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Poverty: Is It Getting Better?

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 P.Diddy, Bono, Mos Def, Nelson Mandela, Brad Pitt, Pat Robertson, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Alfre Woodard and Brian Thomas - they all agree on one thing: Poverty sucks. It's sucked much of the life out of many areas in Africa.

 

But Brian Thomas is the only one whose black-and-white visage you won't see on commercials for ONE, a partnership of anti-poverty organizations such as Bread for the World, the International Medical Corps, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps and Save the Children US. Thomas is starting a local ONE chapter, hoping to explain ONE's mission, corral people for volunteer projects and get them to a petition ONE hopes to hand-deliver to George W. Bush.

 

The petition asks the U.S. government to step up its financial efforts on behalf of children living under the threat of AIDS and starvation, particularly in Africa. ONE is asking for a pledge of 1 percent of the federal budget, or $25 billion, in addition to what the government already gives to poor countries.

 

Thomas, of Shadyside, says he became interested in anti-poverty work after rooming with a minister from Uganda when he was in seminary at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, in Ambridge. He currently works as a server at the Pittsburgh Hilton with Sudanese refugees.

 

"In America, there's poverty everywhere," says Thomas, but "it's relative poverty, people who don't have enough to live off of. Africa is different; they have extreme poverty. Sometimes they have to make decisions between one family getting AIDS treatment and one family having food for that day."

 

ONE hopes to meet the United Nation goal of wiping out poverty by the year 2015.

 

Says Thomas: "It's not about charity; it's about justice. This is something we can do in our lifetime ... if America believes the things they say they are about."

Pittsburgh ONE campaign: 7 p.m. Fri., July 1. Quiet Storm, 5430 Penn Avenue, Garfield. 412-867-5461 or www.one.org.

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