Americans can do more to give abroad

Kelsey Kusterer

Many countries in Asia are struggling.

Most villagers in Laos, for example, could greatly benefit from clean water, as well as septic and sewer systems.

China is struggling to keep its population fed, and pollution there has become an immense problem.

And despite some progress, in part driven by the growth of U.S. jobs in India, many Indians still live on less than 50 cents a day, says Allyson Wainer, director of communications at nonprofit Trickle Up, a nonprofit in New York City.

Dave Davenport, a zoologist who lived in Laos for a year in the 1990s as part of his work for a doctoral degree, started an ecotourism company seven years ago to give travelers a taste of the wild while promoting international conservation.

Trips sponsored by his company, EcoQuest Travel in Four Oaks, N.C., aim to raise awareness about the value of global natural habitats while also helping to support local communities in struggling countries.

By carefully choosing where his clients stay and the areas they visit, says Davenport, they can “give back to various countries we work in.”

A percentage of the fee for his trips is cycled back into local areas.

Participating in an EcoQuest Travel tour is an indirect way of giving money to third-world countries, but many nonprofits are making strides sending aid directly to Asians.

Heifer International in Little Rock, Ark., was founded in 1940 by Dan West, a relief worker in the Spanish Civil War who realized handing out cups of milk to needy Spaniards was not enough.

So he started Heifer on the principle of “Not a cup, but a cow.”

Heifer sends cows, rabbits, goats, bees — a total of 30 species of livestock — to families around the world. In turn, these families share their livestock’s offspring with neighbors and the community prospers together.

One success story is that of “The Rabbit King,” a Chinese man who received a gift of rabbits from Heifer and now sells rabbits back to the organization.

The nonprofit Trickle Up carefully selects entrepreneurs in third-world countries to give grants of $100 to begin a business.

A $100 grant may seem small, but for entrepreneurs like Chea Net, it can make a big difference.

With the help of Trickle Up, this Cambodian woman was able to buy sewing machines for the crafts she sells and had enough money to pay her medical bills.

Based in Akron, Pa., and operating 11 stores in North Carolina, including Raleigh and Durham, Ten Thousand Villages offers fair-trade products from 32 countries around the world, with nearly half the products made in Asia.

Artisans making those products use of recycled and local materials, such as soapstone, which then supports soapstone miners and creates jobs for the whole community.

These groups understand that the best way to assist Asians out of poverty is by giving them a sound start of livestock, money or support for their trade.

Americans have not forgotten the needs of Asians overseas. Yetnonprofits cannot survive without the support of their local communities, and all Americans, not just celebrities, can do their part to help end poverty overseas.

Kelsey Kusterer is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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