Kyle Grassi, Phillip Reyonlds, Brandi Geurkink, Latwyla Mathias and Sarah Cohen stand with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) in the capital

Students for ONE meet at Power Summit

Kyle Grassi, Phillip Reyonlds, Brandi Geurkink, Latwyla Mathias and Sarah Cohen stand with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) in the capital
Kyle Grassi, Phillip Reyonlds, Brandi Geurkink, Latwyla Mathias and Sarah Cohen stand with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) in the capital. Photo courtesy of ONE campaign.

Two students from Winthrop’s chapter of ONE went to lobby Congress in Washington, D.C., to ask senators to ask them to prioritize life-saving programs at the One Power Summit 2013 from Feb. 23- 27.

The ONE members that lobbied in D.C. consisted of: Brandi Geurkink, president; Sarah Cohen, vice president; Phillip Reynolds, a congressional district leader and Latwyla Mathias, a volunteer from Columbia. The group was made up of South Carolina ONE volunteers.

The students spoke to Senators Mick Mulvaney (R), Tim Scott (R), Lindsey Graham (R) and Jim Clyburn (D).

“Our main focus was Tim Scott because he is new and we wanted to find out his perspectives on ONE’s campaign,” Geurkink said. Scott’s staff said that he was supportive of cutting frivolous spending.

Geurkink explained that there were 150 volunteers from 34 states with 200 meetings during the days ONE lobbied at Congress.

“That makes a difference,” Geurkink said.

Geurkink said her group also thanked Graham for supporting ONE and their campaigns and asked Scott to send a letter to Graham saying he would support ONE as well.

Sequestration went into effect this past Friday, and funding for discretionary programs were cut along with many other programs. According to CNBC, sequestration is a fiscal policy plan to cut spending for government programs. The money saved is then used to pay off the deficit.

Because of sequestration, some funding for programs that help AIDS victims including programs that ONE supports were cut.

Geurkink explained that ONE has a campaign called AIDS Free by 2015 in which they hope that the youth population who have AIDS will decrease significantly.

Geurkink said that they didn’t hit any obstacles in their trip because ONE organized meetings with senators and planned the schedule.

“The biggest obstacle was talking to representatives who didn’t support ONE and getting them to understand. Some of them don’t want to hear it,” Geurkink said.

According to Geurkink, ONE’s biggest success from the summit was the sheer number of volunteers and participants. The force of volunteer and their passion was impactful, Geurkink said.

Geurkink also had personal successes during the summit. “I have always wanted to do things with international human rights, but now I want to focus more on global health and insuring health equity,” Geurkink said. “I learned a lot about health  policy.”

Not only did ONE members lobby Congress, the summit also included seminar with guest speakers.

Some of the speakers were John Desta, the U.S. representative for the United Nations, Director of Global fund, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Clive Jones, an HIV activist, who was portrayed in the movie “Milk.”

“Jones’ 30- minute speech was life-changing,” Geurkink said. She explained that while a lot of HIV/AIDS activists tell heart-wrenching stories, Jones was hard-headed about not giving up.  Jones is also the founder of AIDs Quilt.

“Cleve’s speech really put activism into perspective and pointed out that it isn’t something that is done only when there is time/money or it is easy, but essentially a life commitment to social justice,” Geurkink said.

Geurkink also explained ONE has a new campaign against energy poverity.

“Energy has a bad rep of being boring. It’s not sexy… Its not HIV/AIDS…It’s not agriculture,” Geurkink said.

She said she learned the importance of energy.

“I didn’t understand the connection of energy poverty to global poverty,” Geurkink said.

She said that ONE members were shown pictures of students standing under a streetlight, just to study for class.  Energy is something taken for granted.

“You don’t think about lights,” Geurkink said.

For more information about ONE visit one.org. To get involved in One on campus, email geurkinkb2@winthrop.edu.

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