JU alum leading global poverty presentation Feb. 26 on campus
The international Global Poverty Project will present “1.4 Billion Reasons,” an interactive multimedia program designed to introduce attendees to the issue of extreme poverty, at noon Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Jacksonville University’s Davis College of Business.
Lunch will be provided at the free event; JU alumnus Shannon Heath is among the Global Poverty Project (GPP) presenters.
(See Q&A with Shannon Heath below.)
The GPP’s Road Scholars are sharing stories from 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.50 per day, the World Bank definition of extreme poverty. The presentation educates and empowers attendees, giving them practical ways to contribute like buying fair trade products, lobbying politicians for better foreign aid, and volunteering with meaningful projects.
The project’s ultimate goal is to end extreme poverty within a generation, Hugh Evans, the New York-based project’s CEO and co-founder, said in a news release.
“There are lots of people talking about extreme poverty, but there wasn’t a coherent narrative or conversation around how we can end it within our lifetime …” Evans said. “The reality is that 27,000 people continue to die every day due to causes that can be prevented. It’s the greatest challenge of our generation and surely we need to be debating in the public forum how we can end it in our lifetime. And that’s exactly what the Global Poverty Project is trying to achieve.”
More than 20,000 people in the United States and 60,000 in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand have seen the presentation. On the United States 2013 tour, the poverty project is presenting at over 100 colleges, high schools, and community organizations. Along the way, the team will invite audiences to participate in the project’s “Live Below the Line” campaign, which challenges participants to live on $1.50 per-day for food and drink for five days; raising money for partner charities like the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
GPP designed “Live Below the Line” as a symbolic action taken by participants to spark dialogue about current victories in poverty reduction and the potential for the future. Actor and project spokesperson Hugh Jackman has lived below the line.
“This is an incredible campaign that really gives us the chance to understand the realities of extreme poverty and highlights the challenges that over 1 billion people are faced with every day and urges us to do something about it,” Jackman said in a news release.
The “1.4 Billion Reasons” program at Jacksonville University will be extra special for Shannon Heath: she’s a 2011 JU communications graduate.
A 23-year-old Jacksonville native who attended First Coast High school and served as the station manager of The Dolphin Channel at JU, Heath is among four of the GPP’s “road scholars” who are on a nationwide spring tour, inspiring college students and other primarily young audiences to take action against extreme poverty.
Wave Weekly: What all do you do with GPP and how long do you expect to work with the project?
Shannon Heath: My duties on the spring tour lie primarily in communications and publicity. I manage all of the team’s social media accounts for our current campaign, “Live Below the Line.” It is also my job to reach out to local press at each tour stop and form beneficial relationships with the media.
Wave: How did your JU experience contribute to and connect with what you’re doing with GPP?
Heath: The personal and professional experiences I gained at JU were tremendously influential in my decision to pursue social justice issues as a career. My last two years at the university revolved heavily around my position on the media board and leadership responsibilities at The Dolphin Channel. Dr. Annmarie Kent-Willette connected me with some of Jacksonville’s best non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations, and I began creating documentary style pieces for them as service projects; some of which later went on to be recognized by the Associated Press. I found myself spending a great deal of time at Wolfson Children’s Hospital working with groups like Patrons of the Heart and Art With a Heart in Healthcare. It was in these type of creative endeavors that I was drawn to a more significant purpose in my work and I have been driven to establish a career in the NGO (non-governmental organization) sector ever since.
Wave: So, regarding poverty, what can we do to help?
Heath: Regarding extreme poverty, it is important to know that everyday people like you and I can take certain actions that can greatly contribute to seeing the end of extreme poverty in our lifetime. I firmly believe that if we simply educate people on the issue of extreme poverty and show them the tools they can use to assist in eradicating it, we can end the most widespread human injustice of our time. For example, over 800 million people will wake up tomorrow with no source of clean water, causing many of them to suffer from a myriad of unnecessary and preventable diseases. There are enough people in the world living well above the extreme poverty line to insist that the 1 in 8 living below it have to do so no longer.
Wave: What’s next for you … and do you anticipate that you will always be involved professionally in trying to make a difference in the world?
Heath: After my road trip family and I wrap up the Spring Tour in May, I aim to remain connected with GPP on a volunteer basis. This amazing opportunity has provided me with a very unique set of experiences, which will ideally lead into other equally incredible and prosperous opportunities in the NGO sector. My first priority in any professional role I take on is to create the type of work that makes the most progress in doing the most good for others. I feel that I am doing that in my current role at the Global Poverty Project and will continue to look specifically for that quality in the endeavors that follow.
Click on the image below to view a “Live Below the Line” YouTube video that profiles Shannon Heath:
Groupies for ending poverty: How I discovered the Global Poverty Project
By Shannon Heath
I have always admired groupies.
Truly, I have never been able to suppress the envy I feel for their free-spirited lifestyles and dedication to musical greatness. I have also always wanted to know what it meant to live such a geographically ephemeral life. This fact may not come as a surprise to my beloved Global Poverty Project co-workers who’ve had the pleasure of sharing the office with my hair on the days I try, albeit usually unsuccessfully, to evoke a Penny Lane vibe.
If I had to choose one band to “follow,” I think it would be Band of Horses. Their crooning melodies wrench my heart. I drove four hours to see them live once, and one might say it was the proverbial “transformative experience.” Suffice it to say; they are my favorite band. It seems only fitting that BOH could play such a blindly coincidental and yet crucial role in the series of events that led me to the GPP offices where I’m sitting now.
I walked into the living room of my family home about four months ago to find my Dad discovering new television channels. He’d finally broken down and purchased the ever so essential HD television. Prior to that, he owned an old box set that worked “just fine,” but he begrudgingly sprung for the new one after some careful consideration. He stopped on an independent music channel called Palladia that was showing what looked like a benefit concert for a group with a focus on global poverty. He thought I’d be interested since I’d just returned from a service trip to Guatemala.
No sooner had we set the remote down, than my beloved Band of Horses came out on the Global Citizen Festival stage to play a set for the show. What was this great and unlikely combination before my eyes? I was experiencing a musical heaven/social justice mash-up. Impossible! I couldn’t look away for a second. After the set, the show transitioned to a short documentary piece about a grassroots organization working to fight poverty in Guatemala.
If I had made that up, I would consider myself a far superior storyteller. Alas, that most coincidental of stories led me to apply for the then open position of Communications Road Scholar on the Global Poverty Project’s Spring Tour and I haven’t looked back.
Now, as we prepare to set out on this great adventure-which will take us across the entire country, I’m finally realizing my dreams in more ways than one. The ability to travel is great, but the privilege of having conversations with the people we’ll meet is far greater.
I may not have worked up quite enough gumption to take on the groupie lifestyle full time, but I can’t think of a better excuse to hit the road. We’ll be blazing our own trail this spring as we work together to build a movement. The end of extreme poverty truly is an idea whose time has come. We can end the suffering of many with the actions of few.
Sure am glad you stopped on that channel, Dad.