My One Cent: Josh Burns
"Advocates for girls and women come in all genders, sizes, ages, and demographics."
January 3, 2018
Josh Burns is a copywriter and creative strategist in Spokane, Washington where he is one of CARE’s newer advocates. This is Josh’s My One Cent story:
The opportunity to advocate for CARE sort of landed in my lap about a year and a half ago when I ran into Jonathan Young, one of CARE’s Regional Advocacy Coordinators, at my brother’s wedding in California. I was just moving back to Spokane and he wondered if I knew anybody who might be a good fit for advocacy work. I wasn’t very familiar with CARE and initially, when he described its mission to eradicate poverty by empowering women and girls, I figured he needed a woman to fill that role.
The funny thing is though; at the time, I was looking for a new way to contribute. I donated to various organizations, but I felt like there was some meaning missing from my life. I’m a person who has a servant’s heart. I love my job and the pro-bono work we get to do and I spend a lot of my time volunteering but I was still looking for something with more purpose. I decided to look into CARE and create a short list of woman politicos with advocacy experience who I thought would be good for this advocacy role. When I gave Jonathan my list, he said, “Well, Josh, what about you? You’d be a great advocate.” I wasn’t convinced that a 40-year-old white guy was really the best choice, but I learned that advocates for girls and women come in all genders, sizes, ages and demographics.
Foreign assistance and advocacy were new to me so I attended a CARE advocacy leadership training. It was a lot to take in, but I really connected with the people. I was impressed with CARE as an organization and how passionate, articulate and intelligent the people are who support it. I met other advocates from very diverse backgrounds and what really stood out was that they all had the same heart. The more I learned about CARE and the people who are making it happen, the more I loved the organization and felt there was a lot of truth and transparency in the way they function.
After attending my first in-district meeting, I went to the National Conference in May 2017, which was a big eye-opener. It was my first time on Capitol Hill and it was intimidating, but also empowering to see the impact CARE made that day with more than 300 advocates all talking about poverty eradication.
Last summer, I went on a learning tour with CARE to Guatemala. The programs I saw on the ground really crystallized for me the importance of foreign aid.
We met with middle school girls in a UNFPA-funded program that’s creating real change in their lives, shaping their futures and ability to lift themselves out of poverty. They’re helping girls think bigger about what they can do in the world and the changes they can create in their own lives and communities. The idea of those programs being cut in a federal budget that zeroes out UNFPA and USAID is unfathomable.
If the programs go away, they don’t have these groups that they’re willing to walk an hour and a half to get to each week. If they don’t have the support and continual positivity from their peers and program directors, there’s a real risk that they will slip back into accepting social norms that men are superior and they’re “just girls.” But with the help and encouragement of the program they’re in right now, a lot of the girls I met were like, “I’m not getting married until I’m 22 and done with college and my husband better have a college degree too.” That’s really beautiful, especially in a community with a great deal of poverty.
I’m usually the kind of person who says, “let’s go down there, roll up our sleeves and get to work.” So initially, advocacy felt unnatural… like, “All I have to do is make phone calls and attend meetings?” I’ve learned that advocacy holds a lot of power and that it’s an effective way to create sustainable change for those girls I met in Guatemala and for the millions of people CARE reaches around the world each year.