It began as an ambitious idea in the mind of a freshman three years ago, and now has not only influenced the Yale community, but is now working to expand to campuses nationwide.

This past weekend, Yale College Council for CARE, or CCC, sponsored its first-annual Inaugural Advocacy Weekend, which brought more than 25 students from local high schools and three other colleges to campus for a series of lectures, workshops and activities designed to increase awareness about world hunger and poverty, and to give undergraduates the resources necessary for establishing CARE chapters on their prospective campuses.

The Advocacy Weekend began Friday night as students gathered in the President’s Room of Commons at Woolsey Hall to hear Joseph Iarocci, chief legal officer for CARE USA, deliver the keynote address. Iarocci spoke about issues facing developing countries, focusing on problems with education, the AIDS epidemic, prostitution and life-sustaining infrastructure. He stressed that it was the lack of choices available to destitute individuals that perpetuated poverty, disease and malnutrition in sub-standard communities.

“Wealth and poverty is about the abundance or lack of choices,” Iarocci said. “When girls get an education, research shows that they get married later and have smaller but healthier families.”

CARE, an international humanitarian organization that Iarocci said employs over 11,000 people and has directly affected over 40 million impoverished persons, provided Yale CCC with educational materials and its own personnel for the Advocacy Weekend.

“This is the first year we’ve been able to successfully bring in students and resources from outside of Yale,” said Lauren Thompson ’05, founder and coordinator of Yale CCC. “We could not have done it without CARE’s support. Now, after only two years, it is starting to feel real that this will become a national [collegiate] program.”

Students from New York University, the University of Maryland and Wesleyan College attended the conference and received information and training necessary to establish their own college chapters of CARE, Thompson said. Representatives from Princeton, Brown, Harvard and Stanford were unable to come, but have expressed interest in bringing CARE to their prospective universities.

“We’re starting off small, expanding into the northeast,” Niyati Gupta ’05, Yale CCC chair of expansion, said. “My personal goal is to see CARE spread across the entire country.”

Jafreen Sadeque, a freshman at NYU interested in international development, came to the Advocacy Weekend hoping to learn what students can do from their own campus to affect change throughout the world.

“I came here to see what CARE’s all about,” Sadeque said. “It’s reassuring to know that students can make a difference with their time and effort, and only a little bit of money.”

On Saturday students shared ideas in small breakout groups, and heard from Adam Handler, CARE’s action network regional director, as well as from Peter Marris and Andrew Schrank, both professors of sociology at Yale. Closing with a breakfast on Sunday morning, Thompson said students had a chance to review what they had learned and to share their plans and objectives for the coming years.

“We had a dream that this would go somewhere, someday,” Thompson said. “It is inspiring how much support and interest we’ve had.”

While Yale CCC focused its work this semester on planning and organizing this weekend’s event, the group has raised money and awareness on Yale’s campus since its inception three years ago. Yale CCC Chair of Publicity and Communications Martha McGill ’07 said the group has sponsored initiatives in conjunction with World Hunger Day and International Peace Day, and has successfully raised $2,000 to build a school in India with help from the South Asian Society and the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project.

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