[Below is essentially a slightly more detailed transcript of what is said in the above video]
I’ll cut to the chase. Like so many, many Americans the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected my employment. I’m currently on a temporary lay off due to the economic situation. And while, yes, it has caused a great deal of stress and unrest for me and my family, it also has created a lot of free time for me to do house work, other projects … and sift through my darkest fears and insecurities. Because I’m a very productive person.
But here’s the thing. At least as of right now, I’m not actually worried about when my next meal is coming. I’m not worried about losing the roof over our heads, having a bed to sleep in, comfortable air conditioning, clean water and so on. And I’m receiving a steady stream of unemployment benefits to cover the loss of my usual income thanks to the state of Washington and the federal stimulus.
Regardless of how you feel about the situation, the massive amounts of money our government is handing out to Americans is helping a lot of people, including myself, during these extremely uncertain times. I also appreciated the one-time stimulus check and Donald Trump’s completely necessary, probably inexpensive mailed-in letter reminding me that yes, he did sign off on it, it was him, it was his hand-written signature of merged letters, scribbles, and abstract calligraphy — seriously what the hell is going on with this signature?
Nevertheless, I really can’t stress enough how grateful I am to be living in a country where these sorts of social safety nets exist. And make no mistake, there is a lot I could say about the problems with our government’s leadership, corruption, ongoing inexcusable inequality, dysfunctional health care, and so on — I’m not diminishing those evils whatsoever. However I am still very thankful to be living in a country that has the capacity and willingness to help its citizens during a crisis. Yes you could be a cynic about the true intentions behind what the powerful and wealthy are actually doing to this end. Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes or all the moving parts, all I know is that I’m currently being supplemented with dollars simply for existing. I also know that the share of direct aid paid out by the US is higher than any other country.
That says something. And we’re 5th on the list of countries contributing a certain percentage of last year’s GDP. So it should never be lost on us that many of us Americans truly are living in a privileged state as compared to many other parts of the world.
And because we do live in a global economy, when our economy suffers, workers in developing countries that are a part of a very complex supply chain often suffer considerably more than we do. Not to mention their own countries have imposed lock-downs, which have further crippled their economies as well. But, like the US, this may have been a necessary evil, especially considering the health care in most third world countries is frighteningly insufficient.
Imagine how much damage a bad outbreak could cause when you aren’t able to effectively treat people with even the most basic flu medicine, not to mention the complete absence of ventilators?
And yet, when you’re literally living hand to mouth, not being able to work could be a death sentence. And from the research I’ve done, it appears to me that the continent hit hardest by the pandemic, at least in terms of basic necessities such as food, is Africa.
These people don’t have unemployment benefits like we do and a huge population had been barely making enough money to provide for the most basic life necessities as it was.
Meanwhile, I refused to suspend my Netflix account because I had to know what all those Tiger King memes were about.
I’ve read that many Africans living in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) live in slums composed of small huts with dirt floors, no health care, and oftentimes unsafe drinking water. A lot of people are extremely poor, and have been for a long time for a huge number of reasons that I can’t possibly explore to any real extent here.
But despite the low cost of affordable housing, for example in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, basic services like energy and water are ironically expensive.
This means in a place like Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, day to day life is constantly on a knife’s edge, which I imagine would cause unthinkable stress and insecurity.
Also, according additional research, “About a fifth of all people in Africa — which is about 250 million — didn’t have reliable access to food even before the coronavirus hit, while 25 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa are already undernourished.” Additionally, “Any day not making money … means fewer resources to buy food. That’s more devastating than it sounds, as … the impoverished typically purchase food on the day they consume it.” As a result, fights over food have become more commonplace in Kibera as the situation has worsened.
So, what can we do about it? I’ve done a little digging into various charities and NGOs and what methodologies have proven effective. This is another massive topic that I can’t possibly tackle properly here. However one organization that I did stumble upon and was significantly impressed by is GiveDirectly.
GiveDirectly is the first — and largest — nonprofit that lets donors send money directly to the world’s poorest. The idea is that the people living in poverty deserve the dignity to choose for themselves how best to improve their lives, and cold, hard cash enables that choice. And what I found particularly unique about GiveDirectly is that their cash transfers are unconditional — meaning they can do literally whatever they want with the money — and they perform rigorous studies to measure the results and have been scrutinized by independent third parties who have performed their own studies. Also, it looks like all the studies are peer reviewed or in process of peer review. It’s almost like they’ve conducted their charity work like a scientific experiment. They test in different environments and with different families and with controls and report on results and differences; taking what has worked and expanding on it to do the most good.
According to a documented randomized controlled trial, the impact for every $1000 donation is a positive increase in earnings by $270, assets by $430, and nutrition spend by $330. Those are pretty incredible gains in my opinion.
And here’s the kicker, the effect on alcohol or tobacco spend was shown to be 0%. Even more importantly, the studies showed a tremendous increase in psychological well-being and very positive results 4–5 years out. Therefore, it seems that when poor people receive an unconditional cash transfer, whether it be a lump sum or monthly payments, at least in Kenya, they apparently use it to better there lives, not to do drugs or get drunk. The results speak for themselves.
Of course, it’s also important to remember that many people in these slums are not asking to be pitied. For that reason alone I’m not going to post any pictures of suffering children or long-faced women to tug at your heartstrings. I recently stumbled upon a blogger who does humanitarian work in Africa (her name is Katie Hill) and she actually has a great piece from a few years ago on her walk through Kibera. Like all charity situations, it’s not as simple as saying these people are going to starve unless we give them money. As Katie says in her post, these people are hustlers. They’re entrepreneurs and they’re survivors.
And yet, the truth still remains, they are vulnerable in a way 99% of Americans could not possibly imagine. And today, in the face of the pandemic, desperation is settling in.
To be blunt, I believe that for the poorest of the poor, a basic income is needed. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t receiving money for my loss of income. I can’t imagine being in a situation where I can’t work and I don’t know how I’m going to pay for my next meal or pay for treatment if me or my wife get sick.
And to be clear, I believe that vulnerable people everywhere need help from those who have the willingness and capacity to give generously, including the poor in the United States. The reason I am focusing on aiding the poor in developing countries is because I believe that right now they are the most vulnerable. That’s why this is my current mission. I’m seeking those who are suffering the most and hoping to alleviate that.
Also, I fully acknowledge that this is not a cure to poverty and GiveDirectly openly admits that their method is not the one way to fight the problem. Fighting poverty is a multi-faceted, incredibly complex issue that requires many moving parts.
But considering the current circumstances and the data and evidence backing GiveDirectly’s approach, I believe this provides the most immediate relief to people just like you and me, but who are in far worse circumstances really at no fault to themselves. So like I said, it’s not about pity. It’s just about our human neighbors who are struggling really badly and just happen to be separated from us by a big body of water.
With all of that said, the reason for this post is to announce the 10 Day Challenge I am embarking on to raise money for the GiveDirectly COVID-19 Africa Response fund. I’m going to do a fitness challenge for 10 days straight to raise awareness and try to hit a donation goal
Here’s the breakdown:
10 sets of 10 every day:
- 10 miles of running.
- 10 x 10 pushups.
- 10 x 10 sit-ups or crunches.
- 10 x 10 jumping jacks.
- 10 x 10 lunges.
- 10 x 10 squats.
- 10 minutes of plank.
- 10 x 10 glute band exercises.
- 10 handstand pushups.
- And 10 minutes of soup can swimming, which by the way is way harder than it looks and is a great quarantine swim training alternative to all you swimmers out there.
I know this is going to be an incredibly difficult challenge for me because while yes I did used to be an Ironman triathlete I definitely do not have that kind of physical fitness anymore. However I think it will be doable and I’ve been testing myself against the challenge for a couple weeks now just to see if it’s actually feasible; although I’ve only actually completed the full 10 of 10 sets in a single day a couple of times and they were not on back-to-back days. It. Is. Tough.
I should also say as a disclaimer that a challenge like this is not something I would recommend. It’s usually not healthy to stack intense muscle fiber busting exercises back to back in successive days like this without any recovery in between. I don’t expect to really gain from this in terms of fitness. It’s going to be more a test of discipline, pacing, and endurance. I imagine the first few days won’t be too bad but it’s going to really wear on me as the days go by.
To kick off the challenge, I’ve started a GoFundMe page where you can donate to the cause: LINK. Every dollar goes straight to the GiveDirectly COVID-19 Africa Response fund. And since it’s a 10 day challenge, I think the target goal should be the sum of the 10 days by the 10 sets of the 10 reps that I’ve set for myself: $1000.
And yes, I know. This isn’t the most incredible ball-busting challenge out there.
I know it’s not going to raise that many eyebrows or garner that much support because it’s not the craziest thing in the world. I’m not the Iron Cowboy or the 99-year-old badass veteran who walked across his garden a million times.
So that’s why the monetary goal isn’t something crazy, but at the same time I think $1000 is still pretty lofty. I really have no idea if we’ll get even close to that but my wife and I are going to donate $10 a day throughout the challenge so that will cover the first $100. So really, we just need $900 more. And the way I see it, $100 is the most our family can give at this moment in time so even if we raise only $100 more, then that’s double what it would have been if I hadn’t done the challenge at all, which would be worth it in my opinion. But if you feel led to help this cause I would be forever grateful. And hey, I know finances are super tight for a lot of people so if you can’t donate any money, please share this on whatever social media platform works best for you.
I’m hoping to at least partially vlog my progress during the 10 days when I have the time but at the very least I will be posting about it regularly on my social media so anyone who follows me can keep up with my progress and help spread awareness for the fundraising.
Thanks for reading and wish me luck!