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Do poverty in Kensington and poor working conditions in Honduras have any relationship? The relationship between the two became apparent as four speakers from as far away as Thailand and as near as Kensington talked about their experiences as the "Poverty Without Borders Speaking Tour" stopped by Penn last night. The talk, sponsored by Penn Students Against Sweatshops, Connaissance and Civic House, featured a diverse panel of four speakers, three of whom spoke through translators. The theme of the night was how the fight to end poverty has taken on a global direction. "We want to end poverty," Kensington Welfare Rights co-Chair Liz Ortiz said, best summing up the theme of the tour. Ortiz was joined by three other speakers, each of whom recounted their experiences with poverty and the underside of the current trend of globalization. One speaker, Christina Chavez of Honduras, talked of the dangerous and often fatal working conditions of the maquilas -- or small factories -- in her native country. Ortiz, the lone American on the panel, a former homeless woman and single mother of three, spoke of the difficulties facing her when she lost her job at the Sheraton of King of Prussia. Concluding the talk were two speakers from Thailand who spoke about their efforts to organize factory workers to demand better pay, benefits and working conditions. The panel highlighted how interconnected the movement against poverty has become, thanks in no small part to the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, a Philadelphia non-profit organization working toward organizing the poor for positive change. The KWRU has linked up with the organizations represented by the speakers on the tour and has also made connections with organizations in countries as far away as Brazil and the Netherlands. The tour took on a local feel as Brian Kelly, a member of Penn Students Against Sweatshops, discussed the efforts of PSAS to ensure that the manufacturing of University apparel is not made at the expense of workers' rights. "PSAS is working to ensure that Penn is upholding its moral responsibility," the Wharton junior said. "We want to ensure that our tuition money is not going to perpetuate exploitative labor practices." Angie Liou, a College senior who has extensive experience working for the KWRU, also discussed the importance of this talk to University students and the need for students to be in touch with local concerns. "You rarely hear about an area like Kensington at Penn," Liou said. "Areas like Kensington are often forgotten even though it is one of the neighborhoods that needs the help most." The tour is the first step in building momentum for the Poor People's World Summit to End Poverty, which will take place in New York City on November 15-18. The summit, sponsored in large part by the KWRU, is aimed at raising awareness about the causes and problems of poverty throughout the world.

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