Poverty Relief Programs From the Green Shoots Foundation

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TACOMA, Washington — Improving education, healthcare and agriculture in developing countries can help break the cycle of poverty. A United Kingdom-based nonprofit called the Green Shoots Foundation uses sustainable methods to aid economic development and provide growth opportunities to low-income families in developing countries. Especially in the wake of COVID-19, poverty relief programs that target education, healthcare and agriculture have significant positive impacts on these communities and the global economy.

Education in India

Inequality and education are inherently connected in India. In particular, it is crucial to look at a child’s circumstances when considering their ability to excel in post-secondary school. Jandhyala Tilak discusses in one paper the importance of a father’s educational level and income for his child’s future economic opportunities. It states “poverty is associated with both dropouts and underachievement in schools.”

Children tend to stay within the same income bracket as their families no matter which side of the socioeconomic divide they stand on. This is because low-income children generally have less access to social capital and fewer opportunities to break into a higher income bracket. Other factors that impact access to education are gender, location, ethnic group as well as caste and class systems.

Barriers to Education for Women

A study by the World Bank conducted in Delhi highlights the limitations that women face when choosing a college to attend. The data show that women will choose a college based on proximity to their homes (and hence safety) rather than quality. The consequences of this are wide-ranging. If women are attending lower-quality colleges compared to their male counterparts, they are at a significant disadvantage. They will be unable to reach their full potential through quality education in the classroom and beyond.

Adolescent girls are also particularly affected by educational restructuring and school closures during COVID-19. A World Bank article from July 2021 warns that adolescent females in lower-income countries are the least likely to return to school. Typically, this is due to an increase in household tasks, caregiving responsibilities and the increased levels of gender-based violence during COVID-19. However, a study in India from October 2020 shows that a girl’s human capital index is higher than a boy’s. This means that a focus on securing a proper, quality education for girls will result in more future economic success.

All these barriers make it difficult for individuals in poverty to succeed. Education is a primary stepping stone needed to participate in the labor force. If students are unable to excel because of their circumstances, then the economy suffers.

Green Shoots’ ELSE Program

In response to the needs of low-income communities in India, the Green Shoots Foundation developed a program called Education, Loans and Social Enterprise (ELSE). Through an after-school program at Shiksha Rath Academy, Green Shoots provides supplementary teaching to marginalized groups. ELSE emphasizes consistency by providing services five days a week for three hours a day. The program also promotes a safe learning environment for elementary schoolers. Furthermore, the program gives parents time and space to pursue paid employment to increase household income.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Muneezay Jaffery, Green Shoots’ operation manager, discussed Green Shoots’ unique approach to identifying and addressing educational gaps. Programs like ELSE, which target the root of the educational gap, create opportunities for families to break into higher income brackets. Furthermore, the program’s focus on young girls is critical. By investing in girls, Green Shoots can reduce human capital deficits, and thus, increase the marginal benefit of its investment. Simply put, educating girls will result in long-term gains for the economy.

Finally, ELSE uses sustainable techniques to aid in education. Namely, the program is designed to teach productive approaches to learning and target a community’s specific needs. Once individuals and communities can fully shoulder the responsibility of education, they will no longer need to rely on Green Shoots to provide those resources.

Medical Assistance and Education

Especially in developing countries, it is difficult for HIV-positive individuals to obtain healthcare resources. This is most commonly due to lack of investment in antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, poor delivery models, an inability to prevent transmission and stigma surrounding the virus. Furthermore, global statistics tend to be skewed when it comes to the status of countries struggling with HIV. Even if some countries appear to be addressing the problem, there are still regional differences, especially for lower-income countries that do not have access to proper or sufficient medicine. In countries where HIV is prevalent, it is necessary to take the proper steps to lower the transmission rate and reduce the negative effects for those individuals who have HIV/AIDS.

In addition to methods such as timely intervention, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe’s HIV/AIDS program in Kyrgyzstan stresses the importance of HIV testing and systematic follow-up for higher-risk populations. Since Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked lower-middle-income country with a history of political instability, it is particularly useful to focus on the more inaccessible populations in order to slow transmission.

The CDC released a report in 2018 on the estimated prevalence of HIV in Kyrgyzstan. For people between the ages of 15 and 49, there was a 0.2% prevalence and fewer than 200 annual AIDS-related deaths. Despite the low infection number, though, Kyrgyzstan experiences one of the fastest-growing transmission rates globally, and thus, the issue is crucial to address.

Green Shoots’ MAME Program

The Green Shoots Medical Assistance and Medical Education (MAME) program tackles “HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.” Implemented in Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and Myanmar, this program provides workshops for local medical professionals. It also coordinates with locals to find innovative and productive ways to tackle issues based on the specific needs of those communities. Green Shoots also supports microfinancing for people living with HIV/AIDS since the stigma around the virus can interfere with job opportunities and social networks. By focusing on the individual needs of a population, Green Shoots can help each community find equilibrium and become self-sufficient.

Recently, ARV therapy decreased in cost due to market competition and activism, but the pandemic has negatively impacted this trend. “Lockdowns, disruptions to production, border restrictions” and poor distribution capabilities can lead to upward price pressure. To combat the obstacles created by COVID-19, Jaffrey explains that Green Shoots “responded and adapted by taking on online teaching, making use of Facebook and Zoom as much as possible.” It is times of crisis that amplify the difficulties faced by low-income HIV-positive communities, so they especially benefit from programs like MAME. Green Shoots’ ability to modify its approach as well as its emphasis on continuing medical education combines to make MAME valuable and sustainable in the long term.

Creating Sustainable Change

Poverty relief programs such as ELSE and MAME as well as Food, Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship (FASE) are even more crucial in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These initiatives provide tools, resources and knowledge to help communities help themselves. The three focal points of Green Shoots’ programs (education, medicine and agriculture) are fundamental to the success of countries on an economic and individual level. For its 10 year anniversary, Green Shoots is running a matched funding campaign welcoming donations until October 14, 2021.

By creating sustainable change, the Green Shoots Foundation helps countries find economic independence and reach their full potential in the global arena.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Courtesy of Green Shoots Foundation

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