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September, 2015

Dylan Matthews wrote a provocative piece in Vox following the recent EA Global conference in Mountain View, California. In sum, he expressed serious misgivings about what he perceived as the growing dominance within the EA movement of concerns about "extinction risk," rather than the traditional focus on extreme poverty. Further, he noted the lack of demographic/psychographic diversity at the conference, which was dominated by young, Caucasian, males with an orientation toward quantitative approaches to cognition.  The article is worth a careful read, as are some of the thoughtful responses like this one.

In light of Dylan’s points, I want to stress that The Life You Can Save continues to be absolutely committed to its focus on increasing awareness of the devastating effects of extreme poverty and encouraging donations to its recommended charities. And as an individual, I also recognize the importance of addressing the misery caused by factory farms on non-human animals. (Organizations like Animal Charity Evaluators provide excellent information on this issue.) Environmental problems and nuclear energy and weaponry have already caused serious damage and have the potential to be devastating to people and our planet. I think it is very important that people are working to raise awareness of these issues. 

The fact is that if we all lived more in harmony with our surroundings and were less influenced by mass marketing and consumerism, and suffered less from what my son (an organic farmer) refers to as "nature deficit disorder”, most of us in the developed world would have more money to donate to the fight against extreme poverty and would be more sensitive to non-human animals and our environment. Personally, I know if I spent more time reading people like Thich Nhat Hanh and Wendell Berry and less time on "binge TV", I would be spending less money and doing less environmental damage. 

The good news for me is that using the "personal best" strategy, I am making solid, consistent improvements in my behavior and feeling better about myself as a person...and I am happier too.  I invite our subscribers to make their own changes using this strategy, or anything that works for you. Give more, give more effectively, do not eat factory-farmed animals (better still, eat no animals, but I am not there yet), and make a smaller footprint.  

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 September's Issue


Charity Voices


Highlights from Our Blog


Team Picks


Supporter Story


This Month in Giving

Charity Voices
News that our Recommended Charities think you'll enjoy
Export, Learn … Profit: A new randomized evaluation

by Ariela Alpert and Sarah Craig
Editors note: This is a cross-post with NextBillion.

In 2009, Aid to Artisans, a nonprofit organization that works to create market opportunities for artisans around the world, set up a program in Egypt. The goal was to support the growth of small rug-making businesses by giving them the opportunity to export to high-income countries. Working closely with an Egyptian intermediary called Hamis Carpets, Aid to Artisans (ATA) identified small-scale rug-makers and helped them improve productivity to meet the standards of foreign buyers.

Export promotion programs like ATA’s work under a theory called “learning-by-exporting” – the assumption that the experience of exporting helps firms learn new skills and techniques and thereby become more productive. However, until now, no research has rigorously evaluated whether exporting actually causes businesses to improve their practices. It could be that more productive firms choose to export in the first place, which would mean that the higher productivity level of exporting firms is not actually due to the export process. To explore this, the SME Program at IPA provided support to researchers David Atkin, Amit Khandelwal and Adam Osman to conduct the first randomized controlled trial investigating whether firms actually learn through the experience of exporting.

The researchers worked closely with ATA to evaluate whether the export opportunity offered to rug-making firms by ATA and Hamis Carpets ultimately improved firm production practices. As part of the study, 74 businesses in Fowa, Egypt, were randomly selected and offered an export contract for a certain type of rug. If the firm accepted the contract, Hamis Carpets would provide the thread and other materials needed and discuss the rug specifications with the business owner. A second set of 145 rug-making firms were included in the study, but were not offered an export contract. All of the participating businesses were small, with one to four employees, and few had exported before. Throughout the program, researchers collected information on firm profits and productivity, the quality of the rugs produced, and the characteristics of the firm owners’ households.

The research results show that firms offered the opportunity to export produced higher-quality rugs at the end of the study than businesses that were not offered an export contract.       READ MORE

It's a girl!
Sarah Omega meets with fistula patients at Gynocare Fistula Center in Eldoret, Kenya.

We are delighted to announce that our very own Sarah Omega Kidangasi, our Kenya-based Action on Fistula Communications Officer, and a fistula survivor and advocate, delivered a healthy baby girl last month. Both mom and baby are doing well.

Get to know Sarah by reading Kate Grant's latest piece for The Huffington Post below.

On a drizzly gray London morning in October, 2007, I sat in the front of a large windowless room to listen to a panel discussion at the maternal health conference, Women Deliver. I downed a double latte, trying to jump start my groggy jet-lagged brain. The session was hosted by the UNFPA; the topic: the childbirth injury obstetric fistula, a subject I thought I knew well since I run an organization devoted to fighting it, Fistula Foundation. I thought I'd seen it all. But, I hadn't. Not even close. I hadn't met Sarah Omega.

As the caffeine kicked in, the first two speakers wrapped up their remarks. Then a young Kenyan woman took to the podium. It was Sarah Omega. As she looked across the full room, standing poised as a ballet dancer, her chocolate brown eyes focused firmly ahead, it was her voice that grabbed me first; it was firm, with a resolve and strength that I could not ignore. She proceeded to tell her story. Orphaned at 15. Raped at 19. Pregnant as a result. A prolonged obstructed labor. A C-section delayed for life-changing hours by neglectful medical staff. A stillborn baby boy. Utter exhaustion. A urine-soaked bed. An obstetric fistula. Unrelenting incontinence. Ten years of social isolation before her fistula was finally treated successfully with surgery by Dr. Hillary Mabeya.

Without shame, without reserve, without even a hint of nervousness, and certainly without embarrassment, Sarah grabbed everyone's attention.     READ MORE

SCI featured in 20th anniversary celebrations of Queen's Anniversary Prizes
SCI chosen as the subject of a celebratory film made for the Queen, highlighting the achievements of SCI before and after receiving the award.

In 2007, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, then Principal of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College and currently the 345th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and Sir Richard Sykes, then Rector at Imperial College, asked Alan Fenwick to prepare a submission to the Queens Anniversary Trust as an entry for the 2008 round of Prizes. SCI's entry was awarded one of the 20 prizes and as a result Alan and Sir Richard received a medal and a citation from Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, a table for 10 at a dinner at the Guildhall and 10 people (5 faculty and 5 students) visited Buckingham Palace for the awards ceremony on 14th February 2008. Of those, Fiona Fleming, Lynsey Blair and Michael French are still with SCI.

To mark the completion of ten biennial rounds of The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education (1994-2014) the Royal Anniversary Trust commissioned and published a book documenting the prestige and impact of the Prizes scheme. The book includes ten chapters highlighting ten outstanding prize winners. To read the chapter on SCI click here.

With the book near completion, Peter Chenery, Chief Executive of the Royal Anniversary Trust, asked whether SCI would agree to be the subject of a short film highlighting the achievements on SCI before and after the award. Director Louis Paltnoi visited SCI and filmed Alan and the staff, but also went to Uganda to see SCI working in the field with the Ministries of Health and Education. We are proud to show the resulting film which we hope you will enjoy - click here.

Professor Alan Fenwick, SCI's Director, would like to acknowledge all the SCI staff and the donors who have made this work and the delivery of over 100 million treatments possible.

If you'll be in London later this month, please join us Wednesday, 30 September from 17:30 - 20:30 BST for SCI Open Evening 2015. (admission free)

Future Fortified: New tools for exploring what it takes to end hidden hunger.
GAIN's new platform collaboration with Devex on food fortification

Note: GAIN works on a wide range of food fortification programs; the particular one recommended by The Life You Can Save (as well as GiveWell) is their Iodization program.

More than two billion people are affected by micronutrient deficiency, also known as hidden hunger, a global health challenge that impairs cognitive development, increases maternal and infant mortality and undermines efforts to combat poverty. The fortification of staple foods and condiments with vitamins and minerals is often cited by experts as among the most effective and least expensive interventions to tackle hidden hunger on a large scale.

GAIN has a new platform in partnership with Devex to bring together an online series to explore this global health challenge. Future Fortified will investigate how food fortification can be a solution to prevent many of the health and nutrition challenges that continue to burden developing countries.

Explore the new platform here, including videos, events, articles, and downloadable materials about addressing nutrition worldwide. And to keep on top of the latest fortification news, join the Help End #HiddenHunger Thunderclap.

Also join us next week at the #FutureFortified Global Summit on Food Fortification in Arusha, Tanzania, Sept. 9th-11th, co-hosted by three of The Life You Can Save's recommended charities: GAIN, Iodine Global Network (IGN), and Project Healthy Children (PHC).

Highlights from Our Blog
  1. 500 Words: Why Feminists Should Care About Global Poverty
    by Rhema Hokama

  2. Why I Still Give to Oxfam by Brad Hurley

  3. How I Pick My Favorite Charities by Rachel Elizabeth Maley

  4. How Giving Made Me Happier  by Rhema Hokama

Team Picks

The Life You Can Save is proud to introduce our new podcast, developed from our blog series.  Tune in – we guarantee you'll learn something! You can subscribe to get future episodes, all streaming for free on iTunes (and soon on Stitcher). And if you like it, spread the word on Facebook and Twitter, and leave reviews on iTunes.

Laura Gamse 
Media and Outreach Director

Our supporter Andy Boydston went the extra mile on a class project. He made an infographic that compellingly communicates the "need to know" facts about extreme poverty. Please help us share it widely!

Jon Behar
COO & Director of Philanthropy Education

I'm skeptical when I hear that the number of people living below the poverty line of $1.25/day is declining, as I do not believe poverty is only defined by income, and it's difficult to understand the daily challenges when you live far from places like Zambia and Liberia. I found a more comprehensive view in this index from the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative. The good news? Poverty levels are actually declining! I am still skeptical but am optimistic and a believer that small things can make big changes.

Llamil Silman
Chief Marketing Officer

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative's CEO Alan Fenwick (center) travelled to San Francisco in July to attend the Effective Altruism Global conference - where he met up with The Life You Can Save's Charlie Bresler (left) and Jon Behar (right).

Amy Schwimmer 
Director of Operations

Supporter Story

 Coralie Oddy

I have always wanted to make a difference. I think most people do.

As a young teenager, I remember giving away all my Christmas money after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. I understood that I didn’t actually need that money, and there were other people who needed it desperately. As I grew older, I began to realise that this desperate need doesn’t go away just because the news cameras have moved on, or is only present in the wake of a disaster. Extreme poverty is an everyday fact of life for thousands of people, a fact not deemed newsworthy only because of its constant, ongoing nature.

Perhaps because of this, by and large we accept poverty as an insurmountable problem. Sometimes we raise funds or donate money, but most of the time it is something we’d rather forget about, feeling powerless to really help. We worry about government corruption and charities working ineffectively. In a way, I think this helps relieve us of a sense of responsibility – if there’s nothing we can do, we needn’t do anything.

Yet I didn’t want to give up. So throughout my studies, I continued to try to make a difference. I attended protests and did sponsored runs in fancy dress. I baked cakes, rattled tins and raised thousands of pounds organising charity gigs for local bands. All this was deeply rewarding and greatly enriched my life, boosting my CV and my wellbeing.

But I chose my charities because I liked the sound of their work, or because a cause or idea took my fancy. I hoped for the best, but I also doubted myself. Was this really helping? I didn’t want to ever stop caring, or to become apathetic or cynical, but neither did I want to be a hopeless idealist.

I had to up my game.


Coralie is a teaching assistant and trainee speech and language therapist living in London, UK. Right now she is figuring out how to do the best she can for others through giving, campaigning, and blogging.

This Month in Giving

International Day of Charity

"In recognition of the role of charity in alleviating humanitarian crises and human ‎suffering within and among nations, as well as the efforts of charitable organizations ‎and individuals," the anniversary of Mother Teresa's death is a day to encourage charity through public-awareness activities.


International Literacy Day

This year's theme: Literacy and Sustainable Societies. "Not only is literacy a basic human right, it is a fundamental building block for learning as well as a personal empowerment tool. It is the catalyst for social and global progress." Register your event, or get event ideas here, and attend UNESCO events.


#FutureFortified Summit in Arusha

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.


Solidarity With Refugees March in London

12 PM at Marble Arch, Park Lane; march to Downing Street. Read "Why I had to organise a march showing Britons’ solidarity with refugees" by Ros Ereira


World Contraception Day

A day supported by a coalition of 12 NGOs, including our recommended charity Population Services International, to raise awareness about contraception and safe sex. The aim is "to help each new generation of adults make informed decision until every a planned one."


Schistosomiasis Control Initiative's Open Evening in London 

Come learn about about the work SCI is doing across sub Saharan Africa and the Yemen and future plans. 17:30 - 20:30 BST. Admission free. Event details here.

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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