MY ONE CENT: DANIEL BERGER

"Advocacy is the natural extension of civic engagement. "

September 13, 2017

Daniel Berger works in finance management in Philadelphia.  He’s a longtime CARE donor but describes himself as a “relatively new” CARE advocate. He’s also one of 2017’s winners of the ICAN – Care Action Network award.  As part of our “My One Cent” series, we asked him why he donates his time, voice and services to support CARE’s mission. Here’s Daniel’s answer:

I’ve only been advocating with CARE for two years but I plan on this being a rest-of-my-life kind of experience.  When I was brand new, I was a little nervous about the formality around advocating.  I worried, “am I going to mess up?” But, as I got a bit familiar, a little bit acclimated, I realized advocacy is just talking about what you’re passionate about. It becomes easy and natural quickly. Right now, I’m working on building up a mobilized group of advocates in the Philadelphia area. I want to take the energy we know is out there in the community and bring people together around this cause and to support CARE’s advocacy work.

Foreign assistance is critically important. What the U.S. provides in foreign aid is the basis for much of CARE’s programming. If you take away foreign aid, you’re talking about changing lives in really negative ways. The systemic problems that impact the developing world rely on foreign assistance from the U.S.  What communities are able to do with this assistance from an economic empowerment perspective or reproductive health perspective - these are life and death choices we’re talking about. If foreign assistance isn’t funded the way it needs to be, then there are no alternatives. Lives are lost.

Foreign assistance has a definite impact on American lives too. First and foremost, providing security and reducing poverty in the developing world produces economic stability.  When there’s more economic stability, there’s less need, from a conflict perspective, for U.S. military involvement. There’s a material ROI [return on investment] in that.  When more communities are self-sustaining, there’s less the U.S. needs to provide in terms of support.  A lot of Americans take pride in our leadership position in the world as humanitarians and we want to continue promoting that as a medium around which we build coalitions.

The work we advocate for should be slanted towards the driving causes of their poverty.  The more you learn, the more you realize that when you’re talking about sustainable poverty solutions you’re talking about women and girls. It’s impossible to disconnect the two. You want to talk about agriculture and farming; which is huge for economic, self-sustaining, capacity building? Women make up more than 70% of the total number of people involved in agriculture in the developing world.

When you look at it issue-by-issue, you consistently find that the things communities need to place themselves on a path for prosperity involves solutions oriented towards women and girls.

Advocacy is the natural extension of civic engagement.  We don’t question that voting is a critically important civic duty, but most people don’t realize the impact you can make by developing a relationship with your Representative and voicing your issues as a constituent. Once you see what can be accomplished from that perspective, it’s almost silly to stop at baseline civic engagement. You’re a constituent and your Representatives listen.  The more voices they hear advocating for critical issues, they greater notice they’ll take.