SANTA MONICA BOULEVARD A locally-based humanitarian aid organization is crossing its fingers that its project to treat thousands of malnourished children around the world will receive enough support from credit card holders to come out on top this month.

The International Medical Corps. (IMC), which is headquartered in Santa Monica, is sponsoring one of five projects named as finalists for the American Express Members Project on Tuesday. The project, which was originally conceived by New York City banker Paige Strackman, proposes to give starving children necessary nutrients through ready-to-use food, which in this case would be a product called “Plumpy Nut,” a high-protein, peanut-based paste. The origins for the project could be traced to the summer when Strackman learned from a friend in Haiti the difficulties she had with her children feeding program.

“Due to the lack of resources, she sometimes has to choose who to feed,” Strackman said. “I thought, ‘I have to do something.’”

The mother of three children opened a lemonade stand and made roughly $250, which she used to ship about a 100 pounds of beans to Haiti. It was during that time when another friend alerted her to a news documentary that highlighted a product that was ready-to-eat and didn’t require water or refrigeration.

Restricted from a lack of personal resources, Strackman decided to submit a project with the American Express Members Project, pledging to use the money to purchase Plumpy Nut for malnourished children all over the world.

More than 1,190 projects were submitted to the American Express Members Project, which seeks to raise social awareness by giving the average individual the opportunity to make a change. The long list of submissions was narrowed down to the top 25, which was later filtered down by voting card members to the final five.

“It’s exhilarating because you feel like your project is going to be matched with the resources to make it happen,” Strackman said. “These kids are going to get help.”

Upon being selected as the top 25, Strackman was paired with IMC to serve as the agency to put the project into place. The nonprofit organization, which works in more than 25 countries, was already using the Plumpy Nut product when it was contacted by American Express.

“When you see a kid go from skin and bones to plumpy and waddling around, it’s inspirational that with proper treatment, kids can be saved,” Stephanie Bowen, the communications manager for IMC, said.

Approximately 178 million children around the world are considered to be malnourished and only 3 percent get proper treatment, according to the IMC. Between three and five million children die every year as a result of malnourishment, which is more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria-caused deaths combined.

“The need is greater than ever,” Crystal Wells, the communications officer for IMC, said.

Included among the top five are projects that would create an education program about the importance of seeking early diagnosis for Alzheimer’s Disease, a school lunch program in India, an Internet-based platform that would allow the average person to invest in businesses, and money for school resources for 100,000 children in low-income communities.

Members will have until Oct. 13 to vote for the top project, which will receive $1.5 million. All of the top five projects are guaranteed to receive at least $100,000 toward making their proposals a reality.

“This is a grassroots effort driven by everyday people,” Bowen said.

melodyh@smdp.com

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