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MIT student blogger Shannon M. '12

The Global Poverty Initiative by Shannon M. '12

Because you’re reading this while 1/6 of the world is illiterate.

As a brand new bright-eyed freshman here, you’ll quickly discover that much of your schedule will revolve around free food. Chess club not offering pizza at its 7 pm meeting? Tough luck, Chess club, Debate’s offering pizza so I’m going there instead. No interest in volunteering with the Red Cross? But oh, free food! Of course I’m terribly interested in getting involved.

(I kid you not, a friend of mine actually kept a calendar of free food events like this. During her class breaks, she would walk up and down the hallways taking note of club meetings, where they were, and what food they were having. She didn’t have to cook for like, 2 solid weeks.)

Following this trend, then, it shouldn’t be surprising that food is in large part responsible for getting me involved in GPI.

GPI is the Global Poverty Initiative– I had heard about it through my sorority (more on that topic later, FYI), as a lot of sisters are involved with it, and knew I wanted to get into it, too, but honestly wasn’t sure how much time I’d have. Because, you know, I was like 4 weeks younger then and hadn’t fully embraced pass / no record yet.

But they had ice cream. So clearly, I had to go.

GPI operates under the goal that WE can be the generation that eliminates poverty. We have the resources, and we have the ambition- if we mobilize our generation, we can see it done. Last March GPI hosted the Millennium Campus Conference, which drew over 1,000 people from all over the world to MIT and keynote speakers such as Henrietta Fore (Administrator of USAID) and Senator John Edwards. That’s impressive. Let’s be honest.

This semester, our main project is Poverty Week (October 18-24! Get excited!), which is designed to promote poverty awareness and promote community involvement. Basically, we run all over campus trying to tell people that there is indeed a world outside of MIT and you should be concerned about it. A friend and I are going to be chalking the sidewalks with poverty facts, and I’m involved in the Action Challenge, which is a challenge to only drink water for a week. I mean, eat, please, but think of how much you spend on pop, or morning coffee, or that Starbucks Venti Grande Lo-Carb Triple Chocolate Mocha thing you can’t go without every afternoon. What if you pinkie-swore to donate the money that you would have spent on drinks to people who could actually use that money just to fulfill their basic necessities? That’s the gist behind the Action Challenge. (So sign up! Once the registration form goes live, I mean. Which will ideally be sooner than later.)

But those are only two parts of poverty week, though, out of some number n>>2. The preliminary calendar of events is here, and I have a feeling it will start to get more detailed as the week gets closer.

Some cool events of note, though:

Stand Up Against Poverty 2008– Sponsored by the Millennium Campus Network (basically, intercollegiate GPI is one way of looking at it), the Stand Up Rally is at Harvard at 7pm this Friday. There’ll be talks from people involved, booths from organizations such as Oxfam International, lots of people who are interested in making a change. Unfortunately, I won’t be at this, so no blog for you.

Eat So They Can Dinner– The basic gist is this- instead of going out to dinner, we’ll feed you and then you donate what you would have paid had you gone out, and the money goes towards feeding children in Africa. Cool, right? We’re working to get local restaurants to either donate food or give us discounts, and crafts that students bring back from their D-Lab countries will also be sold at the dinner as a fundraiser for both Eat So They Can and D-Lab itself. MIT Students: Saturday the 18th, 5-7pm, in location TBD. Be there or b2.

Study Breaks!– Food + Discussions about poverty = Awesome. Clearly. Right now I think there’s 4 scheduled study breaks at various dorms throughout the week. And you have no idea how much MIT students look forward to study breaks.

So even though we all talk about how hosed we are and how much we may HTFP some days, MIT students actually do care about the world outside of campus and have the resources to do something to change it, which we do to the best of our ability. People here know we have the power to make a change- not only that, but we WANT to.

Though free food as an incentive always helps.

25 responses to “The Global Poverty Initiative”

  1. First says:

    ya i am actually…

  2. First says:

    how is this possible…i never took 7 mins writting that

  3. Ahmed says:

    Your links are broken (probably from copying smart quotes from a word processor to the blog).

    Great post though.

  4. Shannon says:

    Fixed. Apparently the link tags didn’t want quotes.

  5. Mgccl says:

    I need to find a place where I cannot die of hunger.

  6. Zaira '11 says:

    Hi Shannon,
    So you are from the famous High Tech High? Did you by any chance participate in TSA (Technology Student Association)?

  7. Shannon says:

    @ Zaira- No, that would be Laura. I went to a Catholic high school in Michigan.

  8. wesh m 13(?) says:

    MIT rocks,even if I don’t get in.

  9. John says:

    funny you mention free food and debate, that’s the only reason I went to CC’s debate meeting.

    Welcome back to the blogosphere btw, I was wondering when you going to post next.

  10. Ehsan says:

    I’m sorry but that drink looks like heaven in a cup!

  11. Kathy says:

    By the way, we got permission for space in front of La Verdes for the Poverty Week challenge smile Nice entry!

  12. gr fan says:

    i am sure that drink did not go to waste…nice post. so i guess i don’t have to take you out to dinner this weekend

  13. Zaira '11 says:

    lol, sorry, wrong blog.

  14. charlie says:

    So is the purpose to get donations for money? Then where does the money go to… schooling? Food? medicine?
    Overall I think poverty could better be eliminated with improved education and the development of small businesses. Of course short term necessities are more important (food,water). Maybe a company goes over and starts a business constructing an office and training, then selling their office after a few years to make people more independent. It would have to be some sort of contract IE this branch can be sold after ten years for the price of $*****.
    That’s just me.

  15. charlie says:


    “Our team approaches this vision with the following goals:”
    “# To engage students in creative and in-depth thinking about the problems and potential solutions for poverty
    # To connect our peers into networks that work towards the goals of poverty relief”


  16. sean's mom says:

    nice post smile. can’t wait to chalk.
    fyi, i’m having to restrain myself from making a lot of jokes right now.

  17. Claire says:

    All these posts for Blog Action Day are really inspiring. I’m definitely going to look up some organizations that I can get involved in in my hometown. Thanks for all the information/motivation/worthwhile cause!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Oh, wow, they got John Edwards to speak?!?

    I’ve read his name a lot in the news…

    I can’t remember if it was about poverty or cheating on his wife. Either way, I’m sure he made a great speech.

  19. Lyah says:

    Yay Shannon you finally posted!

    Have been waiting for quite a while smile

  20. June says:

    …and I’m assuming that MIT funds all the projects/activities?

    GPI really does sound amazing. smile Thanks!

  21. Muz says:

    I find global poverty to be a very sad thing. Those people could live comfortably on just $50 a month, which is nothing to some people.

    The only thing that keeps me from donating is getting worried where the money ends up. Sadly, most charity events put too much money into “awareness” and not nearly enough into preventing or curing the problem. Awareness would a good first step for poverty, though. I think many people are in denial of the harsh nature of poverty and more worried about something that could kill them like AIDS or breast cancer.

  22. Chris M. says:

    I’m SOO excited about the poverty initiative. I can’t wait!

  23. nancyo says:

    re: Muz, have you seen before? ‘Tis a neat site.

    Ah, I hear the D-Labs are lotter-ied now. :( Or maybe smile b/c so many people are interested.

    If the bloggers aren’t dead from psets yet, a follow-up post on Poverty Week would be awesome smile