The NUS Student Activism Conference this Saturday, 19th November will be the UK’s biggest ever student activism conference. Student Activism 2011 “aims to bring together student activists from across the political spectrum to learn, share and inspire a generation of campaigners.”
There are 1.4 billion reasons why the Global Poverty Project is excited to participate in this conference this year.
1.4 billion people around the world live on less than £1 a day. That's a figure adjusted to purchasing power - so it actually means people living in extreme poverty can at most afford enough rice, vegetables and cooking fuel to make two basic meals. No meat, no frills, nothing fancy - just two basic meals.
Then there's 7p left over for everything else in life - housing, transportation, education, clothes, healthcare.
That 1.4 billion figure is frightening - impossible to comprehend. That could stop us in our tracks - the challenge is too big, the mountain too great to climb. But there are two things when we talk about extreme poverty that are key realisations: the first is that it is about personal and individual stories; and second that it is entirely about choices and decisions.
The personal and individual stories of extreme poverty
Extreme poverty is about Joel Wiza, someone we met in Zimbabwe, who digs roots for a living. He celebrates the days he earns $2, so that he can put food on the table and maybe even buy something nice for his wife. Joel worries constantly about his three children contracting cholera, which has been sweeping through the community, because he doesn't have the money or access to adequate healthcare he needs to ensure they survive.
But when we talk about people living in extreme poverty, not all of their stories are filled with sadness.
As there are stories of Joel and many individuals like him, there are also thousands upon thousands of stories of people like Tukaeje. Tukaeje, from Tanzania, used to be so poor that she used to go to school barefoot. With the support of a great organisation, Camfed, today she is a businesswoman and a leader in her community who distributes the money she earns selling clothes to ensure that dozens of struggling children will one day have the opportunities that she now has. You can watch her amazing story below.
And that's where choice comes in.
It's a matter of choice
People living in extreme poverty have no power to exercise choice, to make decisions and have control over their own lives. I mean just imagine if you were responsible for that £1 a day for your family and a member of your family became ill? Would you pay for them to go to the doctor or would you pay to feed your family? If you pay for the doctor, then your family goes hungry. If you feed your family, you can only hope that your brother, your sister, your mother or father – whoever it is – gets better.
I couldn't make that choice.
But luckily we never really have to. We have the power to make decisions about what we do, the actions we take. Our choices can be positive - about hope, opportunity and the future. Our motivations and individual stories of extreme poverty will be unique, but we can make one choice that is the same: to join the movement to end extreme poverty.
The actions can be small or they can be massive. They all move us forward.
The Global Poverty Project is going to be at the Student Activism Conference this weekend presenting attendees with two simple ways to make a real tangible difference: to help write more stories like Tukaeje's.
One is to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through signing a petition and writing a letter. Small actions that save lives.
The second is to Live Below the Line, our annual fundraising campaign that raised more than $2million for our partner charities this past year.
Come and talk to us to find out how these two actions can help us end extreme poverty.
It's the challenge of our generation - let's make sure we're up for it.
Click here to register for the FREE Student Activism 2011 Conference or for further details.