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50 Nonprofits Making a World of Difference

Intel: The Future of Travel
by Carlo Alcos Nov 2, 2011
Without the reach of computing technology, the Internet, mobile devices, and social media, many of these nonprofit organizations couldn’t exist.

****This post is brought to you in partnership between Matador and our friends at Intel. Join us in the conversation on Twitter with #IntelEMP.

WHILE ORGS HAVE TRADITIONALLY been large groups with vast networks and resources, technology has empowered everyday people to form not-for-profits with little more than a laptop and an idea. It’s enabling people from anywhere in the world to access free world-class education; it’s helping to deliver clean water and improved sanitation in developing countries; it’s bringing modern healthcare to people who would otherwise not have access to it.

Current technologies are connecting people that in the past would have not been able to connect. As such, the number of not-for-profit organizations is now virtually uncountable, meaning more people doing more positive things for those in need. The advances made in mobile and computing technologies are enriching the lives of those who really need it.

Pam Mandel, co-founder of Passports With Purpose — a community of travelers who raise funds for various causes around the globe — describes how necessary current technology is to their organization:

We wire our site through PayPal directly into our beneficiaries’ accounts — that’s allowed us to channel donations right to the cause we’re supporting. Blogging is the primary medium for getting our message out — what we’re supporting and why we care. But we back that with lots of social media interaction, primarily Twitter and Facebook. Without social media, who can say how long it would have taken to build the kind of reach PwP has.

Advances in technology have been making it easier every year for us to bring in more participants. The easier it is to be online, the easier it is for us to communicate — and for our participants to find ways to communicate with their readers.

Here are 50 organizations and individuals around the world leveraging today’s technological tools to bring health, education, and empowerment to communities in need.

Community Support

Asha India – they work to improve slum conditions in India through various methods including educating community members about their rights to safe water and sanitation and training groups in how to engage government officials to seek change.

Corazones para Peru – one of their projects: “Munaychay, our children’s village, has provided 70 children with a home and family.”

Fourth World Love – their focus is on remote indigenous villages outside the reach of the more mainstream organizations. In 2011 they bought the CDC in Sembalun, Lombok a new Mac computer.

The General History Project – the goal of this project is to record the history of aging community leaders, traditionally passed from generation to generation orally, to promote cultural awareness and to preserve culture.

Grameen Foundation – they provide capital to micro-finance institutions in poor communities. They also help lower operating costs by sharing technology and open-source software to increase efficiency.

Haiti Replacement Homes – through innovation, this project by Conscience International is able to recycle rubble from the homes destroyed in the 7.0 earthquake of January, 2010, to be used in rebuilding permanent, earthquake-resistant homes.

MercyCorps – working in failing states, conflict zones, and countries recovering from natural disaster, they address issues ranging from agricultural development to food response to women’s empowerment.

Tilapiana – addressing a declining fishing industry, this organization uses “innovative approaches to design, implementation, and training” to help entrepreneurs develop and maintain fish farms.

Walu International – profiled by Matador last year, this program looks to improve sanitary conditions for coastal communities in Papua New Guinea. They provide support for locals to find their own solutions and to implement them using local labor and resources.

Education and Empowerment

Acrobat of the Road – Juan Villarino and Laura Lazzarino have been hitchhiking around the world since 2005. Backed by the People’s Health Movement, their Educational Nomadic Project gives presentations in schools and villages around the world in order to spread empathy and inter-cultural understanding.

The BOMA Project – their Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP) trains and mentors Kenyans in establishing and sustaining business initiatives.

Child Empowerment International – they provide schooling for 6800+ underprivileged children. Near the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, they care for and provide leadership development for 400 orphans.

CloudHead – co-founded by Matador staffer Leigh Shulman. They are an art and education organization that brings people and resources together via social media and technology, teaching art and design programs to students in at-risk communities with the goal of helping them develop sustainable sources of income in their home communities. They share their art, design, and other media internationally, connecting people who, in another time and place, would not have met. Their current project includes putting digital cameras into the hands of Wichi children from villages all around the Salta province of Northwest Argentina.

The Dhaka Project – educating adults and children in low-income families in Bangladesh, their goal is to help them overcome poverty and become self-sufficient, while giving the children opportunities for the future.

ExploreCorps – currently, most of their youth-based empowerment projects are based in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Surf Club was created in 2008 to “connect the Gaza surfers to the international surfing community through the development of online tools and networking, print articles, photo/video and documentary footage, and securing media coverage of their unique story.”

The Hunger Project – working in 11 countries in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, they provide support in teaching sustainable practices with the goal of ending hunger and poverty.

Invisible Children – these documentary filmmakers highlight the plight of war-affected children in East Africa and show their stories around the world, inspiring others to help end the conflict created by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

Khan Academy – simple. They provide world-class education to anyone, anywhere in the world. Anyone with access to a computer and the Internet can learn through 2600+ videos in subjects such as K-12 math, science, and the humanities.

New Futures Organisation – based in Takeo, Cambodia, NFO runs an orphanage which cares for over 50 children and young people. They are also developing a network of free schools in remote rural villages.

One Laptop per Child – using innovation and technology, they’ve designed a low-cost, low-power, rugged, and connected laptop with the goal of, as the name suggests, providing one for each child who otherwise could not afford a computer. Watch this video for more details on the laptop.

Room to Read – in 2000 they started building schools and libraries in rural Nepal. Since then they’ve expanded to countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, India, and Zambia, using locally hired labor.

The School Fund – their person-to-person website connects funders with students in the developing world. The funder can browse student profiles and select who they would like to fund. Once funding begins they also have the ability to communicate with the student through an online journal.

Shared Interest – as a financial co-operative, they source money from investors to be used as loans to farmers and handicraft makers in the developing world. They are the world’s only 100% fair trade lender.

Sustainable Bolivia – with their main office in Cochabamba, Bolivia, they provide human and financial resources to local organizations; international students can attend their language schools and the profits are reinvested to support the orgs. Their scholarship program also sends Bolivian students to university who can’t afford it.

The What Took You So Long Foundation – using film and the Internet, WTYSL hosts lectures, workshops, and conferences to raise awareness of not oft-talked about issues in small communities around the world. They also serve as a network for grassroots NGOs, providing them access to experts in the fields of humanitarian work and sustainable development.

Whiz Kids Workshop – to address the wide educational gaps in the developing world, they employ new low-cost technologies to educate through mass media. Their television show Tsehai Loves Learning has won several prestigious international children’s media awards.

Ethical Tourism

Geotourism Development Foundation – they work with local partners in any given destination to help fund and build sustainable tourism projects, creating infrastructure that enables travelers to visit and build up the economy.

travel2change – this nonprofit leverages the Internet to educate travelers on issues facing local communities. It then puts forth a theme-based challenge to inspire ideas from travelers on how to address any given issue. Winning ideas are rewarded with a free trip for the traveler to visit and be involved in making the idea reality.

Passports With Purpose – this annual travel bloggers’ fundraiser selects projects to support. In 2010 they raised $64,128 (25% more than their $50,000 goal) to help build an entire village in India (construction is under way). For 2011 they are looking to raise $80,000 to help build two childrens’ libraries in Zambia, in partnership with Room to Read.


Clean the World – they collect and recycle unwanted soap and shampoo products from the hospitality industry, and also donated products from manufacturers and the general public. Once processed, the soap and shampoos are delivered to homeless shelters and impoverished countries in an effort to prevent deaths due to hygiene-related illnesses.

E-Health Point – these basic health clinics are run by Health Services India and provide rural communities with clean drinking water, medicines, diagnostic tools, and advanced tele-medical services.

The Roberto Clemente Santa Ana Health Clinic – this clinic in southwest Nicaragua services isolated villages providing health education, curing viral infections, and treating injuries and chronic health issues. They are also capable of stabilizing patients in life-threatening situations for transport to the main hospital in Rivas.

Valle La Paz – their philosophy: “there can be no healthy man on a sick planet.” In addition to educating children in how to respect the health of the earth, they create biodiversity in agriculture in efforts to increase soil fertility, and also promote overall health improvement, as opposed to just responding to and treating illnesses and disease.

Humanitarian Relief

International Rescue Committee – one aspect of this org is an Emergency Response team of 17 specialists that can be readily deployed within 72 hours to respond to a crisis, such as the flooding in Pakistan in 2010 and the tsunami in Japan earlier this year.

War Child – projects in countries like Afghanistan, DR Congo, Israel, and Kosovo focus on protecting children from the consequences of war, as well as enabling access to education and justice when rights are violated.

Food and Water

Edesia – produces ready-to-use foods to fight hunger and malnutrition. Their revolutionary Plumpy’nut paste is endorsed by the WHO and UNICEF as a treatment for acute malnutrition with a high rate of success.

Ryan’s Well Foundation – began in 1999 when a 7-year old child raised $70 doing extra household chores that helped build a well for a school in a Ugandan village. The well still serves the community. Since its inception, Ryan’s Well has “helped build over 680 wells and 820 latrines bringing safe water and improved sanitation to over 723,000 people.”

Innovation and Technology

AfriGadget – “Solving everyday problems with African ingenuity” is their tagline. The blog reports on how people are using and reusing everyday materials to create solutions like recycling billboard posters to waterproof a house. The stories shared are meant to inspire creativity to help overcome life’s challenges.

Computer Aid International – the London-based charity professionally refurbishes computers for use in education, health, agriculture, and by other nonprofit orgs in developing countries.

Energetica – they provide renewable and traditional energy systems, along with technical assistance and training, to isolated communities throughout Bolivia. Since 1993, they’ve implemented over 100 projects that have directly or indirectly benefited almost 80,000 families.

Green Wi-Fi – they’ve “developed a WiFi solution that leverages low cost components, the latest advancements in solar power technologies, open source software and Java to deliver a self sustaining, self healing, WiFi grid network solution that is cost effective and easy to deploy.”

Medic Mobile – with efficient healthcare in rural areas being difficult to achieve, their developments using open-source platforms (FrontlineSMS, Google Apps, HealthMap, etc) aid health workers in delivering timely healthcare to isolated patients.

Solar Cities – this NGO is “installing environment-friendly solar hot-water heaters on the rooftops of Coptic Christian and Muslim communities in Cairo’s slums.”

WE CARE Solar – innovation led to the creation of suitcase-sized portable solar energy generators. They are being used to power lights, headlamps, and walkie-talkies in off-grid medical clinics, “reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality and improving the quality of care in Africa, Haiti and other regions.”

Social Justice

Global Fund for Women – they support women’s human rights by providing funding to women-led movements around the world, addressing issues like gender-based violence, sexual/reproductive rights, political participation, and access to education.

Maiti Nepal – this org fights against injustices towards Nepali girls and women, protecting them from domestic violence, human trafficking, child labor, and torture. Their main focus is preventing trafficking in the sex trade and also rescuing those forced into prostitution and helping them find alternative sources of income.

Surfing for Peace – this community of concerned surfers and supporters has the goal of bridging cultural and political barriers between surfers in the Middle East. Their current project is to bring surfer delegates from both Israel and Palestine to Hawaii to “declare their vision for peace in the capital of surfing.”


Guerrilla Aid – their Global Colors project leverages social networking platforms for its web-based community to source ideas, experiences, and support from its volunteers, who have built schools in Haiti, provided books to libraries in Laos, and facilitated getting 120 students back to school in Cambodia, among other projects.

WAVES for Development International – through surf tourism, this org focuses on promoting cultural exchange, environmental conservation, and sustainable tourism. In addition to volunteers working in their education programs, they also run beach cleanups, photography and computer classes, and health clinics.

Developing World Connections – volunteers work alongside locals on poverty-alleviating projects, such as building a dispensary and home in Tanzania, building community infrastructure in Rwanda, and teaching children how to use computers in Guatemala. 

****This post is brought to you in partnership between Matador and our friends at Intel, whose technology enables so much of the lifestyle in which we thrive. Join us in the conversation on Twitter with #IntelEMP.

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