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Human rights group benefits global cause

amnesty international
amnesty international courtesy photo

Amnesty International is one of the most present and influential non-governmental organizations in the world.

It focuses on human rights, and it is active around the world, including at The University of Southern Mississippi, which has its own registered chapter.

The group is organized and led by students who help every day to raise funds for global and local causes, which they choose through a vote each semester. Though the chapter does not act under the direct supervision of the giant organization, they officially provide help on their behalf.

“At the end of the academic year, we donate the money we make in fundraising to the organizations we sponsor,” said David Cochran, an associate professor of geography and co-adviser of the student chapter. “Over the last four years, we donated several thousand dollars to human rights causes.”

In 2014, the Southern Miss chapter of Amnesty International is working on collecting funds for Doctors Without Borders, a French-founded organization known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing endemic diseases.

“It’s been a really positive experience,” said Kati Perry, a senior geography major and co-chair of the chapter. “We are meeting people of like minds and working for a shared goal.”

The non-profit organization currently has 270 international and 3,000 locally hired staff in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the BBC, playing a major part in the fight against the recent Ebola outbreak.

The USM students involved in the Amnesty International chapter have been setting up around campus, selling baked goods to profit Doctors Without Borders and plan several events to carry further their fundraising operation.

Their biggest event, according to Perry, is a benefit concert that will be held at the Thirsty Hippo Saturday, Nov. 8 and will feature local bands Zenith Flux and Dinner Guests.

Becca Pittman, a senior English major at USM, is also involved with Amnesty International and attends every Amnesty International meeting. Those are held weekly, on Thursdays in Room 106 of the Liberal Arts Building, where students meet to organize the funding, vote on new causes and enjoy snacks.

“I feel like we’re doing some good, even if we’re not moving mountains, every little bit helps,” Pittman said.

On Nov. 14, the chapter will host a movie night at T-Bone’s Records and Café, screening the 2008 award-winning documentary “Living in Emergency,” which shows the work of Doctors Without Borders volunteers around the world.

The film was described as “more mercurial and brilliant than Gregory House and more subversive than Hawkeye Pierce of M*A*S*H,” by the Telegraph.

“Participation in Amnesty International is a great way to learn about the world and to get involved in making the world a better place,” Cochran said. “It’s also a great way to become part of a team and to gain leadership experience before you graduate.”

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Human rights group benefits global cause