Elon alumnus works to eliminate global poverty

Tyler West '11 is working with the Global Poverty Project and will conclude his most recent initiative at the G8 Summit in Chicago in May.


By Addie Haney ’14

Ending extreme world poverty may seem like a typical beauty-queen response to the question of how to make the world a better place, but for Tyler West ’11, trying to make that far-fetched idea a reality is in his job description.

West is currently working with the Global Poverty Project, an organization that sends people around the country to raise awareness of extreme poverty in third-world countries, where many people live on less than $1.25 a day.

For 22 weeks, West and three other Global Poverty Project team members will go from city to city and give their “1.4 Billion Reasons” presentation at universities across the nation, concluding at the May 2012 G8 Summit in Chicago.

“It’s been very exhausting but very rewarding,” said West, a media arts & entertainment major. “I lived in New York for six weeks in the main office to plan the project, but no amount of planning can prepare you for living on the road.”

West, who is functioning as both the video documentarian and a presenter, has been touring for about 4½ weeks now and said that, although it is a tough job, he feels that his training in the School of Communications and his internship experience equipped him with the skills he needs to tackle the project.

“[Elon] really prepared me for editing with quick turnaround,” West said. “It’s pretty difficult to produce video on the road because you have to get whatever we’re doing, but I’m happy that I’m using my degree.”

Although West said that working as a broadcast journalist, a student employee with Elon Television and an intern at Carolina Biological definitely prepared him for the work he’s doing now, volunteering with the North Carolina African and World Services Coalition, an organization that helps refugees from Africa settle in Guilford County, also sparked him to later become involved with the Global Poverty Project.

Working with the program, West said he’s seen how small steps like learning to drive and navigate a new city can help people land a job, gain a steady income and ultimately escape extreme poverty.

“[It] really showed me that people who live in extreme poverty can succeed,” West said. “It showed me that it wasn’t their fault that they were in the circumstances they were in.”

And West believes that with the work of the Global Poverty Project, extreme poverty can be eliminated, and other people living in dire circumstances can eventually experience full stomachs and adequate housing.
And inroads are being made. According to the World Bank, the percent of the population living in extreme poverty was nearly halved, from 52 percent in 1981 to 25 percent in 2005.

“We can erase that percentage again since it’s already happened before.” West said. “We want to make it clear that it’s possible.”

West and his team still have a long way to go until the summit in May, but he said the end goal of raising awareness of extreme poverty, and ultimately eliminating it, motivates him to stay invested in the project.

“It’s a way that I am able to reach a lot of people with something I care about and believe in,” West said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had an outlet to express something I believe in and reach a lot of people, so it’s really cool.”

For more information about West’s work with Global Poverty Project, visit the group’s website and check out one of its videos.

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