More than 100 people gathered at a recent International Club of Atlanta discussion group gathering in Sandy Springs to hear from a noted speaker with plenty of international knowledge — Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE USA, based in Atlanta.
Nunn, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2014 but lost to David Perdue, gave the crowd at its Sept. 5 meeting a general introduction of CARE, one of the longest-serving humanitarian organizations dedicated to eliminating poverty across the globe.
Founded as the “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe” in 1945, the organization helped the millions of people in need following World War II by organizing a program to send them food relief, or CARE packages, of U.S. Army surplus meal-ready-to-eat food parcels that included such items as meat, butter, coffee, sugar, egg powder and chocolate. In the 1990s, CARE changed its acronym to mean “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere” to better encompass its mission of helping other countries.
Nunn explained that CARE specifically focuses on empowering women and girls through human rights, education, health care, economic opportunities and other resources. Poverty can only be defeated when there is equality, she said.
Recently CARE partnered with seven other humanitarian organizations to form the Global Emergency Response Coalition in response to some 20 million people starving in Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia as well as Niger, Uganda, Chad, Cameroon, Kenya and Ethiopia. Drought and wars contribute to the crisis, Nunn said.
Getting the word out about the global poverty is difficult in “the world of Donald Trump” where the news media is focused on his tweets, Nunn said, adding there are special challenges as a society to tell a global narrative.
She also touched on climate change and said CARE “believes in the science of climate change.”
“Increasingly we are seeing climate change refugees,” she said. “The impact is not theoretical.”
Last year, CARE reached over 70 million people in 94 countries and by 2020 aims to help 150 million people overcome hunger, poverty and social injustice.
While the numbers may appear troubling, there is reason to be optimistic because poverty has been cut in half over the past 25 years, Nunn said.
Members thanked Nunn with applause. And for Teji Sahni, who founded the International Club of Atlanta in 1991, the meeting was more proof that such as club is needed, and important, in the world today.
“The basic idea is we broaden our outlook,” Sahni said. “We go outside the narrow confines of our world and find that human beings are the same, but of different cultures.”
The International Club promotes international ties and offers members social and intellectual settings that reflect its diversity, from a book club to bridge night to monthly “Curry Nights” where members visit the more than 100 curry-serving restaurants in metro Atlanta.
Bill Bozarth, president of ICA, worked for IBM in the 1970s and 1980s, including a stint in Germany in the mid-1980s.
“Other than the birth of my children, nothing in my life has had such a profound effect on me as the experience of living abroad,” he said. “My interests and perspective on the place of America in the world were forever changed. Subsequent jobs after returning with my family to the U.S. in 1988 brought me back to Europe on a regular basis. I stopped all that travel in 1995, and since then, have sought out opportunity to get to know like-minded people.”
The discussion group, which hosted Nunn, is a monthly gathering where speakers from various professions share their thoughts on what is going on in the world and the U.S. On Oct. 3, the discussion group will host Jonathan Mann, who recently retired after 30 years of international reporting for CNN.
“We offer a tremendous enriching experience – and it’s fun,” Sahni said. “This is not a networking group. Members are from all parts of the world and we intermingle with each other. This is really about learning from each other.”
Socializing with people from different countries helps break down barriers and defeat prejudices, Sahni said.
“I think ignorance dictates certain prejudices. When people discuss and learn from each other, I think that helps everyone,” he said.
International Club of Atlanta