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GLP Supporters Join with the American Business Editor of The Economist To Talk About the "New" Philanthropy

Olubayi Olubayi, Christina Vanech, Edward Ramsamy (moderator), Jeanette Goodson, Matthew Bishop
New Philanthropy panel

April 29, 2008. - An animated group of speakers were recently brought together by Dr. Edward Ramsamy at Rutgers University to explore the relationship between philanthropy and politics.

Held in the Scholarly Communication Center Lecture Hall of Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus, "The New Philanthropy: Prospects and Challenges" panel featured members, volunteers and partners of The Global Literacy Project, Inc., along with Matthew Bishop, the American business editor of The Economist and the publication's chief business writer. Based upon his own experieinces in giving, Dr. Ramsamy became interested in the kind of people who would reach out to help others, many of whom were complete strangers to the donors. As such he convened the panel to explore the driving mechanisms of what is now being called the "New Philanthropy."

Matthew BishopThe evening opened with an overview by Ramsamy then a lecture given by Matthew Bishop. Drawing from his travels, writings and an upcoming book, titled Philanthrocapitalism, which will be published in September, Bishop talked about how he grew interested in philanthropy and became fascinated with how people with tremendous wealth would decide to give back huge amounts to people they did not even know. Part of this, according Bishop, was because the newly wealthy often carry a sense that it was not right to earn so much wealth and not help others.

However, this new philanthropy also displays a disdain for the cautious and unimaginative check-writing that dominated charitable giving for decades. So what does it look like? "I think that what [wealthy people] are doing is tapping into a whole series of really important trends that affect society as a whole," Bishop said. There is new level of involvement by donors. More than just ribbon-cutters, the new philanthropists are actively engaged in projects that become passions.

The discussion then really took off around the large amount of philanthropy that even includes individuals of modest means who band together or the phenomenon of non-monetary donations.

Jeanette Goodson, a lay minister at the Fountain Baptist Church, Christina Vanech, a high school junior from Pingry High School who co-headed a book drive to aid South Africa and Olubayi Olubayi, the president of the Global Literacy Project, gave insights into this burgeoning phenomenon.

Jeanette GoodsonGoodson talked about how the Fountain Baptist Church, based in Summit, N.J., was inspired to help people just like themselves in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The members of her church rallied together and over many months of sustained effort, they eventually donated $1 million to support relief efforts last year.

Individuals with less than millionaire status can also create change through philanthropy. Goodson gave the story about how at age fifty, she travelled to Africa for the first time. As an African American, she wanted to see Africa and this trip was a gift from her husband Joe. Arriving in Kenya, they spent some time at a tiny village school called Isungulini and on her return home to New Jersey she kept corresponding with several of the children, as well as the headmistress of the school. She was also helping to pay the school fees for three of the children and gained immense satisfaction when they did well in school. She happened to tell several members of her church about this and her pastor decided to support the creation of a Kenya educational sponsorship program. At this point they are supporting some 125 students in 7 secondary schools as well as 8 university students. The program has supported 5, 443 primary school students over the past eight years (from January 2000).

"In 2005, the government instituted free education for primary schools," Goodson said. "So now we are only dealing with secondary schools, which are high schools. But our purpose for doing all of this is not just to educate the students, but to make leaders out of them so that they can learn how to lead their country."

Chriatina VanechThe audience was then introduced to 16-year-old Christina Vanech from the Pingry School in Martinsville. Christina and her friends helped to collect over 50,000 volumes of books from surrounding community churches and schools. She then traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa last summer where she helped establish a community library as well as several in-school libraries.

"This was an experience that I found really rewarding because traveling and volunteering mean that we went beyond blind giving," she said. It wasn't just donating [books] for our volunteers, she said. We actually were able to have a connection, make friends and meet with children.

"I grew up with my parents encouraging [philanthropy], and my school has a lot of community service connections," Vanech said. “This experience helped me to realize how many shared dreams we have. I mean, I went to someplace so far away, yet the students we met with wanted to have the same kind of successful life that I want to have."

Olubayi, president of GLP spoke about his experiences as a philanthropist and connected the process of giving to human aspirations that we all have. He said reflecting on the conversations that he’s had with people who share similar experiences about growing up in relatively poverty led he and his friends to a question. “The intellectual question for us was, 'What did it take to come from a very economically poor family to a university like Rutgers? How did you get there?'" Olubayi said.

He grew up in a rural part of western Kenya where his mother was a teacher and his father, a farmer, had a boookcase of books in the house, he said. That was the difference between his success and the detours that so many others of his classmates we forced to take. He said that he and his friends who eventually created The Global Literacy Project decided that success often depends on access to books at an early age.

When GLP first began in 1999, one of the school districts the program worked with was one of the worst in Kenya, he said. As of last year, the district is among the top 13 in the region due to the program's efforts, he said.

"There is very strong evidence that this had to do with, number one, the presence of the books, and then number two, the fact that University students came back to work with primary schools in the districts," Olubayi said. “This is fully engaged, high-involvement philanthropy where global citizenship means having a deep sense of membership in the global village and having a deep sense of responsibility."


Read more coverage here...

Brookhart, Heather. "'Economist' editor, diverse group of philanthropists visit U." Daily Targum 1 May 2008: 4


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