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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Positive Foundations holds MDGs week

Published: April 20, 2007
Section: Front Page

Last week, Brandeis student activism group Positive Foundations (PF) sponsored a Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Week on campus in order to raise awareness about extreme poverty and the goals set by the UN to combat it.

The Millennium Development Goals are our only really internationally agreed goals about extreme poverty, according to Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, who spoke to Brandeis students during a live video conference on Monday as part of the MDG week. The MDG set 2015, as the target datefor reducing extreme poverty, extreme hunger, Sachs said.

This process would entail adapting modern agricultural techniques in the developing world, increasing and strengthening infrastructure with public health and education, and working to ensure environmental sustainability by limiting and reversing environmental degradation, according to PF Executive Director Seth Werfel 10. In addition, Americans must make extreme poverty a legislative priority and lobby our political figureheads to increase foreign aid to developing countries.

The week consisted of a series of events on campus, including lectures, a coffee house, an open house and the video conference with Sachs. It also incorporated the Wailers and Reel Big Fish concert, which was run in conjunction with Student Events. The week concluded with a Call to Action, in which students called their local representatives to lobby them about global extreme poverty, and a community dinner.

It was a great week, said PFs other Executive Director, Sam Vaghar 08. We had good attendance at pretty much every single event. According to Werfel, Were going to make this an annual event on the Brandeis campus.

Both Executive Directors also emphasized the role of the MDGs week as a jumping-off point for PF to implement its larger goals.

Weve committed ourselves to raising awareness about the MDGs, said Werfel of the groups function on campus and the purpose of the past weeks events.

Vaghar and Werfel emphasized the importance of the Call to Action event, which was run in conjunction with the nonprofit organization One Campaign. Just one of the things were going to continue to try to do is lobbying our politicians. Thats why the event was really important, explained Vaghar.

Ultimately, PF hopes to get involved with issues of extreme poverty through partnership with an organization called Millenium Promise, which will allow Brandeis to sponsor a Millenium Village. The Millennium Villages Project currently consists of 78 villages in ten nations which, with help from Millenium Promise show a model for community-led sustainable development, explained Vaghar.

According to Werfel, one of PFs main goals for the near future is to be the first student-led group at a single University to both sponsor and partner with a Millenium Village in sub-Saharan Africa.

We have the support of President Reinharz and Dean [of Arts and Sciences] Jaffe, and are currently working to identify potential donors, said Werfel of PFs progress toward funding a village, which will ultimately cost approximately $1.5 million.

One of Millennium Promises founders, Sachs also emphasized the importance of the organization, during his videoconference with Brandeis students on Monday. In the long term this is going to be extremely useful to the world that more and more people are getting engaged on the grassroots level, he said.

For now, the club is focused on making a smaller donation of $5,000 to Millenium Promise. Next month, were making a donation of $5,000 to Millenium Promise just from students alone, said Werfel. According to PF Director of Finances Allyson Goldsmith 10, the money is going to go towards small-scale interventions such as anti-malaria bednets, school lunch programs, and treatment for parasitic infections. The $5,000 will consist of money raised though some of this week's events, including the Wailers and Reel Big Fish concert.

According to Vaghar and Werfel, PF also hopes to spread its message to other universities. It is the groups ultimate goal to create a national student network [and] have all these campuses sponsor [Millennium Villages], said Werfel.

All in all, PFs efforts this week have been very inspiring according to Heller School student Angelique Kanyange, who is from Rwanda and has worked at the Millennium Village there. You need water, you need school, you need food, for people in developing nations, she said. Kanyange also presented her experiences at the MDGs Week Open House.

Its great to see that extreme povertys becoming a campus priority, said Vaghar. Its something that has been acted uponby a number of different groups on this campus.