Advocating In-District for the First Time

Advocating In-District for the First Time

4/19/17

By: Laura Kotasek, Oxford, Michigan

I have always been involved with charitable organizations within my home state of Michigan. However, after attending the Women's March in DC, I was motivated to become more politically involved, as well as find a global humanitarian organization to help.  Volunteering has always been a passion for me.  I love being out in my community, meeting other volunteers, and helping those in need.  Yet before the March, I had never protested anything, called my representatives, let alone set up a meeting to discuss an organization, like CARE, with a politician.  Motivated from the march, and as an early childhood educator for the last twenty four years, I felt inclined to also be an advocate for poverty stricken countries, especially where women and children rarely, if ever, have a voice. After researching CARE, I knew this was the organization I wanted to be associated with. 

Katie Kraft, Regional Advocacy Coordinator for CARE, was kind enough to share the info I needed, and assured me that not only could I easily reach out to my representative, but I could also have a productive discussion regarding CARE issues.  Within a week of contacting the Regional Manager to Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office, I was granted a meeting.

Upon entering the Detroit office of Senator Stabenow, I immediately felt at ease.  I was overcome with a sense of patriotism.  The office was adorned with a large American flag, a State of Michigan flag, several photos including one of the capital building in Lansing, some historic state sites and gorgeous Michigan landscapes.  Plus, a beautiful plague of the United States Senate seal was on display. I thought to myself, “This is what democracy looks like.”  I felt exhilarated to be a part of it, and was excited to get the meeting underway.

The staff member I met with was incredibly warm, and welcoming.  As we sat down to talk, I gave her a brief history of my past charitable work, and why I am passionate about CARE.  I also inquired about her responsibilities working with the Senator.  It was a nice way to break the ice, and get comfortable with one another.  I asked her to thank the Senator for some specific things that she has done over the past few years, including her work to make changes to the 2014 Farm Bill that allowed U.S. food aid programs to reach 600,000 additional people at no extra cost.

After the pleasantries, I jumped right in to why CARE needed the Senator's help.  With the new administration’s proposed budget cuts to foreign aid, humanitarian organizations, like CARE, will suffer greatly.  I wanted to know that my Senator was going to battle hard against these potentially devastating budget cuts.  I was assured that Senator Stabenow is indeed against these cuts, and will do everything she can to fight with us.  I also informed the district office that I will be in DC for the CARE National Conference this May where I will continue to fight for the foreign aid budget with advocates across the country. 

For my first advocacy meeting, it could not have gone smoother, and was extremely positive.  I am beyond excited for the conference in May.  Not only to be inspired by the guest speakers, meet other CARE advocates, but most importantly to get the advocacy training I need to be a better representative for CARE. 

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