Since starting at the University of Michigan four years ago, I never imagined how much of my learning would take place off campus. From studying abroad in Argentina to visiting Washington, D.C., last year with my fellow advocates as part of the winning chapter of the ONE Campus Challenge, I will graduate this spring with a new worldview in addition to my coveted degree.
I have been lucky enough to travel to many exciting places in my life, but my trip to Rwanda with the ONE Campaign in the summer of 2010 is one where I can definitely say I came back a different person than when I left. My time in Africa was educational, inspirational and eye-opening. It also gave me the skills and the deeply personal experiences to be a more effective and compelling advocate on behalf of the world's poorest on my own campus. While as a student, I'm an expert at living on a budget, it is hard to comprehend living on less than $1.25 a day and the complex issues that result from subsisting on so little, until you have witnessed it firsthand.
A few memories from the trip particularly stand out in my mind. We visited the TRAC Clinic in Kigali, where Rwandans can get tested for HIV and gain access to life-saving medication - all for as little as 40 cents a day. Thanks in large part to support from President Bush's landmark President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- in close partnership with local leaders in Africa -- the beginning of the end of AIDS is a realistic goal within my lifetime.
We also met with an extraordinary group of young women at the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) School, who spoke of their aspirations of becoming neurosurgeons, teachers, and architects; dreams that now have the chance to come true. Watching these programs in action and meeting those involved gave me a strong sense of pride in what the U.S. has accomplished with the less than one percent of the federal budget that we spend on programs that are saving lives and building brighter futures. While it is hard to envision the impact of our commitments from afar, having the opportunity to meet incredible people who are alive today and have ambitious dreams for the future because of these American-funded programs, solidified my belief that these programs are, in fact, working.
As a college student, I too often become enveloped in the minor stresses and inconveniences of student life. However, after my week in Africa with ONE, there are certain things I will never take for granted again, including the power of my voice right in my own community. As young people, it is up to us to let our elected officials know that we care about these life-saving programs that are pulling more people out of poverty every day.
My experience in Rwanda is one I wouldn't trade for anything, and now ONE and Chegg -- a leading network for students that saves them time, money and helps them get smarter -- are joining forces to offer a similar opportunity to college students across the country. ONE and Chegg for Good, Chegg's cause-related arm, have officially launched Are You the ONE?, a national search to send eight stand-out students on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa this summer. For five days in July, the students will visit health, agriculture, and trade projects, meet with college-age students, entrepreneurs, key government officials and leaders from civil society, and learn about what they can do to make a difference on their campuses and in their own communities when they return home.
For more information and to apply for the program by the deadline on February 10, 2012 head over to Chegg for Good.
Africa is calling... do think you're the ONE? I promise you won't regret it!