Hunger Justice Leaders: The Future of Advocacy
Connecting the Personal and the Public
Nearly 70 young religious leaders—"agents of change" from communities around the United States—came to Washington, DC, for Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders training on June 9 to 11. Their jam-packed schedule included three days of worship, workshops, and a chance to lobby members of Congress on behalf of hungry and poor people. Additionally, more than 200 Bread activists, board members, and staff joined them for Lobby Day on June 12.
The Hunger Justice Leaders represented an impressive array of churches, nonprofits, and other organizations around the country. They spoke eloquently about the needs they see every day in their communities, and why supporting programs that help hungry and poor people is critical. A highlight was a meeting at the White House Office of Public Engagement, in the Old Executive Eisenhower Building, which is next to the White House. A number of White House officials addressed the group, including executive director Jon Carson.
"The work you do not only makes a difference," he told them, "it's the only thing that makes a difference."
It was also a time of personal connections, none more so than during Lobby Day. When Libby Tedder moved to Casper, WY, last fall to pastor Casper First Church of the Nazarene, she took a second job at Starbucks to earn extra money and get to know her community. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and his wife, Bobbi, were frequent customers, and Tedder and the couple struck up an acquaintance.
So it was a wonderful switch when Tedder visited Sen. Barrasso during Lobby Day and said, "Hello, my name is Libby, and I am your barista at the CY Avenue Starbucks in Casper."
He not only remembered her—he poured her a cup of Starbucks coffee before sitting down for their meeting.
And during Kaela Volkmer’s visit with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), the two discovered that the senator had taken law classes from Volkmer's father at Creighton University in Omaha. These kinds of connections are great for personal reasons, but they also help when it comes to follow-up: Lawmakers and their staff are more likely to remember Bread activists and the reason for their visits.
The Hunger Justice Leaders training and Lobby Day culminated in a worship service, with singing, prayers, and a chance for participants to talk about their experience. They expressed a range of emotions—gratitude to lawmakers and each other, wonder at being able to talk with their representatives directly, and renewed strength as they return home.
"I found a place where I can have a voice," Hunger Justice Leader Christina Reed of Bowie, MD, told the group. "This experience has been transformative for me. I felt the spirit of God this whole weekend."
Be sure to read the Bread Blog at blog.bread.org for more stories, photos, and news about the event.