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Standing up to end poverty

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My job is rewarding, but I'll admit, sometimes working in the campaign to end poverty can get a little discouraging. Every time you seem to be making progress, dreadful things happen and it all starts rolling back down the hill.

That's why for very personal reasons, I am so happy when "STAND UP" comes around. It's restorative. For four years now, millions of people across this world of ours, come together over three days to "STAND UP AND TAKE ACTION NOW TO END POVERTY." It's inspiring. And it's as if the event is on steroids, it's growing so rapidly.

The first Stand Up in 2006 attracted 23. 5 million people, the next, 43.7 million and last year, an amazing 116.9 million citizens Stood Up, and took the Stand Up pledge. That is almost 2% of the world's population! That sent a loud firm message to our political leaders that we want them to live up to the UN Millennium Development Goals and alleviate poverty at home and around the world.

We've broken the Guinness Book of Records for the largest human mobilization on record and this year, we expect that during Oct 16th, 17th and 18th, we'll break it again. We've had scores of emails and calls from people in every province in Canada wanting to set up events.

People come together in the most creative ways. This year, STAND UPs will be happening at a Montreal football stadium, at a giant Pumpkin Toss in Edmonton and a Thrift Fair in Fort McMurray. The events involve groups as small as 10 -- or 10,000. A lot of students get involved and they find wonderful ways to get the message across. On the day before Stand Up begins in Perth, Ontario every one in 6 students at St John Catholic School will paint a white stripe on his or her face to represent the 1 in 6 people who live in poverty. On Friday, all students will wear white shirts and create a giant white circle around the track to symbolize the Make Poverty History bands.

For Canadians this year, STAND UP has a special mission. Canada is hosting the G8/G20 meetings next June in Huntsville. It's an opportunity for Canada to show bold leadership leading the fight against global poverty. Remember that discouraging bit I mentioned at the beginning? Right now, real progress that was finally underway reducing hunger, increasing education and creating steady economic growth in Africa has been kneecapped by the twin disasters of global financial meltdown and climate chaos. Famine, drought and flooding are on a death march and global leaders need to step up to the plate now.

The elimination of poverty at home is a critical part of STAND UP. We've joined with the DIGNITY FOR ALL campaign and we are determined to make both federal and provincial governments implement poverty reduction plans. Nothing makes me more shamed as a Canadian than the appalling statistics on the health and living conditions of Aboriginal Canadians.

STAND UP does raise consciousness about these issues; it gets people mobilizing far beyond the three days of action. Our voices raised in unison are heard by the powerful. They are paying attention. Now we must convince them to keep their promises.

Join us on Thursday, Friday or Saturday...find an event near you at Stand Up.

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