The End Poverty Malibu Meetup Group seeks City of Malibu’s support for worldwide poverty relief.
By Lynne Friedman / Special to The Malibu Times
“A child is starving to death every three seconds; a child is dying of malaria every eight seconds,” Malibu resident Diana Nicholson said. “In this day and age, starving to death should be against the law.”
To help end situations that result in these statistics, Nicholson formed the End Poverty Malibu Meetup Group. The group’s mission: to raise local awareness and find ways to effectuate the United Nations’ declared goal of halving extreme poverty by the year 2015.
“It’s not like we’re implying that Malibu is going to end poverty,” Nicholson said. “The reason why we started this group was so we could come up with something that other cities could model themselves after … so they can say, ‘They did it; why can’t we do it?'”
In September 2000 the United Nations Millennium Declaration outlined the Millennium Development Goals, eight time-lined goals adopted by 191 member states included, among other aims, the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the promotion of gender equality and a halt in the spread of malaria and HIV/AIDS.
The End Poverty Malibu group’s localized objective is to have the city of Malibu issue a proclamation endorsing the Millennium Development Goals and to put an initiative on the ballot that would dedicate a portion of already levied property taxes toward ending world hunger.
The philosophy of setting aside government funds to end extreme poverty echoes the writings of Jeffrey D. Sachs, celebrity economist and head of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Nicholson sees the End Poverty Malibu Meetup Group as a start in materializing Sachs’ vision of committing a percentage of every developed nation’s gross national product to eradicate extreme poverty by 2025.
Among Sachs’ other followers are actress Angelina Jolie, goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Refugee Agency, and U2’s Bono, who wrote the forward to Sachs’ New York Times bestseller, “The End of Poverty.” Sachs is also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise, an international organization dedicated to working with impoverished communities, donor nations and the private sector to implement programs that help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Millennium Promise’s New York-based communications and marketing director, Martin Edlund, said of Malibu, “Groups like the Malibu Meetup I think are a powerful demonstration of the popular interest in these issues, and I think they are equally important for educating their communities. Issues like extreme poverty can seem abstract and distant, but if you are learning about them from your friends, neighbors and coworkers, it becomes much more tangible …”
The term “meetup,” in this case, stems from the Web site, www.meetup.com, an online social networking portal that facilitates the meeting of people with like interests ranging from hobbies and pastimes to political activism. Meetup.com’s utility in the political arena escalated with the 2004 presidential campaigns of Democrats Howard Dean and John Kerry. Other cities with “End Poverty Meetup” groups include New York and Cincinnati.
“The beauty of these [online] technologies and tools is that they allow communities from all over the country to come up with their own ideas,” Edlund said. “We are often surprised with how good those ideas are and we want to tap them ourselves and share them with others.”
And sharing ideas is what Nicholson wants to do with the End Poverty Malibu Meetup Group.
Activism runs in Nicholson’s family. Her daughter, Nicole Calandra, an eighth-grader at Malibu Middle School, is a founding member of SurfAid Kids, a youth group dedicated to tsunami and malaria relief.
“I have lived in a lot of different places,” Nicholson said. “The people here in Malibu are big-hearted, unbelievably generous, and kind and caring toward others.”
Among the Malibu group’s 40-plus members is author Lloyd Wright, whose background in nonprofit includes the founding of the nonprofit organization Triumph over Hepatitis C.
“I see [the End Poverty Malibu Meetup Group] as an awareness group which can move to greater heights,” Wright said. “Poverty is a worldwide problem. There are a lot of good ideas out there and they take time and a lot of effort to spread; this may spread, because it should.”
The End Poverty Malibu Meetup Group plans to have their goal of a Malibu City declaration of support for the Millennium Development Goals met by World Food Day on Oct. 16.
More information on the Malibu End of Poverty Group can be obtained by visiting the Web site www.endpoverty.meetup.com.