• Halve Poverty: an organisers journey

    Posted by Micah Challenge

    4 September, 2013

    On Saturday August 31, thousands of people from churches, schools and community groups in the Warringah electorate and beyond formed the giant message "Halve Global Poverty 2015" across Manly Beach for Tony Abbott and Australia's political leaders to take notice.

     

    Susy Lee is a member of Seaforth Baptist Church and was on the organising team for Warringah's Halve Poverty event; rallying local schools and coordinating the education and advocacy tent. She reflects on her journey in the lead up to the day; and the powerful voice of the younger participants.

    It’s hard living in a very ‘safe’ seat. It feels like my vote doesn’t count for much. We’ve lobbied our (somewhat famous) MP several times with no feedback, so when Micah Challenge asked us to do something as part of their nation-wide Finish the Race campaign, our little church decided we needed something big and attention-getting. This was an important moment in history – we’re in Tony Abbott’s electorate!

    So five of us starting meeting regularly for months to organise the gathering pf thousands of locals onto Manly Beach to spell out ‘Halve Global Poverty (by) 2015’ in people power. We wanted to connect with churches, schools and community groups, so we divided them up. My job was to get schools on board.

    Initially I drew up a large table, took a big breath and started asking around for contacts. I thought I’d have to sell it well so I worked on promo material and polished my spiel. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the response I was given at the local schools - I was being overwhelmed with their gratitude!

    Principals started thanking me for providing their students with this great opportunity. They preached my words back at me. Whole Student Representative Councils captured the vision (“lets take a vote... oh… its unanimous”) and started lobbying their classmates who then lobbied their parents. With so much support in the lead up to the day, it felt as though the event was a success before it had even begun! In the end at least 12 schools in our electorate were represented, including some that I didn’t even know were coming!

    Many of the students had already learnt about Australia's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in class, so they didn’t need to be convinced to respond. I think young people have a fantastic sense of justice and generosity. They may be voteless, but they are not voiceless!

    Consumerism is a powerful force working against our natural compassion, tempting us with selfishness. We’re all in danger of using it to numb unconcern, even depression, about the world’s big problems. Because of this it is so crucial that we have opportunities to demonstrate hope and show we can make a positive difference. It actually changes who we are and protects our godliness. Belief and behaviour are a bit chicken-and-egg like that.

    It’s really important to me that we raise kids who care, and one of the things I’m most encouraged by from our grand beach event is that we clearly showed that there are lots of kids, and adults, in our electorate who really do care about seeing an end to extreme poverty. 

    The challenge for our Member of Parliament, Mr Abbott, is to show these young people that their democratic action can make a difference to Australia's commitment to increasing foreign aid.

     

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    To see the full impact of the "Halve Poverty" event and get a glimpse of the social media and media coverage surrounding the day check out the Storify board.