Bringing Kids to Lobby Day
Bread for the World's Lobby Day is over and stories abound about our personal experiences with Members of Congress and aides. Sadly, I did not get the honor and opportunity to lobby with you - my Bread colleagues- but I did get the opportunity to visit some of the very same offices a week later with others to push foreign aid reform and I have a story for you.
This year, I tried something new…I took the voices of children with me. I didn’t physically take them with me, but I held a letter-writing even at my house before I went to DC. We talked about our issue in an age-appropriate way, then the moms and kids wrote letters for our meetings. Our local media was also invited to the party which resulted in a front page story about our lobby visits with two large color pictures of our kids busily writing the very letters we’d deliver in person on Lobby Day. We had some high school kids send letters with their opinions, too. Every time we brought out that front-page picture in a meeting, and especially if we had kid letters with it, it brought the everything to a halt in a very good way. Studious expressions turned to smiles, our group was complimented for our initiative, and the cute kids were ooh-ed and aah-ed over.
As an example of how much children can help us, I offer a story from Sen. Ronald Burris’ office. After I wrapped my section by saying that “surely the U.S. could step up and do more,” the aide then told us a story from a meeting with Bread for the World that took place week prior to our visit. My fellow Bread activists had brought 8-year-old girl Adrienne along with them. She told her personal story of selling pencils in her class and raising $900 for an international development project. With her feet swinging, not even able to reach the floor, she ended by telling him that if she could do that, she thought the American government could do more, too. It obviously made a big impression on him as he repeated the story with the comment that he thought at the time “Ooooh, you guys are good!” He then asked if the kids’ addresses were all included because he really wanted to make sure that they each got a response.
For the activist parents out there, I’d like to say this…sometimes it seems like it’s hard to merge our worlds of highly intellectual lobbying and highly emotional caretaking. Yet I think it’s important for us to find creative ways to blend the two. Our lobbying needs more emotion, personal connection and icebreakers in general. Kid-letters and media with children featured is a great way to do this. We only had actual kid-generated letters to deliver for two of our meetings. For every other meeting, I showed our front-page picture, which helped, but I wished I had more of those letters to hand out. For next year, I can only say this…we’re gonna need some more kids!
Cynthia Changyit Levin
Bread for the World Activist
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