Avani Dalal has been advocating for CARE every since she discovered us while in college and today, she’s the Advocacy Chair for New Jersey. We ran into her at a recent CARE conference and asked her why she CAREs about girls, women and foreign assistance.  Here is Avani’s One Cent Story: 

I was at NYU getting my degree in international economics and development when I heard about CARE through a friend in the NGO space. I tried every year to go to one of CARE’s conferences, but stuff always got in the way.  Then one year, I just decided that no matter what…snowstorm, exams, work…I was going to the next conference.  It really changed my life.  About six months after that conference, the northeast Regional Advocacy Director asked me to be the Chair for New Jersey and I’ve been an advocate and proud CARE supporter ever since.

I realized shortly after 9/11 just how lucky I am. It’s just a twist of fate that I was born to enlightened parents who focused on education and into a family that loves me and has means.  I could just as easily have been born in a war-torn country or to a family that didn’t want me to have an education or wanted to marry me off at a young age. It really struck me that every girl should have the same opportunities that I had. It shouldn’t be luck of the draw.  Everybody should have the opportunity to learn and live in a safe environment, to not be fearful for their lives and to have their children grow up in a better world.

I started out in finance before the crash and it quickly became quite soulless. The need for profits over any kind of human need or desire ate at me. After the crash, I left the industry and went into public policy and focused on economic diplomacy. I’m passionate about that work but I still feel a need to give back. You want to be a productive member of society.  You want to change the world for the better and leave it better for the next generation.  CARE is doing that.  They’ve been doing it for 75 years and if I can be part of that as an advocate, I think I will have given back to the world a little bit.

CARE approaches foreign assistance by intervening in the lives of girls and women. It’s a unique and effective economic development model that also impacts national and international security.  Over the past 16 years we’ve seen that military might does not fix the world’s problems.  In fact, military might alone oftentimes causes more problems than it solves.  Years of constant conflict mean that we’re now seeing entire generations of children who haven’t had any schooling. They have no opportunities and they grow up disgruntled to become the new generation of terror. 

If we had more of a hearts-and-minds campaign instead of a bullets campaign, then I think the spirit of good will and the values that America was founded on could help people see that there’s a better path out there than joining terror organizations and creating havoc.  It has been proven that if you show compassion, you get compassion back. If you show somebody the end of a gun, they’re going to react negatively every single time. They will be fearful and then they will be angry and that’s what we’ve been seeing for 16 years now. 

Increasing the defense budget at the cost of the State Department and USAID is the most detrimental thing you could do over the next four years. The impact is going to last for decades, but advocacy can make a difference.  It’s scary to think about calling a powerful Congressman’s office or visiting a powerful Senator but remember, they are beholden to you. They are beholden to their constituents and your voice makes a difference.  The more I do this, the more comfortable I feel and the more confident I am that it matters.  One person really represents a hundred and even if you go in alone, Members of Congress know that there are a hundred or thousand other constituents who think like you do. Those are voters and if they want to stay in office, they have to take what you say seriously.

My One Cent is a series that highlights the people who make CARE’s work possible. We want to know why people care about foreign assistance, why they share their time and talents with CARE and what leadership really looks like. Not surprisingly, people were eager to share their two cents, but since foreign assistance adds up to only one penny on the federal dollar, and we didn't want to be greedy, we're asking our supporters and advocates simply share ONE cent. Listen to their voices and find out why so many people CARE, and join us too (if you haven’t already)!

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