Why Volunteer? Part II ~ UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

IOP Kids                                       Village children around Ilula, Tanzania.

“One kernel is felt in a hogshead; one drop of water helps to swell the ocean; a spark of fire helps to give light to the world. None are too small, too feeble, too poor to be of service. Think of this and act.” Hannah Moore (1745-1833)

In January 2008, Ron and I volunteered  for two weeks at the Ilula Orphan Center in Ilula,Tanzania. One of the questions on the application was:

  • Which 2 of the United Nations Millennium Goals do YOU think are the most important and why?

I had never heard of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals nor had I run across anything from magazines, newspapers or the TV news. Looks like I had some reading and research to do if I was to answer this question.

I learned much. The goals were drawn up in 2000 and the target date for reaching them is 2015.  The MDGs form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and the world’s leading development institutions to work toward meeting the needs of the world’s poorest. They create the indicators and then track the progress. To make progress recipient countries must be committed to using the funding from developed nations properly and developed countries need to fulfill their commitment.  Click here to view my source for the reference material I used below.

The excerpt below came from the 2007 United Nations update, the year before we went on the trip. This vital information as well as the website related to the Ilula Orphanage contributed to the educational preparation we felt necessary to committing ourselves.

Take a moment and read through the goals and ask yourself which two goals are the most important.

The Millennium Development Goals:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day. Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

2. Achieve universal primary education

Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women

Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.

4. Reduce child mortality

Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five.

5. Improve maternal health

Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability

Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100million slum dwellers, by 2020.

8. Develop a global partnership for development

Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, nondiscriminatory trading and financial system. Address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing States. Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt. In cooperation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth. In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries. In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies.

After studying the above MDGs and related articles regarding the health crisis/poverty in Tanzania and even specifically the region (Iringa) we would be working in, I chose Goal # 3 and # 6.

Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women ties in with reducing AIDS/HIV. In fact, I feel that achieving all the MDGs relies on gender equality in education, work, health and welfare and decision making.

By giving girls an education and keeping them in school as long as possible they have a better chance of putting off marriage. All too often young girls are married to older men who already have had several partners and are infected themselves. Because this disease is a cultural and tribal stigma, especially in rural areas, they seek no help. The girl ends up taking care of her husband and is sick herself and in turn has babies who are infected.

Girls and women are vulnerable. They have no power in decision making regarding having sex or experience in negotiating safe sex. Even if they have managed to get through primary school, they are often forced out of school at young ages to take care of sick family members and siblings. It is an endless cycle.

Massive campaigns in all areas of the country with free testing clinics, condoms and education are beginning to take hold, but the Iringa region that we worked in  still has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country: 16% with women out numbering the men. Violence against women is still high which makes gender equality in the rural areas hard to maintain and men’s cultural attitudes regarding sex and right of passage (virility) also dominate over women.

Education, Education, Education.

It is here at this one little orphanage that 32 girls learn the significance of education. They learn to set goals and objectives and hold themselves and each other accountable. They have seen girls leave the orphanage, go to college and come back to share their knowledge and work in the region. The girls learn first hand  the importance of gender equality and the only way to succeed is to see themselves as equals in a male dominated society. They learn life skills that help them build the confidence necessary to make healthy decisions regarding sex and knowledgeable decisions regarding their future. These are girls who have seen the consequences of HIV/AIDS first hand. Several girls at the orphanage are infected and they have watched family members die. Many are orphaned because of this pandemic.

It is in this one orphanage that a large community outreach program takes place. It conducts community seminars in the district on HIV/AIDS, poverty, human rights, international issues, environmental issues, nutrition and more. The girls help with these programs and put their leadership skills to use. Village participants are given maize and flour after the completion of each course..

What impressed us with the church organization sponsoring this yearly volunteer opportunity is their mutual respect for those they are assisting. They are not there to direct, but to take direction. They listen and work on projects  that the board at the orphanage wants done. Life for many would remain abysmal if it weren’t for NGO’s and church organizations. We picked a worthy one to associate ourselves with and came back with a positive experience.

To find out how well the goals are being reached, click here to see the chart. It doesn’t look encouraging in many areas, but there is a significant decrease in HIV/AIDS and there is a parity level of education for girls. That is good news.

Next post: Life at the orphanage.



About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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18 Responses to Why Volunteer? Part II ~ UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

  1. I am afraid that I had never heard of these MGDs before either–but man are they important. We sponsor two girls in the developing world (Haiti and Egypt) but it is not near enough. My girls also fundraise for Me To We (a charity) on their birthdays and I am proud of that. How wonderful that you committed a year to such a great cause, and that you are educating us about it. I am interested to read your post on life at the orphanage.

    • Sponsoring children is such a worthy contribution to that young person’s life. It can make all the difference in the world. You are setting examples for your daughters and they too are involved. Thanks for your visit and comment.

  2. Wow, that’s some priority list. Makes you realise how complex it all is… I was going to go with the first two – until I read your answers. And I think you’re right. Gender equality and educated women are essential to the whole of a society’s function.

  3. You are so right. It is quite complex and no easy solutions. Corrupt governments also make it worse, but I do think women’s rights the world over will go a long way in stabilizing families and communities.They should not be property.

  4. Interesting! I would have a very difficult time choosing only 2 MDGs. If they pertained to Nicaragua, I would choose #2 and #7. I’m trying to do my part, but sometimes the needs are overwhelming. I’m looking forward to reading your next post, Lynne. What an incredible experience!

    • I can see why you picked #2 and #7. To me there is no wrong answer. they are all necessary to achieve any kind of break through in reducing poverty.It is overwhelming and when you watch natural resources being polluted with little hope of clean water for everyone, it seems hopeless.

  5. Lisaman says:

    It’s quite sad really because educated women can’t always shove a man away.. educating men is also key!!

  6. Lynne, a great follow-up piece to your part 1! I’d read about some of these goals as a result of my sponsorship of a girl with the organization, Plan, in Benin. It’s fantastic that you’re raising awareness here.

    • Thanks, Tricia. I was so fascinated by the MDGs goals and the information available when I was filling out my application. When I decided to write about the orphanage, I knew I was going to have to break it down in parts. Sponsoring kids is often a life changing experience for a child. Kudos to you for doing so.

  7. What a wonderful post Lynne, so much to think about. I found it hard to pick any two, because equality for women seemed to be the thread running through them all, that would make them work… Education for everyone is also the only answer to changing attitudes so that women do receive their due. If one didn’t remember that wonderful quote from Hannah Moore, it would seem an impossible task…
    What a difference you have made to the world

  8. There are no wrong answers, of course, and it was difficult to narrow it down. After reading more on the specific issues that created the orphanage, I decided on equality for women as an important goal. Thanks for your input, Valarie. I just wanted to make people aware there are goals and countries are working on them.

  9. You’re right, Lynne, the chart doesn’t look very encouraging. Just think, the goals are supposed to be met in just two more years. I wonder what will be accomplished in the short time remaining. I personally think the most important of the goals are #1 and #2 (eradicate extreme hunger and poverty and achieve universal primary education). I think until these most basic needs are met, it’s difficult to meet the higher level goals. Personally, I wanted to work in international development, and got my Master’s in International Commerce and Policy in 2008, but sadly I was never able to get a job in the field. Now, I’m doing the next best thing, helping to educate (and hopefully empower) women in the MIddle East by teaching in Oman. It’s great that you were able to volunteer here, Lynne!

  10. It does seem grim. There certainly are no wrong answers when it come to picking two out of the eight. I almost picked 1 and 2 until I read more on Ilula’s particular problem. Believe me, you are doing your part in education, whether you’re teaching males or females. They all need an education to be self sustaining. Thanks for taking the time to even think about the Millennium Development Goals, a heavy subject, and to comment.

  11. eof737 says:

    How wonderful that you this work… I loved that you brought up the fact that your group went to take direction and help, not to order the locals around which happens often… TY I admire that quality. 😉

    • I’m pleased you picked up on that. Nothing worse than being with or around a “know it all group who looks down on others.” It happens and I’m thankful this group took direction.

  12. Madhu says:

    What an inspiring campaign! I can’t comprehend why governments can’t take up these goals in all developing countries. I would pick education as the key goal here in India Lynne.

  13. Right you are. Where does the money go??? Get rid of graft and corruption in many countries and their might be room for education, healthcare, clean water, etc. But you are right, education is the key and then providing sustainable jobs to keep them employed is another challenge. Thanks for your comment.

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