CARE BLOG

Making a Difference - Seeing Results from Our Work on the Hill

7/1/08

The FY08/09 Emergency Supplemental Spending
Bill, signed into law by President Bush on Monday, June 30, will enable the
United States to spend an additional $1.245 billion on international food aid
donations in this year and next, as donor countries work to relieve the
devastating effects of soaring food and fuel prices on the world”s poor.
Included in the funding is $50 million to be used to purchase food on the ground
at the local or regional level of the recipient countries. This first time shift
by the U.S. government of freeing some money to buy food within countries ─ thus
aiding local economies and alleviating the heavy costs of transporting food from
the U.S to Africa and other places ─ is
an important step in more effectively fighting the food
crisis.

An earlier version of
the bill was previously passed unanimously in the Senate on Thursday, June 26, by
a vote of 92-6, concurring with the same version of the bill passed by the
House of Representatives on June 19th.

The bill was stalled
over a matter of months due to deep disagreements between the Administration
and Congress over spending levels and priorities. The delay in the approval of
these funds caused much consternation around the world as organizations relying
on U.S.
emergency funding were forced into a holding (or cutting) pattern pending the
approval of the Supplemental.

Local and regional
purchase is a long-standing advocacy priority of CARE and one which CARE Action
Network members asked support for in 241 Congressional offices on June 19, the
Capitol Hill Day portion of CARE”s 2008 National Conference.

Deesha Dyer, a Group
leader at CARE”s 2008 National Conference, offers final reflections below on her group”s
work and the conference itself.

Although
the 2008 CARE Conference is officially over, the purpose and impact of the 2
day event is still very much alive. Looking back at the sessions, preparation,
speakers, and Capitol Hill visits that occurred, I can't help but feel that I
made some type of difference. But my work (as well as my fellow attendees) is
far from over.

For me, it
started with a Group Leader meeting and ended in Representative Alyson
Schwartz's office talking about climate change. The in-between went so, so
fast.

As I sat
in an afternoon session entitled “A Mother's Right to A Healthy Pregnancy’, I
thought to myself how important it was that I was sitting there listening to
cases of mother-child inhumanities. I thought of how even in the USA, our worst
conditions when it comes to childbirth come no where close to what women in
developing countries have to face. I stress emphasis on 'have to'. I felt a
rush of anger, compassion and urgency.

After the
sessions, I met the rest of my awesome Pennsylvania
volunteers and learned more about the issues we were taking to the Hill –
climate change and how it affects the poor, violence against women, and the
ever-growing devastating food crisis. Two of the volunteers had never lobbied
before, and I was the only one that had lobbied with CARE. But, I needn't be
worried. They all had a passion and belief that went deeper than experience.

Dinner was
exceptional. I'm not just talking about the yummy food, but more the speakers,
including the impeccable Jeffrey Sachs. To be in front of the poverty leader
was awe-inspiring. He spoke on what we can do as citizens to contribute towards
a more humane world. He spoke of ways to help the poor financially and affirmed
to us that wiping out poverty can be done and that is has to be done.

After
closing the evening with an award ceremony, beautiful African music and an
insight to Obama and McCain's stance on humanitarian issues, we all parted ways
to get a good night's sleep in preparation for the next day when we, concerned
US citizens would take our issues to Capitol Hill.

On Thursday,
we woke up with the sun. There were 5 scheduled visits on our calendar: Senator
Bob Casey, Senator Arlen Specter, Representative Bob Brady, Representative Joe
Sestak and Representative Alyson Schwartz. I won't go into detail of every
single meeting, but I will say that the response we received in every single
office was positive. We met with staffers for all, except Alyson Schwartz who
rescheduled our meeting at the last minute so she could be there.

I felt the
most effective meetings were with the staffers from Casey and Sestak's office.
I say that because they fully supported the issues we brought forth, and both
wanted to keep in touch with CARE on these issues. I felt as if both staffers
were educated and versed in the topics we brought forth and seemed sincere
about representing our views. Schwartz only had a few minutes, so we only got
feedback on climate change, which she whole-heartedly seemed to be on board
with. She told us with a stern voice that she is fighting that everyday and
that we can count on her.

Out of the
three House members we visited, two of them are in the top 5 of CARE Supporters
in Pennsylvania
– Sestak and Schwartz. They were both surprised and happy to receive this news.

We had
appointments very close together, which allowed us to go into each meeting with
adrenaline from the previous meeting. I had to leave right as we finished the
climate change conversation with Schwartz to rush home, so I didn't have time
to reflect with my group about the day. But if they do read this – I want to
say a personal thank you.

I do
believe that we truly made a difference that day. I feel we made a difference
for the women and children in developing countries and also spoke for our
fellow Americans that couldn't be there with us in Washington, DC.

Because of
CARE, I have discovered who I am and my purpose. This organization and
conference has given me so much strength and tapped into skills and leadership
responsibilities that I never knew I possessed. I never considered myself a
political-minded person, and still don't; I just am someone that recognizes
that a change needs to come NOW.

In the
process of empowering women, I became empowered myself. I look forward to
returning in 2009 and making my voice heard for the millions that can't.


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