Kristi York Wooten: My life in activism

Kristi York Wooten has been a ONE member in the US since 2004, and reflects on her journey fighting to end extreme poverty.

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  Luna Searles, Nancy Bauer, Anisa Palmer and Kristi York Wooten with Congressman John Lewis in 2013

My ONE story started in kindergarten.

Gwen Goad was not only my teacher and Girl Scouts’ troop leader, but she was also a state volunteer for UNICEF. She shared stories about her life and taught us about hunger and poverty in other parts of the world. We walked in holiday parades waving international flags. We canvassed. I recorded a “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” radio spot when I was eight years old.

I learned how to think globally and act locally, but famine in Africa still felt far away. Until I saw photos of Bob Geldof in Ethiopia in 1984. These pictures wouldn’t let me off the hook. The Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” became an anthem that actually meant something. I was glued to the TV during Live Aid. From that day on, Bob Geldof was my hero. He was just ONE person, but he was the spark that made it happen.

I finished high school. Went to college. Got married. I lost friends to AIDS. The Somalian civil war made headlines. Bill Clinton helped drop the debt. The world stopped on 9/11. I became a mom. One afternoon in the fall of 2003, after putting our infant daughter down for a nap, I tuned into Oprah for her in-depth interview with Bono about Africa. I’d heard about DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa), but didn’t realize that I could be involved.

Next thing I knew, I was corresponding with Senator Lindsey Graham and urging my fellow churchgoers to write President George W. Bush and thank him for bolstering the fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

I loved the concept of ONE, which brought many organizations and advocates together around the Millennium Development Goals. So, for the past ten years, I’ve spread the word about ONE and our fight in just about every scenario you can imagine – churches, concerts, stores, schools. I’ve joined a human chain of ONE members along an entire city block. I convinced a pizza chain to broadcast Live8 in all of its locations. I recruited new ONE members at an Annie Lennox concert and helped ONE and Malaria No More premiere the HBO film “Mary and Martha. ”

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ONE member Christina Howell with Kristi York Wooten (right) and Third Day for ONE World Malaria Day in 2010

One of the proudest moments I’ve had with ONE happened this past February at the ONE Power Summit in D.C., when our Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss talked to us about how his recent trip to Africa had transformed some of his opinions about smart aid.

Maybe our lobbying meetings with him and his staff over the years, both in Atlanta and Washington with CARE, Bread for the World, and ONE, played a small role in changing his mind?

The most surprising thing about being involved with ONE is how many friendships it has yielded. I’m humbled by the support of my husband, family and friends, as well as by all the new folks I’ve met through partner orgs and other ONE members around the country and the world.

Working together around a common goal tends to bond people, and I’m always moved by others’ personal stories about how and why they care about ending global poverty.

I’m so grateful for all the DATA and ONE staffers I’ve worked with over the years, as well as Nancy Bauer, Amy Kelly, Janis Sundquist, Stephanie Jolluck, Kashi Sehgal, Derreck Kayongo, Erin Thornton, David Ray, Tai Anderson, Suzanne Berman, Elaine VanCleave, Alix Gordon, Angela Harvey, Liz McLaughlin, Keisha Hoerrner, and Luna Searles, among many others.

They are the ones who inspire me every day.

Celebrate ONE’s anniversary with our interactive timeline for the past 10 years!