Becoming a Global Citizen
BY DAN SADOWSKY | May 9, 2007
Last month, Eva joined other American teens in Washington to ask Congress to put more money toward universal primary education around the world. Photo: Courtesy of Eva Orbuch Eva Orbuch is proof that one person can change the world.
Seventeen-year-old Eva has spent the last six months successfully galvanizing classmates to take action on some of the world’s most pressing issues. Along the way, the Stanford-bound senior has presented awards to red-clad classmates on World AIDS Day, recruited a refugee from Sudan’s troubled Darfur region to speak on a school panel, and stumped for universal primary education on Capitol Hill.
Eva is no stranger to eye-opening awareness campaigns. She previously developed a theater workshop for teens that offers both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives on the Middle East’s defining conflict. But her commitment to civic engagement deepened last fall after she joined NetAid’s Global Citizen Corps, a national network of high school student leaders working to educate and mobilize their peers to end global poverty. Participating students organize events on a handful of "Global Action Days" throughout the school year, and swap ideas with peers on the organization’s Online Action Center. The deadline to apply is May 15.
Eva learned about NetAid’s signature program from a fellow San Francisco Bay-area high schooler, whom she met at an East Coast leadership conference in 2005.
"She had put on really big events at her school that raised awareness and money, and NetAid’s program sounded like a really good means to support them," explains Eva. "I was really interested in issues of global poverty and Third-World development, partly because I was taking an environmental science class where I learned about overpopulation and water and all those issues we talk about in Global Citizenship Corps."
Since 2004, according to NetAid, Global Citizen Corps leaders have had a tremendous impact on communities at home and abroad. They’ve educated more than 150,000 peers, raised tens of thousands of dollars to alleviate poverty, gathered thousands of petition signatures and generated dozens of stories in the local, regional and national press.
Eva’s first goal after joining the Global Citizen Corps was to focus her schoolmates’ attention on World AIDS Day, which takes place each December 1. At 400-student Marin Academy in San Rafael, Calif., she circulated petitions, staffed an information table in the lunchroom and promoted a contest to see who could wear the most red. She also passed out different-colored stickers for classmates to wear, each representing a person with AIDS in a certain part of the world. At an all-school assembly that morning, she asked classmates with yellow stickers - who represented people with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa - to stand. The exercise presented a stark and relatable portrait of how the disease disproportionately impacts that part of the world.
Her efforts had an immediately tangible effect: classmates pitched in $500 to help girls in Zambia enroll in primary school, a proven strategy to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection. NetAid matched the amount, and contributions by teachers, parents and others pushed the total donation to $2,000.
"I believed it before, but this event reinforced for me that a small group of determined people can really do a lot," Eva says. "Five hundred dollars might not change the world, but it does make a difference in the life of someone who needs it most."
Eva’s efforts continued in February with a two-person panel on Darfur, which featured a Sudanese refugee living in Oakland and a former official from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). The forum spurred sales of hats, t-shirts, bracelets and pins that raised money for UNHCR’s Darfur efforts. And just last month, Eva traveled to Washington, D.C., where she met with House and Senate staffers and urged them to do more to ensure universal primary education overseas.
Eva says the most fulfilling thing about her experience in the Global Citizen Corps is "getting students who might not care about a cause and helping strike this chord in them. So, for example, they see this Sudanese refugee talking and they’re moved to take action."