There are many ways to affect change in the world, from collecting donations to campaigning to spread awareness. ONE is a “grassroots community to campaign and advocate for the eradication of problems such as world poverty and preventable diseases,” says Mai Tran, secretary of ONE. Rutgers’ chapter, only three semesters old, has already made waves.
Rutgers’ ONE chapter aims to make differences from the ground up. They do this through advocacy and campaigning rather than focusing on charity and humanitarian aid. One member, Veronica, says, “Our goal is not to collect money… We’re trying to change policies and build sustainable solutions. Charity is a short term solution… “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”
How does an ordinary college student change policies? “Many people don’t feel like they have a voice. We aim to give the voice back to the people,” says Vice President, Tiffany Wu. Their main methods are collecting petition signatures and sending in letters. She continues, “… the general public is a little desensitized to this with the formation of online petitions because it doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything, you’re just clicking a button… but if you can get 300,000 people to click a button and take that button to their state’s representative and connect us to Congress, such as Senator Corey Booker or Senator Robert Menendez, it shows that people do care about this issue.” In reality, many of our politicians are removed from the people they represent. By sending in letters and demonstrating the importance of issues by showing how many people care, politicians are more likely to become aware of these issues and enact plans to implement change.
In their first semester, ONE held an “Unplugged Coffeehouse” to raise awareness of the Energize Africa Act which aimed to “incentivize the creation of a power grid in sub-Saharan Africa through private companies as well as the creation of a committee in Africa to… oversee those processes” says President Shaila Huq. In this coffeehouse, they held performances with as little electricity as possible. From this event alone, they collected over fifty signatures and fifteen hand written letters to send to our state’s senators. The bill passed through the House of Representatives, but not through the Senate due to election related time constraints. However, ONE is working just as hard to get it passed this time around.
This semester, they held a week long celebration for “International Women’s Day,” starting with a carnival to spread awareness of their cause and women’s issues around the world. Activities included a photobooth, games, and a balloon pyramid where attendees wrote issues they pledged to work harder on. One board game included choices of actions that ONE does (their unplugged coffeehouse and collaborating with other organizations) and choices with actions they avoid doing (taking money for profit and providing people with misleading information). The right set of choices connects an electrical circuit to light up the LED at the end of the board.
Another game was a version of a basket toss. The player was randomly assigned a type of country (developed, developing, or undeveloped) which determined their distance from the basket, and social class, which determined whether their “ball” would be made of (tissue paper, printer paper, or aluminum foil.) Lucky participants might get a perk that adds weight to their ball, allows them to move closer to the goal, or both. The challenges of the game represented the difficulties people born in underprivileged situations face.
This fun and informative social was able to reach dozens of attendees and was a great start to International Women’s Week. Following events included a Women’s Leadership Workshop on how we as people can be “effective leaders and advocates both at home and abroad”, as described by their information flyer, and a screening of the documentary, “Girl Rising,” followed by guest speaker, Alexandra Behette.
Rutgers ONE plans to continue spreading awareness and campaigning for a better world. They meet once a month and are always open to new members and new ideas.
By Lavina Ng