Ever since I was little, I've always had a passion for helping others- and I think my experiences with travel have a lot to do with it. Through my travels, I have directly witnessed injustices in the world- such as global poverty, the refugee crisis, lack of access to education, poor healthcare systems, overpopulation, food shortages, homelessness, and women’s rights issues- just to name a few. Witnessing these crises directly is what has inspired me to take action towards eradicating them. Though we may see a number of these issues in existence in the United States, like the homelessness crisis, many of these problems do not exist in westernized nations. Traveling opens eyes and expands perspectives, allowing people to see how others live their lives outside of what may be familiar. Witnessing these global challenges through traveling increases awareness about these ongoing problems in the world. Having these experiences at a young age is what inspired me to take action, and has greatly influenced my plans and goals for the future. Working for NGOs and pursuing a career in foreign policy that makes strides towards changing these harsh realities is a direct way to make change and create a lasting impact. Seeing these crises first hand has often evoked feelings of sadness and despair within me, unable to imagine the struggles that others have to face everyday simply because of where they happen to be born. I have learned to channel the sadness and frustration I have felt into something productive, and it has lit a fire and passion in me to work towards DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Nothing will ever change without action!
Wearing my Borgen Project T-shirt (2020)
I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to serve as a Political Affairs Intern at The Borgen Project last fall, and it truly changed my life. The Borgen Project is a national campaign that fights to make poverty a focus of US foreign policy. I was able to directly lobby congress, raise money, mobilize supporters, and present to different organizations to raise awareness about The Borgen Project's platform. So let's talk about global poverty.
736 million people live in extreme poverty. Around half (368 million), live in only five countries- India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.
The statistics speak for themselves, but is there a viable solution?
The Borgen Project fights to create this solution by drafting legislation, mobilizing supporters, and advocating for global poverty awareness. The solution does exist, but the problem is convincing policy makers and constituents that this is an issue that they should care about and prioritize. The cost to end world hunger by 2030 is estimated to be $265 billion in resources. When compared to other political priorities, like the $393.5 billion spent annually in interest from the national debt, does this number sound unattainable? It costs hundreds of billions of dollars more to pay off interest expenses than it does to end world hunger. Does that sound right to you?
Other than the fact that ending global poverty is simply “the right thing to do”, selfishly why should you care about this issue? Ending global poverty has a variety of benefits including economic gains, increased national security, and reduced overpopulation. Economically, all but five percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S.. Many of the fastest growing economies exist in the developing world. Business leaders believe it is in the economic interest of their companies for the U.S. to increase foreign aid spending and address poverty. Small investments in the poor lead to a big return on investment for the United States. The graphic below displays this concept.
How transitioning out of poverty impacts consumer behavior (The Borgen Project, 2020)
In regards to national security, in 2019, over 140 retired military generals called on Congress to increase funding for the International Affairs Budget. The Generals expressed how investments in non-military tools of development, and diplomacy ultimately promote economic and political stability on a global scale. The diplomatic approach also strengthens allies and limits the spread of poverty, disease, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. According to the USGLC, 84 percent of military officers said that strengthening non-military tools, such as diplomacy and development efforts, should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts.
Going into this internship, I wanted to gain practical work experience in the field, but in the end, I left with so much more. I was able to actually see the direct impact my work had on others, which has inspired me to continue working with nonprofits and NGOs in the future. For me, this is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment to take action and fight for humanitarian issues that I deeply care about.
Click here to support The Borgen Project by emailing your representatives to protect funding for the International Affairs Budget.
Fly high, Nicole
Read about the ways I plan to incoporate travel into my future!