Last Friday, I had the great opportunity to join Jerry’s Guatemala class (no, that’s not the actual title of the course, but because they spend the year learning about the issues in Guatemala, and then take a trip to Guatemala near the end of the year, that’s the title that sticks!) to lobby in DC. For the two weeks leading up to Friday, I got to participate in the class by learning lobbying techniques and I had the opportunity to gather more facts about the issue. It was equally interesting to hear the scripts that the students prepared for how they would present themselves when meeting with the staffers and/or reps. Many of them included their personal reflections from Guatemala, and shared how that has shaped their support for this international assistance – especially for organizations such as Catholic Relief Services.
The issue… Poverty Focused Development Assistance / PFDA makes up approximately 0.5% of the national budget and provides the resources behind such initiatives such as HIV/AIDS PEPFAR (USAID Funding), nutrition programs, vulnerable children programs, migration and refugee assistance, and other accounts in support of the Millennium Goals.
Cabrini has a strong partnership with Catholic Relief Services, and through this relationship (much of which has been facilitated, again, by the infamous Jerry Zurek), the students have been able to take their education to a deeper level. Through the ECG (“Engagements with the Common Good”) courses, students have the opportunity to learn about various issues in the world, and explore possible solutions as their courses continue. More importantly, however, the students are guided to find their role and their voice in the issue. These classes focus on aspects of social justice, and are tailored to support all majors. Social justice has no educational boundaries! Let’s just say that if I was a student, these courses would most definitely be the selling point for me to join Cabrini College.
This ECG course on Guatemala, specifically, does just that. It provides students with the background knowledge of the country, an actual visit of the country, and a very important piece at the end of the course: ADVOCACY. And with this advocacy piece at the end of the semester, it is not just for Guatemala, not just for CRS, but for the countries, the people, the communities that may benefit from this aid, as well as the many aid organizations that are on the frontlines with these communities, every day, working to create effective and sustainable change.
In Jerry’s class, we prepared with various simulations so that each group had a chance to practice their lobby scripts. The first week I attended, we had a staff member from CRS Radnor come assist us with lobbying techniques and facts on the issue, as lobbying is her primary responsibility. That was super helpful and it was another testament that the volunteer world is so small! Turns out we had some Augustinian Volunteer friends in common and when she was assigned to serve in San Diego, she would sometimes go to mass at Founders Chapel at USD while I was there!
Here are a few initial helpful tips to remember when Lobbying:
- Lobbying helps the legislatures go beyond theoretical methods/practices. Through lobbying, we have the chance to paint the picture a little bit more clearly to the decision-makers, and present them with our encountered realities.
- While facts are great, it’s also important to weave in your personal story in your script. If you’re lobbying with a class, and that’s the only reason why you’re there, that may not necessarily prove to be as effective as a natural story that flows from your heart on the importance of the issue.
- Always say “thank you”
The next week, I got placed with the group I would be lobbying with – good ol’ Texas! Two of the students in the class were from Texas, coincidentally enough, so we prepared our scripts for the next day’s meetings at the Senate offices, and got ready to face whatever was going to come our way…or so we thought!
The other two groups were made up of Pennsylvania constituents and New Jersey constituents. With that, we gathered early on Friday morning at 7am, loaded up the vans, and we were on our way to DC! Yeeeeehawwwww!
How did we do? Part 2 is on its way…!