There's an interesting challenge to those involved in communications and reporting of development issues: end poverty, and make it look sexy.
In the west we have few daily reminders to consider what life is like without Starbucks and access to affordable overseas flights…
Finding a media hook to raise awareness on poverty issues has always been something of a challenge for those of us working in the public relations side of charity communications.
Without the western world witnessing terrible natural disasters such as flash floods or tidal waves, drawing attention to the plight of the poor is somewhat tricky. Poverty is not a 'sexy' media issue. Do we actually want to be reminded that four by fours are not considered fashion accessories for the greater part of the planet’s population? When much of commercial media's motto seems to be 'give them what they want', how do we make the plight of the poor part of our national story?
To overcome this media hurdle last year without access to Bono’s mobile number, Micah Challenge International were convinced that the natural phenomenon of the date 10.10.10 would be the perfect attention grabbing tool for mobilizing 100 million Christians around the world to pray for an end to extreme poverty. What better than triple figures signifying 10 years since the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets were put into place at the United Nations? A date like 10.10.10 only happens 12 times every 1,000 years. It has novelty value. It might just get people interested....
With statistics coming out of our ears, Micah Challenge set to work as a campaign with a goal to motivate Christians everywhere to stop asking “can we end poverty?” and start asking “how can we end poverty?”
To the tribute of Christian journalists everywhere, the media response was overwhelming. The BBC were particularly ammenable to telling stories from our 45 national campaigns, as were the Times, the Guardian and countless others. However, our struggles for meaningful media connections with poverty stories in the west paled into insignificance in comparison with those of Latin America.
One of Micah’s five public signature events on 10.10.10 where thousands of Christians were meant to gather in Guayaquil, Ecuador, was planned to be a public call for accountability regarding the MDGs, but was sadly muted at the last moment due to a State of Emergency being declared by the Government. Despite the civil army insurgency, 600 churches still participated in 10.10.10 services, and TV programmes on Micah’s 10.10.10 Challenge were still aired on the TV Channel Enlace. Phew, how did they do that?
Micah Challenge’s National Coordinator in Bolivia, Juan Castillo shared his excitement with us: “More than 1,000 local churches in Bolivia celebrated the World Day to combat poverty: 10-10-10, crying for God to help us solve the problem of poverty and reduce it to 50 percent by 2015. In the cities of La Paz, El Alto, Caranavi, Oruro, Potosi, LLallagua, Sucre, Tarija, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Trinidad, Micah Challenge Committees were held and coordinated actions with the fraternity of churches in each city to cry to God on this special day. The excitement and joy felt by most people who have prayed and continue praying throughout the month of October, is that the task of fighting and praying for the reduction of poverty is a task that moves us. We are summoned to serve people as an incarnation of the Gospel. A big hug from the South American continent."
Although the challenge to end poverty was huge and is huge, lets not give up on wanting to see an end to extreme poverty. As a Christian broadcast journalist working in communications I trained with many people like me who have taken up this profession to uncover the truth and to see justice done. I don’t want to do ta-di-da charity... There are those in the media profession who make authentic decisions in busy newsrooms, telling good stories motivated by love. That's brilliant. Let's encourage them, and each other, to keep at it.
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is there anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27
By Theresa Malinowska: Communications Coordinator at the global poverty campaign: Micah Challenge International www.micahchallenge.org