So much focus has been placed on protecting the United States from terrorism that one would think eliminating the incubator for terrorism would be a good first step. Poverty with a lack of hope is a prime motivation for those who choose terrorism.
Many groups working to end extreme poverty know where the problem lies, and it is not in the existence of solutions. It is the lack of political will to implement those solutions. Government policies and government decisions on resource allocations have a huge impact on nearly everything, including poverty. When our government focuses on poverty in the U.S., it goes down. When governments allocate resources to programs that work well in poor nations, more children live past the age of five, more adults survive disease, more people know how to read, and more women and families participate in the economy.
Since the late 1970s, we’ve known that humanity is capable of producing enough food so that nobody should ever have to die of hunger or starvation. Yet 3.1 million babies under age 5 still die of malnutrition each year. Some of them are in this country. The number has gone down, but it still highlights the tragedy of failing to act. And what’s true about hunger is also true about every problem of poverty. We know how to educate children. We know how to create economic opportunity. We know how to provide basic, life-saving health care. One has to wonder what is stopping us from wiping out poverty completely.
Few people in the United States know who their members of Congress are, let alone how to contact them or influence them. And conventional wisdom, as portrayed in mainstream and social media, is that we can’t meet with our members of Congress unless we contribute money.
I am a volunteer advocate with a nonpartisan organization called RESULTS. We have proved that conventional wisdom is wrong. Members of RESULTS develop relationships with our members of Congress and their staffs. We have proved we can get them to focus on issues of poverty and social justice solely because we are constituents — no financial contributions are necessary. RESULTS advocates have helped markedly decrease preventable child deaths, get more kids in school, provide AIDS, TB, and Malaria treatment to millions, and provide millions of people access to the financial system through microfinance. But we need to find more people who are passionate about ending poverty and creating social justice. People who are willing to bet against conventional wisdom. RESULTS has trained me to use my voice. I have gone into congressional offices in my state as well as D.C. I have looked elected officials in the eye and I have seen them act on our requests.
Protests and marches are good, but RESULTS can train you to use your voice to create political will. If we succeed, we can end extreme poverty in poor nations and the kind of poverty facing many Americans today.
Your voice has power. Learn how to use your voice at an advocacy training scheduled for 10 a.m. March 18 at the Shalom United Church of Christ, 505 McMurray St., Richland.
Andrew Clark is retired from the oil industry. He and his wife have been volunteer advocates for RESULTS for several years. They live in Gig Harbor.