My One Cent: Ellen Carmichael
"Today, my passion for global issues is fueled by my two young daughters. I want to make sure that girls everywhere are able to exercise their rights, to live with dignity and without fear of violence and reach their full potential."
April 4, 2018
Ellen Carmichael is the Director of Citizen Advocacy at CARE where she oversees CARE’s work to engage and organize supporters across the U.S. to use their voice to advocate for women and girls living in extreme poverty. This is her My One Cent story:
Leah, one of my closest friends from college introduced me to CARE. She was a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Niger where she saw the lasting impact of CARE’s innovative savings-based microfinance program, called village savings and loan associations (VSLAs). CARE no longer worked in the village where she lived, but women were still carrying forward with their VSLA groups. She was really impressed that a big organization like CARE was able to come in and implement a model that really worked. Women in the village were saving money to address any financial loss/expense such as lower income or an emergency need in the form of a hospitalization or death in the family. After our conversation about CARE she went home and found that CARE was hiring for a Regional Advocacy Coordinator in Columbus, OH, where I was living. She sent me the link, I applied, and here I am.
Later this month, I will celebrate my tenth anniversary with CARE. I am so grateful for the experience that I have had with the organization, including the opportunity to visit dozens of VSLA groups across Africa.
I’ve always had two big passions: social justice and politics. I credit my parents for shaping my passions at an early age. They were both politically active and volunteered for a number of anti-poverty organizations when I was little.
A defining moment for me was the work that my father led in our community to bring a refugee family from Cambodia to my hometown of Celina, Ohio in the late 80s. The janitor at my dad’s office was Cambodian and would share stories with my dad about his life and family in Cambodia. He shared with my father that he had lost some of his family in the war. A few months after sharing this story, he found out his family was still alive. His brother, sister-in-law and their children were living in a refugee camp. After hearing this, my dad went about organizing the community to bring together resources, cut through the red tape, and reunite the Ly family in Ohio.
As a young girl, what really struck me was how the children reacted to everyday life when they first arrived in Celina. We lived in an agriculture community where tractors and combines were common sights on the road. However, when the children first saw a combine they were scared. They thought it was a tank or another type of army vehicle. They were terrified of our family dog at the time, a beautiful, gentle border collie, named Lady, because the only dogs they had met before were guard dogs. I also remember the youngest boy, who was probably around 18 months when he arrived, refused to wear pants. He only wanted to wear skirts at first because he had never worn pants before. So, for me, as a small town girl in rural Ohio, they opened my eyes to the fact that so many people elsewhere in the world live in very different conditions and under very different circumstances.
My parents and the Lys helped to shape my passion for social justice and politics. And I’m grateful that my friend Leah helped me find CARE.
Today, my passion for global issues is fueled by my two young daughters. I want to make sure that girls everywhere are able to exercise their rights, to live with dignity and without fear of violence and reach their full potential. I’m optimistic that the world Vivian and Josephine will grow up in will look much different than it looks today. The resurgence of the #MeToo movement and the increase in activism across the world in the past fourteen months leaves me with great hope for the future.