Fighting global poverty is often thought to be a possibility only for large philanthropic foundations or well-to-do billionaires. A middle-class Seattle couple has turned that idea on its head.
The inspiration for Eugene Cho came several years ago during a trip to Myanmar when he visited Karen villagers who had built a makeshift school in the jungle. He asked how they were able to sustain the school’s teachers, and the villagers told him $40 a year per teacher. But many of the teachers moved to higher-paying jobs in Thailand because the Karens were unable to pay that sum.
Moved by that experience, Cho, an ordained Seattle minister, and his wife, Minhee, pledged $68,000 — all of their year’s earnings — to launch One Day's Wages. The organization asks donors to give up one day’s income, 0.4%, of their annual earnings, to charity.
The Chos exhausted their life’s savings, but in the past year, they raised more than $400,000 from donors, including a 6-year-old who gave up her birthday presents and started a birthday campaign on the website, onedayswages.org, which the Chos established last year after achieving tax-exempt status.
The organization awarded its first grant to a community-based organization in Thailand doing work with undocumented Myanmar refugees who are unable to go to school. The grant provides funds for the school system of 6,000 Myanmar Karens so they can go to schools in Thailand.
One Day’s Wages’ goal is to invest 100 percent of all public donations in small and medium-sized organizations around the world that are already fighting extreme poverty.
Asked whether it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime, Eugene Cho answered: “Obviously the answer is very complex. What’s really painful is what’s currently going on in Haiti. There are Haitis all around the world now, and people need to not turn their attention away from that.”
One Day’s Wages holds its one-year inaugural gala on Friday evening, Nov. 5, at 415 Westlake in Seattle. Details here.