Updated: Dec 10, 2021
doing a world of good, part 1
a new series showcasing everyday people carrying out positive change in rural communities
Across the United States and around the world, the biggest issue facing rural populations is accessibility. From daily necessities such as healthcare and health services, adequate/proper food, quality/basic education, and clean drinking water to connectivity, transportation--and in many communities, thriving economies--rural communities worldwide struggle to bridge that gap. This month, we are sharing real-life successes in connecting much needed resources, sometimes in surprising ways and in unexpected areas.
Some of the stories we are currently following stretch from a food relief program in front porch’s backyard of Vermont to a country’s belief—and practice--that no distance is too far in ensuring a citizen’s right to vote. We’re inspired, and we hope that you will be too. Read on...
COVID-19 vaccines arrive in rural villages in Africa via drone-delivered packages.
In our pandemic-ravaged world, we hear day in and day out about the intricacies and frustrations of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Supplies are short, lines are long, and there are far fewer distribution points and healthcare workers needed to deliver the shots.
Enter innovation and determination: Zipline, a San Francisco-based drone delivery service, which was started in 2016, has dispatched an effort to help distribute COVAX vaccines to rural areas of Ghana. Zipline has already delivered thousands of medical products and vaccines to African outreaches and other remote areas around the world; now, with the roll out of the coronavirus vaccine, the company has partnered with the UPS Foundation and the government of Ghana to further assist hardest-to-reach communities in receiving vaccine support. Where there is a will, there’s a way. Check out additional articles about Zipline’s history and its part in the COVAX delivery here and here.
Volunteer-operated meal distribution feeds hungry rural residents and helps support local restaurants and agriculture in southern Vermont: A true win-win!
Brattleboro, Vermont, is a rural town of about 11,000 residents and is located about thirty minutes from front porch HQ. Its quaint downtown is host to restaurants, antique shops, excellent thrift stores, coffee shops—all the things one might expect in a moderately sized rural town in New England. What the observer would not expect to find is a community struggling to make ends meet, with many residents in Brattleboro and its surrounding areas facing increased levels of food insecurity.
Enter Vermont Everyone Eats!, a state-wide initiative designed to directly assist individuals and families who need food assistance. Funded by the federal CARES act and distributed through grants, this program enables municipalities to purchase local restaurant meals, which area citizens can then collect. In the town of Brattleboro, groups of volunteers hand out meals to recipients as they queue up in their cars along the distribution points in town. The town buys these meals at $10 each, giving a needed boost to the local restaurants.
A further economic benefit stems from the fact that participating restaurants must source at least 10% of the meals’ ingredients from local farms. From the program’s inception in August 2020, Vermont Everyone Eats! has been able to supply about 650 delicious free meals each day to residents of Brattleboro and its neighboring towns. This is a program that other states are looking to replicate, given its multi-leveled approach in providing these meals. Read the full article here to get a good look at this amazing community support.
Voting booth delivery to isolated village in India: Voter officials travelled 483km over 4 days to ensure that the most remotely located citizens can exercise the right to vote.
India is the world’s largest democracy: 900 million of its 1.366 billion citizens are eligible to vote, a right that every adult has had since the beginning of the country’s democratic history. To compare, the United States’ current population stands at about 330 million people; in 2020, 235 million people –about 71% of citizens--were eligible to cast their votes (further note that in the beginning of our representative democracy, a mere 10-20% of US citizens were allowed to vote). To further contrast, India's government actively practices its commitment to ensure that as many people as possible are able to cast their vote come election time. To that end, rules mandate that no one should have to travel further than 1.24 miles to vote. This means that election season, which spans 38 days every five years, is a time of extreme logistical coordination and person power: over 11 million government workers and security personnel become voting officials for the duration of the election.
In one particular story, voting poll officials traveled 483 kilometers—a 300-mile journey that took four days and was largely completed on foot--to establish a voting booth in order to accommodate one single person who was the only registered voter in a village of five residents. That is some serious follow through on the government’s part! In other areas of India, poll officials—outfitted in expedition gear and oxygen tanks--traveled to the Himalayas to set up similar posts; other officials forded deep rivers and traveled through thick jungles to reach as many registered voters as humanly possible. In an era of US voters having few access points in rural areas, India’s resolve to accommodate its franchised voters is exemplary and inspiring.
Tribal success with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been remarkably effective, despite extremely limited resources. With a goal to preserve heritage through priority vaccination of tribal elders and those fluent in any given tribes’ languages, many Native American communities have had great success in the vaccination of their residents.
There are 574 recognized tribal nations in the United States, many of whom entered into a legal trust in which the United States carries a responsibility to provide health care to these nations upon signing treaties that ceded their land to the US government. However, when examining the extent that actually happened finds the government falling short in its responsibility—a fact through which the higher incidence of COVID-19 deaths per capita in Native American populations can be extrapolated. For context, according to the Color of CoronaVirus project conducted by APM Research Lab, Indigenous Peoples in the United States have suffered a death rate of 1 death per 390 residents.
In contrast—and not to minimize deaths in any group for any reason—Black Americans have died at a rate of 1 person in every 555 persons, while White Americans have experienced 1 death in every 665 persons. Using raw, aggregate data, this translates to Native Americans dying at a rate of 2.7 times over Asian Americans (who have had the lowest death rates due to COVID-19). It is alarming to note that Native American deaths account for 1.3% of all COVID deaths while only representing 0.8% of the total population in the US; other racial groups have died at a rate close to the percentages that each race represents in our country’s overall residents. Through the month of February 2021, deaths in Native American populations have accelerated faster than persons from other groups, which serves to make their situation worse--and in many tribes, both the disproportional death rates and the increased speed of overall deaths has threatened their continuity of language, heritage, and cohesion.
The silver lining in all this is that given the limited resources that tribal nations have had through the years, these communities have figured out how to accomplish things within these confines. Thus far, the vaccine rollout in Native American nations has been a success, part of which tribes attribute to the centralized system of the Indian Health Service. This federally funded health care system that many tribal nations rely on for their health services has delivered a consistent program to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, which contrasts with the fragmented approach that has occurred in many states.
In addition, tribal leaders and health care workers are highly experienced in reaching far-flung residents, given that most tribal nations are spread thinly throughout remote areas. By using less tech-intensive methods to reach their residents, such as via utilizing telephone calls, making radio announcements in Native languages, and working through existent outreach programs, the health care force has had great success in relaying information about how and where to obtain the vaccine when it is each group’s turn. It seems to me that some real lessons could be learned here as to communication and distribution of what is seen as an essential aspect in controlling the spread and severity of the coronavirus.
We've been encouraged and enlightened by people doing great things that have begun to bridge the gap in rural communities. As 2021 progresses, front porch aims to find many more success stories of rural resource connection.
If you would like to bring stories that you find, hear of, and/or experience to our attention, please comment below. We would really enjoy sharing these bright spots with you!
The information on this blog is authentic to the best of our knowledge. Although the information contained in this post has been compiled with the utmost care, no assurance can be given with regard to accuracy or completeness of data and information provided.
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