By Eden De La Cruz, 17, Garfield HS
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Eden's dream is to volunteer as a teacher in Africa to help the neediest.

At the end of last school year, I came across an ad on the Internet that said, "Make Poverty History." What the hell is that? I thought. I looked at the site and watched a video they had, in which Brad Pitt, Bono, Tom Hanks and other stars talked about poverty. Although the video was short, it moved me. One of the things they said was "Every three seconds a person dies" of extreme poverty. That’s got to be one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. I don’t even want to know how many deaths that amounts to in a year. As I looked at the site more, some old thoughts of mine resurfaced.

Why do we let others live in such bad conditions? This question has bothered me ever since I was little. One of the earliest memories I have of going to Tijuana. Mexico, is seeing a man with no legs playing the saxophone. He had a cup for people to put spare change in, but people just kept on walking. Even here in L.A., going downtown and seeing a lot of homeless people is depressing. I never liked seeing poor people because I didn’t feel they should have to live that way. Thoughts of how to change this about our world were always on my mind. But by the end of eighth grade, I gave up hope and came to the conclusion that although people say they hate to see such things, most of us never do anything to change it.

However, the Web site I found, which is for a new organization called the ONE Campaign, made me face a dilemma. The ONE Campaign’s goal is to fight poverty and AIDS in the world’s poorest countries, which are mainly in Africa, East Asia and Latin America. It was started by Bread for the World, Oxfam America, Save the Children US, and many other aid organizations. My question was whether I should even bother to get involved. Is ending poverty really possible? Will people really try? But I realized that if I didn’t at least try this out, I would be a hypocrite.

I didn’t know how bad things are

I knew that the problem of poverty was bad in poor countries, but I hadn’t known exactly what their daily lives were like. As I researched this issue on the Internet, I started to feel that I wanted to do more.

I found out that more than 1 billion people in the world—one out of six—live on less than a dollar a day. People who live in extreme poverty can’t meet their basic needs, like health care, clean water, food and education. In Africa 50 million children don’t go to school. When children and women have to walk miles, sometimes two times a day, to fill up buckets with water that isn’t even clean, the effects are less children in school and more health problems and diseases from drinking unsafe water. When that happens, the effect is fewer job opportunities, more deaths and more orphans. Then the cycle starts over. As if living in extreme poverty isn’t enough, people in the poorest countries are faced with one of the most horrible diseases, AIDS. I didn’t know that 95 percent of people with HIV/AIDS live in poor countries and every day 1,800 children get AIDS. If we don’t act now, by the end of the decade in Africa alone, there will be more than 18 million AIDS orphans.

I think we should give them a brand new start. I wish they could have a safe home, clean water, an education, free health care and a good job. Maybe that’s unrealistic, but we can do something.

$25 billion can save lives

One of the main goals of the ONE Campaign is for an additional 1 percent of the U.S. budget—$25 billion—to go toward providing basic needs like health, education, clean water and food to those countries that don’t have it. Right now the U.S. gives .75 percent of our budget, or $19 billion, which is not enough.

I think the U.S. can afford to spend 1 percent more. The total U.S. budget in 2004 was $2.3 trillion. The U.S. spent $450 billion of that on the military. Taking out $25 billion from the military budget is like taking out one dollar out of $20. That’s not a lot. It only means you couldn’t supersize a meal at McDonalds, but you’d still have a good meal.

This is a very important year for this issue. The Live 8 concerts were held on July 2 to raise awareness about the problems in Africa and the G8 Summit. I’m glad to see that there are many celebrities supporting this cause because that gets people more interested.

The G8 Summit, a meeting of world leaders from the eight most developed countries, was held on July 8. The G8 countries—the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia—agreed to increase annual aid by $50 billion by 2010. Since most of the poorest countries are in Africa, half of that money—$25 billion—will go to Africa. The United States promised to double what we give to Africa, to bring it to about $8 billion. I think that’s a good start, but it’s not even close to what we should give.

The G8 meeting wasn’t the end. At the World Summit in New York this month, more than 107 countries will talk about whether they are meeting the Millennium Development Goals, which are to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015.

Although these meetings may have passed, you can still help. The first thing you can do is sign the ONE declaration. By going to and adding your e-mail, you will be part of "a historic pact for compassion and justice to help the poorest people of the world overcome AIDS and extreme poverty." You can also wear a white wristband that says "ONE" to show your support for ending poverty. In addition to wearing the band, I signed up for the online newsletter, which is helpful because sometimes they ask you to sign a letter to a politician asking them to do more. There are other things I wish I could do, but between going to school, finding a job and dealing with my own problems, it’s hard to find the time. I’m sure it’s the same for most of us and that is why I encourage you to do these little things to help raise awareness and learn more about extreme poverty.

When I was younger I felt like I was the only one who wanted to help other people, but I was totally wrong. Talking to my friends and seeing how many people joined the campaign made me realize that there are a lot of people who feel the same way. That is why I now believe there’s a chance that things will get better.

Although the U.S. government gives more than any other country to help people living in poverty in Africa and other parts of the world, it ranks last among the world’s richest countries in the percentage of its wealth that it gives. Money given to other countries is called "foreign aid."

Country: 2003 Foreign Aid; % of Gross National Income

Norway:  $2 billion; .92%
Denmark:  $1.7 billion; .84%
Luxembourg:  $194 million; .81%
Netherlands:  $3.9 billion; .80%
Sweden:  $2.4 billion; .79%
Belgium:  $1.8 billion; .60%
France:  $7.2 billion; .41%
Ireland:  $504 million; .39%
Switzerland:  $1.2 billion; .39%
Finland:  $558 million; .35%
United Kingdom:  $6.2 billion; .34%
Germany:  $6.7 billion; .28%
Australia:  $1.2 billion; .25%
Canada:  $2 billion; .24%
New Zealand:  $165 million; .23%
Spain:  $1.9 billion; .23%
Portugal:  $320 million; .22%
Greece:  $362 million; .21%
Austria:  $505 million; .20%
Japan;  $8.8 billion; .20%
Italy:  $2.4 billion; .17%
United States:  $16.2 billion; .15%

* Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. These are 2003 figures. They do not include relief money for the tsunami in Southeast Asia or the money pledged at the G8 Summit in July.