On August 3rd Rohan Kumar, addressed the Rotary Club of Nashua regarding The Borgen Project. Rohan, who is from Nashua and graduated from Nashua North two years ago, is a second-year student at the University of Edinburgh, studying for a MA in Economics & Politics. This summer, he is working as a Political Affairs Intern at The Borgen Project, which is an international non-profit dedicated to helping the most impoverished around the globe.
Previously, he has worked at the Office of Economic Development for the City of Nashua as well as Sulloway & Hollis, a prominent law firm in Concord. Rohan has volunteered extensively by tutoring underprivileged students in Nashua as well as working as a staff member at American Legion Boys State, a summer camp that teaches high schoolers about their government and advocacy. In his spare time, he plays tennis and golf, and loves watching the Red Sox.
 
Rohan presented on The Borgen Project.
 
The Borgen Project is named for its founder, Chris Borgen, who was a United Nations volunteer working in the Kosovan camps in the early 90s. After leaving the UN and moving to Alaska to work on a commercial fishing vessel, his concern about the issue of extreme poverty, especially that found in war-torn countries grew, driving him to come after  nights spent at sea and devote his days to studying the issue and ultimately founding the Borgen Project.
 
From that “one man in the middle of the North Sea” beginning, has come an organization with volunteers in 931 cities, drawing 6.9 million visitors to its website, www.borganproject.org.  It has nearly 800 meetings with 97% of Congress, and a record of successfully passing 6 bills from start to finish in the 115th Congress.
 
Underlying the Borgen Project is the belief that the United States should be doing more to combat global extreme poverty in a systemic way. From that has come a four pronged methodology focused on the US Congress:
 
    Advocate – meet with members of Congress to secure support for poverty reducing legislation.
    Mobilize – attract people around the globe to make poverty eradication a political priority, (often through programs like today’s presentation)
    Educate – teach basic advocacy skills so others can make their voices heard.
    Issue Message – build awareness of both the issue and innovative solutions through their online and community presence.
 
Rohan then detailed the problem itself. Extreme poverty is defined as an income of no more than a dollar a day - $365 annually. In developing countries, 1 in 10 people live in extreme poverty. 2.5 billion people have no access to sanitation. 1 billion live without electricity – a fact that limits their ability to climb out of poverty. Poverty’s impact on hunger is equally stark – 1 in 9 people worldwide are hungry; 18% lack access to safe and sufficient food; nearly 1 billion drink unsafe water.
 
And as we look at the current pandemic, we can see the impact of poverty – impoverished countries have 23% of the cases but only 1% of health expenditures. Sudan has 12 million people and only 4 ventilators.
 
There is good news in the war on poverty. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10% for the first time ever. AIDS, malaria and hunger-related disorders have fallen by a half, and childhood safety measures are improving. Additionally, there are a number of innovations in combating poverty and its related issues of hunger and thirst. Rohan highlighted a few including extremely low-cost wheelchairs to allow people to get to wells/water sources, hippo rollers to allow larger quantities of water to be moved longer distances more easily from well to homes; a thick paste called Plumpy Nut that improves low-cost and safe nutrition, and the Life Straw that filters water from sources like puddles and other less than clean sources.
 
As an intern, Rohan has found great value in his work, which will end in the next few weeks. He related his experience to the Rotary Four Way Test, touching on each of the four tenets. He hopes at least one of us will get involved in some way in the success of the Borgen Project – visiting their website, call one of our NH Congressmen or Senators, and perhaps to donate.
 
In response to a question from Libby Masek, Rohan noted that the Borgen Project does not provide direct relief supplies or services; instead they focus on moving the US government to take action, including relief packages to countries with high rates of poverty.
 
President Bill congratulated Rohan on his presentation and his work with the Borgen Project.
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