Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and more than 650 CARE advocates convened in Washington, D.C., May 22-24, 2017 to do extraordinary work.
They came from all corners of the country to deliver a simple, yet profound message to Congress: #DontCutLives. While we were in Washington, President Trump released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, and the cuts to foreign assistance were revealed to be staggering – even deadly.
The conference started off with words from Bushra Aldukhainah from Yemen and Mariela Shaker from Syria, two women who shared their experiences in their home countries. These stories gave expression to the theme for this year's conference: Now More Than Ever. CARE president and CEO Michelle Nunn underscored the urgency with which the world must respond to the needs of the most vulnerable people on the planet: "Today, you stand shoulder to shoulder with them and you give voice to their needs."
That set the tone for the speakers to follow including activists Barbara Pierce Bush and Chelsea Clinton, along with speakers such as Elaine Chao, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation, and TIME magazine Person of the Year, Katie Meyler, who shared their perspectives about the value of foreign assistance in tackling the world's most pressing problems.
Afternoon workshops ranged from the power of storytelling to women's economic empowerment and attendees watched CARE’s new virtual reality film, "Women on the Move" to learn about the remote village in Niger where CARE pioneered its Village Savings and Loan program in 1991.
The next day, Tuesday, was a time to roll up sleeves and get to work on the business of advocacy. Attendees participated in legislative briefings on the three issues at hand:
- Food and nutrition security
- Foreign aid cuts and U.S. national security
- Sexual and reproductive health
On "Hill Day" Wednesday, CARE citizen advocates attended 215 meetings with members of Congress and their staff, personally, directly, urgently making the case that the U.S. must continue its humanitarian leadership in the world, urging them: #DontCutLives.
Last but certainly not least of the week's highlights were the award winners whose leadership and courage inspire us all in the lifesaving work we do together. Priyanka Harijan, 18, from Nepal received the Deliver Lasting Change Award for her efforts to defy child marriage and pursue an education, leading other girls in her community to do the same. Advocates Lisa Beckman and Daniel Berger from Philadelphia received the I CAN Award for their work in facing pressing social justice issues and encouraging others, including their representatives in Washington to do the same. Lastly, Salimata Dagnoko from Cote d'Ivoire was given the Multiplying Impact Award for the work she has done to start 200 CARE Village Savings and Loan Associations and empower thousands of other women in her community.
Visit CAREaction.org to learn how you can engage. Join us next year for the 2018 CARE National Conference. We need you. Now more than ever.