Auburn Family

Student Uses Advocacy on Campus to Enact Change Worldwide

As a college student, it’s easy to feel like your voice doesn’t matter and that you can’t make an impact on the world. Sara Rains, a junior at Auburn and campus leader of the ONE Campaign, challenges this concept daily by using her education and her passions to fight extreme poverty and hunger across the globe.

The ONE Campaign's Goals and Initiatives

As the campus leader of the ONE Campaign, Rains leads a group of Auburn students to raise awareness about global issues, to advocate for change and to make their voice by heard by government leaders and staff. 

The ONE Campaign is an international campaigning and advocacy organization made up of millions of people who are taking action to end extreme poverty across the world. The goal of the ONE Campaign is to end extreme poverty by 2030. The United Nations set the ONE Campaign chapter current goals as Sustainable Development Goals. Photo: Used with permission. Photographer is Sara Rains.

“Our goal is to advocate for the issues we care about, but to also give people an avenue to take action,” said Rains. “We want to provide outlets to develop policies. We encourage people to write letters, make phone calls and post on social media to help their voice be heard. We want people to connect personally to these specific issues, but we also want to educate people about what the ONE Campaign is and what we do.”

Currently, Rains is developing special events for the spring semester in order to meet the goals that the United Nations has set out for the ONE Campaign, including advocating for different demographics and minorities.

“March 8 is International Women’s Day, and we want to use that day to raise awareness about the direct correlation between women’s issues and poverty,” said Rains. “We can’t fight poverty unless we also advocate for women’s rights, like the right to vote, the right to drive, the ability to receive an education and the right to own land.”

Auburn’s ONE Campaign chapter meets every other Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Haley Center 2312. No matter your major or year, all Auburn students are encouraged to attend these meetings and to use their voice to enact change. The next ONE Campaign meeting is Tuesday, March 10.

National Impact of the ONE Campaign

Because of the ONE Campaign’s advocacy efforts, a bill entitled “Electrify Africa” passed through the House of Representatives and will hopefully be re-introduced to the Senate. “Electrify Africa” is a bipartisan bill proposing significant steps to improve access to power in Africa throughout funding provided by the United States. 

Rains, along with other members of the ONE Campaign, lobbied for “Electrify Africa” and was recognized for the ONE Campaign's efforts when the bill was passed. The ONE Campaign also gained the attention of Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus, who ended up co-sponsoring the “Electrify Africa” bill and showed his outward support of ending extreme poverty.

“College students don’t realize how powerful their voices are,” said Rains. “Senators want to hear from us. They all know what the ONE Campaign is, and they are really open to our policies and ideas. College students have a bigger impact and influence than we realize on the decisions that government officials make.” Photo: Used with permission. Photographer is Sara Rains.

Gaining Guidance from an Auburn Influence

Rains’ interest in global studies, hunger and poverty began her first semester of freshman year at Auburn when she decided to take Dr. Kate Thornton’s “Hunger: Causes, Consequences, and Responses” class. Rains said that Thornton, the Director of Hunger and Sustainability Initiatives at the Hunger Solutions Institute (HSI), is one of the people who has influenced her the most while learning more about the issues of poverty and hunger during Rains' studies at Auburn University.

“Kate is an incredible mentor and really works on connecting with her students,” said Rains. “I knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t really know how. Kate doesn’t forget about her students once they are done with her class. She wants you to keep learning and will give you avenues to help you keep learning more.”

Rains and Thornton’s relationship developed when Thornton allowed Rains, a freshman at the time, to be a part of a Capstone class that worked with the World Food Programme, the largest emergency food aid program in the world. After presenting their research in Auburn, the Capstone students had the opportunity to showcase their work in New York and Rome. Rains has also had the opportunity to travel abroad in South Africa and Fiji, has met government officials from across the country, and has even met Auburn Alumnus Tim Cook while attending an event with Thornton. 

“The undergraduate research fellowship that we worked on together focused on finding effective ways to alleviate poverty, especially in Ecuador and Nicaragua, said Rains. “[Thornton] really took a chance on me by allowing me to be a part of that class. She sets a great example of being such a good person and has opened up so many doors for her students because of all of her knowledge and connections.” Photo: Used with permission. Photographer is Sara Rains.

Thornton Praises Rains as a Student Leader on Campus

Thornton describes working with Rains as an honor and is excited to see how her professional and personal successes develop in the future.

"Given all of her accomplishments, what has impressed me the most about Sara is here quiet confidence and convictions to use her skills and talents to help the poor and hungry of our world," said Thornton. "Since meeting her on the first day of class her freshman year, Sara has grown and blossomed into a true global leader in the fight to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Her steadfastness and steady movement forward has truly sparked a wave of caring on our campus and it is not unusual for me to meet a student who credits Sara with sparking their interest and involvement with social issues."

The Road Ahead

Rains is currently earning a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and horticulture and a minor in hunger studies. With plans to graduate from Auburn University in May 2016, she hopes to gain a master’s in public health and to attend law school. Rains also hopes to work with agricultural development in the future, combining her knowledge of law, health policy, food policy and advocacy to help influence change and policies within nonprofit organizations.

For more information about the ONE Campaign, please visit their website or contact Sara Rains at

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