My One Cent: David Ray 

"At CARE we are not advocating for other people. We’re advocating alongside other people."

October 4, 2017

David Ray is Vice President for Policy & Advocacy for CARE USA and Managing Director of CARE Action. He’s worked with CARE for more than 20 years. We asked him why advocacy is so important in the fight against global poverty. Here’s David’s story:

It’s important to me that people understand that we, at CARE, are not advocating for other people. We’re advocating alongside other people. There are people in countries around the world who do the same work we do in their own countries and on their own behalves. CARE works alongside them and in our shared interest. We all have to do our part. Certainly, the U.S. has an outsized influence on what happens in other parts of the world but that doesn’t mean people aren’t active in their own countries, shaping decisions of their own governments and influencing how their own resources get allocated in guiding their own development. This is an important difference between a charity-based and a rights-based approach. We believe everyone has a right to the basics of a decent and dignified life and to the opportunity to realize their potential to contribute to the betterment of their families and communities. And that means, among other things, the opportunity to shape their own development.

It is in our own enlightened self-interest as a country to help other countries in need. The days of thinking we could somehow just go it on our own are long gone. We’re inextricably tied together in many ways, economically, in terms of global health and security issues and some would say morally and spiritually. What happens in one part of the world impacts everyone. Dr. Martin Luther King said something to the effect of injustice in one part of the world is injustice to us all, and that feeling, that sentiment, needs to guide our work together.

We’re facing enormous challenges, both politically here in the U.S. and globally in terms of security, disease and poverty. It can seem overwhelming at times, but I think we have to take solace in the solidarity of working together.

This is particularly important for people coming to DC to advocate with their Members of Congress for the first time. They start out feeling anxious but they come out at the end of that first day feeling like empowered citizens. They recognize that they have a voice in this system, that they can make a difference and influence outcomes and how their Members understand the issues. That’s an exciting transformation to see happen and very much in keeping with our work around the world.

I hope that people take that sense of empowerment back home to continue to educate and advocate around CARE’s issues but also to take the skills they learn through CARE to engage more broadly in their own communities on the issues, rights and social injustices that play out right here at home. Helping people find their voice helps them shape their own futures and that, ultimately, is at the heart of CARE’s work around the world.