Global poverty champions

Recently, leadership is skyrocketing in congress on the subject of global poverty, especially highlighting several global poverty champions. But who are the people behind these victories? Here are Congress’s top ten global poverty champions:

1. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)

Rep. Smith leads as the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee and Co-Chair of the Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance. In addition, he holds a position on The Borgen Project’s Board of Directors. Having the opportunity to travel the developing world, Smith sought to change global poverty by sponsoring the Global Poverty Act until President Obama made the measure a central aspect of his foreign policy. Smith proves himself a true ally for the world’s poor by supporting key global poverty bills such as the recent Global Food Security Act (GFSA) as well as the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability, M-CORE, Reach Every Mother and Child and Electrify Africa Acts.

2. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA)

Rep. Reichert has served in the House since 2004 and sits on The Borgen Project’s Board of Directors alongside Rep. Smith. He also chairs the Subcommittee on Trade, co-chairs the Global Health Caucus, and has membership on the Caucuses on Hunger and Malaria. In 2010, he was appointed to the President’s Export Council to help guide U.S. international trade policy. In addition, he is the sponsor of the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, which will boost the U.S.’s involvement in ending maternal and child deaths in developing countries.

3. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Senior member of the House, Rep. Lee, effectively uses her membership on the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs to expand overseas assistance. As a result of her commitment, Lee twice served as the Democratic Congressional Representative to the United Nations. In 2011, Lee helped found the HIV/AIDS Caucus. Prior to the caucus’s formation, she sponsored or cosponsored every principal piece of HIV/AIDS legislation. Most recently, Lee put forth a resolution calling the eradication of childhood AIDS a global priority.

4. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)

With 35 years of congressional experience, Rep. Smith chairs the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations and co-chairs the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe as well as the Congressional-Executive Committee on China. In just this congressional session alone, he introduced legislation to end tropical diseases, increase exports to Africa and protect human rights in China. The Congressman also sponsored the successful GFSA which passed with bipartisan support.

5. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)

As the Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, member of the Commission on Human Rights and the Tuberculosis Elimination and HIV/AIDS Caucuses, Rep. Engel is no stranger to the many concerns surrounding global poverty. He is especially interested in Latin America and the Caribbean. Not only did Engel lead the U.S. Delegation to the Summit of the Americas, he hopes to reduce poverty in the region through U.S. aid and economic development. In June, he presented a bill directing the State Department and USAID to boost free trade and economic diversity in marginalized Latin American and Caribbean communities.

6. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)

Named one of the most effective lawmakers in Congress by the Washington Post, Rep. Royce persistently defends the world’s poor. Prior to being the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he presided over the Africa Subcommittee, where he established concern for the continent. Royce introduced the Electrify Africa Act to provide power to over 50 million Africans. In addition, he co-authored the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that President Clinton signed into law in 2000 and Congress reauthorized for another 10 years.

7. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 2009 recipient of UNESCO Center for Peace’s anti-poverty award, Sen. Cardin does not hold back when it comes to addressing global poverty. He spearheaded bills to expand the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s activity in Africa, increase USAID’s use of science and technology to find poverty solutions, develop a rescue plan in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, prevent genocide and end war crimes in Syria.

8. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

Sen. Corker, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, serves not only the people of Tennessee but also the people of the world. Beyond being the sponsor of the Senate version of Electrify Africa, Corker authored the Food for Peace Reform Act, the Global Gateways Trade Capacity Act and the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act. Great acts which earn him a place amongst these global poverty champions.

9. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)

A member of the Foreign Relations Committee, State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and the Caucuses on India, AIDS and Malaria, Sen. Coons believes the U.S. should play a greater role in reducing global poverty. Coons strongly supported a number of important measures such as the GFSA, Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act and Reach Every Mother and Child Act. Furthermore, he introduced legislation to combat maternal and child deaths in Africa and to alleviate threats to security and human rights in Somalia. He was also the only member of Congress to visit Liberia during the Ebola epidemic two years ago.

10. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

Sen. Collins is not as internationally-focused as her colleagues, but her commitment to global poverty initiatives is not lacking, earning her a place on this list of global poverty champions. Rated the most bipartisan member of Congress by Georgetown University and the Lugar Center, Collins received much support for her landmark Reach Every Mother and Child Act. Moreover, she initiated bills to develop a strategy to end Boko Haram’s terror and to partner the State Department with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

The Borgen Project commends these global poverty champions for their long-lasting devotion to ending global poverty. Are these your representatives? Make sure to thank them for their hard work.

Kristina Evans

Photo: Pixabay


“The Borgen Project is an incredible nonprofit organization that is addressing poverty and hunger and working towards ending them.” – The Huffington Post


In a Nutshell: We fight extreme poverty.

Mission Statement: The Borgen Project believes that leaders of the most powerful nation on earth should be doing more to address global poverty. We’re the innovative, national campaign that is working to make poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy.

Formed: 2003
Headquarters: Tacoma, WA
Cities with volunteers: 911



  • Congressman Adam Smith (D)
  • Congressman Michael McCaul (R)
  • Donald Girskis
  • Chuck Cooper
  • Andy Taylor
  • Natalie Gill-Mensah
  • Kristina Pecora
  • Miata Koroma Ekanem
  • Marc Schneider

[Board Bios]


  • Starvation/Global Food Security
  • Newborn, Child and Mother Survival
  • Access to Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Food Aid Reform

In 1999, while working as a young volunteer in refugee camps during the Kosovo War and genocide, Clint Borgen recognized the need for an organization that could focus U.S. political attention on extreme poverty. In 2003, after graduating from Washington State University and interning at the United Nations, Borgen began developing the organization.

In need of startup funding, Borgen took a job living on a fishing vessel docked in Dutch Harbor, Alaska (the same location as “The Deadliest Catch”). From humble beginnings in one of the most remote regions of the world, The Borgen Project was born. One man with a laptop and a budget that came from his Alaska paychecks has evolved into a national campaign with volunteers operating in 911 U.S. cities.

From ending segregation to providing women with the right to vote, nearly every wrong ever righted in history was achieved through advocacy. The Borgen Project addresses the big picture. We operate at the political level advancing policies and programs that improve living conditions for those living on less than $1 per day.
[Read more]


Advocate: We meet with U.S. Congressional leaders to secure support for crucial poverty-reducing legislation.

Mobilize: We mobilize people across the globe behind efforts to make poverty a political priority.

Educate: We teach basic advocacy skills that allow citizens to communicate with their government.

Issue Message: We build awareness of global issues and innovations in poverty-reduction through our online and community presence.







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Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA)

First elected to public office at the age of 25, Rep. Smith serves as the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee and represents Washington’s 9th district. With previous posts on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence Committee, the Congressman traveled throughout Africa and visited Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Rep​.​ Smith believes that “we must execute a national security strategy that counters violent religious extremism and anti-American sentiment, builds partnerships around the world, work closely with friends and allies, and advances programs to create a more just, peaceful, and stable world.” As the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Effective Foreign Assistance, he has focused on improving the efficacy and transparency​ of U.S. foreign aid. Rep. Smith is also a strong proponent of organizations such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). He led a letter asking for $1 billion in funding for the MCC, which uses innovative and effective models to reduce poverty and build sustained economic growth. The Congressman has also aggressively pursued strong funding for programs that support global health initiatives including maternal & child health, the Global Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, ​vaccines for HIV and malaria as well as tuberculosis funding. Rep. Smith has served as an Honorary Board Member of The Borgen Project since 2011.


Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX)

Rep. Michael McCaul is the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee considers legislation that impacts the diplomatic community, which includes the Department of State, the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the United Nations, and the enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act. McCaul previously served as the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Rep. McCaul has been a vocal supporter of making smart investments in solutions to improve the lives of millions of people while projecting U.S. global leadership around the world.​ To that end, he has also introduced legislation to tackle some of the most pressing global development issues from addressing childhood cancer to ending global hunger and promoting women’s rights. In 2019, Congress passed ​Rep. McCaul’s Global Fragility Act which requires the administration to coordinate diplomatic, development, and defense efforts with the goal of stabilizing conflict areas and addressing the root causes of fragility. Rep. McCaul introduced his most recent poverty-fighting initiative in the 117th Congress — the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, aimed at curbing world hunger and malnutrition, especially for women and children.​


Donald Girskis

Don Girskis is the former head of Boost Mobile. Girskis had previously been Senior Vice President of World Wide Sales at ShoreTel, a publicly-traded global telecommunications company. During his four year tenure at ShoreTel, Girskis also served as interim CEO. Prior to ShoreTel, he spent 5 years at Boost Mobile, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nextel Communications. He joined Boost Mobile as Chief Operating Officer when it was just forming. He was promoted to run the entire operation as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Boost Mobile after one year and developed the business from an idea to $1.8 billion in revenue in just 5 years.


Chuck Cooper

Chuck Cooper is the Managing Director of Government Affairs at Vulcan Inc., where he oversees the Government and Community Relations (GCR) team and manages the development and implementation of government relations and public policy strategies for the company. Before coming to Vulcan, Cooper served as Assistant Administrator for Legislative and Public Affairs at the USAID, where he led the Agency’s government affairs, communications and media relations efforts, a portfolio that included work on global health, food security, humanitarian assistance, wildlife conservation, ocean health and climate. He also served as Vice President of Congressional and Public Affairs at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. Government agency that promotes economic growth in developing countries. Prior to joining the Executive Branch, Cooper worked as Director of the United States Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) from 2000 to 2010, where he managed the DPC staff and served as an advisor to the Democratic Leadership and Senators on domestic and foreign policy issues. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University, a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, and a master’s degree from New York University.


Andy Taylor

Andy Taylor is an attorney at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath in Minneapolis, MN. Previously, he spent nearly a decade as a congressional staffer, most recently as the Chief Economic Advisor on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he covered international economic policy. During his tenure in Congress, Taylor was instrumental in passing several anti-poverty and financial inclusion measures into law. Such efforts include the BUILD Act, which established a $60 billion U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to mobilize private capital in emerging markets and advance U.S. foreign policy interests; and the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, which provides financing to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises owned, managed and controlled by women in the developing world. He holds a Juris Doctor from Mitchell Hamline School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Portland.


Kristina Pecora

Kristina Pecora is a licensed clinical psychologist with over a decade of experience in treatment, advocacy, and research, and an advocate for mental health access and understanding, both internationally and abroad. Pecora is a graduate of The University of Chicago-Harris School of Public Policy (MAPP, 2019), The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (PsyD, 2008), The Catholic University of America (MA, 2003), and Hope College (BA, 2000). She holds certificates in Global Mental Health with a specialization in Trauma and Recovery (Harvard Medical School, 2016), Mediation (Center for Conflict Resolution, 2019) and Health Coaching (National Society of Health Coaches, 2017). She is a member of the American Psychological Association as Chair of their International Task Force, and an active member of the Illinois Psychological Association as co-Chair of the Legislative Committee and Federal Advocacy Coordinator. Pecora previously served as a volunteer with The Borgen Project between 2018 and 2020, participating in Congressional meetings and actively lobbying for support in the fight against global poverty.


Miata Koroma Ekanem

Miata Koroma Ekanem is currently a Senior Director of Health Policy, Clinical and Practice Affairs at the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR). Within her current role, she is the strategic and leadership arm for government and regulatory affairs, economics and reimbursement, clinical quality improvement and practice guidelines, practice development and operations, and workforce research and development. Before her time at SIR, Koroma Ekanem worked as a director of operations at Davita, Inc. In that capacity, she managed four outpatient dialysis centers and was the regional program lead for 12 home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. While in Davita, Koroma Ekanem used her years as a kidney, liver and pancreatic transplant nurse to educate and advocate on Capitol Hill for appropriate resources and funding for chronic kidney patients. Personally, Koroma Ekanem started her volunteerism as a patient advocate and community volunteer at National Kidney Foundation. She also volunteered at the University of Maryland, a graduate student organization known as the Nurses for Global Health program. She had opportunities to work in South America serving patients predisposed or already diagnosed with HIV and cervical cancer. Additionally, for over 15 years, Koroma Ekanem worked as a volunteer nurse for different nonprofits specifically geared toward health care, poverty and humanitarian efforts in her home country of Sierra Leone. 


Marc Schneider

Marc Schneider is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at Ulu Ventures, the largest Latina-led venture capital firm in the U.S. that invests in women and minority-owned businesses and other diverse management teams. Prior to Ulu Ventures, he was the Founder, President, and CEO of Zebit, Inc., a company dedicated to changing the lives of over 100 million U.S. sub-prime consumers. Before starting Zebit, Schneider served in a variety of positions, including SVP of Operations for Gain Credit, COO of Zulily, VP M&A and Operations for Provide Commerce, VP Operations for SEC Chairman Richard Breeden, and General Manager in Mexico City for Milestone Merchant Partners. He was also a former management consultant, working for CSC Index, and started his own consulting firm out of college that served the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Schneider is an Advisory Board Director to Lipa Later, a BNPL player based out of Kenya, Africa and is on the Board of Directors of Positive Planet. Schneider is also active in tutoring math to underrepresented students who are striving to be first-generation college students. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in Accounting and Economics, and his MBA from the University of Chicago in Marketing & Statistics.