Soles for Kids: AfG Youth Giving Back

Children living in poverty lack many of life's most basic necessities, including a good pair of shoes. Three Allowance for Good youth chose to tackle this issue and give more children across the world the comfort of a good pair of shoes.

Charlie, Danny, and Tim participated in Allowance for Good's Fall 2015 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy class in the Elmhurst location.

After their participation in the ELP program, Charlie, Danny, and Tim decided to start their own project - a shoe drive for Soles for Kids. Soles for Kids is an incredible charity that collects used, not abused, shoes and soccer balls to distribute to children worldwide. They have distributed shoes to children in need in Africa, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.

The three AfG youth organized a shoe donation drive at York High School during a basketball game, where they collected 72 pairs of shoes. They also raised $75 to put towards shipping costs.

All the shoes they collected were given to Soles for Kids and sent to children in Tanzania. These young men acted as agents of change in their community, and their efforts will have significant effects far from their homes. Allowance for Good is proud to see them serving as global citizens and making a difference in the lives of many children.

If interested in running your own shoe drive, you can find more information about donating to Soles for Kids here.

Taking Action to Change US Food Aid: February goodTALK

By: Katherine and Emily
Katherine and Emily are both Program Fellows at Allowance for Good and students at Northwestern University. Read their bios here.

On February 12th, we braved the cold to attend a goodTALK with Josh Meyer, a Lecturer at National Security Studies at Medill’s Washington program, where he teaches graduate level journalism classes on covering conflicts, terrorism and national security. At this event, Meyer discussed the investigation into the US food aid effort that he led with a group of graduate students in the Medill School of Journalism. In a report titled, Hunger Pains: A Problem-plagued US Food Aid Program Faces an Uncertain Future, his team explored the inefficiencies and pitfalls of the program.We joined Northwestern students, staff and other interested members of the public around a table to hear Meyer speak in an intimate setting. Meyer kept everyone engaged throughout the 90 minute presentation with a powerpoint full of potent and dismaying statistics about the US Food Aid program, a long Q&A portion, and even a clip from the Daily Show. After hearing his talk, we at AfG have been moved to act in order to improve this ineffective system.

Josh Meyer chooses to focus his research not on sensationalized current events, but global systemic issues that have repercussions now and for future generations. One large-scale issue that Meyer believes will only become worse with the future challenges presented by climate change is food insecurity. By narrowing in on US food aid, Meyer’s team investigated a subject that the US public can directly impact and hold their government accountable for. As the leading global power, the US has the resources to help people throughout the world who are in need, and in the past century it has been central to US foreign policy, and the American identity, to do so. This ideology has persisted into the 21st century; military action, aid and various disaster relief efforts have all been presented as sacrifices made by the US to protect human rights abroad. But what happens when these aid efforts are wasteful and unproductive?

U.S. food aid has been quoted by experts to be the most inefficient humanitarian aid program in the world. Interviews with U.S. officials and recipients of aid on three continents revealed that USAID, the agency in charge of the food aid effort, actively seeks to serve American economic interests over the interests of those in need. Congressional mandates force USAID to use American commodities sent on American ships through an extensive logistic transportation bureaucracy. As a result, food often arrives months too late, and spoiled from the overseas journey. Former USAID administrator Andrew Natsios claims that, “people have died waiting for food to arrive,” because of this long and slow process. 

Regardless of these problems, USAID remains the largest aid effort in the world. But the U.S. can do better. Despite criticism from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and frustrated USAID workers fighting for reform, policy changes have not been made, due to vested interests in Congress. So what can we, as attentive and committed global citizens, do to help? One way could be encouraging our representatives in Congress to support reform efforts. The United Nations World Food Programme has already begun using food vouchers in place of food ration boxes in places like Jordan for the Syrian refugees there. These vouchers give the refugees the ability to choose where they shop, what they buy, and how much– restoring their sense of dignity and normalcy. If the U.S. adopted this approach to aid, the money would be going directly into the pockets of the recipients, rather than being wasted on transportation or food they don’t necessarily want. We can spur our local and state leaders to fight for this change– a change that will ensure effective aid for all of those in need.

If you would like to take action, sign the petitions at the links below, or share Josh Meyer’s piece with your friends! Advocacy and action begins with awareness.


Meyer’s Piece:

Support organizations that fight for food aid reform:

Passionate Youth Building Awareness, Taking Action

By: Kate
Kate is participating in Allowance for Good's spring 2014 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Explorers program.     

One issue that I am passionate about is domestic violence and abuse. I am passionate about this topic because I was exposed to this through my swim club and through my church. I swim for the YWCA Flying Fish in Evanston. While this is a completive swim program, it is unique because the pool is located in the YWCA which houses displaced women and their families. Every year our team raises money for the YWCA through a ‘swim marathon’. For the swim marathon we swim as many laps as possible within one hour. We each raise money by collecting donations for each lap we swim. This year the Flying Fish raised almost $100,000 and it is all donated to the YWCA to help the abused women and their families. I have been doing this for the past eight years. During this time I have learned about domestic violence and abuse.

I also experienced the affects of domestic violence and abuse this past winter while doing volunteer work for my church. A few friends and I volunteered to work at the Night Ministries in downtown Chicago. We helped serve food to the homeless and less fortunate. Before we started, the person in charge told us that some of the women we were going serve are victims of domestic violence. This really hit home when a young woman came through the line with tears in the corners of her eyes. I could tell immediately that something was wrong but it was not my place to ask too many questions. When she went through the line my dad asked her if he could do anything for her, but she shook her head no. Just from looking at her tear stricken face, I could tell something was very wrong and it made my mind wonder with questions. Was she a victim of domestic abuse? Did she have anyone she could talk to? I was only there to give her a warm meal, but I wished there was a way I could do more. 

From my involvement in both of these organizations, I have had some exposure to domestic violence and abuse. However, I’d like to become more involved. To build onto the work I have already accomplished I can look into volunteering at the YWCA to help these women. This issue inspires me because I do not think it is something anyone should have to go through. I also think that people everywhere should become more educated about this issue so we can try and prevent it from happening again.

Kate, left, discusses leadership styles with AfG Executive Director Elizabeth Newton at an Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy seminar.

Global Education and International Development Reflection

On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, Allowance for Good began its newest program, Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: A Student Seminar Series. Chicago-area youth are invited to participate in a weekly seminar to learn more about the global philanthropic sector and how they have the power to be philanthropists and agents for change.

Fiona reflects on our fifth session, focused on Global Education and International Development.

“Don’t be afraid to fail, because you will.” This quote was introduced last week and really stood out to me because it explains that if you really LOVE what you do and have a burning passion for it, you shouldn’t be afraid to try new things to bring your passion to life. That is one huge lesion that I learned last week and during this whole week, I have been trying new things in my life because I told myself that I would never know until I tried. I’m really passionate about making change and peace and when I get older, I would love to incorporate philanthropy in helping to make the change I wish to see.

During our lesson, my cousin Karin Scott came in and talked to us about the Global Engagement Summit. The Global Engagement Summit is a three-day program ran by 60 undergrad Northwestern students who meet during the year together and plan the capacity of the next generation of global change makers. It was extremely interesting for me.  Not only is Karin one of my role models in my life, but she inspired me to travel out of the country and help kids in poverty-stricken communities in need. We learned about goals last week. There were three parts to it, learn, connect and act. Learn: engaging in critical discussions in thinking how to do well. Connect: networking with other passionate individuals from around the world and innovate through leaders, and lastly, Act: building capacity and skills on how to carry these things out. Karin left us with some questions that really stuck with my throughout the week. What are you passionate about? In what ways have you volunteered around your community and outside the country? What kind of problems have you seen in these communities? Last summer, I traveled to Haiti on a ten-day service trip. I saw so many things that still stay in my mind to this very day, but one thing I will never forget is that even though Haiti is extremely poor, they are rich in spirit. I’m going back in two years and I hope that the service work we did there last summer really made an impact on their lives and showed them that you don’t know until you try. I know that I was scared that we were going to fail and we didn’t, and I’m blessed that we finished our work there because now kids have a place to learn. So this week, I encourage you all to try something new and don’t be afraid of failure. Trust me, you will feel empowered.