Nurith Aizenman

The charity World Vision International is a major provider of disaster relief across the globe. So when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the group's office in the United States revved up its fundraising big-time.

"We've raised just under $4 million in cash donations," says Drew Clark, senior director of emergencies at World Vision's U.S. office.

Two weeks later Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean and Florida. This time World Vision brought in $900,000.

Hurricanes and floods don't just wash away crops and livestock and businesses. Marcia Bauer will tell you there's another loss that feels just as devastating, even if you can't see it with your eyes: the loss of your sense that you can plan for the future — that it's even worth trying.

We asked, and you answered.

In a recent series we explored a different way of giving aid to people in poor countries. Instead of handing out seeds or a cow or job training, what if you just gave people cash and let them decide how to use it?

Then we put the call out to you, our audience: Was there ever a time when you got a little cash with no strings attached and it made a huge difference? Or when you wished for a tiny windfall to tackle a problem?

Many readers of this blog told us they were inspired by the first story in our series on #nostringscash aid — about a ground-breaking experiment in Kenya to test the benefits of giving poor people a steady stream of cash in place of traditional aid.

But some questioned the ethics of studies like this.

Last August we brought you the story of Lumbaram, a father in a village in Northern India who was on a quest to rescue his daughter Durga from a marriage that he had forced her into.

Child marriage isn't just a practice that victimizes girls in poor countries. As this blog has previously reported, it's also long been an issue in the United States, involving girls from a wide range of backgrounds. Based on state marriage license data and other sources, advocacy groups and experts estimate that between 2000 and 2015 alone, well over 200,000 children — nearly all of them girls — were married. In nearly all cases the husband was an adult.

Mary Abagi is a 63-year-old widow who has spent most of her life eking out a living by growing crops on a tiny plot of land in her Kenyan village. Then, last fall, Abagi learned that the village had been picked for an unusual experiment that promised to change her life.

You don't have to convince Likezo Nasilele that giving people a small but steady stream of cash with no strings attached may be the smartest way to fix poverty.

Just a few years ago Nasilele and her husband, Chipopa Lyoni, couldn't even afford to feed their four children properly. Then Nasilele, who lives in a rural village in Western Zambia, lucked into a government pilot program that has provided her with up to $18 every other month. In the 2 1/2 years since, she and her husband have more than doubled the money by using it to start several businesses.

Young guys in dusty polo shirts. New moms holding their babies. Grandmas in bright head wraps. They've all gathered in a clearing for one of the village meetings when something remarkable happens. Practically every person's cellphone starts tinkling.

Advocates for ending child marriage are trying a new tactic: Show governments just how much the practice is hurting their own bottom line.

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