Students belonging to the SUNY Oswego chapter of the anti-poverty group ONE recently won a national challenge for awareness-raising and lobbying efforts.
Members have now written more than 570 letters to congressional representatives on issues related to poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, such as the need for electricity, said Sara Cooper, president of the Oswego chapter she helped found starting this summer.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been exciting to see us grow,” said Cooper, a senior communication and social interaction major with minors in both political science and peace and conflict studies. “We are still No. 1 (in the Campus Challenge) in overall actions and recruitment since Aug. 30.”
She said among the group’s actions, ONE members also held a “Study Under the Stars” event to call attention to the plight of African students who need to use light from public sources such as airports to read and study at night.
ONE, which in October officially joined nearly 200 registered student organizations at SUNY Oswego, is an advocacy organization co-founded by U2 frontman Bono with more than 3.5 million members worldwide engaged in the fight against extreme poverty in Africa. ONE said it sponsors the national Campus Challenge to propel college students — “a powerful political force” — to action.
Cooper said ONE’s mobilization efforts at SUNY Oswego have relied on word of mouth, a Facebook page, presentations in classes and residence halls, and publicity from the ONE challenge — including Oswego’s inclusion in a USA Today College story.
Among other colleges and universities, the competition has attracted ONE chapters at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of Virginia and University of Iowa.
SUNY Oswego’s ONE chapter earned a pre-release screening of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” after winning the challenge. The screening, which by coincidence took place at Oswego Cinema 7 on the evening former South African president Nelson Mandela died, was one of 10 hosted by movie distributor The Weinstein Company at colleges and universities around the United States.
The tie-in with the biographical film about Mandela, who as president led South Africa out of apartheid, is “designed to encourage discussions on college campuses about Mandela’s life and legacy,” The Weinstein Company said.
“Through a series of action-oriented challenges, from living without power to calling members of Congress, Oswego students won ONE’s Campus Challenge and the private screening event by urging political leaders to support programs that are today saving lives and creating sustainable futures in the developing world every day,” the company said in a news release
The current ONE challenge calls on students to submit paintings depicting an AIDS-free world, as HIV/AIDS is another problem plaguing Africa.
“I want us to get as involved as possible,” Cooper said. “Oswego (as a college) is interested in global awareness, and that’s what we are promoting.”