How We Can Start to Alleviate World Poverty


By Mary Jaksch

There are so many problems in the world, from poverty, loss of cultural identity, lack of education, lack of access to medical help, to loss of wildlife habitats. Sometimes it gets to me and I turn off the news because I just feel so helpless. Do you get like that too, sometimes?

I’ve just spent some time in Costa Rica and I realized something quite simple: all the problems I listed above have a common root source – poverty. That gave me an idea…

The idea came to me when I met a remarkable woman, Petronella. She is one of the leaders of the Bribri tribe – a small group of indigenous people in the Limon Province of Costa Rica.

Petronella is a bright and resourceful leader (you can see her in the photo on the right). She told us that they were evicted from their land three times. The last time was about 6 years ago. Each time, groups of land-hungry white Latinos appeared in the middle of the night, forced them into cattle trucks and drove them for hours into remote areas. But the found their way back each time, walking for weeks.

Four years ago, Petronella decided to lead her family out of poverty. She decided to start a small tourist operation where she could show how her ancestors made chocolate and other products from cocoa plants. She also managed to scrounge English language tapes and a player for Priscilla, her 19 year old daughter – who was only able to attend school for 3 years.

Fast forward four years:

Now Petronella employs five people, has contracted other members of her tribe to make chocolate and handicrafts to sell, and has been able to pay for medical treatment for her daughter Pricilla’s debilitating illness.

Pricilla now speaks fluent English (this super-bright young woman has an amazing talent for languages!)

This is a heartening story, isn’t it? And it gave me an idea…

A way to start alleviating world poverty  is to support enterprising community leaders such as Petronella so that they can help others.

Imagine if we could harness the huge power of blogs with all their readers in order to make this happen!

Here’s how:

Together with  Arvind Devalia’s blog Make it Happen , Goodlife ZEN has joined forces to host the Blog with Heart Challenge 2009/2010.

Which blog community has the greatest heart? Each blog is invited to join a friendly challenge to alleviate poverty during the month of December 2009. The top ten will be the nominated winners of the Blog with Heart Challenge.

The best ways to alleviate poverty is to give people a hand-up, not a hand-out. That’s why the Blog with Heart Challenge 2009/2010 uses Kiva, a highly respected micro-lending non profit organization. In an article published in FORTUNE magazine, you can read that Kiva is the toast of Oprah, the Today show, and Bill Clinton’s latest book, Giving.

Kiva allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur in the developing world and as they repay the loan, you get your money back.

Here’s how the “Blog with Heart Challenge” works

Each blogger who wants to participate in the Blog with Heart Challenge joins Kiva and forms a lending team that carries the blog’s name. (If you’re a blogger who wants to participate, click here for details on how to enter your blog).

As a reader, you can join a blog’s lending team. Once you’re a part of the team, you can choose to have a future loan on Kiva “count” towards your team’s impact. The loan is still yours, and repayments still come to you – but you can choose to have the loan show up in your blog team’s collective portfolio, so your team’s chance of winning the Blog with Heart Challenge 2009/2009 will grow.

The ten winners of the Blog with Heart Challenge will be the blogs who have the biggest Kiva portfolio, relative to their number of subscribers. This means that small blogs can compete with large ones.

Will that alleviate poverty? It’s a start.

We’ve already contacted some bloggers and have had a great response. The first to respond enthusiastically was Leo Babauta of Zen Habits!

What YOU can do:

As c0-hosts of the Blog with Heart Challenge Goodlife ZEN won’t be participating, but each of us can help to make the Challenge a success. Here’s how:

  • Readers, contact your favorite bloggers and ask them to join.
  • Bloggers, join the Blog with Heart Challenge. You can find out how to join here.
  • Tweet up a storm
  • Join a lending team and lend $25.

If you want to know more about the Challenge and about Kiva, you can read more about the Blog with Heart Challenge here. There are also some cool Kiva videos and Arvind has collected the best ones here.

What do you think about the Blog with Heart Challenge? I look forward to your comments.

Let’s encourage each other and crank this thing up!

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.


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