Corey Engelen | Foreign Humanitarian Causes

Corey Engelen's Foreign Humanitarian Causes Blog

Category: philanthropy

Nelson Mandela Day - How Honoring Nelson Mandela's Legacy Goes Beyond #MandelaDay - Corey Engelen

How Honoring Nelson Mandela’s Legacy Goes Beyond #MandelaDay

Over the course of history, human rights movement has seen the leadership of several extraordinary figures. On July 18, the world celebrates the achievement of the extraordinary Nelson Mandela. But the aims of the holiday reach further than just the actions of one man.

As the official Mandela Day website proclaims:

“It’s more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy. It is a global movement to honour his life’s work and act to change the world for the better”

There’s no one way to celebrate the day, as long as one thinks about helping others. The Nelson Mandela Foundation strives to make every day a Mandela day, by promoting people to carry out good works on their own. Along those lines, the Foundation has created an online platform to allow individuals from across the world to pledge, promote, encourage, and organize good works.

On you can find listed a number of areas (Shelter and Infrastructure, Environment, Food Security, Education and Literacy) to support by creating an action and or joining one. The majority of these actions are focused on initiatives in South Africa. One individual has reached out her friends to provide care packs for mothers and newborns. The Zoe Bakery Project aims to supply 67 loaves of bead to 67 families for 67 days, in a larger effort to serve those who are economically disadvantaged. The Shoebox is another ongoing initiative that is raising funds to purchase new school shoes for those who cannot normally afford them. Although the majority of the actions found on the site are based in South Africa, a number of them seek to spread the Nelson Mandela Legacy across the earth.

67 Loaves - How Honoring Nelson Mandela's Legacy Goes Beyond #MandelaDay

The Zoe Bakery Project feeding families in South Africa.

For instance, volunteers from the Municipality of San Polo D’Enza, Italy will gather in front of supermarkets throughout the area to gather food for families in need. All the way back in Rockville, Maryland the organization The Velocity of Books will be giving away 10,000 free books in the town square. And in Costa Rica there is an initiative to plant a tree for every family in the Guanacaste province.

I can’t help but applaud the open-ended and widespread message of the Mandela Foundation. Making the world a better place isn’t about doing one good thing one day, and then kicking our feet up and relaxing during the rest. At the same time, it’s not about constantly worrying about the troubles of the world and feeling helpless to stave them off. No. Only through a gradual shift in perception, in how we perceive the many ways that are own lives are connected to others can we hope to truly achieve the world that Nelson Mandela envisioned.

It’s not about making one big act. It’s about making small acts everyday throughout our lifetime. It’s about approaching the world with an attitude of wanting to better it.

Corey Engelen

image of medical supplies with title text "the not so fine line" by Corey Engelen

The Not So Fine Line: Differences Between Humanitarian and Developmental Aid

Aid – in terms of sending money, supplies, food, and manpower to foreign countries – is often used broadly by the general public. Many would say that humanitarian and developmental aid have the same goals in mind; and to an extent, they are right. There is though, a difference between humanitarian and developmental aid that is overlooked and ignored. Discussed below are some of these differences.

According to the Humanitarian Coalition, humanitarian aid is designed to save lives and alleviate suffering during the immediate aftermath of a tragedy or natural disaster. In the case of armed conflict breaking out, or a devastating earthquake, humanitarian aid is there to provide assistance to the affected populations. Development aid on the other hand attempts to navigate and address ongoing structural issues. It is designed to improve the institutional and economic irregularities that are hindering social development. In short, it seeks to provide long term solutions to affected populations. Although goals of both are seemingly identical, they are in fact, not.

In Marc DuBois’ recent piece in the Guardian, Dubois argues that the differences should not be taken lightly. For Dubois, disregarding the differences between both adds confusion to the already complex efforts of aid-providing officials. This month, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed breaking down the differences between humanitarian and development work. By shifting the objective from delivering aid to ending need altogether, humanitarian goals would shift in unison with sustainable development goals.

Dubois recognizes that the divisions can sometimes have disorganized or divisive consequences between both forms of aid. Humanitarians would stubbornly promote their effectiveness in relief situations, while development advocates would feel their efforts are superior overall. Breaking down barriers between both as Ban Ki-Moon suggests would signal the end to such unnecessary squabbles. However convergence is not the best option either.

For Dubois, humanitarian efforts must remain neutral and uninvolved in institutional partnerships – something that development workers require to carry out tasks. Humanitarians, eighty percent of the time, reach out to individuals in conflict-centered zones. In order to reach thousands of people, they must sometimes bypass dangerous groups and institutions. This can only be achieved by staying away from development efforts, which are often intrusive in nature.

However development provides solutions that humanitarians must relegate to a secondary priority. “A camp for displaced persons is a good place to find shelter, nutrition and (hopefully) safety; it is a terrible place to call home and raise your children,” explains Dubois. En fin, both movements need to have their own flexibility in order to operate successfully. Converging the two may have unintended outcomes.

If you liked this post and would like to read more of development news and information, check out my twitter @coreyengelen for more information. Thanks for reading!

The Floating School of Makoko

I recently came across the inspiring story of the floating school of Makoko in Lagos. Architect Kunlé Adeyemi found himself drawn to Makoko, a slum located in the coastal African city of Lagos where many of the buildings are erected on piers that reach to the bottom of the shallow littoral waters.  But unlike many of the other structures in Makoko, the school does not rest on the ocean floor. It rests on water.

“I visited Makoko and was very inspired by the environment…they created a lot almost out of nothing,” Adeyemi says.  After spending some time with community members, he then asked them what they wanted built. They said a school. “I decided to learn from the environment and also help improve the environment.” Adeyemi spent time speaking to carpenters in the community in order to figure out how to best approach a solution.

The school is more than a place for education, it’s a place for “convergence.” The top two floors of the school is where the actual schooling takes place, but the base floor is open (literally and figuratively) so that the public can meet for gaming, trade, and other events.

Kunlé Adeyemi states that although the floating school Started off as a personal/corporate responsibility project it soon became so much more. “It’s not just about building a school, it’s really about addressing a significant issue that we are beginning to see in coastal African cities,” namely urbanization and climate change.

Adeyemi’s efforts speak to the possibilities of working with a community vs. bringing a top down approach where the community does not have any agency whatsoever. It’s a common approach to development and investment: an organization comes in with good intentions, but does not put in the time to listen to what the community needs and how they envision carrying it out, and ends up implementing an uninformed outsider plan that does not actually help the local community.

I’m proud to say that at the U.N. Diplomatic Services Corp. we constantly strive to work with communities, instead of over them. We partner with local NGOs, volunteers, and missionaries to bring clean water, food, and much needed infrastructure to the people in the way that they need it. Seeing those like Kunlé Adeyemi carry out the same work inspires me to keep doing the work that I am doing and to do it better.

Students of Iowa State Bring Relief to Uganda Year After Year

iowa stateStudents of Iowa State have found ways to help those in need outside of the United States, specifically in Uganda. Elly Sukup, a junior at the University back in 2006 when the school made its first trip to Uganda. It was at this moment that for the first time she saw people truly hungry. The school since then has made it a point to go back every year to help those who need it most. Now in the programs 10th year, it looks as though the students of Iowa State University are making a difference. The program launched in 2004 thanks to the help of a $10 million endowment from alumni Gerald and Karen Kolschowsky.

The goal of each trip is simple: Create an alternative to drop-and-ditch philanthropy by forging sustainable programs with local residents. The program to date has helped over 10,000 citizens of Uganda. The program has helped build businesses, food security, keep kids in school and improve farming.

Some aid by the numbers thanks to the students of Iowa State include the following:

There are 5,200 school lunches served per week.

The calories provided in each lunch is now 850 after previously being 50.

There are 18 new well-watered systems now.

149 Ugandans are now enrolled in a youth entrepreneurship program.

For more on the progress of the Iowa State students, check out this article here.

Changing the World, One Charity at a Time

There are thousands of fantastic charities that successfully make an impact everyday. Here are a few impressive organizations that effectively address local and global issues. Getting involved on a local scale creates a ripple effect of change. As a global diplomat, I have seen the influence of many of the these non-profits, and I encourage you to get involved in any way you can.


1. Doctors Without Borders
This world-renowned organization began in France in the 1970s and is often abbreviated as MSF for the French, Médecins Sans Frontières. In 2015 over 30,000, mostly local, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators provided medical aid in over 70 countries. Doctors Without Borders acts as a global institute independent from the countries its doctors work in, while managing an impressive track record of political responsibility. A team surveys the field in each country, with medical aid and urgent care as the main objective of most missions, sometimes assisting in water purification and nutrition.

2. World Vision
World Vision is dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Originally founded in 1950 as a Evangelical organization to relieve missionaries in emergency situations, the mission maintains a religious doctrine (it does, however, have a policy against proselytizing). World Vision hosts events such as a “Girls Night Out” marathon, nights dedicated to women in conflict or desperate situations and provide keynote speakers, light entertainment and of course, girl talk. There are also opportunities to fundraise in homage to World Vision.

3. International Women’s Development Agency
This organization represents women and girls by tackling issues of power, money and security. IWDA is committed to advocating for women the by working work towards ensuring their safety and sustainable solutions for their rights and well-being. IWDA works with partners in the Asia Pacific region but it encourages a global effort, especially through sponsorship of annual large events such as International Women’s Day and Half the Sky. These events impact women of communities everywhere and thus influence change on a global scale.

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