Hear directly from the CARE staff, volunteers and advocates who are on the ground and in the field around the globe.

Making A Difference - Seeing Results From Our Work On The Hill

The FY08/09 Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill, signed into law by President Bush on Monday, June 30, will enable the United States to spend an additional $1.245 billion on international food aid donations in this year and next, as donor countries work to relieve the devastating effects of soaring food and fuel prices on the world”s poor. Included in the funding is $50 million to be used to purchase food on the ground at the local or regional level of the recipient countries. This first time shift by the U.S. government of freeing some money to buy food within countries ─ thus aiding local economies and alleviating the heavy costs of transporting food from the U.S to Africa and other places ─ is an important step in more effectively fighting the food crisis.

An earlier version of the bill was previously passed unanimously in the Senate on Thursday, June 26, by a vote of 92-6, concurring with the same version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives on June 19th.

The bill was stalled over a matter of months due to deep disagreements between the Administration and Congress over spending levels and priorities. The delay in the approval of these funds caused much consternation around the world as organizations relying on U.S. emergency funding were forced into a holding (or cutting) pattern pending the approval of the Supplemental.

Local and regional purchase is a long-standing advocacy priority of CARE and one which CARE Action Network members asked support for in 241 Congressional offices on June 19, the Capitol Hill Day portion of CARE”s 2008 National Conference.

Deesha Dyer, a Group leader at CARE”s 2008 National Conference, offers final reflections below on her group”s work and the conference itself.

Although the 2008 CARE Conference is officially over, the purpose and impact of the 2 day event is still very much alive. Looking back at the sessions, preparation, speakers, and Capitol Hill visits that occurred, I can't help but feel that I made some type of difference. But my work (as well as my fellow attendees) is far from over.

For me, it started with a Group Leader meeting and ended in Representative Alyson Schwartz's office talking about climate change. The in-between went so, so fast.

As I sat in an afternoon session entitled “A Mother's Right to A Healthy Pregnancy’, I thought to myself how important it was that I was sitting there listening to cases of mother-child inhumanities. I thought of how even in the USA, our worst conditions when it comes to childbirth come no where close to what women in developing countries have to face. I stress emphasis on 'have to'. I felt a rush of anger, compassion and urgency.

After the sessions, I met the rest of my awesome Pennsylvania volunteers and learned more about the issues we were taking to the Hill – climate change and how it affects the poor, violence against women, and the ever-growing devastating food crisis. Two of the volunteers had never lobbied before, and I was the only one that had lobbied with CARE. But, I needn't be worried. They all had a passion and belief that went deeper than experience.

Dinner was exceptional. I'm not just talking about the yummy food, but more the speakers, including the impeccable Jeffrey Sachs. To be in front of the poverty leader was awe-inspiring. He spoke on what we can do as citizens to contribute towards a more humane world. He spoke of ways to help the poor financially and affirmed to us that wiping out poverty can be done and that is has to be done.

After closing the evening with an award ceremony, beautiful African music and an insight to Obama and McCain's stance on humanitarian issues, we all parted ways to get a good night's sleep in preparation for the next day when we, concerned US citizens would take our issues to Capitol Hill.

On Thursday, we woke up with the sun. There were 5 scheduled visits on our calendar: Senator Bob Casey, Senator Arlen Specter, Representative Bob Brady, Representative Joe Sestak and Representative Alyson Schwartz. I won't go into detail of every single meeting, but I will say that the response we received in every single office was positive. We met with staffers for all, except Alyson Schwartz who rescheduled our meeting at the last minute so she could be there.

I felt the most effective meetings were with the staffers from Casey and Sestak's office. I say that because they fully supported the issues we brought forth, and both wanted to keep in touch with CARE on these issues. I felt as if both staffers were educated and versed in the topics we brought forth and seemed sincere about representing our views. Schwartz only had a few minutes, so we only got feedback on climate change, which she whole-heartedly seemed to be on board with. She told us with a stern voice that she is fighting that everyday and that we can count on her.

Out of the three House members we visited, two of them are in the top 5 of CARE Supporters in Pennsylvania – Sestak and Schwartz. They were both surprised and happy to receive this news.

We had appointments very close together, which allowed us to go into each meeting with adrenaline from the previous meeting. I had to leave right as we finished the climate change conversation with Schwartz to rush home, so I didn't have time to reflect with my group about the day. But if they do read this – I want to say a personal thank you.

I do believe that we truly made a difference that day. I feel we made a difference for the women and children in developing countries and also spoke for our fellow Americans that couldn't be there with us in Washington, DC.

Because of CARE, I have discovered who I am and my purpose. This organization and conference has given me so much strength and tapped into skills and leadership responsibilities that I never knew I possessed. I never considered myself a political-minded person, and still don't; I just am someone that recognizes that a change needs to come NOW.

In the process of empowering women, I became empowered myself. I look forward to returning in 2009 and making my voice heard for the millions that can't.

Posted by webmaster on Jul 1, 2008 6:40 PM US/Eastern

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