MY ONE CENT: LORA GORDON
"If we don’t address these human needs, we will be feeding and fueling conflict."
Lora Gordon has been traveling with her family to developing countries for decades but always returned home wondering what she could do for the people she met who had so little. When she began advocating for CARE several years ago, she found her answer. We asked Lora, "Why do you CARE?" and she shared her one cent:
I’ve spent a couple of collective years of my life traveling in and volunteering in low income countries from Peru and Ecuador to Cambodia, China, Thailand…really, all over the world. Through these experiences I developed an acute and increasing awareness of the vast disparity between the way I live my life and the privileges I have living here in America and the lives and privileges, or lack thereof, experienced by hundreds of millions of people around the world who live on less than a dollar a day.
The impact of that poverty really touches every part of their lives from what they eat to whether or not they have access to clean water, healthcare, education and economic opportunities. I was moved on a very basic human level by this gulf that I saw between my rights and privileges as an American and those experience by the vast majority of the rest of the world. I was also struck by the fact that I have this right as an American citizen to speak directly to my elected Representatives about issues that matter to me. That’s a right and privilege that’s not available to many, many other people on the planet, particularly those who are living in poverty.
I came to CARE because it gave me an opportunity as an advocate to merge these revelations. CARE gave me the ability to speak to my own passions and concerns about global poverty and the U.S. role in addressing it. CARE enabled me to give voice to the challenges people around the world face and their relative inability to speak to their own governments and the U.S. government about them. As a citizen advocate for CARE, we’re really able to make deep impacts through the organization’s access to lawmakers and a tremendous network of other citizen advocates.
I think the message about why I care about foreign assistance that resonates with most people is that first and foremost, it’s a moral imperative. I believe that our foreign assistance is an obligation and a responsibility to use our relative wealth and privilege to relieve suffering, improve quality of life, provide opportunities and create stability and resiliency among communities that are most impacted by poverty. I also believe it’s a core American value of reaching out and lifting up. And we can do that in ways that enable the people who live in those communities most impacted by poverty to be the agents of those changes themselves. They are the ones who are identifying their own greatest challenges, crafting their own solutions and implementing those changes so they’re really long term and sustainable and driven from within.
Many Americans are concerned about terrorism and conflict both overseas and here at home and the link between poverty and instability is clear and indisputable. Where there are few resources and opportunities and little resiliency in communities, those communities are tremendously unstable and prone to conflict. That makes them vulnerable to terrorist and other groups who come in, influence communities and take advantage of their desperation to their own ends. I believe it’s in our own national security interests to help create greater stability and resiliency. We must have a seat at this table. We must address these issues at their source or we’ll fight them right here at our own doorstep. When that happens, American lives are at risk. If we don’t address these human needs, we will be feeding and fueling conflict.
One other aspect of poverty reduction that concerns me is our economic interests here at home. I’m a small business owner. My husband and I own a veterinary practice in Portland. We need economic stability here in America in order for our business to thrive. We need supply and distribution chains to be open so we can receive supplies. We want our clients and employees to have confidence in the American economy. Without stability and confidence, American businesses suffer.
Eleven of America’s current top 15 trade partners now were once recipients of US foreign aid. 95% of the worlds’ consumers live outside of our borders. Some of the fastest growing economies on Earth are in Africa, which is one of the largest recipients of US foreign assistance. So, when we are investing and addressing the causes and consequences of poverty around the world, we are also investing in our own long-term economic interests and stability.
When the economy contracts, people get fearful. They don’t know what’s going to happen in their own communities. But what’s happening in our own communities is impacted by what’s happening around the world. I’m not sure that’s a connection that’s obvious to many people but through the work that I’ve done with CARE over the past several years, I’ve come to understand that connection broadly and also very intimately as a business owner.
My One Cent is a new series that highlights the people who make CARE’s work possible. We want to know why people care about foreign assistance, why they share their time and talents with CARE and what leadership really looks like. Not surprisingly, people were eager to share their two cents, but since foreign assistance adds up to only one penny on the federal dollar, and we didn't want to be greedy, we're asking our supporters and advocates simply share ONE cent. Listen to their voices and find out why so many people CARE, and join us too (if you haven’t already)!