Sunday, December 02, 2001

Pitt Students Initiate "Minutes for Ethiopia" Fund Drive

The Global Alliance Student Association (GASA) has recently instituted a fund drive which will support the country of Ethiopia with cellular phone minutes. The plan calls for Pitt students to give up any extra minutes they have at the end of the month towards a large collection of excess minutes. This excess pile of minutes will then be distributed by three local cellular phone companies to Ethiopians starving for minutes.

“I've always felt connected to the Ethiopian people ever since I saw a 60 Minutes piece about them last March,” GASA spokesperson Mary Connors explained. “What I saw in that excerpt really haunted me—in that five minute segment, I only saw one person using a cellular telephone. Then the next day on campus, I probably saw well over 2,000 people using them. It really got me thinking. We have so much here, in this country, and we don't even understand the telecommunications struggle which Third World nations undergo. I figured there must be a way to help these struggling nations. And from that moment on it, was like a light bulb went off in my head — most cell phone users are locked into pre-paid plans and don't use all of their minutes at the end of the month. What if we took these extra minutes and gave them to needy Ethiopians? It just seemed to make sense.”

Connors then approached local representatives from telecommunications giants Cricket, Verizon, and Sprint and lobbied for support.

“It was one of the greatest ideas I've ever heard,” exclaimed Cricket regional manager John Stummers. “We as an organization don't normally think outside our regional box, but once Mary came to us, it really forced us to examine our global responsibility and we realized we were negligent. Besides, it makes good business sense for the future if we get our name established and branded in new markets.”

GASA expects to collect over 200,000 minutes to distribute to Ethiopians in time for the New Year. It is asking all Pitt students to donate by calling their local cell phone company and mentioning the “donation for Ethiopia drive.” Users can automatically donate a set amount of minutes each month, and Verizon users will even be matched by the company.

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