‘Nova junior invited to Power 100 Summit in D.C.

Timothy Fleming

Junior Laura Collins joined policy experts, diplomats, journalists and actor Anthony Edwards for a special four-day conference tackling the issues facing the world’s poorest people.

The Power 100 Summit was sponsored by the ONE Campaign, a grassroots organization working to eliminate extreme poverty, improve education in the third world and cure diseases.

U2’s Bono cofounded the organization, which now has two million members.

Collins first heard about the ONE Campaign three years ago, when she was a senior in high school.

She stayed in touch with the group, even after she entered Villanova.

“There were about 77 people involved already, but no prominent student leader,” Collins said.

Moving swiftly to change that, she worked to spread awareness on campus and in her home community. In doing so, she earned points in the ONE Campus Challenge, a contest in which schools vie to spread awareness.

For her work, she was invited to the Power 100 Summit.

Together, with students from the other Top 100 schools in the ONE Campaign’s Campus Challenge, she attended workshops on the various issues and spent a day lobbying Congress.

The excitement and commitment of the students was one of the highlights of the summit, Collins said.

She was also impressed by the speakers.

“Hanson was there,” Collins said.

However, her favorite speeches were those of a more serious nature. Two of the most memorable were given by Milton and Frederick Ochieng.

The two brothers, according to a release from the Power 100 Summit, grew up in a small rural village, Lwala, in Kenya.

They traveled to the United States to attend college and medical school.

The village sold its livestock in order to pay for Milton’s airfare.

Remembering the village’s request to Milton – “Do not forget us” – as well as their father’s dream to bring better health care to their village, the two coupled their intense medical school studies with equally intense fundraising efforts.

Although they lost both of their parents to AIDS while completing their educations, the brothers were able to build the Erastus Ochieng’ Lwala Community Memorial Health Center, the village’s first clinic.

The two brothers were the subject of the documentary “Sons of Lwala,” which won the 2008 Nashville Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary.

Having won several awards of their own for charitable work, the brothers continue their studies while fundraising for the Lwala Community Alliance, which supports the clinic.

Also attending were celebrities such as Lauren Bush, former model and current CEO of FEED Projects, a group that has contributed nearly $6 million to the U.N.’s World Food Program, and Edwards, a SAG award winner for his portrayal of Dr. Mark Greene on “E.R.,” who works with Shoe4Africa, a group currently building a children’s hospital in Kenya.

Inspired by the examples of people like the Ochieng’ brothers, Collins hopes to help spread the ONE Campaign’s message at Villanova.

She makes sure to point out that the organization is totally “bipartisan and unaffiliated,” and it reached out to every candidate in the recent election.

Appealing to as many people as possible is part of ONE Campaign’s strategy, which is “not really about raising funds, but more about raising awareness,” according to Collins.

She remarks that the organization is “basically in the starting phase,” but hopes to grow.

One current goal is gaining more membership.

Currently, around 100 students are involved.

Collins plans to “spread awareness via informational meetings.” In addition to its own work, she wants to use ONE’s status as an umbrella group, embracing various, though related, causes to work with other campus groups, such as FaceAIDS, STAND and Bread for the World.

The group, while still in its infancy, looks to eventually make its own contribution to Villanova’s excellent record in community service.