Summer is in full swing: the season for popsicles by the pool, new routines (or lack thereof), family visits, camp adventures, and…road trips. But before all the fun winds down and you take your kids back to school shopping, we want to invite you to take one more meaningful road trip this summer – one to see your member of Congress.
While most of us head out of town during the month of August, our members of Congress head home to their states to spend extended time with their families, communities and you, their constituents! This makes August the best time of the year to meet your Congressional representatives face to face and to ask for their support of key legislation that affects those who live in extreme global poverty.
Does meeting with an elected official sound scary? While it may seem daunting, it is actually one of the reasons members of Congress come home, and one of the most effective forms of advocacy you can ever engage in. Here are a few tips to keep an in-district meeting easier than a road trip to see Grandma:
- Remember that our legislators are human beings, too. Did you know that nearly 92% of U.S. Congress claims faith in Christ? This means that World Vision advocates have a unique opportunity to relate to our decision makers in ways that few other advocates can. Find your members of Congress by visiting house.gov and www.senate.gov. Then, visit their websites, read their biographies, and get to know them a bit. When you meet with them face-to-face, interact with them in a professional but personal, authentic way. Encourage them. Ask if you can pray with them. Ask how you can make their life easier and help them successfully support what you’re advocating for. Elected officials face extreme amounts of pressure, and will be much more responsive to advocates’ requests when they are treated as partners, rather than targets.
- Take others with you! In-district meetings are a great summer activity for your church or networks…or even your family! Show your kids what it means to tangibly seek justice by taking them with you to your meeting (their voices are effective, too, and they often help lighten the mood and remind us to relax). Have them draw some pictures or write their own letters of support for the legislation you will advocate for, and let them show your representative during the meeting. Or, ask your pastor or small group to go with you, as long as they are also constituents. The more people you take with you, the more voices you’ll have to get your point across.
- Share your story. The most effective advocacy is often your personal story, not a bulleted list of talking points. Take time to share with your representative why you took time out of your busy schedule to drive all the way to his/her office to advocate for mothers and children in global poverty. What has God done in your life that makes this matter to you? Share personal experiences, trips overseas, women or children you have met, show photos or videos – anything to move their heart and not just their head. They might agree with you ideologically, but that still may not be enough to move them. Show them your passion and inspire them to keep their passion alive, too.
- It’s OK to say “I don’t know.” While it’s important to be prepared, you don’t have to know all the hairy details of specific legislation, and you don’t have to feel ashamed if your representative asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to. In fact, they don’t expect you to be legislative experts – their first priority is to learn what is important to you. Let them know you’ll follow-up with their staff and provide the details they are looking for, and then be sure to do so. This often provides a fantastic opportunity to remind them of your meeting and what you asked of them, to thank them for their time, and to deepen your relationship with their office (this makes future advocacy more effective!). Email us if you need World Vision to help follow-up with information for them – that’s what we’re here for!
Ready to take a drive to your representative’s office? Sign-up now and we’ll send you an email with all the tools you’ll need: an in-depth in-district meeting guide, information about your representatives and legislation World Vision is advocating for, and details about a special conference call to help you prepare.
Want to learn more about what we’re advocating for this summer? Here are World Vision’s two legislative priorities for in-district meetings this August:
- Maternal and child health survival legislation: World Vision has been diligently working behind the scenes on the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015. This bill, that will help bring proven, low-cost interventions to the places with the greatest need was introduced last week. 17,000 children die each day and in many parts of the world, motherhood comes with great risk. It is critical Congress prioritizes this issue. Read more here.
- Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) Funding: Late last month, both the U.S. House and Senate proposed cutting 67% of the funding for a key agency that protects children from exploitative child labor. ILAB, in partnership with non-profit organizations like World Vision, has worked to withdraw over 1.7 million children from the worst forms of child labor since 1995. Last year Congress appropriated $58.8 million for programs to combat exploitative child labor internationally, but in the proposed FY16 funding bills, Congress has cut the full amount for those critical programs. This August, we want to call key members of Congress to restore this funding immediately and to protect children from exploitation and violence around the world. Read more here.
Photo: Student, Victoria Hepp meets with Congressman Dent’s office about the Water for the World Act. © 2014 Genesis Photos/ photo by Garrett Hubbard