Friday, June 26, 2009

Bringing Kids to Lobby

I have so many cool stories from my recent trip to DC with my RESULTS group I hardly know where to begin. But, as always, when I don't know what to talk about...I talk about my kids or something they've done. :)

One of the most interesting successes of our group lobby visits on the Hill this year was our new tactic of bringing the voices of children into our visits. We didn’t literally have them with us, but with a little prep work at home we were able to help kids have a powerful impact in our message to promote Global Education.

Global Education is an easy topic for kids to connect with, so I held a letter-writing party for neighborhood moms who brought their children to write with them. We read the story of “One Hen” by Katie Smith Milway together. It’s a true story about a boy who used a microcredit loan to buy one hen, which begins his family’s path out of poverty. (Since they eventually pay school fees with it and use the proceeds of a chicken farm to send him to college, it’s a Global Ed story, too). Then, the moms and kids wrote letters for our meetings. Our local media was also invited to the party which resulted in a front page story about our lobby visits with two large color pictures of our kids busily writing the very letters we’d deliver in person on Lobby Day. In addition, another group member had her high school kids send letters with their opinions, too. Every time we brought out that front-page picture, and especially if we had kid letters with it, it brought the meeting to a halt in a very good way. Studious expressions turned to smiles, our group was complimented for our initiative, the cute kids were ooh-ed and aah-ed over.

As an example of how much children can help us, I offer a story from Senator Burris’ office. After discussing Global Education – complete with our media, kid-letters, a story about Julia and her “Journey with an Afghan School” project – I wrapped up by saying that if Julia could accomplish all she had at her own personal risk and expense, surely the U.S. could step up and do more. He then told us a story from a meeting with Bread for the World that took place week prior to our visit. Bread activists had brought 8-year-old girl Adrienne along with them. She told her personal story of selling pencils in her class and raising $900 for an international development project. With her feet swinging, not even able to reach the floor, she ended by telling him that if she could do that, she thought the American government could do more, too. It obviously made a big impression on him as he repeated the story with the comment directed toward both Bread and RESULTS, “You guys are really good at this!” He then asked if the kids’ addresses were all included because he really wanted to make sure that they each got a response.

For the RESULTS parents out there, I’d like to say this…sometimes it seems like it’s hard to merge our worlds of highly intellectual lobbying and highly emotional caretaking. Yet I urge you to find creative ways to blend the two. Our lobbying needs more emotion, personal connection and icebreakers in general. Kid-letters and media with children featured is a great way to do this. We only had actual kid-generated letters to deliver for two of our meetings. For every other meeting, I showed our front-page picture, which helped, but I wished I had more of those letters to hand out. For next year, I can only say this…we’re gonna need some more kids!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2009 Bread Lobby Day a success

I couldn't attend Bread for the World's Lobby Day in Washington, DC to lobby for Foreign Assistance Reform, but many of my colleagues did. Sounds like it was a great success. I, myself, followed up a week later with the RESULTS group (more on that later!)...but I did keep my Bread hat on and made sure we talked about Foreign Aid as well to reinforce the message! Here's a Bread update about it... -ccyl


Foreign Assistance Reform

Lobby Day 2009, held June 16, was an enormous success! Some 320 participants from 38 states held more than 180 meetings with members of Congress or their staff.
By the end of the week, 11 more members of Congress cosponsored H.R. 2139, the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), received more than 25 phone calls from other congressional offices asking for more information.
As of yesterday, H.R. 2139 had 46 cosponsors. More are set to cosponsor as a result of Lobby Day and your calls and letters.
We are preparing for the introduction of an initial foreign assistance reform bill in the Senate within the next few weeks.
Thank you to all who attended, and also to all who could not attend Lobby Day but phoned their representatives about H.R. 2139.