The inside account of health care reform's triumph.
BY JONATHAN COHN
MAY 20, 2010
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The inside account of health care reform's triumph.
BY JONATHAN COHN
MAY 20, 2010
FEBRUARY 19, 2010
By Noam N. Levy February 21, 2010
LOS ANGELES TIMES
An extensive index of articles on Health Care Reform.
ON THE FRONT LINES OF HEALING THE WORLD
ONE SMALL PROJECT AT A TIME
"Everyone has the potential within themselves, as long as they find a way to realize it. Micro-philanthropy offers such a way. When administered conscientiously, small amounts of money can dramatically improve the lives of the less fortunate".
Adam Carter gives new meaning to the phrase, “everyone can make a difference”.
However, he didn’t start out with an eye toward philanthropic causes. When he graduated from the University of Michigan, his aim was to be fancy free, to travel the world, to see and experience the sights that would move his soul.
Well, he did indeed, travel the world, and saw the sights that he would never forget: images of human suffering that he couldn’t have imagined from his anthropology books – images that left him feeling that he must do whatever he could do, no matter how small, to help the people he met.
But the question was how. Adam didn’t have a Trust Fund, or even a career.
This is Adam Carter’s story, a story of determination and ingenuity, a story of how he was inspired to create a foundation, Cause and Affect,1 with the earnings from his summer work as a beer vendor at Wrigley Field. It is a story of how, using a concept known as micro-philanthropy, Adam Carter is able to impact lives, to change the world, one small project at a time.
ADAM CARTER’S STORY
I entered the world of philanthropy from the back door. I never inherited a trust fund, nor did I earn millions of dollars with a clever invention or an ingenious investment idea. In fact, the closest I have come to a “career” is my current job as a beer vendor in Chicago’s baseball stadiums. As the resident “Beer Man,” I do not earn a salary, but am paid on commission for every beer I sell.
When I was fresh out of college, traveling the world as a happy-go-lucky-penny-pinching-back-packer, I found myself face-to-face with people living in abject poverty. The dichotomy between the freedom of my own life, and the hardship experienced by most of the people in the world, inspired me to make a difference. I was not sure how I would go about it, but I followed a serendipitous path and fourteen years after graduating college, I founded Cause & Affect Foundation, an organization that appears now, to be at the forefront of the emerging trend of micro-philanthropy.
WHAT IS MICRO-PHILANTHROPY
Micro philanthropy differs from conventional philanthropy in two major respects:
· Small amounts of money are invested in specific projects. Instead of financing a $2 million hospital wing, I may provide $1,000 to purchase urgently-needed medical supplies for an under-equipped private rural health clinic in the developing world.
· The emphasis is on efficiency: because donations are small, every dollar must flow back to the project, with a minimum of administrative or other extraneous costs. I work with local partners who have developed the most effective means of bringing about positive change; I personally provide funds to those organizations on the ground.
IT BEGAN WITH A DESIRE TO SEE THE WORLD
When I embarked on my first big journey, after I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Anthropology, I was well-versed in world cultures, but knew nearly nothing about “philanthropy.” I wanted to see my World Cultures textbooks come to life, so I bought a one-way ticket to China and for the next few years, my best friend and I explored the world like far-flung discoverers. Coming home to work at the baseball stadiums in the summer sun and then taking off to warm, exotic locales during Chicago’s harsh winters, I was living the perfect life. While on the road, I enjoyed unencumbered freedom, met people from all over the world, witnessed wonders of the world, enjoyed steamy romances and was exhilarated by my exciting adventures.
But as I was soon to learn, there existed an ugly underbelly to the world’s beautiful sights. Due to my immersive style of travel (and desire to stretch my money), I slept in very inexpensive (and often unsanitary) hotels, hitch-hiked across difficult terrains, lived both in shanty-towns and in indigenous villages, and befriended nearly everyone who crossed my path.
As I immersed myself in the various cultures, I broke through the tourist/local social barrier and developed meaningful friendships. I developed a compassion for my new friends; I empathized with their impoverished conditions, and felt compelled to help.
It was this growing awareness of the real world, and a compassion for these people I met, who by a quirk of fate, were born into dramatically different circumstances than myself, combined with an overwhelming feeling that I could actually be of help, that propelled me toward micro philanthropy.
A MASTERS DEGREE IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, AN INTERNSHIP WITH UNHCR , AND A LIFE-CHANGING EPIPHANY.
Working in association with locally-run NGOs (non-governmental organizations), I realized that in order to affect positive change, I had to find a way to help fund some of these programs in the towns that were overflowing with terrified villagers who had fled the violence in the countryside.
I met a dynamic Colombian social worker who told me that with relatively few American dollars, she could create a program for pregnant mothers that would allow them to develop an income-generating skill, monitor their maternal health and educate them about hygiene and babies’ health issues.
Wow – that sounded incredible! The only problem (for me) was that I had been sent on a “fact-finding mission,” without funds and without the ability to provide the help these people needed.
But a light bulb went off in my head that day, and I vowed to find a personal approach to economic development .
GRADUATE SCHOOL COMPLETED, AND MICRO-PHILANTHROPY IN ACTION
Finding a cause and affecting a change; this is micro-philanthropy in action. On my recent five-month trip through seven countries of West Africa, I was able to assist twelve projects, addressing issues such as environmental degradation, over-population, under-equipped schools, youth empowerment programs and private health clinics.
Sometimes I bought medicine, sometimes I financed micro-loans and sometimes I provided emergency funds for food.
DUE DILIGENCE RESEARCH AND DEPENDABLE LOCAL PARTNERS ARE THE KEY
Working with highly-accredited local partners is often the most crucial step for those looking to engage in micro-philanthropy on a personal level. This is what I tell school kids, religious groups, social action committees and college students: everyone can make a difference!
The focus is always on delivering the funds in the most direct manner possible and then using photos, e-mail, social networking and videos to report back to my donors, so they can share the satisfaction of seeing their money in action, making a profound difference in peoples’ lives.
Before I visit a country, I do background research on the issues are most pressing. Then I look for dependable partners, using my contacts and experience in international development to seek out the most responsible way to help. Speaking four languages definitely helps the cause as well.
EXAMPLE: REDUCING THE SPREAD OF MALARIA IN SENEGAL
I established contact with a regional director at the World Bank in the capitol of Dakar. He referred me to a woman that works with malaria projects, who then referred me to an organization that has shown impressive results in reducing malaria rates among local villages. I expressed my desire to outfit an entire village with the insecticide-treated bed nets that prevent malaria.
I then went to the Ministry of Health with $800, purchased 400 of these insecticide-treated bed nets and delivered them to the village of Baliga. With the help of the local organization, I met with tribal elders and community leaders who were instructed on how to set up and use the bed nets.
As a result, the malaria rate in Baliga has been dramatically decreased, as have children's deaths due to malaria. By educating the villagers on proper use of the nets, we have endowed Baliga with the awareness and tools they need to lead healthier lives.
EVERYONE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Below, Adam Carter answers some questions about his Foundation, Cause and Affect.
How exactly does Cause and Affect operate?
There are so many people that need help in so many parts of the world. How do you select the geographic regions where you want to spend your time with Cause and Affect — how do you select your beneficiaries.
I have the option of addressing a wide range of issues wherever I choose to devote my time. I have a special connection with Guatemala and Brazil, so I have been focusing recent efforts there.
Is there any follow up communication with any of the people or groups to whom you give the funds?
In many cases, we have updates coming from the organization, and in some cases, I am able to visit a second time to see how the project is progressing, to see if further assistance is needed.
For Example, I just returned from Guatemala one year after supporting a center for malnourished babies. I love their work. My mother is a volunteer there as well, so we were able to come back a year later and address their current needs.
When do you expect to get your 501c3 designation?
In 6-8 months.
What do you see as the future of Cause and Affect? How do you see it growing in the next few years?
I started this organization in order to improve the lives of the people I encounter in my travels. It all started from a simple idea: “How can I, one person, one traveler, actually improve the lives of the less fortunate people I meet along the way.
Since I receive no compensation from my work with Cause and Affect, I must juggle my time to earn a living so I can continue this wonderful hobby that soothes my soul.
What do you want the world to know about you and about Cause and Affect?
When I speak to schools in the States, I tell them that “if a beer vendor can do this, so can you”.
People may point out that most beer vendors don’t have a master’s degree or experience as a Fulbright Scholar, but the point is that everyone has a role to play in making the world a better place.
My mentor, Marc Gold, taught me that none of us can alleviate poverty or take the weight of the world’s problems upon our shoulders, but if we can help a few of those that need assistance, we are making a difference. That is what counts: making sure that everyone, no matter who they may be, realizes that they have the power to improve the lot of humanity, one person at a time.
That is what I tried to show through the project in inner-city Chicago. These are kids who did not feel they had anything to give to others. When I met them, I asked them what issues they would like to address in their community. The boys expressed a desire to help the people living on the street. Once we delivered the $1,000 worth of food that Cause & Affect donated and served them a hot lunch, these tough boys became very introspective and realized they were fortunate in many ways. Putting them in a position to help others, their self-confidence shot up and they took pride in themselves and their positive affect in the community.
The point is that everyone has the potential within themselves, as long as they find a way to realize it. Micro-philanthropy offers such a way – when administered conscientiously, small amounts of money can dramatically improve the lives of the less fortunate.
1. Cause and Affect Foundation expects to receive a 501c3 (not-for-profit) tax status designation in approximately six months. Donations made at this time are not tax deductible.
The 8.8 million so-called “dual eligibles,” or individuals who qualify for and are enrolled in both the Medicare and Medicaid public health insurance programs, are some of the sickest and poorest patients in our nation’s health care system. Not surprisingly, they are some of the most expensive patients as well. Policymakers and program managers have long sought solutions for improving the quality and efficiency of care delivered to these individuals.
By Kate Pickert, Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Many observers are puzzled by the level of anger and vitriol senior citizens have been directing toward their besieged elected representatives during recent health-care town halls. But no one can be more surprised, or put in a more uncomfortable position, than the organization that supposedly represents their interests, AARP. The 40 million–member advocacy group, after all, signed on early as a key supporter of President Obama's health-care-reform plan, and now it finds itself on the defensive, scrambling to win back much of its own membership. "A year ago, it seemed obvious that AARP would be for health reform," says the group's legislative-policy director David Certner. "Our membership as far as we could tell was quite ginned up about health-care reform."
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