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Local Oxfam chapter established this spring

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They got the call, and in April 2010, Kristin Clements-Effner and Tracie Moss traveled to Washington D.C.

And for what did they enlist? The fight to find international solutions to poverty and injustice under the auspices of Oxfam America, the U.S. branch of the global humanitarian NGO.

In Washington D.C., Effner and Moss attended a four-day orientation as organizers of an Oxfam Action Corps group being established in Indianapolis.

There are a total of 13 groups in the United States, San Francisco and New York City being two of the largest, with the Indianapolis group part of a crop of five new groups including outposts in Seattle, Wash. and Columbus, Ohio.

As part of the training, Effner and Moss were asked to put together an impromptu consciousness-raising event. With little advance time, they put together a screening of the short film Sisters on the Planet, a documentary concerning four women from countries affected by climate change: Sharon from coastal Mississippi, Muriel from Argentina, Sahena from Bangladesh, and Martina from Uganda.

"We were given three hours to put together the screening, "Moss said. "We had to get food and most importantly, get people to come. It ended up being a success and helped us get more energetic about what we were doing."

Effner and Moss brought their skills -- and a copy of Sisters on the Planet -- back to Indianapolis, again screening the film at the Earth House in May.

Effner, who grew up in suburbia, says it was easy for her to remain unaware about issues like global poverty and the impact of climate change.

"I was blind to the fact that there are people in other countries that do not have food, homes, and furniture," she explained. "I went on my honeymoon in Jamaica and was shocked that people were living in dirt huts without floors. And I am a firm believer that if you see something that is wrong, you should do something."

Effner found out about Oxfam America on www.idealist.com. "I wanted to be able to use the skills I had gained through my studies in social work on an international level and Oxfam gives me that opportunity."

Moss first heard about Oxfam America after the earthquake in Haiti. "I donated money to the Haiti relief, but I wanted to be able to do more. Oxfam does a lot on the ground and I wanted to help."

Effner and Moss are currently working on getting more volunteers in the Indianapolis area. "We want to make Hoosiers aware of what is happening around the world and what they can do to help," Effner said. The group signed up ten new volunteers since the film screening.

The Action Corp group will also be present at concerts and events (including the Lilith Fair and John Mayer show) throughout the year in the Indy area to inform visitors about the group and their mission.

Meanwhile, networking is key for these newcomers to activism. "We are also trying to recognize other local groups that have similar goals and the same ideas, so we can join our efforts," Effner said.

The Oxfam Action Corp group holds monthly volunteer meetings at various locations; July's meeting will be held July 15 at the Earth House at 6:30 p.m. More information about the group and dates for future meetings can be found on the group's calendar at indianapolisoxfamactioncorps.blogspot.com. New volunteers are welcomed.

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