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Nejeed Kassam has been involved with charity work ever since he and his father participated in the World Partnership Walk, a fundraiser dedicated to alleviating poverty.
"You wouldn't think a university student could found an international NGO," said the third-year political science student, who has done just that. He founded End Poverty Now, an NGO with the sweeping goal of abolishing poverty worldwide.
End Poverty Now fills a precise niche that no other NGO occupies, said Kassam, a Vancouver native. "Organizations like Oxfam do incredible work toward the poverty cause, but it's not their only work." End Poverty Now is the only NGO that focuses solely on eliminating poverty, he said. The group plans to achieve its goal through three main platforms: education and awareness, lobby campaigns, and grassroots development.
End Poverty Now grew out of McGill's Make Poverty History campaign, the campus arm of Irish rock star Bono's group, which culminated last year in the Live Aid Montreal charity concert. After founding Make Poverty History with Ross Margulies, Kassam convinced some of the other executives to create a non-profit corporation because it would be more flexible and far-reaching than Make Poverty History, which was a time-limited lobby campaign.
One of their main goals is to educate the public about the scope of world poverty, which Kassam called "a gross violation of human rights." To reach that goal, End Poverty Now plans to publish on its website an academic paper titled "What Is Poverty?" The group hopes its website will become a hub for other organizations. An academic journal, Means to an End, will further promote awareness. They are accepting submissions until Feb. 5 at firstname.lastname@example.org. The group also distributes a monthly newsletter to more than 600 people and is planning a PR campaign for the end of January, as well as a charity concert for March.
End Poverty Now devotes 10 percent of its budget, which relies on fundraisers and donations, to supporting lobby groups and campaigns such as Make Poverty History, circulating petitions and putting pressure on policy-makers. Sixty percent of the group's annual budget supports grassroots initiatives, which range from local efforts such as food drives to international projects. End Poverty Now hopes to send at least one student intern to work on projects in East Africa or the Indian subcontinent.
"I'm a big believer that education goes far beyond the classroom," Kassam said. "This was something I was very adamant about including in our projects, to give students a chance to do hands-on work."
End Poverty Now is an organization in its beginning stages with an enormous amount of human power and energy.
"Sometimes I think I get too much of the credit," Kassam said. "I represent eight or nine individuals who really put their heart and soul into this. Despite being students, they are extremely professional and they are doing this work because they want to make a difference."
To find out about upcoming events, go to www.endpovertynow.ca.