Spearheading a national effort to promote child survival, a group of Yale students plans to spread its mission to other universities with the help of a $25,000 grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.
The group, Student Campaign for Child Survival, or SCCS, has been lobbying Congress for funding for global child issues worldwide, coordinator Michael Bernstein ’04 said. Bernstein said SCCS is looking to organize and mobilize college students across the nation to lobby for Congressional action on humanitarian fronts. SCCS will sponsor a national conference for new chapters across the country at Yale, Nov. 15-17.
“Students have been key agents of change in all sorts of social issues in America,” Bernstein said. “Here, we think students can be the first to fill the void in the fight for global engagement and global justice.”
Janet Kim ’03, another SCCS coordinator, said the group is part of a recently-founded national umbrella group called Global Justice.
“Global Justice is an organization dedicated to mobilizing grassroots student support for a number of student social issues,” Kim said. “Global health, human rights, protecting the environment — these are all long-term visions for the umbrella organization.”
SCCS represents the second campaign that Global Justice has initiated in its one-and-a-half years in existence, Kim said. The first campaign formed the Student Global AIDS Campaign, which lobbies for AIDS funding.
About 40 students are involved at Yale, Kim said. Members can be part of seven different committees within the organization, including Advocacy, Media, Research and Conference.
Although SCCS currently exists only at Yale, Bernstein said the ultimate goal is to have at least 20 chapters in strategically important congressional districts. So far, six universities have committed to having chapters. Eventually, the leaders of committees at different chapters nationwide will communicate worldwide via conference phone calls and e-mail, co-coordinator Jessica Gottlieb ’03 said.
Because SCCS is destined to be a national organization independent of Yale, Gottlieb said that no specific mission statement has been made, or any plans set past this year.
“Another exciting thing about this is, we’re going to have a platform that every chapter can vote on and contribute towards,” Gottlieb said. “On our Web site, we have mission statements and vision statements posted but it indicates very clearly that these are subject to change upon discussion at our national conference.”
Talking about what inspired them to become involved in activism for humanitarian issues, Bernstein, Gottlieb and Kim said several easily preventable and treatable childhood diseases kill 27,000 children worldwide every day. Bernstein said that all humanitarian issues are important and it is hard for advocates to fight amongst each other for funding.
“In the past year, we’ve seen legislation signed by President Bush that increased AIDS funding but decreased child survival funding,” Bernstein said. “What we ultimately want, as the Global Justice entity, is a net increase in humanitarian funding. We don’t want to choose between which people should live.”
According to the SCCS Web site, 96 percent of all childhood deaths are preventable through vaccines or better health conditions in general. Because childhood survival is related to other humanitarian issues, Bernstein said, organizations that tackle a broad range of problems simultaneously have the best chance at reaching their goals.
“All of these problems are interrelated,” Bernstein said. “That’s why we joined Global Justice.”
Organizing students nationwide to advocate for humanitarian aid is one of the most effective ways to force leaders to enact legislation addressing them, Bernstein said.
“Students can be the key agents of change,” he said. “We know what’s going on. We know it’s wrong. We know people are dying. We know how to treat them. And we know it works. What we need to do now is to act.”