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Club seeks to increase world awareness through summit

With an emphasis on global warming, genocide and poverty, earth summit will be April 5

In order to call attention to a myriad of problems facing the world - and hopefully to come up with an action plan to address those issues - Westview High School's Awareness to Action Club will host it's Earth in Crisis Summit April 5.

The 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. event will focus on the topics of global warming, human trafficking, genocide, poverty and education, a day-in-the-life of African culture, how to conduct large-scale fund-raising efforts, humanitarian effects of war and Romania's 'lost children.'

'Basically, the summit is an event that brings together social activist clubs in our area,' said Tara Gu, who along with Nancy Johnson, serves as the club's presidents.

Gu said during Westview's presentation at the summit, students will tackle the subject of education and literacy in Africa and how a lack of the two are connected to a cycle of poverty.

Anjali Das, another club member, said they will zero in on three African countries: Zimbawee, Kenya and Uganda.

'We're going to talk about how education is vital,' said Das.

Event speakers will include Thomas Lwebuga, a Nike employee from Uganda who does humanitarian work for Westview High's sister high school in Uganda, and Claire Cushing, a student at Lewis and Clark College who has been a major fundraiser for Invisible Children, a non-profit group that spreads awareness about child soldiers in Northern Uganda.

Although initially an HIV/AIDS awareness organization, Awareness to Action has expanded the topics the group wants to focus on, say group organizers.

'We support sustainability in third world countries through education and various projects such as the book drives and fund-raising,' said Camille Wu, another club member.

Local high schools expecting to attend the event include Southridge, Beaverton, West Linn, St. Mary's Academy, Lincoln and Sunset.

Non-governmental agencies who will have booths at the event include Mercy Corps, the World Affairs Council, Jubilee, Cascade AIDS and Medical Teams International. Also, plans are to have a voter registration booth as well.

Last year's summit drew an estimated 100 students and Das said the club hopes to see a larger turnout this year.

Gu said hopes are to come up with an action plan at the end of the event.

'We just want to inspire kids to do something about (the issues discussed),' she said.

Meanwhile, Westview students have been selling bracelets to support Schools for Schools, which is the fund-raising arm of Invisible Children Inc. The goal of Schools for Schools is to have students in Western schools compete to raise money for schools in Northern Uganda where the educational system has suffered and children have been displaced due to civil war.

'In two months, I think we've raised $2,400,' Gu said of the gel awareness bracelets. Plans are to use the money and join with Sunset High School to help build a secondary school in Uganda.

Meanwhile, Westview will soon launch a major book drive for its sister school in Kibwezi, Kenya. As a result, they're asking summit participants to bring books of all kinds to help with a library that will soon be constructed at the sister school.

'They can range in difficulty levels,' said Wu.

The book drive will last until the end of the year and the Westview club is in the process of enlisting students from Stoller Middle School's Rebels with a Cause to help out.

Last year, Westview raised $10,000 for Kibwezi during a spring walk-a-thon with the funds used to purchase a well. The Olive Bridge Fund provided matching funds.

'So we donated the money to Nomad (Charities) and they're currently digging a well,' said Gu. That project is expected to be completed in July.

'Whatever money isn't used on the well will be used in the orphanage they're building,' she added.

A wing of that 36-bed orphanage is expected to be named Nancy Johnson Hall in honor of Westview's Awareness to Action co-president, who has championed the facility, said Gu.