In Case You Missed It: CARE National Conference Day 2

In Case You Missed It: CARE National Conference Day 2

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Day Two of the CARE National Conference began on a somber note, as panelists discussed CARE’s role in a tumultuous world. As with CARE’s mission itself, central to the morning discussion was the vulnerability — also the strength and potential — of women and girls, particularly in a crisis. Panelists emphasized the importance of empowering women and girls as one vital means of helping communities respond to and overcome numerous crises around the world – the Syrian war, for example, which has provoked the largest displacement of people since CARE’s founding after World War II.

This year’s Deliver Lasting Change award winners – Maria Alabdeh, Houda Atassi and Sandra Bitarova –themselves Syrians working daily in a war zone to help those ensnared by the conflict, shared gripping stories of arrest by authorities and other threats that come with their work. Bitarova told of her father greeting her through the bars of a jail cell, grasping her hands, kissing them and expressing his pride in her and the work she is doing. Alabdeh said that work doesn’t come easily under air strikes and threat of arrest, but asserted that they do not have a choice. “It is a luxury to feel desperate,” she said. “We cannot feel this. We cannot stop. We will continue working.” Like the panelists before them, these women also agreed on the imperative to empower women as part of that work, adding that the future of Syria rests in women’s hands, particularly with so many Syrian men either killed or missing.

“Women are the ones thinking about the whole community,” Alabdeh said. “The elderly, the children — every detail.”  

The mood lightened with the day’s second plenary, including the presentation of the “I CAN” award to Tina and Kevin Hanson from southern California for their exceptional efforts on behalf of CARE and people in the world’s poorest communities. 

Keynote speaker Mara Liasson of NPR added a bit of buzz with humor and insight into the 2016 election season in which “nothing has worked out according to conventional wisdom,” and the voters are “extraordinarily angry and anxious,” she said, advising attendees to “forget everything you thought you knew about presidential elections.”

In an often-divisive political context, CARE Vice President for Advocacy David Ray emphasized the need to build effective bipartisan coalitions, pointing to the recent passage of the Global Food Security Act as evidence that it can be done. He concluded the session underscoring the importance of being “politically savvy and thoughtful,” “principled and pragmatic” in order to “get the good things done for the people we exist to serve.”