Liberty University United Nations Association hosts first meeting

By 2030, 167 million children worldwide will live in poverty. Liberty students in the Liberty University United Nations Association want to change that. 

Around 30 members of LUNA assembled in the Jerry Falwell Library Scholar’s Lounge for its first official meeting Feb. 11 to discuss the topic of poverty. 

“I want this club to not only be called the United Nations, but I want it to feel and look like and act like the United Nations,” club president Leea Collard said. 

Under the direction of Faculty Advisor Edna Udobong and Collard, members met to discuss the United Nations Sustainable Development goal of “No Poverty.” Collard began the meeting with a United Nations video regarding the issue of poverty around the world. 

“Poverty has many forms, but no borders,” the video said. 

Collard shared that the World Bank estimates by 2030, 167 million children will live in poverty if the world does not take action to improve health and education. To further emphasize the impact of this statistic, each attendant at the meeting had a placard at their seat with the name of a country. Collard organized a simulation where participants representing the country on their placard would stand if 50-90 percent of their population lived on less than $3.90 a day.

By the end of the simulation, every attendant was standing, representing nations where the majority of the population lived under the poverty line. 

“While we should not feel guilty about the blessings that we have been given, we must put our blessings into perspective,” Collard said. “We must recognize the endemic cycles of poverty around the world and in our own nations and come up with comprehensive solutions.” 

According to Collard, LUNA members will meet twice a month and assemble for two different types of meetings: “engage” meetings and “go” meetings. The Feb. 11 meeting was the first of many engage meetings, where members will meet together to discuss and learn about a different United Nations sustainability goal each month. According to Collard, a speaker with expertise in the specific sustainability goal will be present at the engage meeting to give students a more in-depth perspective. 

Udobong was the featured speaker at the meeting Monday. Secretary and Co-Vice President Mary Catherine Morris read some of Udobong’s many accolades before she spoke, highlighting that she is a Harvard Law graduate and two-time Fulbright grant recipient.

Udobong began by explaining the extent of poverty all over the world. Udobong enlightened students in attendance to the way poverty, particularity hunger, effects all areas of life, including education.

“Poverty comes in different forms,” Udobong said. “Education is one of those.”

Udobong also touched on the impact of poverty on a child coming to know Christ. According to daunting statistics from the World Bank, a child born in the world’s poorest nations has a 1 in 6 chance of dying before their fifth birthday. 

“Before the age of five, the rate of mortality is very high,” Udobong said. 

Udobong then discussed a practical way to fight against poverty through Fulbright grants. The Fulbright U.S. Student program provides opportunities for recent graduates and graduate students to conduct research, study or teach English in another country. Udobong explained that students have the opportunity to serve in more than 140 countries all over the world through the Fulbright program. 

According to Udobong, recipients of a Fulbright grant have the opportunity to make a real difference for people all over the world who are affected by poverty. During her time serving, she shared that she valued not only being able to research and teach English, but also the opportunity to share the gospel with those around her. 

Udobong finished her presentation explaining resources available to students who are interested in applying for the Fulbright scholarship and her willingness to help students through the application process. 

Following Udobong’s presentation on the Fulbright, Vice President Josh Christiansen explained the club’s service project for the month. For the month of February, the club will be volunteering in the Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity storehouse Feb. 21 and 22.  According to Collard, LUNA’s vision is to start by meeting needs in the local community before looking abroad. 

“If you don’t extend your helping hand to your neighbor first, then don’t hop on a plane and try to help somewhere where you don’t understand the culture,” Collard said. “Serve your own first, then serve others. I think that is just integral.” 

Each month, the club plans to serve with a different global nonprofit that has a local office in Lynchburg. During the first meeting of each month, the club will focus on a new Sustainable Development goal. Then in the second meeting of each month, the club will begin serving in a local nonprofit that corresponds with that goal.

Going forward, Collard is looking forward to seeing how students in the club will be able to work and serve together. 

More information on the club can be found on their Facebook page, @LibertyUNA.

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