Stars visit Utah in battle against extreme poverty

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24 2013 10:37 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Once a victim of sex trafficking, Kasia Fackrell now wants to give others a voice.

She may be able to, thanks to the efforts of the Global Poverty Project, a nonprofit organization that works as a platform for charities, with the goal of eliminating extreme poverty globally by 2030.

Fackrell is a station chief for Backyard Broadcast, a nonprofit group that leverages the power of teens to raise awareness of sex trafficking and funds to train police officers how to identify and respond to those being trafficked.

Approximately 100,000 children are exploited through prostitution or pornography annually, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. However, 95 percent of U.S. citizens and 95 percent of law enforcement are not aware of the extent of the problem, according to Stephanie Larsen, co-founder of Backyard Broadcast.

Because of its involvement with the Global Poverty Project, Backyard Broadcast may have a chance at leveraging the power of celebrities to make its voice — and the voices of those being exploited — heard.

Larry King, actress Maggie Grace from the movie "Taken" and the TV series "Lost" joined Utah dignitaries — including Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Josh Romney and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson — at the Grand America Hotel on Saturday for Utah's Night for Global Citizens, with the common goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.

Some paid $150 per ticket for the event designed to recruit and retain partners for the project.

The Global Poverty Project put the evening on with donations from the Grand America, Nicholas and Co., EcoScraps, Peczuh Printing and Hewlett-Packard.

King told the Deseret News he has always been bothered by the idea that anyone is going without food while some countries have so much money.

"I think health is an entitlement. I think food is an entitlement," he said. "No one anywhere in the world should be without food."

The gap between the rich and the poor has always bothered Nikki Eberhardt, event manager for the Global Poverty Project and professor of economics, politics and demographics of globalization at the University of Utah.

"It just kind of hurts my insides to know that's going on," Eberhardt said.

And that's why she joined forces with the Global Poverty Project.

The group drew on the help of Melva Sine, president and CEO of the Utah Restaurant Association, which has helped raise awareness of the Utah event.

"We are such generous people in the state of Utah," Sine said. "We have such big hearts. We are always assisting. We are always aiding whenever there is a crisis or there is a need. We are quick to jump and quick to respond, and I think that gives us value as the state of Utah, value for our (residents) and the opportunity to go out and serve which is what we all need to do."

The Global Poverty Project's main stated goal is to eliminate extreme poverty — the 1.2 million people who live on less than $1.25 per day — worldwide by 2030.

"We believe that we can literally do that, which is kind of a narrative we don't hear a lot about. We all know that poverty exists and there are people having needless suffering, particularly when it comes to extreme poverty," Lindsey Hadley, executive producer of the Global Citizen Festival and chief development officer of the Global Poverty Project, said during an interview with KSL on Aug. 11.

The number of extremely impoverished has been cut in half in the past 15 years, she said.

Saturday's event also raised awareness of the 2013 Global Citizen Festival to be held in New York in September.

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