How do we get young people on board to eradicate extreme poverty in 15 years?

Two weeks ago, the United Nations adopted a seriously ambitious goal: to end extreme poverty by 2030. That means noone in any part of the world living on less than $1.25 per day. Right now, 300 million workers live below that level.

In New York City on Tuesday, non-profit leaders and college professors got together at the Poverty Awareness Campaign to talk about what that would look like, and how to get young people across America to understand–and care about–what that target means.

Techo, an organization that targets poverty in slums, created this installation on the streets of New York City to give passers-by an immediate sense of what living in a slum looks like:

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The woman in the photo is also using virtual reality goggles, which show real scenes from slums across Latin America.

“I saw the bed, and I was like, oh its somebody’s bedroom–and then I saw that four people live in one bed,” said Gillian Turiano, 20, a communications major at Pace University. “It’s pretty crazy. What an interesting way to bring a huge problem to light.”

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Student Brianna Gentilella looks through Techo's virtual reality goggles

Gillian’s classmate, 20-year-old Brianna Gentilella, tried on the goggles.

“There was dirt everywhere, the shacks on like all sides,” she said. “It was really sad, really dismal.”

Looking at poverty from another perspective, nursing professors at Pace are trying to get their students to understand how poverty affects people’s health. They’re using a role-playing system developed by the Missouri Community Action Agency, which gives students a scenario in which they are living in poverty and have to make ends meet while taking care of their family’s education and health.

The students get blocks of 15 minutes, representing a day, in which to decide how to use their limited resources to work, eat, and look after their role-play families.

“Nursing students will intersect with people who live in poverty all the time and their potential to make a positive impact in their life course is significant,” said Angela Northrup, Assistant Professor at Pace’s Lienhard School of Nursing. “When they hear about the effect of poverty on health, often they’re very surprised. They don’t see that there’s a relationship.”

Northrup said that evaluations before and after the exercise showed that many students did have greater empathy towards people living in poverty, but also that they better understood what they as young nurses might be able to do to help.

Tackling poverty in fifteen years is going to mean getting the next generation of young leaders on board, by educating not just college-age students, but instilling a connection to the issue as early as possible.

Pranav Srinivasan, an 11th grader at New York’s Horace Mann School, is a good example of the kind of young leader that could help us reach that poverty reduction goal.

His UNICEF high school club raised money to get 30,000 kids living in poverty overseas access to clean water this year, and the year before they did the same for 15,000 kids with a basketball fundraiser. Raising awareness of global poverty, he said, is almost more important than fundraising if the aim is to get his generation to respond.

Srinivasan has been all over the world learning about poverty, talking to influential people about what his generation can do:

And he had some advice for young people who want to have a hand in how we tackle poverty, aside from volunteering for an organization like UNICEF.

“I think the most important thing that students can do if they want their voice to be heard or share an idea is to hashtag it and put it out on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram wherever so people across the world or world leaders will start to understand the magnitude of this problem.”

See 360 video of the pop-up slum installation at Pace University below:
Video by: Claudia Prat

 

The Poverty Awareness Campaign was put together with the support of Univision and Fusion, Pace University, The City of New York, the United Nations Foundation, the Ford Foundation, El Museo del Barrio and Google.

Fusion is a joint venture of Univision and ABC.

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