The Benefits of CARE Learning Tours
The Benefits of CARE Learning Tours
Advocates in Arizona hosted an event this month to hear from congressional staff that attended CARE Learning Tours in the year 2016. Adam Deguire, former chief of staff for Congressman Matt Salmon, and Steve Voeller, former chief of staff for Senator Jeff Flake, went on a learning tour to Rwanda and Congo along with Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. Steve had also been on tour to Ethiopia previously. As a CARE Fellow I had traveled to Benin earlier this year with CARE’s Regional Advocacy Coordinators and seven other volunteer advocates. I want to share some insights from our gathering.
First, there is a significant impact for those that can witness the programs on the ground, and meet with participants. Adam Deguire told us how life changing it was for him. He had been wary of U.S. foreign assistance. He has adjusted his position because of his travels with CARE. Adam recognized the difference between Rwanda and the Congo. This was a good lesson for him. He could see the improvements in the countries that have implemented strategies and programs to help people compared to a country just starting to change (Congo). Adam believes the programs work, because he witnessed it. They both shared with us what impressed them most was the sustainability of the programs and the focus on helping people to become self-sufficient. Steve Voeller told us a story of an Ugandan woman he met, Joy, who used her small loan from the Village Savings and Loan program and started making baskets. After the training she received from CARE, Joy went on to grow a successful business. Joy now employs many people and exports her products far and wide. This example is what impresses people, to see a success story, to trust the long-term goals, and to feel motivated to expand that opportunity for others.
Second, there is common ground. In our gathering we had guests from diverse political spectrums. The offices these men worked in are Republican; the Congresswoman they traveled with, and maintain a relationship with, is Democrat. We find common ground in our desire to alleviate suffering in the world. We asked Steve why he, as a man, feels motivated to help causes that focus on women and girls. He felt confused by the question and said, “Because I have a heart.” Steve and Adam met with women that were survivors of sexual abuse. Their stories will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Who would not want to end such barbaric practices of gender based violence? We all agree that we cannot ignore our fellow humans that need serious help. Since there is agreement on this, we cannot shy from the conversations and debates on how to solve these problems. In those spaces is where solutions happen.
Third, CARE learning tours create partners for us as advocates. Steve and Adam both communicated to us that they would help in any way we needed. After their learning tour they gained an appreciation for the work CARE does, and for the constituents in the area that advocate for CARE. Steve and Adam praised how CARE operates, and trusts them. They have already aided us. When advocates here in AZ wanted to meet with the candidates in our district, they encouraged our candidate, “If CARE ever wants to meet with you, hear them out.” We were offered help for future events in inviting members of Congress and other politically influential people in the area. These staffers also came home and shared all their knowledge with our member of Congress.
I myself have been impacted by a learning tour to West Africa. I can attest to the difference these programs have made for families and the communities they are in. I met women that have been able to plan their families, grow their own food, practice sanitation, receive healthcare, and more thanks to the presence of CARE and other partners. They are grateful, hard working, and good people that will lead their communities to prosperity.
I would ask other advocates to invite your member to go on a CARE learning tour. It has been heralded as the gold standard of tours in Congress. If they do not go on one, ask them to speak with their colleagues that have been on a learning tour. Connect people that can spread the knowledge they gained from a tour. Invite the staffers that have traveled with CARE to share with your community what they saw and learned. Let us all ensure there are positive benefits from our members of Congress, or their staff, traveling to developing countries with CARE.
-Anissa Rasheta AZ Chair
Benin photo:© 2016 CARE / Morgana Wingard