It’s not often that you’re given the opportunity to road trip around the country with 999 other youths who are just as keen as you are about eliminating poverty, but I was blessed with this rare opportunity a couple of weeks ago. Here are a few thoughts from the road trip which I hope will encourage you that it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime, we’ve just got to have the drive to do it!
Our road trip embarked from Belmore Park in Sydney on an early yet sunny Saturday morning. Dressed in superhero attire, each the colour of a Millennium Development Goal, we loaded onto buses headed for the city of Gosford, and spent a day campaigning, petitioning and shocking people with our crazy attire. My highlights from our day up the coast included a chant/song competition which my fantastic group won! We changed the lyrics of the chorus of Owl City’s famous song ‘Fireflies’…
“I’d like to make myself believe,
That we can eliminate extreme poverty.
Achieve the MDGs by 2015,
One step closer to equality.”
Another highlight was communicating our petition’s aim to a man with limited English! Once he understood the key concepts of aid, world and government he made no hesitation in signing. What a fulfilling moment! The greatest part of the day was sharing in everyone’s accomplishments – the NSW team were a fantastic bunch of people, with a great heart of social justice and it was great seeing them so enthusiastic about getting signatures!
Our second day was spent in Manly, where we performed a flash mob, each of us dropping every 3 seconds to a bongo drum, to represent the frequency that a child dies of preventable diseases in the developing world. We definitely got a lot of attention and then had the opportunity to petition for a few hours. It can be disheartening to hear negative responses – such as “I’m wealthy, so why should I care about the world’s poor.” – I personally believe this it is by pure blessing we were born in Australia and not the developing world, so we are definitely called to give back to the impoverished of our world – what a blow this comment was!
The next two days were spent in Sydney city, the first at universities and the second in business areas. I am SO inspired by my generation – the university day was so easy because no one said no! I spent just under an hour at UTS (my uni!) and got over 60 petitions – it’s great to see that I am amongst a generation that believes we can eradicate extreme poverty and that so many people are open to putting their name to this cause. I even managed to pop into my uni tutorial that I was missing, and got my peers to sign the petition (and my tutor nicely marked me as being in class!) Hugely encouraging day, with our NSW team getting over 3,000 signatures – WOOHOO NSW!
Our day spent in the CBD of Sydney wasn’t as successful unfortunately – tackling my initial nerves as talking to business people – I managed to get 12 signatures, yet at the cost of over 30 rejections. People of course have their reasons for declining to sign the petition – but I just think we definitely need to focus on education the Australian populace about this issues – if we don’t do anything about it, then nothing will be done at all! The highlight of our day in the CBD however, was performing a dance flash mob with the Western Australia team which proved to be very successful and eye catching! Later in the evening we also had an opportunity to attend a church service at ShireLive! They made me feel right at home, and it’s so encouraging to hear that we’ve got supporters amongst the churches!
On Wednesday we travelled to Canberra for the Make Poverty History Summit – a wonderful two days of inspirational speakers, workshops, MP meetings and media stunts. Though extremely tired after zero sleep the night before (try surviving in a tent in -4 degree weather… ) we awoke at 5.30am to head to Parliament House to meet our federal member of parliament. My MP is Hon Phillip Ruddock, who gave me and two other girls the privilege of speaking to him for 15 minutes! He seemed very sceptical about increasing foreign aid as he is wary of corrupt governments (so are we Mr Ruddock!!!) but I really hope we managed to convince him that the Act to End Poverty is something worth signing!
The next two days were eye-opening, inspiring and thought provoking. We heard from the likes of Hugh Evans, Jarrod McKenna, Malcom Turnbull, Bob McMullan, Viv Benjamin, Tom O’Connor and Tim Costello, just to name a few! It’s great to know that key figures in our parliament and NGOs are sure that we can end extreme poverty in our lifetime. The greatest statistic to prove this is that we’ve actually halved extreme poverty in the last 20 years, from 42% to just over 20% – amazing!
The greatest thought I took away from the lineup of speakers was from Tasmanian road-tripper and Congolese refugee, Alphonse Toussaint.
He said: “Poverty of course is a crime. Poverty is a discrimination. Poverty is worse than racism. Poverty is a social injustice. Poverty is a prison. Poverty is a destruction of human dignity. Poverty is a condemnation to death. I dream of that time when poverty is ended and I know it will be during my lifetime!”
Amen to that brother!
After weeks like this which are so inspiring and motivating, it can be difficult to come down from the high and get back to the real world, but I’m determined that my action won’t just end with the fantastic week I had. This blog is part of my desire to continue working on the issues of injustice and inequality until they no longer exist. If you’d like to be a part of this movement, you can sign The Act to End Poverty too, all the information can be found in my ‘Campaigns’ page.
Poverty is indeed a destruction of human dignity, but poverty will definitely be made history.