10 Human Rights Causes to Support in 2017


Happy New Year!

🎉🎈 🎤 🍰 🍸🍷🍾⌛️🌹

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” ― Edith Lovejoy Pierce.

Today’s post continues a tradition I started three years ago, whereby I dedicate the first post of the new year to noteworthy organizations and individuals committed to the advancement of human rights or the protection of Mother Earth. While the criteria for my list hasn’t changed, you may notice that I selected more causes that focus on refugees . The reason is simple: We are currently witnessing highest level of displacement on record. According to the UNHCR, an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. In a world where nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution, the least I can do is acknowledge some of the many social entrepreneurs committed to assisting the stateless and traumatized.

There are three other things worth mentioning. (1) After toying with the idea for over three years, I have finally decided to limit the number of causes to 10 going forward. (2) There is a tie for one of the spots below. Because I don’t rank the entries, the word “tie” should be construed to mean two interconnected organizations, equally deserving of recognition, featured under the same number. (3) Feel free to leave me a comment or complete the contact form if you would like me to consider an organization, cause or person for my 2018 post! The deadline for submissions is November 20, 2017.

Now, and without further ado…

10 Human Rights Causes to Support 2017

o-u-r1. Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is a non-profit founded by Tim Ballard which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims with a special focus on children. O.U.R. also aids with planning, prevention, capture and prosecution of offenders, and works with partner organizations for prevention, victim recovery, and strengthened awareness or fundraising efforts. The organization has been documented for their covert operations with jump teams consisting of former CIA agents, U.S. Special Operations Forces Members, and other support volunteers. Operation Underground Railroad’s ultimate goal is to eliminate Sex Trafficking world-wide. Operation Underground Railroad has rescued 200 victims and helped law enforcement capture 130 perpetrators this year. This brings the total number of rescued victims to 529, and 182 traffickers arrested.


tanzanian-childrens-fund2. The Tanzanian Children’s Fund works to ensure that all children and families in the Karatu region of northern Tanzania lead healthy and productive lives and have the opportunity to become positive agents of change for their country. In order to achieve our goals, TCF provides a loving and permanent home for 97 marginalized children at the Rift Valley Children’s Village (RVCV). The RVCV staff works with local village leaders to identify orphaned children in the surrounding community in need of the safe haven RVCV can provide. From the moment they step through the gates, these children become permanent members of the RVCV family.  TCF also recognizes that the best way to promote the well-being of all children is to provide access to high-quality education, free healthcare, and microfinance trainings and loans to the entire community. Our innovative, multi-pronged approach to addressing systemic poverty is what has enabled TCF/RVCV to have a deep impact and catalyze real and lasting change.


place3. place  (Property, Land, Access, Connections, and Empowerment) explores the complex social, economic and political effects of inadequate land rights – from environmental sustainability and food insecurity to the potential for conflict and war. However, place will not just show you what is going wrong in the world. It also want to tell you about the exciting and courageous projects unfolding worldwide to help solve this pressing issue. Its name explains its stories and its mission.Property features urban reportage – from shantytowns and slums to the pressures of development, forced eviction and mass displacement. Land focuses on rural areas, the countryside, on agriculture and the extraction of resources, from mining to logging. Access explores the battle to retain land, from squatting rights and individual tenure to freeholds and the larger community battles to secure or return to ancestral lands. Connections shed light on tenure rights, on public and private documentation and how communities – and individuals – campaign for or harness their rights. Empowerment brings you the good news, the success stories, the projects that are contributing to resolving this complex global issue. In sum, place believes property rights are human rights and wants to spark a global conversation to show that when land and property rights are denied, social stability, economic prosperity – and even peace – are at risk. 


4. Reshma Qureshi, Founder of Make Love Not Scars. Reshma Qureshi is an Indian model, vlogger, and anti-acid activist. In India, she is the face of Make Love Not Scars. Her foray into modeling in the United States came when she walked the catwalk for Archana Kochhar at the 2016 New York Fashion Week.

Qureshi was born the youngest daughter of a taxi driver from Eastern Mumbai, India. They lived in a two bedroom apartment that housed all ten members of the family. She studied commerce at school. On May 19, 2014, at the age of seventeen, Qureshi was attacked with sulfuric acid by her estranged brother-in-law and two other assailants when she was traveling to the city of Allahabad for an Alim exam. The attack was actually aimed at her sister Gulshan, but Qureshi was mistaken for her. While the two other assailants were never captured after the attack, her brother-in-law was arrested. After the attack, she felt suicidal for a short period of time as she was left scarred on her face and arms and lost one of her eyes completely. After healing, Qureshi became the face of the Make Love Not Scars campaign, which aims to give “a voice to those who have been assaulted” by acid attacks and campaigns for the end of the sale of acid in India. She also began making beauty tutorials online as a way to campaign against the sale of acid. Cosmopolitan has praised Quereshi’s videos as “ridiculously empowering“. Photo credit: Reshma Qureshi walks at New York Fashion Week (Mary Altaffer/AP).


standing-rock5. Standing Rock Indian Reservation & #NoDAPL Campaign – The Dakota Access Pipeline is a part of  a 1,172-mile-long (1,825 km), 30-inch diameter pipeline underground oil pipeline project in the United States. The pipeline is being planned by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of the Dallas, Texas corporation Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. It begins in the Bakken oil fields in Northwest North Dakota and is set to travel in a more or less straight line southeast, through South Dakota and Iowa, and end at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is designed transport as many as 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily. The nearly $4 billion project was first proposed in 2014 and anticipated for delivery on January 1, 2017.

Construction of the DAPL would engender a renewed fracking-frenzy in the Bakken shale region, as well as endanger a source of fresh water for the Standing Rock Sioux and 8 million people living downstream. DAPL would also impact many sites that are sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous nations. The DAPL is a massive project being organized by the world’s largest fossil-fuel companies and banks. They have offices in cities around the world. Supporting the Standing Rock #NoDAPL camps and putting direct, nonviolent pressure on the corporations building and funding this project is critical for supporting frontline resistance to DAPL and preserving the land for future generations.


coc36. Color Of Change is a 501(c)(4) progressive nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization that utilizes the Internet, specifically e-mail and social media, as its main conduit for communicating with its members, organizing campaigns, pushing out policies, and combating racial and social injustices. The organization has successfully inspired and motivated millions of Americans from all backgrounds to fight for (or against) a gambit of issues, including criminal justice reform, racists media bias, ALEC and its support of voter ID laws, gun violence, and net neutrality. Color Of Change was co-founded in 2005 by James Rucker and Van Jones to replicate the MoveOn.org email list model among African American in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Rucker had previously worked for the MoveOn.org Political Action and MoveOn.org Civic Action while Jones was the founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Rashad Robinson is the organization’s Executive Director, having joined the organization in May 2011. In 2015, Color of Change was ranked 6th on Fast Company’s list of the 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.


white-helmets-27. White Helmets/Syrian Civil Defense rush in when bombs rain down in Syria. These volunteer rescue workers operate in the most dangerous place on earth. White Helmet volunteers are bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students, and many other who come from all walks of life. They work tirelessly to save people on all sides of the conflict – pledging commitment to the principles of “Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality” as outlined by the International Civil Defence Organisation. This pledge guides every response, every action, every life saved – so that in a time of destruction, all Syrians have the hope of a lifeline. The White Helmets mostly deal with the aftermath of government air attacks, but they have risked sniper fire to rescue bodies of government soldiers to give them a proper burial.

The White Helmets have also trained 62 women in medical care and light search and rescue work. These heroic women respond to barrel bomb and missile strikes and dig for survivors using tools and their bare hands. In some cases, they are the only hope for other women or girls who are trapped under rubble. In Syria’s most conservative communities, people have refused to let male volunteers rescue women and girls – but the women have intervened to help those who wouldn’t have been helped otherwise. The White Helmet volunteers have saved 78,529 lives – and this number is growing daily. Many have paid the ultimate price for their compassion – 154 have been killed while saving others.

In addition to their life-saving missions, White Helmets deliver public services to nearly 7 million people, including reconnecting electrical cables, providing safety information to children and securing buildings. They are the largest civil society organization operating in areas outside of government control, and their actions provide hope for millions.


safari-doctors8. Safari Doctors is a nonprofit that provides free basic medical services to residents of remote parts of Kenya threatened by the terror group Al-Shabaab. The idea was conceived from several health initiatives around Lamu that have slowly come to a halt given the insecurities in the area and the loss of a substantial businesses that supported these projects. Safari Doctors was established in 2014 to continue with the much needed services. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners, the Safari Doctors crew sets sail once a month during high tide and embarks on to the rough roads to visit remote communities. On board is the crew, a full-time nurse, a clinical officer and a visiting specialist who provide basic curatives services. Depending on the availability of volunteering specialists, Safari Doctors plans to host trips that meet gaps of, dental, optometry, gynecology and other services. Current services include: immunizations, maternal healthcare, respiratory infections treatment, communicable diseases treatment, access to clean water, and hospital referral logistics. On August 26, Safari Doctors’ founder Umra Omar was selected as a CNN Hero in 2016. Support the programs by becoming a friend ~ Rafiki in Swahili ~ of Safari Doctors, which will ensure that Safari Doctors continue to deliver the required services and information to the neglected areas they serve.


redi-school9. ReDI School of Digital Integration and Refugees on RailsTie. The unprecedented influx of migrants to Europe, driven by the war in Syria, has created a massive backlog for authorities tasked with sorting out the new arrivals. As they figure out who’s who, where each person came from, whether they should be permitted to stay and where there is space to accommodate them, migrants have little else to do, but wait. This limbo can drag on for months, dampening the euphoria of finally making it to Europe, after so much hardship. Many Germans have been eager to help. As hundreds of thousands of people poured into the country over the last year— by rail, by foot, sometimes jammed into the back of trucks— volunteers have lined up to hand out food, and even invite them to rest at their homes. Others volunteers banded together to create separate, but interconnected, coding centers to train refugees.

The ReDI School of Digital Integration is a non-profit organization co-founded by Anne Kjær Riechert and Ferdi Van Heerden in December 2015 for tech-interested newcomers applying for asylum in Germany. The school, which has been featured on TEDx Innovations, aims to teach refugees tech skills and give them access to a future professional and social network, whilst waiting for their asylum application to be processed. The students in this course attend coding and mentoring sessions over a three to six months, with the Sunday sessions being hosted at German Tech Entrepreneurship Center in Berlin. The ReDI School of Digital Integration also host several local events where students, teachers, mentors, partners, sponsors and members of the community get together to share best practice. The school is currently accepting applications for students and volunteer as well as accepts donations for both specific and general projects.

refugee-on-railsRefugees on Rails is a nonprofit program co-founded by friends and tech entrepreneurs  Weston Hankins, Anne Riechert, and Ahmet Acar in 2015. It is designed to teach coding to refugees in Berlin and has now expanded to four other German cities. In many ways, the coding is almost incidental to Refugees on Rails’ real purpose: building community and friendships. Indeed, one of the founding ideas behind the start-up is the desire to counter the negative image of refugees in Europe as an economic burden to be dealt with, rather than a resource to be cultivated. Germany has welcomed over 600,000 refugees this year, many of whom are highly educated millennials with valuable work experience who simply lack the appropriate paperwork to begin contributing to their adopted society. The volunteer-run program provides refugees with a laptop and three months of coding instruction, two nights per week, for three hours each session. The classes are held in space donated by local tech companies, including the Berlin offices of Amazon.com. The course is open to refugees with rudimentary computing experience. Refugees on Rails is still in it’s early stages. Via their website, and in partnership with the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab, individuals can donate money or their old computers to help get the school and its students.


10. Fugees Family, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to working with child survivors of war. The organization empowers refugees integrate successfully into their new country by providing them the support and structure they need to realize their vast potential. In 2004, Coach Luma Mufleh started a Fugees team to provide refugee boys with free access to organized soccer. Since then, the organization’s programming has grown to include year-round soccer for 86 boys and girls aged 10-18, after-school tutoring, soccer for 50 elementary-aged students, an academic enrichment summer camp, and the Fugees Academy – the nation’s only school dedicated to refugee education. The school has received SAIS and SACS accreditation, blending creative teaching with academic fundamentals, interwoven with leadership and character building. The Fugees Family also offers consultation support to organizations looking to provide effective, culturally-appropriate, and impactful services to refugee and immigrant students and families. They offer expert guidance and support for planning, operating, and evaluating cultural, educational, social, and athletic programming. On August 26, Coach Muflesh was selected as a CNN Hero in 2016.

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