One year ago today I would have been waking up to a quick bucket shower and the sound of 85-orphaned children running into an Orphanage called Glorious, the school I developed and lived at in Tanzania. After 2 years of living in various parts of the developing world, I feel so blessed to have learned so much from both the world’s poorest as well as the many social entrepreneurs around the world that are stepping up in their communities to solve major issues. During this time I became friends with young individuals from all over who are rebuilding education systems, empowering women, innovating new technology and creating a movement around the injustices that our world’s poorest face.
Before I started working at Coca-Cola this June I learned about a project that many of these new friends were planning in New York City. The Global Citizen Festival was conceptualized to bring millions of the world’s brightest and most passionate young leaders together in order to bring light to extreme poverty. I immediately knew the impact this festival was going to have, and I knew that Coca-Cola would be the perfect partner. Not only is our company already funding and partnered with the most significant organizations and non-profits around the world, but The Company is also interested in engaging with these young change makers.
Five months later I am proud to say that Coca-Cola supported and joined in this crowd of 60,000 music fans packed in Central Park on September 29th for the Global Citizen Festival, a free advocacy concert that put the movement to end extreme poverty in the headlines and has inspired action. The lineup, including the Foo Fighters, Neil Young, The Black Keys, Band of Horses and K’naan and a surprise performance by John Legend, was the largest syndicated charity concert in online and broadcast television history. It generated over $1.3 billion in pledges to combat poverty around the world and engaged an audience of more than a million.
The Festival, which was the first in Central Park since 1981, purposely coincided with the United Nations’ General Assembly. The goal of this timing was to speak to these leaders and educate concertgoers about global issues such as child mortality, food and hunger, diseases such as malaria and polio and the need for action to be taken. In between 5 hours of music The Global Poverty Project’s Global Citizen movement passionately plead with the audience to help the 1.4 billion people in the world struggling to live on $1.25 or less a day.
Speeches were delivered by charity spokespeople, activists and celebrities from around the world including: Katie Couric, Jeffrey Sachs, Chelsea Clinton, Selena Gomez for U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sophia Bush for Pencils of Promise, Olivia Wilde for Half the Sky Movement, Lauren Bush for World Food Program, and others.
The festival partnered with non-profit organizations such as World Vision, Rotary International, World Food Program, Half the Sky and Vitamin Angels – organizations that Coke partners with as well. Festival goers won tickets to the concert by participating in a social media advocacy campaign and earned points for sharing information related to global issues, volunteering and signing petitions to policy makers. The Global Citizen platform was unique and purposeful, as it provided that only those engaged with the movement would attend the concert. The hope is that this community will remain active and use their influence to help educate others and who can, in turn, give voices to the 1.4 billion who are not being heard. The festival was just the beginning!
Although I now wake to a very different world each day, I am so grateful to be a part of a Company that values a movement like this and is making a difference in places most do not see.
Katelyn Carey is a Contractor in PSS Community Engagement at The Coca-Cola Company.
Want an inside look at the making of The Global Festival? The Co-Founder, Ryan Gall, also wrote about his experience.