Posts Tagged ‘poverty’


Women make history every day, and the women of Venezuela are doing so by cultivating a community-based economic model. They are embarking on new paths to autonomy within an historic social movement that is improving the lives of millions through “social missiones” that deliver new opportunities.

Government-funded programs such as Madres del Barrio (or “Mothers of the Neighborhood”) promoteĀ  social inclusion and community action. Madres del Barrio gives women the tools to succeed personally as well as economically by offering education, training, and interest-free loans. These tools have been invaluable for women, many of whom had never before worked outside the home.

The Guardian Weekly showcases the personal story of one Caracas woman whose participation in Madres del Barrio led her to found the successful Guarayrapana Textile Cooperative. Yovita Vera had this to say about her experience:

It takes a lot of willpower to keep the cooperative working, but we couldn’t have done it without the support from Madres del Barrio. I feel like this government has finally given women the status they deserve. In the barrios, most of the families are headed by women with little or no support from men, so it makes sense for them to be in control of the finances.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Madres del Barrio deserves a round of applause!

Check out this video about Madres del Barrio in Spanish.


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Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum held its official launch of the 2009 home heating oil assistance program today in Washington, DC. A press conference was held in the backyard of one recipient, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in the Northeast neighborhood of Petworth. In the picture above, Kathy Boylan expresses her appreciation for the much-needed help.

Citgo President Alejandro Granado (pictured above) said:

We are making an enormous effort. Despite the limited resources available at the moment, we are continuing the program as a demonstration of the solidarity of the Venezuelan people. Our critics have called this political, and it is true: our politics are aimed at building bridges between the people of Venezuela and the United States.

In 2009, the fourth year of the program, some 40 to 45 million gallons of home heating oil will be distributed in the U.S. through Citizens Energy at a cost of about $75 million. The resources will benefit around 200,000 homes across 23 states.

AP coverage is available in English and Spanish.

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A little over a week ago, we brought you highlights from the Venezuela-Citgo energy efficient lighting program. Before that, we reported on their discounted heating oil program and the Bronx development project. Today, we bring you the latest in Citgo’s efforts to give back to American communities in need.

CITGOIn a Maryland suburb just outside of Washington DC, Citgo and Venezuela announced a $1.5 million donation to CASA de Maryland (CASA), a service and advocacy organization assisting Latinos and other immigrants. Just as with the free light bulb program, Citgo’s donation will help this non-profit replicate the successful model of cooperatives that has flourished in Venezuela in recent years.

According to CASA, comprehensive educational, vocational training, and economic development programs will be created through the grant and will serve about 5,000 low-income participants. Read the Washington Post’s take in their article published yesterday.

Now that’s the kind of corporate responsibility we can get behind.

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The Venezuelan-owned gas subsidiary Citgo has been providing cut-rate home heating oil to poor communities in the U.S. for three now. Last winter, 23 states relied on the donations, which exceeded $100 million in value. New Hampshire has just become the latest to sign on.

The small state, which borders Canada and registers brutal temperatures in the winter, has suffered from high energy costs just as much as any other. State leaders have been pressured to address the economic conundrum by accepting the help from Venezuela.

Last year, hundreds of New Hampshire residents in fact went around the system to apply on their own to get the aid despite the state’s hesitance. As the owner of a local heating oil company put it, “It’s actually a pretty good program.”

To read more, click here.

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For many low- and middle-income people in the U.S., helping the environment can take a back seat to the everyday demands of simply making ends meet. Citgo, the Venezuelan-owned gas company, is helping to address this problem through its new Energy Efficient Lighting Program.

The program donates energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs to families in cities across the U.S. It is based on a successful initiative in Venezuela that oversaw the nation-wide switch to eco-friendly bulbs. Also, it marks a second phase of the Community Assistance Program by Citgo, which has donated discounted home heating oil to more than 1.2 million U.S. residents since 2005.

At the launch in Washington DC on Tuesday, neighbors watched Shirley Braxton (pictured above) install the first free light bulbs in her home. Speeches were made by the CEO of Citgo, the Venezuelan Ambassador, and Joe Kennedy of the host charity Citizens Energy.

By distributing nearly half a million energy efficient bulbs, Citgo will help recipients in 23,000 households to save $14.9 million and cut their energy use by 165 million kilowatt hours.

The lighting program is taking place in DC and everywhere Citgo refineries operate, in Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas; Lemont, Illinois; and Lake Charles, Louisiana. Other cities set receive the aid include New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Madison, and Minneapolis. To see figures for each city, click here. For information about how you can participate, call 1-800-315-7682.

UPDATE: Read news articles from the AP and the Houston Chronicle.

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By now, you’ve surely heard of Venezuela’s renowned music program “El Sistema,” which gives young children from poor families an opportunity to learn how to play classical music. The program is 30 years old, and currently reaches quarter of a million students. It is also having a big impact around the world.

Here is a roundup of articles you may have missed:

The Associated Press writes that Venezuela’s youth orchestra program has turned the country into “a powerhouse for producing talented musicians.” The prime example is conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who will head the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra in 2009. “‘El Sistema’ has given me everything. It gave me the possibility of having a path in life with music,” he said.

Reuters notes that rich countries like the U.S. and and UK are “lining up” to imitate the Venezuelan program. Hundreds of thousands of children in Venezuela have sidestepped a life of poverty and crime through the free education, so why not try it elsewhere? L.A. and Baltimore are developing similar youth orchestras.

Wired Magazine opines that, regardless of what people think about President Chavez, nothing can touch the shining example of his state-funded music education program. The heavy investments in poverty relief and human development indeed show that Venezuela has its priorities straight.

The New York Times reports that Venezuela is testing the peaceful techniques of “El Sistema” in prisons across the country. Here, “budding musicians include murderers, kidnappers, thieves and… dozens of “narcomulas,” or drug mules, as small-scale drug smugglers are called.” If the attempt to humanize jails works out, prison reform in Venezuela may also set the standard for other nations.

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We love petrocasas, the eco-friendly houses that are taking poor families out of the crumbling barrios in Venezuela and also in Cuba.

That’s why this new coverage from BBC News is so exciting!

The petrocasas program is setting new standards for how developing countries can address poverty and related housing issues in a way that is affordable and effective. Not only that, but petrocasas are far better for the environment than hodgepodge slums are. They are made from recycled waste generated by oil refining!

BBC correspondent James Ingham reports. Click here to watch.

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