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A Feasible Solution To Poverty

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By all accounts, poverty is one of the world’s gravest problems. According to the World Bank, 3.14 billion people in the world live on US$2.50 or less a day. ¹ That’s pretty grave to me.

If it is any consolation, Steve Mollman reports in the Wall Street Journal that “more people are taking sabbaticals from their jobs, ranging from two weeks to a year, to be philantrophic volunteers.” Apparently, it “satisfies the yearning for a challenge and the desire to give something back.”

Mollman then raises inconveniences that come with sabbaticals such as individuals facing financial difficulties due to having to quit their full-time jobs to volunteer. As for companies, they face the risk of losing manpower as more workers might choose to switch to charity work as a profession. ²

My contention with sabbaticals is that they are temporary and thus, so are their effects on eradicating poverty. We need to find a way such that workers and companies are financially stable while still being able to delve into charity work.

Therein lies a question: Is it possible to juxtapose work with charity?

In a fancy world, we’d be able to do so. This tactic, unlike sabbaticals is far more ideal. It would eliminate financial uncertainties individuals have to face because they need not quit their jobs in order to give back to society. Likewise, companies need not fear losing employees if the company provides opportunities for workers to dabble in some form of volunteering through their profession.

Truth is, striking a delicate balance between charity and work isn’t as fancy and unrealistic, as it seems.

There have been several companies that have successfully done so.

Take for example, the non-profit organization, Hellen Keller International (HKI). In 2008, 82% of its finances were used directly for its primary purpose of working worldwide to prevent blindness and reduce malnutrition. Simultaneously, HKI offers salary and benefits competitive with other non-governmental organizations to their employees.³

HKI stays true to its charitable mission but is still able to financially sustain itself as a non-profit organization.

If working in the non-profit sector isn’t quite your cup of tea, fret not, because there are always feasible alternatives.

Let’s look at professional marathoner, Ryan Hall, aged 27. The first U.S. runner to break the one-hour barrier in the half-marathon with a time of 59 minutes 43 seconds, he also placed tenth in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. Sponsored by Asics, Hall earns a living through professional running. *

Hall together with his wife, Sara Bei-Hall, also a professional runner has established a charitable organization, the Hall Steps Foundation in late August this year. The Hall Steps Foundation is a function of “Fun 4 Kidz”, an organization that acts on behalf of professional athletes to provide opportunities for disadvantaged children.

As of today, Sara has donated $2 500 for her third-place finish in 5th Avenue Mile on Sept. 26 2009 to the New York Road Runners Young Runners program in one school per borough of New York City. Ryan will donate all of his winnings from the New York City Marathon, in which he emerged 4th, to fund one school per borough as well. +

In short, by forming revenue for charity work through their profession, running, via the establishment of their foundation, charity work is a constant in their lives. Their cumulative efforts will have a long-lasting impact as compared to a once-in-a-lifetime sabbatical that only lasts “two weeks to a year.”

As teenagers, we will soon be pruning over our list of possible careers. While financial stability ought to be a sage priority, we should also remember that charity work is our responsibility as human beings.

Instead of viewing work and charity as an “either or” situation, we can learn from HKI and the Halls that a juxtaposition of work and charity is a favorable way to contribute our efforts in eliminating poverty and making the world a better place, a step at a time.

Annotated Bibliography:
1. Source: World Bank Development Indicators, 2008
http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats
2. Source: “Charity Begins At Work” by Steve Mollman
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125915795064863829.html
3. Source: Financial Information, Helen Keller International (HKI)
http://www.hki.org/about-us
*. Source: Meet Ryan Biography, The Official Website for Ryan and Sara Hall
http://www.ryanandsarahall.com
+. Source: Running With A Greater Purpose, Universal Sports
http://www.universalsports.com/news/article/newsid=287088.html



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