Three Hamilton students have been selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) that will take place in March 6-8 at the University of Miami, Florida. Ryan Ong ’16, Sharif Shrestha ’17 and Jose Vazquez ’15 will attend CGI U along with Tsion Tsefaye ’16 who was chosen in November.

The CGI U is a subset project of the larger Clinton Global Initiative, a mission begun in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton, which hosts annual meetings of world leaders (heads of state, CEOs, major philanthropists). Each year, CGI U hosts a similar meeting of 1,000+ student leaders, university representatives, and celebrities to discuss and develop innovative ideas to combat current global challenges. Specifically, their work concentrates on five areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

In order to apply to attend the CGI U meeting, each student or student group must develop and submit a Commitment to Action.  Commitments to Action, a unique feature of the Clinton Global Initiative, translate practical goals into meaningful and measurable results. CGI U commitments address specific challenges across CGI U's five focus areas. Commitments are new, specific, and measurable initiatives that can be small or large, local or global, financial or nonmonetary in nature. 

Ryan Ong and Jose Vazquez are working together on a Commitment to Action project called Disclosure Group.

Disclosure Group is committed to increase awareness for and provide support to LGBT homeless youth in New York City. Disclosure Group will activate and educate its supporters through its clothing apparel and social media platforms. To support LGBT homeless youth, the proceeds from Disclosure Group's apparel will be received by the Ali Forney Center, the largest and most comprehensive homeless LGBTQ youth center.

The issue that Disclosure Group is working to address is LGBTQ homeless youth. Although gay marriage in the U.S. has gained significant momentum in the past few years, many are unaware of the largely disproportionate LGBT homeless youth population. Disclosure Group aims to increase awareness of LGBTQ homelessness and increase financial support to improve their conditions.

Disclosure Group will create social media campaigns to increase awareness of this issue and to motivate the public, specifically college students and the LGBT community, to donate, volunteer and share its message. Ong said “We will focus on Facebook and Instagram for these campaigns and will use a wide range of materials, such as news article, statistics via infographics, and personal testimonials to promote the issue.”

Shrestha’s Commitment to Action project is titled "Herbs Cooperative for Economic Empowerment." A native of Nepal, he is working with a friend from the College of Atlantic, Maine, who grew up in the village of their project. “We plan to tackle poverty and gender disparity in a socio-economically challenged village Mude in eastern Nepal by capitalizing on its abundance of rare herbs,” said Shrestha.

Their initial target herb is Swertia, locally called Chiraito. It is an extremely useful herb that cures health problems such as malarial fevers, ulcers, diabetes, intestinal worms, skin and urinary problems and liver disorders. Swertia is grown in the altitudes of 1600- 2300m, which makes Mude ideal for Swertia's cultivation. Understanding the herb's growing market in India, they have partnered with an Indian firm, KL Dugad Company, near the southern India-Nepal border.

“Our plan is to construct a nursery for the herbs and starting an herb harvesting area in a communal land that will contain transplanted seedlings from the nursery,” Shrestha explained. The cooperative aspect of the project intends to create shared ownership among the villagers for this business and also to lessen the gender disparity in the village. Last summer Shrestha started an NGO, "Diyalo Nepal" as a national chapter to the INGO Diyalo Foundation. He will work closely with the members of Diyalo Nepal to collaborate with the stakeholders of the village to operate the project. They will also be responsible for routine visits to monitor its progress.

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