Your voice is your power

Continuing our "Advocacy 101" series, Christina Bradic of World Vision's advocacy team digs into the powerful ways that one voice really can make a difference in the world.

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I know that my voice carries -- but how far can it reach?

Each month, my husband and I donate to World Vision programs. We believe in the work that World Vision accomplishes, but more than anything, we believe that these programs will educate and empower people to make the world a better place for children. World Vision works in nearly 100 countries -- and with advocacy, your voice can reach even further.

World Vision is large, but it is impossible to reach every person in need. Advocacy is about leveraging the collective whole rather than the power of just one organization. When people work together as a collective whole, we can affect and change national and international policies, infinitely multiplying the number of people we can reach.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to speak with the founder of a non-profit organization that helps girls in Rwanda receive education. He talked about how he loves his work and that each year through his program about 30 girls get to go to school. However, he went on to say that if the Rwandan government were to address education, tens of thousands of girls could go to school each year.

Often, governments make choices based on what voters ask for. The more leaders hear about a cause, the more likely they are to support the cause. These choices have widespread reach, and this is the power of advocacy. This is why your voice matters.

People often feel that they have to be working directly with the poor to make a real difference, and many feel helpless because they can’t go to countries where the greatest need exists. Helping on the ground is invaluable -- but that’s not the only way you can get involved. On the ground, you touch the community; with advocacy, you can touch the world.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” —Matthew 25:40

For instance, World Vision advocates have been a strong voice in the fight against human trafficking. Beginning in 2000, they played a key role in the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), placing the United States as a leader in the fight against modern-day slavery. Through this bill, Congress created the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

This office enables the United States to work diplomatically with other countries to fight and prevent human trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute those who commit this crime. The office increases accountability of governments and provides global public awareness of human trafficking. With this office, World Vision’s work to combat human trafficking benefits, and our impact is multiplied.

In 2011, because of partisan gridlock, Congress allowed this bill to expire, but due in large part to World Vision advocates writing letters, making phone calls, and meeting with their leaders, we were finally able to get this critical bill reauthorized.

In March 2012, two women from New Jersey, who had learned about the bill from World Vision staff, met with Senator Robert Menendez’s office and asked him to cosponsor the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. After an afternoon of anticipation and hope, they received a call saying that the senator would cosponsor (publicly support) the bill. Advocacy was easier than they thought. He supported the legislation, along with many other senators and representatives who had been touched by advocates, and the cornerstone of U.S. policies against human trafficking was finally restored.

To maximize the effectiveness of their programs, governments often work with trusted partner organizations on the ground, including World Vision. In 2012, nearly 20 percent of World Vision’s funding came from public funds. In addition to promoting new and more effective laws, greater collaboration among governments, and increased awareness, advocacy amplifies the benefits of the programs in which you believe and invest.

Do you believe in advocacy but think it just may be too scary to take on? Trust me -- it is not scary. But if you do feel that way, you are not alone. Below is an email I recently received from a woman who has done everything from writing an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun to meeting with her member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She is an advocacy superhero -- not politically inclined or outgoing, but she knows that advocacy is important, and this is enough for her to come forward and use her voice.

Dear Christina, I think I have a love/hate relationship with you (not really!) because my gut reaction initially to advocacy is to scream, "Nooooo, don't ask me to do that!" But then I know how powerful it can be and I feel like it's so important especially as Christians to speak for the voiceless -- and we are so blessed to live in a country where we can USE that voice with the people that make decisions that matter. So here I go again! It's a stretch for me, but when God calls…

Become an advocate today -- and join World Vision in raising your voice to address issues that affect the most vulnerable. Ask your members of Congress to support the Water for the World Act -- a critical piece of legislation that would build upon the investments that the United States is making to improve global access to clean water and sanitation.

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