Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mommy-Activist Inspiration: The RESULTS International Conference

There are some turning points in your life when you clearly feel the course of your life changing. And there are people who - whether they know it or not at the time - act as joyful cruise directors, ushering you down the path where you want to go. But sometimes you have to seek out those turning points and intentionally put yourself where they're likely to be. This post is about meeting an exceptional advocate named Teresa Rugg at the RESULTS International Conference and Lobby Day. She helped put me on my path, which will soon include taking both of my grade school-aged children back to the same conference to lobby with me 7 years later!
I met Teresa when I was at an emotional crossroads. A stay-at-home mom just discovering my own citizen-power, I was preparing to lobby Congress for the first time in Washington D.C. I’d met a lot of activists who – while inspiring – didn’t have a lot in common with me. They talked about evening meeting schedules and daytime lobby meetings, but my chaotic mommy-life centered around diapers and naptimes. I wanted to become an advocate for mothers and children in poverty, but I couldn't quite see myself in the role.
How, I thought, could I possibly do what these incredible activists were doing when I was sometimes still in my pajamas at noon and covered in baby food? 
Teresa Rugg speaking her mind
Then, I met Teresa - an experienced advocate who knew how to juggle life and parenting, lovingly and simultaneously. Her kids were a bit older than mine, so she had already lived through those moments of having a congressional aide on the phone while a small child kept up the chorus of "Mommymommymommy" in her other ear. She didn’t quite do everything the way everyone else said that she "should," but rather in a way that involved her children and worked for her family. I thought, “THAT is an example I can shoot for.”
In the early 1990’s, Teresa was a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching health in Cameroon. When she returned home, she made good on her promise to tell her stories and spread the word about how we in the U.S. can help. Later, while still being an active mother with her kids, she founded a RESULTS chapter in Snohomish County, Washington, bringing the issues of global poverty before members of Congress. With a degree in Public Health, she has helped shape the direction of her passion-project, TB Photovoice - an organization that amplifies the voices of those directly affected by Tuberculosis - of which she is now the Project Director.  She showed me how we can have tremendous impact on an international level with our passion yet still be great spouses, mothers, and all the other things we already are.
My advocacy is always kid-friendly!
After the conference, I went home and joined my local RESULTS Chicago-area group (whom I also met at the conference...but that's an amusing story for another post). They became my mentors about how to lobby and write media, but Teresa remained a role model for advocating while living a kid-filled, messy, paint-splashed, happy mom-life.

My eldest daughter on her first DC lobbying trip
Teresa changed me forever by being a supportive friend and role model. Simply by being herself, she gave me an example of how to be the kind of mom I wanted to be. Now, we are friends, RESULTS partners, and cheerleaders for each other. As mothers, we give voice to the voiceless and make the world a better place for all our children. If YOU want to attend that same conference that gave us the tools to fulfill our passionate activism, register for the 2014 RESULTS International Conference. I guarantee there are moms there who will be an inspiration to you!

No comments: