By JENNIFER SCHNEIDER
The waves lapped against the small fishing vessel in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. While the Internet connection glitched, a young Clint Borgen used the paychecks from his job on the fishing vessel to fund what would eventually become a national campaign that focuses U.S. political attention on extreme poverty around the globe.
That was back in 2003, when every penny that Borgen could scrape together went to fund his fledgling project, a project that he had first drafted four years earlier while working as a volunteer in a refugee camp during the Kosovo War.
Today, the Borgen Project acts as a nonpartisan, global nonprofit. The organization aims to downsize global poverty by lobbying with politicians to pass bills that support foreign aid, and by sponsoring local organizations that provide resources to impoverished communities all around the world.
From its humble start-up beginnings, the Borgen Project has evolved to a powerful advocate against global poverty, with headquarters in both the United States and the United Kingdom, volunteers in over 1,813 cities and relations with over 89 percent of the U.S. Senate.
The Borgen Project enacts large-scale change by advocating with congressional leaders to secure support for poverty-reducing legislations, mobilizing people across the globe to make poverty a political priority, teaching advocacy skills to allow citizens to better communicate with their government and building awareness around global issues and innovations through online and community presence.
Borgen said that while the project official took shape in 2003, it was the armed genocide of the Kosovo War that inspired him. Barricades and gunshots surrounded dirt-filled refugee camps. While patching blood-filled wounds and extinguishing raging fires in overcrowded tents of persecuted Albanians, a young Borgen grew angry over the lack of efforts from the world’s most powerful countries to improve conditions on the ground.
After graduating from Washington State University and interning at the United Nations, Borgen managed to optimize his Alaskan start-up into a nonprofit funded by the World Bank and the Global Peace Building Fund.
As a public relations and marketing intern at the University of Toronto, I focus on fundraising, media outreach and creating branding campaigns. At the moment, my tasks include doing grassroots advocacy, web-based messaging and information events to turn some bills into legislations.
The covid-19 pandemic pushed 743 million girls out of school, but the Child Fund’s Girls Leadership, Engagement, Agency and Development LEAD) Act would make information more accessible to women, increase girls’ democratic participation and decrease both child marriages and pregnancies.
Meanwhile, UNICEF’s Mental Health in International Development and Humanitarian Settings (MINDS) Act would introduce mental health resources in impoverished communities, while the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act would focus on improving children’s access to education.
The Borgen Project’s last success was putting pressure on politicians in the U.S. Congress to pass the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act into law. This will help implement measures that give people in Third World countries continuous and sustainable access to food and farming.
But this is not enough. More, much more, needs to be done.
A common misconception regarding global poverty is that foreign aid is a waste of money, or that the budget allotted to it is extraordinary. The reality is that foreign aid improves national security, reduces worldwide extremist practices, branches access to emerging economic markets – particularly in Third World countries – and creates employment opportunities. And government-allotted, foreign-aid funding is less that 1 percent.
The myths that surround the subject of global poverty include overpopulation, climate change and gender equalities. All of these factors leave people in Third World communities all the more vulnerable.
However, with an increased foreign-aid budget, the world could potentially be looking at ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. The numbers are promising: The percentage of people living in extreme poverty has halved since 1990 thanks to U.S. foreign aid, while advances in global heath have decreased the newborn mortality rate from 18 percent to 5 percent.
Like the paycheck stubs that Bergen used at the start of his project, every penny donated and every political bill passed can make a difference.
Everyone can play a role in eradicating global hunger — by donating, volunteering or reaching out to their local politicians. Something as simple as asking the barista at your closest coffee shop to write to the Borgen Project can have a huge impact.
But, as U.S Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton used to say, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and it takes a global effort to end extreme poverty.