Disparity is rampant, and various forms have contributed to one of the biggest crises facing humanity today: Extreme poverty. Defined as living on US $1.25 a day, one in five people around the world – or 20% of the Earth’s population – is living in extreme poverty.
Fortunately, many dedicated people, a lot of them Millennials, are working to find a solution. I had the opportunity to speak with one of them recently, and what she shared convinced me that the end of extreme poverty is on the (near) horizon.
Justine Lucas is the U.S. Country Director for the Global Poverty Project, an international education and advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating extreme poverty. She joined the the team two and a half years ago and has helped establish the group’s presence in the U.S. Her interest in helping others create change began early in life:
“I’ve always been a campaigner at heart, and I realized from an early age that your voice matters."
Justine attended NYU for her undergraduate and graduate studies, beginning her college career just two weeks before 9/11. After college, she traveled extensively and gained experience working for various nonprofits domestically and internationally. She engaged in human rights work in Africa by living in Cameroon for a year while working for an NGO, an "incredible, intense experience that really ignited my passion for these issues.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Justine encountered the Global Poverty Project, which was new to the country, and realized it was exactly the opportunity she was looking for:
“It was like one of those light bulbs went off. I applied in five minutes, went through two months of interviews, and was the second hire in the U.S. I just knew this was right role for me.”
Since joining the Global Poverty Project team, Justine has helped establish a presence in the U.S, as the organization also continues rapidly expanding around the world.
The Global Poverty Project was founded in 2008 by two Australian Millennials, Hugh Evans and Simon Moss, who wanted to build a movement of people motivated to take action and create a world without extreme poverty.
To say the Global Poverty Project has been successful is a major understatement. It’s already become one of the biggest youth movements in history! In the United States, it’s best known for the Global Citizen Festival, a “marathon musical event” held in New York City’s Central Park that has featured performances by artists like Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, and John Mayer. Functioning as a platform to raise awareness in addition to being a concert, the Global Citizen Festival has been very successful in inspiring action and influencing policy change.
While the Global Poverty Project is a Millennial-founded and Millennial-led organization, it’s extremely inclusive, encouraging collaboration across geography, cultures and even across generations. Retirees have participated in letter-writing campaigns. GenX mothers have banded together to address issues that will impact their children (and to create ‘teachable moments’). There’s room for everyone in the Global Poverty Project, Justine told me, and advances in technology have created opportunities for anyone, anywhere to identify challenges, raise awareness about them, and drive what are incredibly sweeping changes:
Justine also shared that in addition to sponsoring events and enabling collaborations, the Global Poverty Project raises awareness and grows support by telling stories, but telling them in a very specific way:
“We place priority on producing high quality content and focus a lot of attention on ‘how do you tell the story’. We want to demonstrate that incredible progress has been made and is possible. We try to tell stories of individuals. Ultimately, we’re trying to connect people to the issues in a real way. To inspire them.”
Given that extreme global poverty is on track to be eliminated by 2030 (within one generation, in other words), it would appear that the Global Poverty Project is on to something. I’m sure their growing international movement of grassroots activists, and the communities benefiting from their efforts, would agree.
A lot of rhetoric about the Millennials refers to them as the ‘future of society.’ I disagree. I think they are the present, which is a good thing, because they are actively building a future that will benefit all of us, to which I say:
(And get involved!)