing business in Iraq has meant that “only” $13 billion of the $30 billion that Congress allocated for rebuilding the country and training its security forces has been spent.

As of this week, the Iraq Partnership had only raised $1,500. Which seems to send a signal to Uncle Sam.

[Excerpt of article by Yochi J. Dreazen, The Wall Street Journal]


Queen Elizabeth delivers annual message

Queen Elizabeth II delivered a somber annual Christmas message, focusing on the suffering wrought by the "dreadful events" of the past 12 months -- the Asian tsunami, the Pakistan-Indian earthquake, the hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, and the suicide bombings in London.

But the silver lining amid the series of "natural and human tragedies" was "a quite remarkable humanitarian response" -- a reminder of how faith can motivate people to "work together." She called the humanitarian response after the tragedies from "people of compassion" as "quite remarkable," noting that religious faith was the inspiration "in many cases" for such a reaction.

"Christianity is not the only religion to teach its followers to help others and to treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated yourself. It has been clear that in the course of this year relief workers and financial support have come from members of every faith and from every corner of the world."



Charity of the American People

Americans are "stingy." This was the accusation hurled at the U.S. almost exactly one year ago by Jan England, United Nations Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, immediately after the Asian tsunami disaster.

The circumstances were such at the time: The Bush Administration initially pledged $15 million toward tsunami relief efforts.

After the above remark received considerable worldwise publicity, the U.S. Administration raised its contribution to a more realistic $350 million. But even this larger figure works out to just under $1.20 per American.

This comment that Americans are stingy no doubt expresses the view of many foreign elites, who have come to believe that government is the only true source of goodness and charity.

A distinction should be made here between American government giving and American citizen giving. For example in a given year that Americans privately gave a very gnerous $34 billion overseas, official US foreign aid was $15 billion, less than half as much.

As for the generosity of the American people, the following from a Wall Street Journal editorial speaks volumes:

In the weeks and months that followed the tsunami, American citizens dug deep into their wallets, donating some $1.78 billion to the relief effort in Asia -- dwarfing the contributions of other developed nations. Since October Americans have also contributed $78 million to assist the casualties of the Pakistan earthquake.

The quarter trillion dollars a year that Americans provide to sustain the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the American Cancer Society, their local churches, universities and such is greater than the entire GDP of most countries.

Bill and Melinda Gates have given more dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa than have many nations.

This generosity in money and volunteerism has been a hallmark of American society since its earliest days. Some 150 years ago Alexis de Tocqueville lauded the impulse of Americans (in contrast to Europeans) to set up churches, schools, orphanages, hospitals, homeless shelters and other civic aid organizations throughout the land.

[Includes excerpts of an Editorial in The Wall Street Journal]


Reflections on the "season of sharing"

The following is not meant to be a “Bah, humbug!” commentary on Christmas, itself a joyous occasion in the Christian calendar.

It is simply meant to be a moment of reflection on how much we as a nation GIVE at Christmas, in the true sense of the season – a season of sharing.

Specifically, how generous are we as individuals in our charitable giving at this time of year? Do we pat ourselves on the back because we dropped a dollar or two in the Salvation Army basket while spending hundreds shopping at the mall, feeling that we have done our part?

I’ve heard it said that it’s not what you give that counts, it’s what you have left.

In the hustle and bustle of the season, how much do our hearts (and wallets) go out to help others outside of our circle, especially the poor of the world?

Hey, it's not just about helping people. Consider that Americans spend $8 billion on Christmas decorations alone, a figure that is almost 4 times what we even give to protect animals and the environment.

A typical American child receives 70 new toys a year, most of them at Christmas.

8 in 10 dog owners buy their pet holiday gifts, as do 6 in 10 cat owners.

Source of statistics: "Who Gives a $*&t?" on Mother Jones Web site.

More on the "season of sharing"

Today, families of Christian background gather to exchange gifts, sing Christmas carols and have dinner. At sundown, Jewish families will gather to light the first candle on a special eight-branch menorah. People of all faiths, as well as the secular, will gather for a meal with family and friends.

Take a moment to reflect that during the course of the year, the “average” American family throws away 14% of its food.

Meanwhile 1 in 9 U.S. families are never sure they’ll have enough to eat.

And internationally, hunger statistics are far, far worse. One billion people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

Every day, about 24,000 people die from hunger or hunger-related causes. (And this is down from 35,000 a day, from ten years ago.)

So today, whether you regard the day as the birth of Christ, or the beginning of Hanukah or simply “ the holidays” and a time to get together with family and friends in a warm cozy setting, take a moment to remember those without a home, without food, or without a family.

If you wanted to test the charitable limits of humanity, you probably could not devise a greater challenge than the disasters of the last twelve months: Hurricanes, earthquakes, and the tsunami.

Consider donating to a charity with an international focus. Besides finding that your charitable buying power is greatly enhanced when your gift goes overseas, where so much more can be accomplished with much less cost, you will experience the joy of giving, and the true spirit of the season.

God bless and keep us all, every one.

Source for statistics: "Who Gives a $*&t?" on Mother Jones Web site.


Giving aid to foreign countries

In a current poll, the American public agreed with the assertion that “taking care of problems at home is more important than giving aid to foreign countries.”

But this does mean that Americans think that no aid should go overseas. When respondents were asked what percentage of their tax dollars that go to help poor people at home and abroad … should go to help poor people in other countries, the response was 16%. (Down from a 22% response in a 1996 poll.)

Strikingly, this turns out to be a far higher percentage than is currently given.

The year this poll was taken, only about four per cent (4%) of the total spent went toward causes that in any way benefited the poor abroad. (Nowhere near the above 16 – 22%.)

Budget perceptions: Program on International Policy Attitudes “Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes,”.

Only 1% of Federal Budget for Foreign Aid

From a survey of America's charity habits:

On average, Americans think that 24% of the federal budget goes toward foreign aid.

In actuality, less than 1% does.

The priority of US “foreign aid” is arms and military assistance to foreign countries.

Last year alone, the United States provided a cool $18.6 Billion in arms and military assistance to foreign countries.

Budget perceptions: Program on International Policy Attitudes “Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes,”.


World hunger and poverty: American Public vs. American Policy

The vast majority of the American public is very supportive of efforts to alleviate world hunger and poverty.

An overwhelming 87% favored the US “giving food and medical assistance to people in needy countries”.

As to which countries we would judge preferable to give foreign aid to:
59% of Americans choose “countries with poorest economies”
23% of Americans choose “countries important to US security”
13% of Americans choose “countries needed by the US as trade partners”

Unfortunately, the real figures for US foreign aid do not in any way reflect the desires of the American public.

Budget perceptions: Program on International Policy Attitudes “Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes,”.

Aid and Security Interests

In a 2001 poll,

63% of Americans voted “When hunger is a major problem … we should send aid whether or not the US has a security interest in that region.”

Only 34% of Americans voted “We should only send aid to parts of the world where the US has security interests.”

So much for going with the will of the people.

Source: Budget perceptions: Program on International Policy Attitudes “Americans on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes,”.


American Aid to Africa

Four years after President Bush founded the Millennium Challenge Corporation to reward Africa’s best-run countries and pledged to fund it by $5 billion a year, the MCC has disbursed only 1% of that amount.

President Bush pledged $5 billion a year to Africa's best-run countries; to date, the program has distributed $400,000.

Asked about doubling African aid, Bush said, “It doesn’t fit our budgetary process.”

Source: Millennium Challenge Corporation Millennium Challenge Account

Source: Doubling Aid to Africa: The New York Times The Washington Post June 2, 2005.


Amount of donation per disaster victim

We read about the huge outpouring of donations that we Americans have contributed to help survivors of major disasters.

Did you know, proportional to the number of people killed and or displaced by these disasters --that is calculating the amount of donation per victim -- that we gave:

628 times more per victim of 9/11 than we did per victim of the Asian Tsunami victims?

U.S. donations made thus far per victim of 9/11, and the tsunami, respectively:

9/11 ----------------$736,771
Tsunami --------------- 1,173

Obviously there are different circumstances surrounding each disaster scenario, but one question to muse on here: Are lives in poorer areas of the world worth so much less than others?

From "Who Gives a $*&t?" on Mother Jones Web site.


TIME's Persons of the Year

These are not the people you expect to come to the rescue.

[Re: Bono] - Rock stars are designed to be shiny, shallow creatures, furloughed from reality for all time.

[Re: Bill and Melinda Gates] - Billionaires are even more removed, nestled atop fantastic wealth where they never again have to place their own calls or defrost dinner or fly commercial.

And so another alliance was born: unlikely, unsentimental, hard nosed, clear eyed and dead set on driving poverty into history. The rocker's job is to be raucous, grab our attention. The engineers' job is to make things work. 2005 is the year they turned the corner.

It makes you think that if these guys can decide to make it their mission to save the world, partner with people they would never otherwise meet, care about causes that are not sexy or dignified in the ways that celebrities normally require, then no one really has a good excuse anymore for just staying on the sidelines and watching.

[Full article at TIME's Persons of the Year]

Superrich Are Not the Most Generous

Middle class Americans are two to six times more generous in the share of their investments that they give to charity than Americans who make more than $10 million., a pioneering study of federal tax data shows.

The least generous of all working-age Americans were among the young and prosperous - those 285 taxpayers age 35 and under who made more than $10 million - and the 18,600 taxpayers making $500,000 to $1 million.

On average these two groups made charitable gifts equal to 0.4 percent of their assets, while people the same age who made $50,000 to $100,000 gave gifts equal to more than 2.5 percent of their investment assets, six times that of their far wealthier peers.

[Above figures based on 2003, the latest year for which Internal Revenue Service data is available]

[Excerpted from an article by David Cay Johnston, The New York Times]


Medical Research and Developing Nations

In the West, and the US especially, we see a lot of adverts by large transnational pharmaceutical companies. … It is becoming increasingly apparent and of concern how the emphasis on new drugs and cures being developed fit a class distinction, where the research is on problems that affect the wealthier people and those who can afford the cures.

"Multinational pharmaceutical companies neglect the diseases of the tropics, not because the science is impossible but because there is, in the cold economics of the drugs companies, no market. There is, of course, a market in the sense that there is a need: millions of people die from preventable or curable diseases every week.

"But there is no market in the sense that, unlike Viagra, medicines for leishmaniasis are needed by poor people in poor countries. Pharmaceutical companies judge that they would not get sufficient return on research investment, so why, they ask, should we bother? Their obligation to shareholders, they say, demands that they put the effort into trying to find cures for the diseases of affluence and longevity — heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s. Of the thousands of new compounds drug companies have brought to the market in recent years, fewer than 1% are for tropical diseases....

"In the corporate headquarters of major drug companies, the public relations posters display the image they like to present: of caring companies that bring benefit to humanity, relieving the suffering of the sick. What they don’t say, is that, so far, their humanity has not extended beyond the limits of the pockets of the sick."

[Excerpt of research compilation by Anup Shah. Above quattaion from Isabel Hilton, A Bitter Pill For The World’s Poor, the Guardian]


Third World dying of preventable, curable diseases

“Many people, most of them in tropical countries of the Third World, die of preventable, curable diseases. ... Malaria, tuberculosis, acute lower-respiratory infections ... They die because it doesn’t pay to keep them alive. ... Only 1 percent of all new medicines brought to market by multinational pharmaceutical companies ...were designed specifically to treat tropical diseases plaguing the Third World.”

[Ken Silverstein, Millions for Viagra, Pennies for Diseases of the Poor, The Nation]


Global health inequity

Only a fraction of the billions spent on medical research targets illnesses that affect poor countries, even though these same illnesses account for 90 percent of the world's disease burden.

Each year some 10 million children die before their fifth birthday -- that's almost as though the population of two Marylands were wiped out annually -- and around three-quarters could be saved by basic medicines that already exist.

Fixing the twin injustices of skewed research dollars and haphazard deployment is the mission of the foundation set up by Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda.

Until just a few years ago, history's most generous philanthropist was John D. Rockefeller, whose dominance of the oil industry in the late 19th century made him the Bill Gates of his time. But the Gateses have already given $28.8 billion, four times as much as Rockefeller measured in inflation-adjusted dollars, and whereas Rockefeller was two months shy of his 70th birthday when he made his first blockbuster donation, the Gateses have taken to philanthropy while still comparatively young.

Yet it's not just the giving that's important. "We don't sit there and say, 'Hey, we gave away $9 billion,' " Bill Gates remarks in another conversation later. "We ask, 'How are we doing against malaria?' "

[Excerpt of an Op Ed by Sebastian Mallaby, The Washington Post]


Less than 50% of Foreign Aid goes to Poor Countries

A recent report sponsored by Action Aid and Oxfam reveals that less than half of foreign aid gets spent in the poorest countries, and only 10% is spent on basic services.

40% of aid is tied to overpriced goods and services from the donor countries.

By contrast, private philanthropy can place well-targeted aid right at the grassroots and can fuel local initiatives that address local needs, bypasses bureaucratic channels and political dead-ends, and arrives with few strings attached.


Charity stays inside wealthiest countries

A strange fact of philanthropy is that most charitable giving stays inside the wealthiest countries.

Americans, for instance, regard themselves as generous, yet only a tiny fraction of US charity goes anywhere outside the country.

Most charity stays in the two dozen richest nations!

How ironic that so little flows to the poorest nations where human needs are greatest and opportunities for doing good are exceptional.



5 Reasons to Give Internationally

Here are 5 good reasons to support international charity:

1. HIGH IMPACT: International giving is intelligent giving. Why? Because it is efficient giving. Small donations can yield big results. Although the overall international need far exceeds the capacity of private philanthropy, the needs of specific communities at the grassroots are simple, concrete and they can be addressed.

2. REWARDS: Few activities provide the same satisfaction, achievement and sense of contribution as international philanthropy. By supporting a foreign project overseas you help people take control of their lives, you challenge global inequity and break down the national and cultural barriers that feed poverty, tension and conflict. As a donor, you also get the rare and wonderful feeling of seeing concrete and dramatic results from your gift.

3. OFFICIAL FAILURES: Governments from post-industrialized countries are the primary donors for international development and relief. Since the end of the Cold War, individual governments have significantly decreased their contributions. Between 1992 and 1997, official assistance from leading industrialized countries dropped 30 percent, while their GNPs jumped almost 30.

4. PHILANTHROPIC ISOLATION: Even our most basic details – the food we eat and clothes we wear – are enmeshed in the flow of international capital, goods, services and labor. Does it make sense in this context that philanthropy should maintain an exclusively local orientation?

5. GLOBALIZATION: Income disparity and inequity among peoples and nations exists today as never before. Despite globalization, today 3 billion people subsist on 2 dollars (U.S.) a day. In an age of intensifying interconnection, to be consistent with our philanthropic ideals we cannot just think globally. --We must act globally by giving globally!

[Courtesy of International Donor's Dialogue, and Family Care Foundation websites]


The not-so-expensive plight of the world's children

More than half the world's children suffer the effects of poverty, war and HIV/AIDS, denying them a healthy and safe childhood, according to UNICEF.

UNICEF concludes that the world has the capacity to reduce poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS and improve the plight of the world's children.

This could be achieved at an annual cost of $40-$70 Billion.

World spending on military runs at about $1,000 Billion.

In other words, to reduce poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS and thus improve the plight of the children of the world it would only require roughly 5% of present military spending.


Figures Reveal Dynamics of Disaster Giving

Donations for the victims of the earthquake that ripped through Pakistan and India have not come close to the level of giving that followed the tsunami that wreaked havoc around the rim of the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed a huge swath of the Gulf Coast. But relief organizations and fund-raising experts say the generosity directed toward the victims of those disasters was aberrational and should not be used as a yardstick to measure giving for other emergencies.

"Giving for the tsunami was literally off the charts," said Patrick Rooney, director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which tracks giving. "There may be an issue of donor fatigue, it's too early to tell, but it looks like giving for the Pakistan earthquake is more typical of the historical response by U.S. donors to international emergencies."

Before the tsunami, the biggest amount collected by the American Red Cross for an international disaster was $50 million. The Red Cross collected $556 million for tsunami relief.

Overall, $1.3 billion was collected for the tsunami relief and $1.8 billion has been collected for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

[Excerpted from an article by Stephanie Strom, The New York Times]


What you gain when you give

I ran across this short story that is long in meaning, a story that illustrates we all have something to give.

“A year ago we decided to quit eating out as much and to use the money to support a needy child. We keep her photo in our dining room and pray for her almost every night. Our daughters write her letters and consider her part of our extended family.

"It’s tough not to feel rich when you’re giving money away.”

Charity: The kindness one shows to others

You really did them a charity! "How charitable of you!" We say such things to applaud kindnesses - but what does it really mean?

Generally, charity is known less as the inclination toward kindness that it describes than as the action that it engenders.

Charity is also the act of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, the giving of money or of aid, the being generous and full of sympathy and understanding.

Charity can be giving your spare change to a homeless person, or writing a check to an organization that does research on medicines for sick children.

Charity can be spending time with lonely elderly people, or it can even be offering sympathetic words to someone who is having a hard day.

The translation of your sense of charity into action can be as small as letting someone cut ahead of you in traffic when you are in a rush, or as large as a million-dollar donation to an organization that provides disaster relief. There are innumerable opportunities every day to put charity into action.


The Gift Shift

This year of disasters, while enriching some charities, has created a crisis of its own for others -- and there's a fear it could be more than a temporary shift. In 2005, many donors have eschewed their customary charities and have given, again and again, to crisis-relief organizations.

Does this year's disaster-to-disaster giving pattern mark the beginning of a change in the way Americans give?

Already, there are indications that donors' priorities are changing. Some people say that after watching aid arrive late in many cases this year, they want relief groups to have money in hand so they can respond immediately. Plus, donors want their own giving to be predictable, so they're setting aside money in advance rather than being caught off guard by new crises.

At least one survey suggests a shift toward disaster-relief may be subtle: In a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll conducted this month, 8% of donors reported giving less to non-disaster-relief charities this year; 65% said they gave the same amount; and 15% reported increasing their giving to nonrelief charities.

[By Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal]

It Pays To Be Charitable

Gifts of stock Go for a Double Tax Break by donating appreciated stock. Gifts of stock have become increasingly popular for donors of all ages. You may be able to make a gift much larger than what you originally planned and benefit from the double tax savings as well
To learn more, click the following link: Stock

Gifts of real estate You may be surprised to learn that your personal residence, farm, vacation home, commercial property, or parcel of undeveloped land can make a tax-smart donation, allowing for substantial income tax deduction.
To learn more, click the following link: Real estate

Estate Planning If you have possessions, you have an estate. The disposition of your possessions when you die is called estate settlement. Deciding in advance how this will be done is known as estate planning. Yet, in the course of our busy lives, proper estate planning is often neglected due to a variety of reasons.
To learn more, click the following link: Estate Planning

Planned Giving The key feature of a planned gift is that it allows you (the donor) to benefit, as well as the charitable organization. In giving, you have the satisfaction that comes from knowing you've made a difference in the lives of others. But in fact, the best gift plans also improve the donor's financial and tax situation, often right away.
To learn more, click the following link: Planned Giving

Living Trust A living trust is an arrangement you create during your lifetime to provide for yourself and your family both before and after your death. You transfer assets to fund the trust and select a trustee (even yourself) to manage it.
To learn more, click the following link: Living Trust

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) If you're like many investors today, you may own appreciated assets, such as stock or real estate, that you are reluctant to sell because of the significant capital gains taxes you would owe. At the same time, you may be looking to increase your cash flow or diversify your holdings. That would mean selling those valuable assets, paying the applicable taxes and reinvesting at less than the asset's full value. Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma.
To learn more, click the following link: CRT


Giving, with impact

'Tis the season of the highest degree of individual giving -- the last quarter of the year -- in a year unlike any other in recent history.

Focusing on the devastation wrought by the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, the American public has donated a record sum to charities. In 2004, total giving reached a high of a quarter-trillion dollars, according to Giving USA; the two natural disasters each stimulated charitable giving of $1.5 billion to $2 billion from communities across the United States.

But the influx of contributions provides lessons on the accountability and impact of giving. At this time of year, prospective donors should apply these important guidelines on how best to channel charitable giving:
-- Give [to hands on organizations working] locally. After the … the South Asian tsunami, the media highlighted the large … international disaster-relief organizations. These large philanthropic organizations can certainly mobilize resources in all corners of the globe, but organizations in the regions affected may be better equipped to respond to the needs of the residents and their communities
-- Philanthropy isn't government. Philanthropy has an important role in providing nonprofits with the financial wherewithal to respond to the acute needs created by a disaster. But philanthropy is not a substitute for government and cannot do it alone.
-- Where philanthropy can help is by providing funds quickly and in a flexible manner. Charitable givers can provide general support for the nonprofit organizations in the region that tend to the needs of the community day in and day out and are surely to be strained by the emergency.
-- Disasters such as the South Asian tsunami .. are an opportunity to rekindle the bonds of community and connection. Times like these, when there is an unprecedented focus on giving, offer a teachable moment: Individuals of all ages can not only appreciate the warm glow of giving, but learn how to give so as to have the greatest impact.

[Excerpted from an article by James M. Ferris, The San Francisco Chronicle]


When Charity Begins in a Circle of Friends

Marsha Wallace, a labor and delivery nurse in Greenville, S.C., often volunteered at a health care clinic and donated to local charities, but she felt that she wasn't doing enough.

So three years ago she invited some friends to a potluck dinner. They were asked to bring an appetizer, a main course or a dessert - and their checkbooks.

More than 25 women attended, and they contributed $760 to a nonprofit organization that helps female war survivors. The dinner group gave itself a name, Dining for Women, and agreed to meet monthly, with each member donating the $30 she would have spent at a restaurant. (Eventually, Ms. Wallace scrapped the minimum donation because she worried that some women could not afford to attend.)

Now, every month, the donations, usually amounting to $400 to $500, are given to a variety of international nonprofit groups that help women and children. The club has grown to 115 members, with perhaps 15 or 20 showing up at each meeting. It has contributed a total of $19,000 to various charities, including the American Leprosy Missions and Habitat for Humanity. Donations have paid for two years of nursing school for an East African woman and started a $1,400 medical fund in Ethiopia.

This is an example of a Giving Circle, when Charity begins in a circle of friends. Giving circles attract people who are looking for ways to become involved in charities and to monitor the results of their donations.

There are now at least 220 circles in 40 states, according to a study last February by New Ventures in Philanthropy, an organization based in Washington. But the organization says that there are probably many more. Since 2000, circles have donated more than $44 million, the organization said.

[Excerpted from an article by Kristina Shevory, The New York Times]


Silicon Valley women without borders

Backed by rich and powerful Silicon Valley women, the world's largest global philanthropy fund for women's rights has hit a major milestone, raising $20 million in less than three years.

The Global Fund for Women celebrated the achievement during a San Francisco lunch at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a world away from where the group spends its money in developing countries to support women-run initiatives to improve their health, education and economic well-being.

Though it was billed as a celebration, many of the group's leaders also warned that ongoing wars, destabilized governments and growing fundamentalist movements around the world threaten to turn back gains women have made in places as diverse as Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

"It's a real fear,'' said Kavita Ramdas, president and CEO of the fund, which has doled out about $44 million since its founding in Palo Alto in 1987 by a former Hewlett Foundation executive.

Underscoring the point, Global Fund board member Sumaya Farhat-Naset, who works with Palestinian women in Birzeit. "Women's rights are not a priority,'' she said.

Recipients of grants from the Global Fund, which is now based in San Francisco, also told of their successes: How they had worked in Latin America to provide women access to safe abortions, helped broker peace talks in the African nation of Liberia, and were running education programs in Afghanistan, where the Taliban once ruled and banned girls from schools.

"Sixty percent of Afghan women are widows,'' after years of war, said Sakena Yacoobi, director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, who traveled to San Francisco for the event to thank fund leaders for their help. "We are training women to be teachers, others to sew, weave carpets'' so they can earn a living.

"The Global Fund is a venture capital firm for the world's women,'' added Ramdas. "Instead of the garage start-up, it's a kitchen start-up.''

Although a global fund, high-profile Silicon Valley women, several of whose fathers or husbands are household valley names, have been major benefactors.

Half of the $20 million is earmarked for a "Now or Never'' fund to quickly get grants to women facing the most urgent needs.

"We want to be able to spend the money quickly, not have it sit in an endowment,'' said Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of Apple Chairman Steve Jobs, who traveled earlier this year to Egypt on behalf of the fund. She co-chaired the $20 million campaign, along with Diane Jordan Wexler, a Palo Alto-based career coach. More than 1,200 donors, from Uzbekistan villagers to the Ford Foundation, came through.

The organization has been criticized for not funding U.S.-based programs. Ramdas says that there are 90 women-focused philanthropies working in the United States, and large foundations often overlook women-backed initiatives in developing countries.

"The Gates Foundation is not necessarily going to give money to fight HIV/AIDS to a group run by women,'' Ramdas said. ``We will.''

For more information, go to www.globalfundforwomen.org

[By Mary Anne Ostrom, San Jose Mercury]

Gates Give $84 Million to Help Prevent Infant Deaths

Focusing on a relatively forgotten corner of health care, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $84 million to two organizations working to prevent needless deaths of babies in the first few days of life.

Around the world, about four million newborns - about as many as are born in the United States annually - die each year from tetanus, pneumonia, asphyxia or low birth weight.

While death rates for young children have dropped substantially since 1960 because of better nutrition and more vaccinations, deaths of newborns have "remained stagnant," said Anne Tinker at the charity Save the Children, which received $60 million.

Save the Children's efforts will be concentrated in 18 countries while PATH, a Seattle-based charity that received $24 million, will use its share to run 17 projects in the two poorest states of India, which has nearly 30 percent of the world's newborn deaths.

[From an article by Donald G. McNeil Jr, The New York Times]


Follow The Money: $230 billion

This year migrant workers will send some $230 billion to their families back home. That capital is keeping many in the developing world afloat

On three continents, migrants and their families described how the transfers worked.

Nine years ago, Cornelio Zamora left his home in Zacapoaxtla, Mexico, paying a smuggler $2,500 to take him across the Rio Grande into the U.S. He had been unable to support his wife and four children on the $7 a day he earned as a bus driver.

Working as a house painter in San Jose, California, Zamora, 48, now sends about $700 a month home. His wife says she has based all family decisions — where to send the children to school, what house to live in — on Zamora's monthly earnings "on the other side."

In Mexico, the Zamora family home is another tangible indicator of the impact of remittances. Zamora's work in California has paid for a new three-bedroom house, the first his family has ever owned.

The changes his cash have brought to his family within one generation are dizzying; one daughter has trained as a nurse, another as a teacher, and his son as a radio technician. "The first time I wore shoes, I was 14 years old," Zamora says. "I don't want my family to go through that."

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]

Follow The Money: Mali, Africa

Waly Diabira pats the cover on his bed in the cramped fifth-floor room he shares with two men in a red-brick dormitory building for immigrants near Paris' Left Bank. In 1950, his father, Mamadou Diabira, left their tiny village in Mali and caught a steamboat to Europe, where he worked as a street cleaner in Paris for about 25 years. Waly, a 32-year-old building cleaner, only got to know his father when he sneaked into France at 18. The migrant tradition has continued into the next generation, fueled by the same force that kept his father rooted in France for decades — the need to send money home.

In visits to migrants' hometowns, the impact on their families and communities is clear.

Waly's village of Ambadedi has sent thousands of migrants to Paris since his father Mamadou first headed there. Set atop the steep northern bank of the Senegal River, the village at first glance looks like countless others in West Africa. Goats and donkeys meander down the dirt lanes, and women scrub clothes in the river.

But Ambadedi has cherished luxuries that are absent from other remote parts of Mali. There is a generator that lights up most of the houses every night. A water tower feeds water to several collection points. And television antennas bristle from the rooftops of two-story concrete houses — a far cry from the mud hut in which old Mamadou was raised. Villagers have even started dreaming about building a bridge across the river to connect Ambadedi to the nearest highway, says Sekou Drame, Mamadou's brother-in-law, as he escorts a Time reporter back to the wooden pirogue that will ferry him across the river's muddy flow. "It depends on God," he says. "And our families in France."

In Paris, Waly is planning to return home in January to see his 2-year-old daughter for the first time, and to spend time with his wife. But he won't stay long. "Frankly, people would die there if we didn't work here," he says. Come spring, he will be back in Paris, cleaning offices, and changing the way the world spreads its wealth around.

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]

Follow The Money: Foreign Remittances 60% Higher

Similar stories are multiplied millions of times across the world. And such tales are nothing new.

But the scale of money flows is new. Mass migration has produced a giant worldwide economy all its own, which has accelerated so fast during the past few years that the figures have astounded the experts. This year, remittances — the cash that migrants send home — is set to exceed $232 billion, nearly 60% higher than the number just four years ago, according to the World Bank, which tracks the figures.

Of that, about $166.9 billion goes to poor countries, nearly double the amount in 2000. In many of those countries, the money from migrants has now overshot exports, and exceeds direct foreign aid from other governments.

"The way these numbers have increased is mind-boggling," says Dilip Ratha, a senior economist for the World Bank and co-author of a new Bank report on remittances. Ratha says he was so struck by the figures that he rechecked his research several times, wondering if he might have miscalculated.

Indeed, he believes the true figure for remittances this year is probably closer to $350 billion, since migrants are estimated to send one-third of their money using unofficial methods, including taking it home by hand.

One reason for the growth in recorded remittances has its origins in the global war on terrorism. To stop terrorist networks using informal transfer systems like hawala in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia (where it's referred to as hundi), European and U.S. officials have cracked down on them. That has shifted payments to easier-to-track official channels.

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]

Follow The Money: Poor Send More

In migrants' countries of origin, escalating desires — for things like better education and bigger homes — help drive the remittances.

Ironically, economists calculate that the poorer the migrants are, the more money they dispatch. "There is enormous social pressure to send money home," says Khalid Koser, a geography professor at University College London, who in October co-authored a report for the Global Commission on International Migration in Geneva, which researches governments' immigration policies. Koser found that many migrants scrape by in first-world cities, depriving themselves of basic comforts in order to "keep people alive" back home.

"There are many people sending 40% of their income in remittances," he says, adding that many families save to pay the passage of a migrant to richer parts of Asia, or to Europe or the U.S.

In Hong Kong, Endang Muna Saroh, 35, works as a nanny to two children in a comfortable residential neighborhood, and sends $200 home every month to her mother and 10-year-old son in Surabaya, Indonesia. (Indonesia receives recorded remittances such as this worth a total of $1.8 billion a year.) Yet like many migrants, Endang also saved hundreds of dollars to carry by hand to her family in August, when she flew home for her first visit in four years.

Ruhel Daked, a 26-year-old Bangladeshi, earns €1,300 a month working as a chef in Paris. Yet despite his modestly comfortable salary, he bunks with two other Bangladeshis in a dormitory building for immigrants, with one toilet shared among many men, because he says he has one goal: "To save! Save as much as I can. That is why I am here."

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]

Follow The Money: Skills, Savings and Networks

Vital though the flow of remittances may be, it cannot, on its own, lift entire nations out of poverty. Those who study the impact of remittances argue that the money allows poor countries to put off basic decisions of economic management, like reforming their tax-collection systems and building decent schools.

Some migrants are now using their economic clout to perform work usually done by big aid organizations. Mali (Africa) Ambadedi's workers' association in Paris, for example, funds some village projects with its members' own earnings. But the association also solicits help from the French government and the European Union.

"We have a project under way to purify the village water supply," says Ibrahim Diabira, 55, who works in Paris as a building cleaner and helps run the village association in the French capital.

Elsewhere, host nations have created temporary legal work programs, in which migrants earn legal wages with benefits, before returning home. That way, migrants retain close links to their countries while developing skills abroad.

When they go back, they will take augmented skills, savings and networks.

[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, by Vivenne Walt]


Africa's pleas for aid are ignored

To get a sense of Africa's unrelenting hunger, look no further than the fever-bright eyes of 17 severely malnourished infants languishing in a West African hospital.

Worse-than-normal food crises raging all but unaddressed in parts of Mali and elsewhere in Africa this year have focused new attention on the politics and geography of hunger across the world's poorest continent, as well as on how rich nations respond.

"Hot spots come and go due to crisis and drought, but the vast majority of (Africans) are just too poor to feed themselves when there's a slight disruption of their environment," said Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program.

"As you can see from Niger, you have a long period with nothing, then the camera crews arrive and it becomes a political issue. Then aid arrives," Smerdon said. Still, across Africa, "the vast majority of people are forgotten," he said.

One in three of Africa's 900 million people lack enough food each day, the United Nations said. African hunger is "a chronic problem, particularly in chronically impoverished places. It takes only something small to push people into the position where they need food aid," Smerdon said.

Eight of the 17 emaciated babies at the local hospital arrived from the city center where markets are full of food -- but many nearby residents are too poor to buy it.

[From an AP article written by Edward Harris]

5-year, $200 million fund to aid education in Africa

A 5-year-old partnership of major U.S. foundations dedicated to advancing higher education and development in Africa is broadening in size and ambition, committing to invest $200 million over the next five years.

The initiative includes more than $5 million for an eightfold increase in Internet bandwidth capacity for a consortium of African universities. Representatives of six multibillion-dollar philanthropies, including Chicago's John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, joined UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the Ford Foundation in New York.

In a statement, Annan, a native of Ghana, called the effort "an outstanding display of global citizenship."In May 2000, MacArthur, Ford, Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York formed the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. Since then, they collectively have given more than $150 million in support of selected universities in Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and, more recently, Kenya.

The schools have been seen as agents of social, economic and political progress."This effort expands our commitment to the renaissance of African higher education and to its importance in Africa's future development," said Ford President Susan Berresford, in a statement."

African universities that combine excellent, world-class education with programs of practical training are vital to progress, and it is heartening to see them emerge," said Jonathan Fanton, president of MacArthur, which has been active in Nigeria since 1989.

[By Charles Storch, The Chicago Tribune]