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Where does one begin if they want to make a difference in the lives of young children in developing nations?

As I enter the work force, I am finding it harder and harder to find something that I am not only passionate about, but also makes a difference in the world.
Currently, I am trying to bridge the gap in education between affluent and low-income communities within the same area -- i.e. New York/New Jersey.

However, I want to do more. I want to fix the even bigger disparities that exist all over the world. There are too many countries in which girls are not allowed to go to school, places where girls are instead forced into prostitution or simply sold to the wealthy as little more than slaves.

What I want to hear your insight and advice on, is where do I begin? I feel as though I am in a position to help - as anyone is - but I really do not know where to start, what organizations do the most, where to meet people who share my vision...
So I am turning to you and hoping that someone can turn me in the right direction.

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    Nov 27 2013: Understand the root cause of the problem and fight that, don't just go and do something that feels good and you think is good...


    The problem in this world as I see it is that YOU still need to eat while helping others... And most of the time you actually have to PAY for doing this kind of work...
    The notion you're having is a very common one, solve that and you'd be contributing not just your time but the time of countless others. Help people to help others.
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      Nov 27 2013: You are a good example, though. Don't you do a normal sort of job and then offer your off-time and resources to social action and service?

      When you mention paying to do such work, I am reminded of reading in the last five years or so about what has been called "voluntourism." Because of the enthusiasm people have long had for service to people overseas, villages with needs and too little economic activity to support the services that would be beneficial for their populations have partnered over the last decade, perhaps, with travel outfitters to meet the demand on both ends. That is, the village needs the cash, typically, much more than they need the volunteer time from outside, while the prospective volunteer seeks the experience and gratification of providing hands-on service. So the volunteer pays a fee- sometimes large- for the experience, and the village gets a portion of the fee in exchange for finding the voluntourist something to do that will make the volunteer satisfied with his trip.

      I appreciate your wise advice to consider first and primarily what is of most value to the recipient rather than what feels good to you as the server. Service starts with thinking of the other person's, or community's, best interests before your own.
      • Dec 2 2013: Fritzie,

        Fascinating what you just posted. Thank you! You said : "The village gets a portion of the fee in exchange for finding the voluntourist something to do that will make the volunteer satisfied with his trip".

        Kind of paradoxical how in order to get donations to the village, the villages have to find something satisfying for the volunteers to pay to do, for the village's sake. Never would had imagined that there would be a business model that tailors to the needs of volunteers by outsourcing the service of needy providers who will go out of their way to ensure they get helped. Kind of counter intuitive...

        Note that your comment applies to each sides:
        1) the server : "to consider first and primarily what is of most value to the recipient rather than what feels good to you as the server. Service starts with thinking of the other person's, or community's, best interests before your own".
        2) the recipient : to consider first and primarily what is of value to the server rather than just one's owns needs/wants/desires what feels good to you as the recipient. Receiving starts with thinking of the other person's experience and their best interests before your own. (make it easy for the ones who want to help to do it even if it's not necessarily in the form one want it)
        3) The broker : help each to refocus on attaining what they desire by focusing on finding ways to attend to what others desires while still getting a portion of the exchanged values
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          Dec 2 2013: I don't know where you make your home, but in the United States, people's desire to feel they are in some way serving others is a part of many commercial business models. I have been told that business schools teach as part of marketing strategy the approach of using promotions that contribute a small proportion of proceeds to good causes as an effective way of increasing the consumer's willingness to spend on retail items at that store.
      • Dec 2 2013: Fritzie,

        Oh I understand the different business models and even how some 'brokers' make a living (a much better living) by their 'brokering'. Yea they help the poor be less poor, and get the rich to feel they helped in serving the less fortunate while making a living. What I found fascinating about what you said was the notion that a village may not get any monetary donations unless they found something for the volunteer to do to make it seem worth it. As you mentioned "That is, the village needs the cash, typically, much more than they need the volunteer time from outside, while the prospective volunteer seeks the experience and gratification of providing hands-on service."

        In a way what you point out may be the way to help to make a difference in the lives of young children in developing nations... create businesses where the village provides gratifying experiences to 'patrons' while being enriched . Ideally these experiences ought to be repeatable and one going. The best business is one that keep on growing... The thing is to be able to do so without relaying on poverty...
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        Dec 3 2013: Thanks Fritzie!
        "Voluntourism" really made me think about a lot of perspectives that I hadn't before.

        However, when you Google (which is the primary way of looking for information) "voluntary work" or the likes most of the first results (which is as far as most will search if not instantly gratified) will be with orginazations that sell voluntary for somewhat extreme prizes. On most of those sites I need to pay at least a thousand dollars monthly, to go and do heavy, (somewhat) shitty work. The math doesn't work, how come I need to pay the equivalent of 30-40 doctor pays (in a third world country) to come and WORK, free!?

        I fully get that I need to support at least my own costs, but living and food down there (as in Africa since I'm up north) doesn't go for that. I've found really small organizations here in Sweden that let you do the same thing for about a tenth of the previously mentioned price, with living and food.

        Something's not right when the economics of a FREE work force isn't economically feasible.
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          Dec 3 2013: The travel organizations are, I think, for profit and charge what the market will bear, probably. I do not know what the "cut" is that the village receives or what the travel organization covers as part of what they charge.

          What services they are offering to their participants should be described on the web sites.

          If Sweden has something Peace Corps-like, that organization pays expenses and a small stipend for accepted applicants.
        • Dec 4 2013: There's an organization called Volunteer HQ that I think is great. The fees for the individual are very low and you do not have to pay extraordinary amounts to volunteer; just your time is required. They have many different programs and I have heard great reviews from friends who have gone.
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    Nov 26 2013: Are you interested in volunteering on site? You could look at Peace Corps or United Nations volunteers. UNVolunteers also has a way of volunteering online. Another organization is Teachers without Borders.

    On TED, you could listen to Sugata Mitra's talk and follow links to his website. I think he has had more volunteer offers, probably, than he knows what to do with, but you could put your name forward regardless. They use volunteers to engage online via Skype with kids overseas.

    Many organizations working in education overseas can make better use of financial contributions than they can of people. There is a research institute housed at MIT but with offices all over the world called the Poverty Action Lab. If you go to the website, you will learn of organizations that work with kids, particularly in India, in this specific area. Here is a page about Pratham, an NGO in India that successfully serves would you believe 33 million children through its programs in India: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/scale-ups/remedial-education

    The Central Asia Institute, made popular by the books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, builds schools for girls in Central Asia, with the participation of local residents.

    Also on TED, listen to Bono's talk about ending global poverty and look at his site www.one.org. They have an organization that rallies people to act and has chapters all over the United States, at least.

    You could look also on the website for the Gates Foundation. Most of their overseas emphasis is in global health, but they have a global libraries initiative as well: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Development/Global-Libraries

    You might be interested in reading work by Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health. He argues, as MANY now do, that you do best by providing the resources for LOCAL people to help their own rather than Westerners always rushing in. Maybe less personally enriching but more effective for those you want to help!
    • Nov 26 2013: Thank you! I appreciate the time you took to respond. I have heard and looked into many of these organizations but will check out the rest. I would like to be more hands on and am in the middle of applying to the peace corps now.
  • Dec 4 2013: Thanks it was great reading all of your comments. I really do want to be more hands on but as was stated in many ways, sometimes that is not the best and if anything, would just be helpful while I am there, but if I give only myself as a resource then with my return home, so do the benefits.
    When I originally posted this, I was running into a few dead ends but yesterday, I actually got accepted into a teaching and masters program so I will be able to get some more experience here and then go on to do something at a larger - state - level in improving education.
    I recently found TED to be a great resource and I suspect you will all be great resources in the future.
    Also, going to a TEDx event on Thursday!
    Take Care
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    Dec 1 2013: Einstein said two thing that might help you: "Information is not knowledge" & "The only source of knowledge is experience"
    Personally I do not believe teachers should be allowed to teach until they have had practical experience in the real world.
    Nike has a great slogan "Just do it"
    What ever your passion is "just do it".... " a painter paints"


    A mechanic's evaluation: the alternator won't alternate, the spark plug's won't spark, the carburetor won't carb and the pistons... well they don't work either :)
  • Nov 30 2013: Start small, start from somewhere. Know that you cant save all the children in developing nations, you cant solve all their problems either.
    Just find out what you can do with the resources you have, and then START.