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  • Stephen Crilly

Volunteerism and Ending Global Poverty

During the past few weeks, I have been attempting to prioritize the problems facing the planet. One reason is to determine how I might best spend my time available for volunteer work. When we say “volunteer work,” the image of involvement in the local community may come to mind for many. However, there is a wide variety of ways to volunteer.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that about 64.5 million Americans engaged in volunteer work in 2011 – 2012, or about 26.5 percent of those over 16 years old. This is a promising number. It does not appear to include many people participating in sporadic, online activism to draw attention to causes.


One can only speculate as to the factors people take into account in selecting a cause on which to devote attention. For some, the decision may be a rational process of weighing the primary threats to our existence or way of life on the planet, such as climate change or the depletion of non-renewable resources. For others, it may be an emotional decision based on seeing a need in their immediate locale. In many instances, it may be happenstance – a friend’s involvement, or seeing a news story that stimulates a desire to help.


There are many worthwhile causes. Some of the criteria I consider in the selection process include: Where is the suffering, or the potential for it, the greatest? How much attention is already being focused on the issue? Are there a sufficient number of organizations and volunteers helping? Do I have the ability to assist?


There are hidden cases of suffering, such as from torture or human trafficking, on which some groups are working. Hunger and poverty is another form of suffering, which might be out of sight and out of mind for most, but it is not hard to find.


About one in six people in the United States face hunger. There is a useful interactive map showing the food insecurity rates by state and county at Feeding America. If you don’t recognize the problem as real, please watch the documentary, A Place at the Table, released in March 2013.


One group that is at the forefront of the fight against hunger and poverty globally is RESULTS. I learned of the organization through Marianne Williamson, who is on their Board. The mission of RESULTS is to create the public and political will to end poverty by empowering individuals to exercise their personal and political power for change.


I had the good fortune of attending the 2013 RESULTS International Conference in D.C. There were about 500 people in attendance. After three days of learning the specifics of many issues, we met with our Senators, Congressmen, their aides and the World Bank to advance the policies necessary to end poverty.


The World Bank is calling upon the international community to join in its goal of decreasing the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day from 1.2 billion people to just three percent of the population by 2030.


I urge you to review the information on the RESULTS website and become involved in this push to end poverty. Your direct involvement is needed. The staff and volunteers at RESULTS will take you step by step through what is needed to become an effective advocate for ending poverty.


In considering the potential for suffering, it is necessary to also consider the well being of generations hundreds of years in the future. They have no voice in the current decisions and conduct that will affect them. While I will continue to be active in RESULTS, I plan to attend the Character Education Partnership Conference in October 2013. As I have stated repeatedly, I believe one of the keys to solving global problems, while there is still time, is strong character education programs for the young. The fate of distant generations is in the hands of these next few generations.


I hope you will find a cause that pulls at your heart strings.


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