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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Local nonprofit agencies fight global challenges

Sacramento area residents are volunteering to fight against sexual slavery, human trafficking and bad water, among other things.

With at least 121 Sacramento nonprofit agencies or services, other volunteers help in the fight against starvation, diseases and child labor in foreign countries.

One of these organizations is Little World Community Organization, a UC Davis student-started nonprofit to educate and feed Namibian children with AIDS.

Greg Zaller, a Grass Valley builder, runs the Davis nonprofit. He said his group’s approach is something that would be more easily understood by young than old.

“You can’t bring change by fighting your existing reality,” Zaller said. “You have to create a new model and make the old obsolete. You won’t end slavery by fighting slavery. What you can do instead of eliminating [is] teach others how to help themselves. Don’t just give things to people. Give a fish or teach to fish. That’s what community is about – it’s the most efficient human system.”

Zaller volunteered in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake there killed 78,000 people. He organized the villagers into teams to build a safe shelter, then returned to Sacramento to raise funds for its completion.

He is convinced that grass roots educational change will save Pakistan. In the organization, poor women learn to become teachers, who in turn educate families. They are celebrated as bringing action and hope to those developing communities that are building back up after the earthquake.

Though Zaller funds 22 schools, he said the group does not go out of the country very often.

“It’s more about putting a concept in place and it happens more spontaneously when you empower people,” Zaller said. “One thing that sets us aside is that people feel we’re really there for them. We’re not trying to make them into something else. No one is paid; we’re all doing it because we believe in it. It’s a universal life principle: do onto others as they do onto you.”

Patti Larson, information services manager at the Nonprofit Resource Center in Sacramento, said the Resource Center helps with fundraising management, training and consulting with nonprofits. She believes the teaching-a-person-to-fish model is true overall.

“There will always be a need for nonprofits in times of crisis,” Larson said. “It is true that a problem can be solved when people have the skills to take care of themselves.”

Chris Dodson is the manager of donor communications for Freedom from Hunger, a Davis based nonprofit that works on self-help solutions to fight against chronic hunger and poverty.

Dodson said that Freedom from Hunger believes in integrated financing, meaning they combine health and nutrition education, along with health services and lessons on how to run a small business.

“Money is only half the answer, education gives the long term solutions,” Dodson said. “A mother will tell everyone around her how to take care of children. Education makes change long-term. They can learn ways to make their business successful.”

Dodson said working for a nonprofit organization is a perfect job for recent college graduates.

“The best chance for sustainable change is if workers are doing the projects themselves, rather than sending volunteers overseas,” Dodson said. “This generation certainly shows a deep desire to do fulfilling work and they’re definitely connected to the rest of the world, as they’ve grown up with the Internet. Work with nonprofits is a wonderful way to satisfy this desire to make the world a better place.”

ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached city@theaggie.org.

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