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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Positive Foundations creates cross campus collective

Published: August 31, 2007
Section: News

In an effort to mobilize university students across the nation in a collective effort to fight global extreme poverty, the Brandeis anti-poverty group Positive Foundations (PF) is coordinating the Millennium Campus Network.

According to PF Director of Operations Rajiv Ramakrishnan10, the network will connect members of anti-poverty organizations to like-minded clubs at other universities. The network will help students collaborate for a common cause as well as offer training sessions and organize fundraising initiatives to help each chapter make the eradication of extreme poverty a priority on campus. The network will also promote sponsorship and partnership with the Millennium Villages Project along with support for the ONE Campaign.

We wanted to create this network because a collective effort is much stronger than a fragmented one, said PF Executive Director Seth Werfel 10. With a national network, we will ease the tension that arises from several smaller organizations competing for similar funds and resources, and ultimately be more effective in the fight against poverty.

The Millennium Campus Network member universities currently include Harvard, MIT, Tufts University, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Wellesley and UMass Boston. The network hopes to expand to include universities both across the nation and internationally.

Universities are the most important societal institutions in the fight against extreme poverty. They bring together the academic prowess of faculty members, the passion that students bring to the table, and significant financial resources. Their involvement is crucial to the success of our initiatives, said Werfel.

The Millennium Campus Network will attack the issue of global poverty with a three-pronged approach: academic resource-building, raising awareness and fundraising.

In order to make poverty a major academic issue, PF hopes to integrate sustainable development into the undergraduate curriculum at Brandeis and schools across the nation. The club also wants to bridge the gap between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa by creating university-to-university partnerships and building stronger study abroad and exchange programs. The network plans to eventually start a student-driven journal focused on sustainable development and its implications in the international political and economic arena.

PFs efforts to raise awareness include a Stand Up Against Poverty event to be held at Boston University and the First Annual Millennium Campus Network Conference at MIT in April, which will feature several high-profile speakers including Ambassadors to the United Nations. PF will also sponsor lectures and seminars at Brandeis as well as sell t-shirts and wristbands. The main fundraising initiative will be to raise money to sponsor a Millennium Village in sub-Saharan Africa, however the club will also raise money for small-scale interventions such as insecticide-treated bed nets, school lunch programs, and treatments for parasitic infections and neglected tropical diseases. The clubs goal is to globalize the Brandeis commitment to social justice, said Werfel.

The network is the latest of many steps PF has taken to work towards the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. The Millennium Development Goals, which were drafted by 189 countries in 2000, include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

PF has held numerous fundraising initiatives and has also been collaborating with the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the ONE Campaign. The club members are also working closely with Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and author of The End of Poverty.

Professor Sachs is the rare and valuable combination of an academic powerhouse with a practical and effective problem-solving methodology and what they call a rockstar economist with a truly inspiring global presence. Hes a phenomenal resource whom we all admire. Its a true honor to be working with such a widely respected leader in the field, said Werfel.

As the Millennium Campus Network is still in its beginning stages, the PF executive board is working on building a governance structure.

This is an exciting time for Positive Foundations because it is the first time there has been a national movement of students, faculty and administration of higher education working together to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, said Ramakrishnan.