By Robin Stephenson
Andrew Santos is a 30-year-old science researcher living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he is a member of La Mesa Presbyterian Church. He had attended for about a year before Marlys Lesley, who organizes the church’s annual Bread for the World Offering of Letters, asked him to become a Bread leader.
“I was holding off getting involved in things until someone asked me. I wanted to do something the church needed,” he said.
In 2020, the pandemic forced La Mesa Presbyterian online. Their annual letter-writing had to go virtual, too, and Marlys needed help.
Marlys asked Andrew to get involved, and he jumped in with both feet.
Andrew created a letter-writing portal on the church’s website to make it easy for the members of the congregation to write more than 100 letters from their homes. In 2021, the portal was used again to remarkable success. In 2022, again with Andrew’s help, La Mesa is combining digital and in-person letter-writing.
In addition to participating in Bread for the World’s regional leadership calls, Andrew met with his members of Congress to ask them to expand the Child Tax Credit. After a meeting with U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), he learned that she agreed to cosponsor the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R. 4693).
During the meeting with Stansbury, Andrew observed a collegiality between the congresswoman and two of the seasoned Bread leaders present. The experience taught him an important advocacy lesson: build relationships.
“It was really apparent they had a relationship with her,” he said. “That taught me a lot. Stansbury might have signed on anyway but knowing them clearly helped.”
Bread for the World’s continued effectiveness in advocating for an end to hunger depends on engaging the next generation of leaders like Andrew who can carry the work forward.
“It helps to have other people doing it who you can talk to and learn from,” he said about the leaders who laid the groundwork for advocacy in New Mexico. “I’m really grateful for all those people.”
Robin Stephenson is the former senior manager for digital campaigns at Bread for the World.