Let's make 'doing good' one of our summer vacation memories.
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July 2015

My wife Diana and I have been having more and more conversations about how amazing our lives currently are from a health, relationship, family, and material perspective.  Although we have donated a lot to The Life You Can Save in time and money, we are acutely aware of how much more we want to do and should do for those suffering from extreme poverty.  The fact is we still spend too much money that could be put to better use. As we approach our summer vacation, it is an especially good time to think about how much more most of us can give to effective charities without diminishing the quality of our material lives, or the lives of those closest to us. 

For many of us in the developed world, a summer trip is a routine expenditure.   If you can pretty comfortably afford a summer vacation, perhaps you can also increase the amount you donate to help people in extreme poverty, for whom access to life-sustaining basics is unavailable and the idea of a vacation an unimaginable luxury. 

As you read the newsletter, please consider being even more generous.  

Thanks for your ongoing support of our recommended charities.  

Good living and good giving,

Charlie Bresler is Executive Director of The Life You Can Save, an organization founded by the philosopher Peter Singer and based on the basic tenet of Effective Altruism: leading an ethical life involves using a portion of personal assets and resources to effectively alleviate the consequences of extreme poverty.

In July's Issue


Charity Voices


Team Picks


Supporter Story


This Month in Giving


Highlights from Our Blog

Charity Voices
Our recommended charities demonstrate a spectrum of ways to gather and share evidence of their work.
Raising the transparency bar
GiveDirectly's homepage is constantly updated with current performance data.

GiveDirectly was recently featured in an in-depth article in the Huffington Post. In the piece, charity evaluator Elie Hassenfeld explains why GiveDirectly has been among their top rated charities for three consecutive years: "We look for organizations where if something goes wrong, they would know about it, and they would highlight it, and they would learn from it.” We’re excited that our work and raw data sharing are furthering the conversation about transparency in aid. 

Evidence and transparency via technology
Electronic Data Collection inhibits net theft while increasing accountability.

Smartphones successfully used for data collection in DRC
We wrote in March of one of our net distributions in West Kasai Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in which we were using smartphones to record data from all households (255,500) receiving nets in a universal coverage mass net distribution to further improved accountability. This allowed a significant quantity of data to be captured directly in electronic form.
The process proved very effective overall.
  • 91% of the nets distributed had data recorded electronically
  • 96% of the household data records were without error
We consider this a very strong outcome.
The potential benefits of electronic data collection (EDC) and how they applied in West Kasai are:
1. Acts against potential theft
Data in electronic form can be shared widely and easily so net numbers can be tracked with precision and visibly. This inhibits theft, making occurrences obvious, quickly. There was no material loss of nets in this distribution.
2. Improves accountability
Detailed data, at the household level, can be shared with partners demonstrating what has taken place. That was the case here.
3. Increases transparency
All partners, including donors and the wider public, have access to detailed data and can see what has taken place. That was the case here.
4. Increases data accuracy
Data can be processed more quickly and errors spotted with time for corrections to be made prior to the net distribution taking place. That was not the case here as the registration and distribution were contemporaneous.
5. May reduce cost
Data processing is simpler compared to paper based data.  We are waiting for final details of cost numbers to assess if costs were lower and if so by how much.
6. Additional data can be collected
GPS data and photos can be easily collected. That was the case here.
7. Reduces operational risk
As long as electronic data is backed up, the risk of data loss, compared to data in paper form, can be significantly reduced or eliminated. While the vast majority of data was accurately stored and transferred, some lessons have been learned to improve in this area.
This was the first use of smartphone data collection in a challenging distribution environment. It is also a strong basis from which to build. It was not without problems but, importantly, demonstrated significant potential for future distributions. We have published a report, with an executive summary, that shares details of our, and our distribution partner IMA's, experience using smartphone technology for data collection and the lessons we learned.
We intend to use the same data collection process in the upcoming distribution of 730,000 nets, again in DRC, adjusted to apply lessons learned.
Engaging fathers in nutrition training.
What role do dads play in nutrition? 

Tabulani and Themba are brothers in their early twenties. They lost their mother when they were very young and it was left up to their father to raise them; he too died suddenly several years later. Since then they have been looking after the family home, in a township outside Johannesburg, along with their older brother and younger sister.

“It is because of our parents that we are responsible and have the skills to run a house,” says Themba, as he attends to a pot of beef and potato soup cooking on a stove. “Since we were children we’ve been responsible for getting food and making sure we eat well and are healthy.”

There are thousands more stories like Tabulani and Themba’s, but they often go untold or unnoticed by the development community. The problem is that “nutrition programmes usually try to part knowledge on mothers,” says Shawn Baker, director of global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Various social, economic and health conditions, such as HIV and Aids, and more relevantly, ebola, mean that the family as an institution is changing in its structure and function. The mother may typically be seen as the care provider, and the father as the breadwinner or absent from the home, but what happens for instance when it’s the mother who is absent from the home and cannot buy food and cook for her family?

The role of gender in nutrition was an issue raised by a member of the audience at the 1,000 Days Symposium, held by us here at GAIN back in February.

Panelists agreed that too much of the burden of malnutrition is placed on the mother’s shoulders. So what can be done and is being done to change this? The answer is a combination of innovative product solutions that encourage other members of the family to take up the role of buying the food and effective marketing strategies and efforts to influence behaviour changes.

Over the past couple of years, GAIN has partnered with academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on a project that analysed the impact behaviour change has on infant feed practices in Indonesia . Research showed that jelly and deep fried snacks were popular among mothers and their children aged 12-24 months. It also concluded that parents tend to lack an understanding of what constitutes a balanced and nutritious diet, and that feeding practices are influenced by family and friends. In order to encourage better practices and healthier eating, the project used marketing campaigns that were directed at other people in a mother’s social circle who might bear some responsibility for caring for her child.

“In Indonesia, when we shot campaigns with advertisers, we used fathers, grandmothers as authoritative figures that can confirm that a sort of behaviour is a good behaviour,” explains Marti Van Liere, director of maternal, infant and young child nutrition at GAIN. “People trust health workers. People also trust people that are close and around.”

Marti Van Liere says that it’s important to use advertising and mass media to establish social norms and to create an idea of what is expected of people. For instance, the use of male actors in adverts can give fathers the impression that they should be more involved in children’s nutrition. The aim “is to influence the ecosystem around the caregiver – be it a mother or father – to enable them to make the right choices,” she adds.

In Bolivia, the World Food Programme has previously sought to engage fathers in nutrition training.  It found that the majority were hesitant at first – the participants perceived the issue of infant health and nutrition to be something that should concern mothers. Like GAIN’s work in Indonesia, the focus of the workshops delivered was on promoting the importance of people in the mother’s social circle getting involved in nutrition.

The more fathers and other family members are encouraged to help out and understand the benefits their involvement can bring to their children’s nutritional wellbeing, the more their role will become a social norm.

An example of how men can be be actively involved in ensuring their children are fed properly is through the use of pre-paid complementary food cards. Olivier Kayser, managing director of Hystra, a consulting firm, authored a report, which received support and funding from GAIN, on marketing nutrition for the base of the economic pyramid. Through Hystra’s work, Kayser has found that providing families with pre-paid cards, designed to improve convenience, allowed the responsibility of buying food to fall outside of the mother’s domain.

“It was not part of the daily expense. It was an opportunity for the father to intervene in what the kids were going to eat,” says Kayser. “They were willing to get involved because it was inexpensive.”

The Life You Can Save recommends GAIN's Iodization Program 

Restoring sight and life
Cesaria, waiting for her bandages to be taken off.

In 2014 The Fred Hollows Foundation and its partners performed 728,288 eye operations and treatments. One of the thousands of lives that was transformed was that of three-year-old Cesaria in Burundi. Born blind with cataracts in both eyes, her chances of survival were slim.
Sadly Cesaria’s story is not uncommon in Burundi. The fourth poorest nation in the world, it’s a country scarred by genocide and civil war. Our doctor on the ground told us that in his experience, cases like hers are seen as hopeless and most blind children don’t survive beyond their fifth birthday.
But Cesaria’s grandmother Veronica was determined to ensure the little girl got the medical care she needed.
In a country of over 10.3 million people Dr Levi is the only person trained to perform cataract surgery on children. He was Cesaria’s only hope.
Normally Dr Levi has to remove the eye patches before judging if an operation is a success, but because the adult-sized patches were too big for her, they let in light and colour under the gaps.
As she realised that she could see, Cesaria was peeking underneath and just couldn’t stop giggling.
Since having her sight-restoring operation, Cesaria has transformed into a happy, cheeky little girl. She is looking forward to going to school and has a brighter future ahead of her.
If you’d like to help give the gift of sight to more people like Cesaria, please go to Together we can end avoidable blindness.

Click here to see a video of Cesaria's journey (also one of our Team Picks below).

Team Picks

Kate Grant, CEO of recommended charity Fistula Foundation, wrote this powerful piece for the Huffington Post about corruption and abject poverty in Angola, and the many ways the developed world ignores our complicity in this ongoing tragedy. Kate's article adds more fuel to the fire set out by Nick Kristof in his NYT articles about Angola's rampant inequality and child mortality, highlighted in our April newsletter.

Llamil Silman
Chief Marketing Officer

Since 1990, we've halved the number of children who die before their fifth birthday.  The Gates Foundation is now working to halve the number again through a concerted focus on malnutrition, working directly with mothers to spread knowledge and resources.  As Melinda Gates explains, "“Fifty percent of all farmers in Africa are women, and research shows that every extra dollar a woman gets is 90% likelier to be put back into the family than a dollar a man gets. We want to put women at the center of this.”

Laura Gamse 
Media and Outreach Director

This TEDx talk by Exeter student Beth Barnes is a soft-spoken yet eloquent summary of effective giving and the concrete ways it can impact extreme poverty in the developing world.

Amy Schwimmer 
Director of Operations

This powerful video is a simple but dramatic reminder of how much good we can do for so relatively little money.  It challenges Diana and me to do more good — consume less —and spend more of our money to save and heal more people suffering from problems that can be easily corrected, like Cesaria's! 

Charlie Bresler 
Executive Director

Supporter Story

 Matt Herring

A defining moment at 16 in Nepal

Did you have a defining moment when extreme poverty slapped you in the face and woke you up? Perhaps an epiphany of sorts.

When I was 16 I went to Nepal. Twenty years on and I realize what happened. It was a transformative learning experience.

Founder of the concept in modern times, Jack Mezirow, says that such an experience usually requires a ‘disorientating dilemma’. Indeed. I saw extreme poverty and it rattled me. It transformed my perspective: of my self, of the world, what I believed, and my behavior. It left me with many questions, some still unanswered, but it instilled a deep, life-long empathy toward this needless suffering, forged in those formative teenage years.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if this sort of exposure to poverty is necessary to facilitate strong commitment to alleviating it, or at the very least, provide a foundation upon which to build on-going action throughout one’s life. The trip involved working alongside the Nepalese on projects they desired, like ‘solar’ toilets. It felt so good to help. My mind raced beyond Nepal to other poor countries. I was baffled as to how people back home in Australia had so much, and these people so little. How could it be that hundreds of millions of people didn’t have enough food, clean water, shelter or basic medicine when I had all this and a remote control toy car?

Frances Moore-Lappé points out that nobody actually gets out of bed each morning proclaiming they’ll continue their contribution to needless suffering and species extinctions. In my field of wildlife conservation, there’s growing appreciation that people will only care for and protect what they know, what they’re connected to. Richard Louv coined the phrase, ‘nature deficit disorder’, which is rife among children and adults of the world’s expanding urban population. What about a ‘poverty complacency syndrome’ or a ‘poverty deficit disorder’?

Since my trip all those years ago, new experiences have consolidated the profound effect it had me. I’ve seen poverty in other parts of the world and developed friendships with those trapped in it. I was reminded of my own geographic luck when recovering easily (thanks to modern medicine) from pneumonia and a severe staph infection. In recent years, I’ve welcomed two beautiful sons into this wonderful (yet undeniably troubled) world, and I’ve been thinking about how to facilitate transformative learning experiences for them. I’m quite certain that documentaries and ‘sponsoring’ children won’t cut it, but one has to weigh up the financial cost of experiences abroad (e.g. flights) against what the money could achieve through contributing to a worthy cause. When I read Peter Singer’s book (The Life You Can Save) five years ago, I made a personal pact to give at least 5% of my income to extreme poverty reduction each year. My transformation keeps building. Increasingly, the growth is more rational, less emotional.

Central to effective altruism is giving with our heads instead of our hearts. Armed with the numbers, like those identifying where our giving has the biggest bang for its buck, effective altruism seems like a natural progression from a transformative learning experience. Avoiding “Associational Giving” is something I still need to work on. I remind myself that the sort of organisations that TLYCS endorses are where the most suffering will be relieved per dollar, irrespective of my association with the cause.

Beyond money, I still don’t know where my efforts are best spent. Do I invest heavily in politics, in campaigning for increasing (and protecting) aid budgets? Do I focus additional effort in refining the choices I make at the supermarket? I know I can easily part with more cash without any real impact on my life. What about encouraging those closest to me to give more cash away? I have much to learn and so much more I can do. But it is the motivational platform that drives my efforts. And that was built on the transformation that took place in me in Nepal when I was 16.

Once again, I’d love to hear of your transformative learning experiences, or similar defining moments related to poverty and giving--please send them to

Matt Herring is an ecologist who works with farmers to unite wildlife conservation and food production. He has also worked closely with remote indigenous communities in Australia and Ecuador, grappling with a range of environmental and social challenges. He volunteers with Oxfam Australia and is a proud advocate for The Life You Can Save.

This Month in Giving

World Population Day

A day to highlight attention on urgent population issues. The theme of this year's World Population Day is Vulnerable Populations in Emergencies, notably the record 60 million people currently displaced by worldwide turmoil--with particular focus on women and girls.


Effective Altruism Global 2015

The world's biggest gathering of entrepreneurs, philanthropists, economists, scientists, policy-makers, and more who apply reason and evidence to global priorities.

  • San Francisco July 31st-August 2
  • Melbourne August 14-16
  • Oxford University August 28-30
Sept. 9th-11th


Global Summit on Food Fortification
Arusha, Tanzania

Co-hosts include three of The Life You Can Save's Recommended Charities: Iodine Global Network, GAIN, and Project Healthy Children.

Highlights from Our Blog
  1. A Global Partnership's Fight Against Iodine Deficiency By Jonathan Gorstein and Greg S. Garrett

  2. Can Giving Games Change Donor Behavior? by Jon Behar

  3. You're on the Global Rich List by Thomas Sittler

  4. Profiles in Giving: Jonas Vredeveld by Brad Hurley

The Life You Can Save is a 501(c)(3) - an official non-profit registered with the United States Internal Revenue Service. Donations to The Life You Can Save are tax-deductible to individuals filing taxes in the U.S.
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