My One Cent: Katie Brunk
“For me, the most effective advocacy tool is to relate things on a human level through stories.”
Katie Brunk began advocating for CARE in college when she received a scholarship to attend her first National CARE Conference. Seven years later, she’s the Coordinator of Civic Engagement at Illinois College, where she helps students learn about human rights and development opportunities and introduces them to CARE’s work. In fact, Katie recently brought eleven students to CARE’s National Conference where we asked her, “Why do you advocate with CARE?” Here’s Katie’s story:
I was the first Illinois college student to come to a CARE conference and my relationship with CARE has grown so much since then. I was nervous the first time I lobbied, but the advocates I was with were very supportive. CARE really prepared me for lobbying and helped me to have confidence that I could make a difference simply by being in an advocacy meeting. I didn’t have to be an expert on facts and statistics.
I’ve always been interested in learning about different parts of the world. I’m from a really small rural town in Illinois and I wasn’t exposed to different people or cultures growing up. Through reading and travel, I’ve learned a lot about the people who are affected by CARE’s programs.
For me, the most effective advocacy tool is to relate things on a human level through stories. Not just the stories of women and girls around the world who are benefitting from CARE’s programs, but also my personal story about why CARE’s issues are important to me and to other people in my district. It’s the most meaningful way for me to contribute.
A couple months ago, I participated as a CARE advocate in a meeting with my Representative as part of the U.S. Global Leadership Council. Our advocacy group included people from the private sector, people from CARE, and a veteran who represented the defense side of foreign assistance. Bringing those different sectors together to talk about foreign assistance was really powerful.
I think we need to explore the partnerships we can create in our districts with other corporate entities and businesses that care about these issues too. These are international companies with customers around the world and they know that without foreign assistance and development investments, their companies won’t be successful at finding or establishing factories in other countries or helping global consumers access their products. They need diplomacy just as much as we do because global economic stability depends on it. 95% of consumers live outside the United States. If American businesses hope to get into international markets, where the majority of customers are, they need access to those countries and people who have the wherewithal to utilize their products.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re advocating for things you care about, but I tell students that our legislators want us to like them as much as we want them to like us…maybe more so. They don’t want us to walk away having had a bad experience with them or someone in their offices. They would like to keep the jobs they have. Advocacy is pretty powerful in that way.