The third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) has descended on the University of Miami campus, where more than a thousand college students, dozens of university presidents, and various nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs will spend all or part of the weekend participating in workshops and meetings focused on five topics of importance to college students: education, the environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. This year's meeting also will focus on reconstruction efforts in Haiti.
As at all CGI events, participants are expected to make "commitments to action" -- a comprehensive, formal commitment to address a specific problem on their campus, in their community, or somewhere in the world. This year, participating students volunteered a thousand new commitments, while various universities and national youth organizations offered an additional sixty. When fully funded, the value of those commitments is expected to total roughly $42 million and will improve the lives of more than 290,000 people around the globe.
The following commitments (among others) were announced today:
• Maren Gelle, Kayla Johnson, Sarah Carlson, and Daniel Novas will offer bike rentals for students on the St. Olaf College campus. The goal of the project is to encourage a bicycle culture on campus while reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Gelle, Johnson, Carlson, and Novas also will work with the local community to donate bikes to Haiti to be used as bicycle ambulances.
• Syracuse University undergraduates Tim Biba, Gregory Klotz, Kate Callahan, and Allison Stuckless will launch a literacy and nutrition program -- Books and Cooks -- for children in low-income housing in Syracuse, New York. In addition to improving students' reading skills, the students will teach workshops devoted to cooking and nutrition.
• New York University student Michelle Pomeroy, in partnership with the Tibetan Women's Association, will lead a two-week leadership skills course in India for exiled Tibetan women. The course will train women in leadership, settlement officer responsibilities, conflict resolution, and gender sensitization, with the goal of preparing the women to be elected or appointed as settlement officers.
• University of Miami undergrads Kaitlin Birgenthal, Safia Alajlan, Kelley Winship, and Sara Johnson will work to expand Ocean Kids to Boston, Washington, D.C., the Bahamas, and Kuwait. Ocean Kids currently brings underserved elementary school students to the University of Miami campus, where they learn about marine life and science.
• Rockland Community College undergrads Mark Svensson and Tarik Abdelqader will work to combat the modern human slave trade in the U.S. by lobbying state officials in New York and urging them pass a resolution that aims to stem the flow of enslaved people into the country. Each year an estimated 14,000 to 17,000 people are brought to the U.S. to be traded as human slaves, with New York state functioning as one of the largest trafficking hubs. In 2009, the legislature of Rockland County passed a memorializing resolution co-authored by Svensson and Abdelqader, and the two plan to target other county legislatures as well.
• Bates College student Razin Mustafiz will create financial literacy workshops for the Somali and Somali-Bantu community in Lewiston, Maine. The workshops will cover the basics of financial planning, from opening a bank account to saving money for education. Mustafiz' commitment is supported by the Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnerships and Adroscoggin Bank.
• MIT student Christopher Moses will develop a course called "Sana Lab" to teach medical personnel and students in the Philippines how to adapt a mobile medicine system developed at MIT to poor, remote locations. His commitment ultimately aims to extend medical care to the conflict-ridden area of Mindanao.
• St. Lawrence University student Grace Ochieng will work to expand the Pads for the People Project that she started in her village of Lwala, Kenya, with the help of the Lwala Community Alliance and thirteen local women. Women who participate in the project are trained to sew menstrual pads and encouraged to sell them for a profit. Over the next six months, Grace will form partnerships and work to make the program more financially sustainable.
• John Trimmer and Scott Teagarden, undergraduate engineering students at Bucknell University, will construct a rainwater harvesting system that will provide the three hundred residents of Tumaipa, Suriname, with reliable, clean running water year-round. Local labor and materials will be used in the construction of the rainwater catchment system, and a water committee will be established to take ongoing ownership for the project.
• Cynthia Koenig, founder of Hippo Water International and a graduate student at the University of Michigan, in association with Hippo Water International, will work to expand Hippo Water Rollers to India, providing Rollers to women and families. The Hippo, an innovative water transport tool designed to alleviate the problems associated with lack of access to water, makes it possible to collect twenty-four gallons of water, five times the amount possible using traditional methods, in much less time and much more easily.
• Makerere University graduate student Divinity Barkley will build an energy-efficient recording studio for the Amagezi Gemaanyi Youth Association (AGYA) Learning Center, a community center she founded in Kampala, Uganda. Her commitment will provide digital technology training to the Ugandan youth at AGYA, empower them to produce and market their own music, and serve as a source of revenue for AGYA's arts and educational programs. In addition, the recording studio will utilize solar power for 35 percent of its energy.
• Wesleyan student Kennedy Odede, in conjunction with Shining Hope for Communities and American Friends of Kenya, will work to empower and educate women in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. His commitment has two parts: a Home Birth Network, through which women will be trained as home birth attendants; and the Women’s Microfinance Empowerment Project, which will use sustainable gardening techniques to grow vitamin-rich vegetables that provide desperately needed sources of nutrition at affordable prices.
• Purdue University student Keith Hansen will create the iRead Foundation to deliver childrens books to community health centers in Indiana. As vice president of the Purdue Engineering Student Council, Hansen oversees a group that puts on the largest student-run job fair in the nation, bringing over 350 of the nation’s biggest engineering companies to campus and raising nearly $500,000 dollars annually. A portion of those funds will be used to set up the foundation.
• Miami Dade College student Ximena Prugue will distribute 10,000 solar-powered lamps in India's rural communities, with the goal of reducing and/or eliminating kerosene lamp use. The D.Light Design Company lamps will be provided by Bogo Light at wholesale price, and Ximena will work with PTK Honor Society at Miami Dade to raise the money neccessary to purchase the lamps.
• MIT student Sreeja Nag will work to bring renewable, sustainable, and affordable energy to rural regions of India. After consulting local citizens, NGO representatives, and staff at Selco Solar India, Nag has created a report outlining how to bring energy to these areas. One of her ideas, for example, is to create detachable table lighting systems for students to carry home from a solar-powered charger at school.
• University of Miami students Kristina Rosales, Arielle Duperval, Austin Webbert, and Lissette Miller will establish two new community centers in Cite Soleil, a slum located in Port-au-Prince. The community centers will provide educational progams, cultural activities, mentoring, and opportunities for intercultural exchanges between the south Florida community and Haiti.
• Khushbu Mishra, an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College, will open an art institute in Mithila, Nepal, to display and sell the cultural folk art of local women, empowering and improving the lives of their families. After it's completed, the center will be run by local women who will then train other women in the arts, thereby expanding the reach of the program.
• Jessica Yamane, an undergraduate student at the University of California-Riverside, will design an experimental course on how communities can promote healing for domestic violence victims. Partnering with Alternatives to Domestic Violence, Path of Life Ministry's King's Hall Transitional Housing Program, and With Her Strength, Yamane hopes to modify this curriculum for integration in K-12 health and wellness programs throughout the Riverside School District.
• Christine Meling, an undergraduate student at Luther College, will purchase the materials and sewing machines for women in Yari, Sudan, to make school uniforms for families that cannot afford them. The women also will receive training on how to sew and use the profits from uniform sales to sustain the program.
• An Thi Minh Vo, in association with the Office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children in Hue City, Vietnam, will provide microloans of $212 to thirty-five families with children disabled by Agent Orange. The project aims to increase borrowers' income and ease the hardship of families struggling to afford health care and other basic needs.
• University of the Pacific graduate student Harnoor Singh will work with local physicians to provide free blood sugar and basic cardiovascular health screenings for California's migrant worker and supply low-cost prescription drugs to those in need. The tests, which can be completed for less than $15 per person, are of vital importance to California's migrant laborers, the majority of whom lack access to basic healthcare services.
• Nathan O'Hara, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, in association with Makerere University and Vancouver General Hospital, will work to supply Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, with three hundred half-pins annually. Each year, there are unnecessary fatalities in Uganda due to a lack of vital medical supplies; half-pins, which are used to treat traumatic injuries involving fractured bones, are among those. A collection system in Vancouver-area hospitals will reprocesses the reusable pins, which will be delivered to Mulago Hospital twice a year.
• Christina Newman, Sherley Codio, and Fabrice Marcelin, students at Virginia Tech, in partnership with Caritas and the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Gros-Morne, Haiti, will raise $60,000 and oversee the construction of a facility that can house more than 1,500 hens capable of producing 1,250 eggs per day -- 15 percent of the local egg supply. The three have already raised $23,000 and developed a business plan for the project. Their commitment will strengthen the local economy by reducing reliance on imports, and will empower local communities by providing much-needed employment opportunities.
Wow. As Margaret Mead famously said, "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." Hats off to those who have stepped up with commitments. You're an inspiration to us all.
To learn more about and/or view webcasts from the event, which ends tomorrow, click here.
-- Mitch Nauffts