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Matthew McAllister Headshot

Being ONE Of Many

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Growing up, my view of what charity and humanitarian work looked
like was a very vivid TV commercial in which there were shots of
starving children in the slums with a large 1-800 number flashing at the
bottom of the screen telling me I can save lives with either Visa or
MasterCard. It wasn't until a U2 concert in high school that my eyes
were pried back open to the crisis of extreme poverty and global AIDS by
an Irish rock star named Bono.

Halfway through the show he made an
extremely moving speech, had the Pepsi Center turn off the lights, and
asked everyone to text to this thing called the ONE Campaign in order to
add our voices to the anti-poverty movement. The true inspiration to get
involved didn't kick in right there though, only weeks later, after
receiving emails detailing some statistics of global poverty, did I
decide to act. 1 billion people live off less than a dollar a day, 300
million of them are Africans. Every day in Africa, 6,600 people die from
HIV/AIDS. Every minute, five children die of AIDS. the statistics went
on but I was already appalled, how did I not know about this? Why when I
turned on the news was this not the breaking story?

My volunteer work for the ONE Campaign began in January of 2006 in
the form of getting local cities to pass proclamations declaring their
support for ONE and its goals. Specifically, urging our government to
keep the promises President Bush made at the G8 conference in 2005, at
which he pledged an additional 1% of the U.S. budget to go toward
humanitarian efforts. This promise was a response to the Millennium
Development Goals set at the G8 in 2000. The cities of Louisville,
Boulder, Broomfield, Ft. Collins, and Denver are all now officially
Cities of ONE, allying themselves with the anti-poverty movement. The
State of Colorado's senate also declared Colorado to be a State of ONE
in the summer of 2006.

The hardest part out of all of that was getting Denver on board.
With most city council meetings I just arrived for the citizen comment
section of the meeting and asked them to consider the proclamation I was
submitting to them at a future meeting, which usually worked out fine.
The Denver City Council meetings only have certain dates for citizen
input because they would never be able to get through the docket
otherwise. To even be able to propose the idea it would require a
council member's sponsorship. It took several months of emailing and
calling to get one of the members to take it up, eventually I asked
Councilman Rick Garcia and he was very excited to sponsor a ONE
Proclamation.

His staff drafted the proclamation and the council soon
passed it. It was an experience that taught me that persistence pays
off, even if that persistence has to last through several months of bad
luck. The hardest thing about doing humanitarian work at a government
level is that it's hard to keep up your energy. You go through highs and
lows, sometimes hearing a really good speech or sermon that drives you
to get every single city in the world to pass a proclamation against
poverty, and other times you'll work and work on an event and not as
many people show as you were expecting, it's very hard to get back up
and try again.

I'm recovering from such a low right now actually, over the past few
months I've hardly done any volunteer work, a busy summer mixed with
graduation from high school left my motivation level at an all time low
since that U2 concert. Now with college starting, that energy level is
coming back up as I see so many opportunities for my new campus to get
involved and make a difference. But it is very hard to maintain a high
energy level about issues that takes so long to make progress on. Don't
get me wrong, we've come a long way since even 2005, but there is so
much more that lies before us in the goal of halving extreme poverty
(living off less than a dollar a day), and slowing the spread of AIDS by
2015.

This is where you come in. As a citizen of this country to have the
obligation to tell the people representing you how to spend your money
and what is important to you. The easiest way to do that right now is to
get on a computer and go to ONE.ORG. You can take the first step by
signing the ONE Declaration, get your friends to sign it, get your
church involved and hold a service on how faith calls us to serve the
poor. There are so many ways for you to spread the word and open peoples
eyes to what's happening around the world. As Bono says, "This is not
about charity, it's about justice." We're not asking for your money,
this campaign is about using your voice to make a difference in the
world around you and I urge you to use yours today.

Matthew McAllister
ONE Volunteer

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