Recently, Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, M.D. National Co-Chairs of ONE Vote '08 traveled to Rwanda. Their reflections were included in an email that I received from the ONE Campaign on Friday. I have included below much of what they said. You can learn more, and add your signature to their petition, at ONE.
From Senator Frist:
Last week, my friend Tom Daschle wrote to you about our trip to Rwanda. We saw the difference America is making on the ground.
We want to support continued economic growth and poverty reduction in Rwanda and across the developing world. To guarantee that, we need to make sure that the next president prioritizes investment in Rwanda and other developing nations to make extreme poverty history.
A great example of the difference we’re making is Rwanda’s gourmet coffee industry, where a lot of hard work by Rwandans alongside strategic support from the United States is driving robust economic growth that is lifting people out of poverty.
USAID (that’s the U.S. government, which spends your dollars), has partnered with the owner of a coffee bean “washing station.” This station purchases coffee beans (“cherries” actually) from local farmers and then they process the bean through a washing cycle that separates the beans by quality, ready for export. This simple step—which was unheard of in Rwanda before 2002—means that Rwanda captures much more of the value of its biggest export crop than it ever could in the past. Rwandan coffee farmers are more prosperous than they were before, because their product fetches a higher price on the world market. And an entirely new processing industry has sprung up, employing thousands. These specialty coffee beans are sold to Starbucks and specialty coffee shops across America.
To accommodate the burgeoning specialty coffee market, these washing stations hire about 200 women to separate and process the beans. These women’s salaries are double what they made before. They use the extra income to pay for medical care and more nutritious food for their children, not to mention school supplies, better clothes, and maybe some livestock.
This is economic development targeted at the poor—a hand-up, not a hand-out. That's a lesson that Senator Daschle and I plan to share with our party leaders at our respective National Conventions in Denver and St. Paul, where new policy platforms will be passed.
Senator Daschle and I will bring along your signatures to the conventions and urge the party leaders to prioritize global health and anti-poverty planks in their 2008 platforms.
Help us seize this opportunity to renew America’s commitment to health, education, and entrepreneurship in the developing world during the next Administration.
This is a strategic moment in which our political leaders need to hear from all of us, loud and clear, as ONE.
Thank you for your work,
Senator Bill First, M.D.
National Co-Chair, ONE Vote ‘08
From Senator Daschle:
I just returned from a trip to Rwanda with my friend Senator Bill Frist, MD and leaders from both political parties. Senator Frist and I went to Rwanda not as politicians, but as students, to learn about people who are rebuilding their country after the unspeakable horror of genocide.
My news from Rwanda is very encouraging. The hard work of the Rwandan people and the generosity of Americans are coming together in partnership to create a model for how we can end poverty in the most desperate countries on earth.
I came home more convinced then ever that we’re all in this together. Rwandans' daily struggle to start anew, even as they deal with poverty and disease, is also our own struggle to build a more prosperous and safer world.
To further the progress in Rwanda and spread that hope, we need to take full advantage of this election year. That’s why Senator Frist and I will be meeting with our respective parties' leaders in the next few weeks, as they’re writing the platforms that will be unveiled at the presidential nominating conventions in Denver and Minneapolis. These platforms contain the policies on which Barack Obama and John McCain will campaign for the presidency.
We're going to ask these committees to make sure that their platforms take on the generational challenge of tackling global poverty, and we need your help to do it.
Click here to sign the petition seen below, and I’ll deliver your signature when I meet with representatives from the Democratic Party – and Senator Frist will do the same on the Republican side – to ask these political leaders to include extreme poverty and global disease in their 2008 platforms.
As a proud American, I urge you to make ending extreme poverty and global disease in the developing world a core part of your 2008 platform by including commitments to:
Fight AIDS, TB and malaria and improve basic health services, particularly for mothers and young children
Ensure access to clean water, basic sanitation and sufficient food supplies
Spur economic growth through equitable trade and investment policies
Modernize and increase development assistance, focusing on partnership, transparency and accountability
Achieve universal primary education
In Rwanda, I saw the tremendous impact of some of the very things you’ve worked to make possible. Deaths from malaria have been cut by 66%, in large part because of the increase in bed net and anti-malarial medicine distribution. The death rate from malaria, as well AIDS and TB is going to continue to fall, because of your work pressuring Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR, America’s global AIDS bill, for five more years.
Victories like PEPFAR are saving lives and giving people in places like Rwanda new hope, making the whole world a safer and more prosperous place. Now we have the chance to make ending extreme poverty and global disease a focus for the Democratic and Republican parties.
My late friend Paul Wellstone was fond of saying that, “The poor don’t have a lobbyist. That’s why I went to Washington.” The hope for a better future that Senator Frist and I saw in Rwanda shows what’s possible when two million of us “go to Washington” on behalf of the world’s poorest people. This summer, together, we have the chance to go to Denver and Minneapolis and show that ending global poverty is a priority for both political parties.
Thank you for joining me,
Senator Tom Daschle
ONE Member and National Co-Chair ONE Vote ‘08