On March 13th, I was honored to be one of the hundreds of advocates that flooded the Hill to advocate on behalf of UNICEF USA. As I prepared to meet with members of Congress that chilly Tuesday morning, I was struck with a bolt of nervous energy. Although the thought of meeting with lawmakers was daunting, I was more worried about fitting in with a group of other UNICEF advocates, all of whom I had met only the night before. So many questions swirled in my head as I approached Capitol Hill. Would I fit into the team? Would they have my back if I stumbled on my closing ask? Why was it so cold in D.C.?
You see, as a college student studying in Atlanta, Georgia, my interactions with fellow UNICEF advocates were limited to Atlanta Congressional Action Team (CAT) meetings. However, as a resident of Nashville, Tennessee, my first meeting of the day was scheduled with members of the Nashville CAT. At first, I was afraid that I would not feel welcome in this team, but as Advocacy Day came, I experienced firsthand the incredibly inclusive spirit of UNICEF advocates.
Before the summit, the Nashville CAT team leader, Kayo, reached out and invited me to a team breakfast before our first Congressional meetings. As I entered the restaurant, I was immediately hit with a chorus of warm greetings from the Nashville CAT team. As is often the case with the UNICEF USA advocates, every member made efforts to make me feel included and a part of the team. With the weight of worry lifted, I dove right in and started planning for the day ahead. Together, we practiced our personal stories, read through UNICEF talking points, and reviewed our legislative asks. And together, we walked to our first meeting with Congressman Jim Cooper. The meeting went off without a hitch, and everyone had an opportunity to speak on behalf of UNICEF. Representative Cooper was very kind and personable, expressing how he loved that we were Nashvillians passionate about advocacy. All smiles, the team shared words of encouragement and congratulations for a successful first meeting. Afterwards, I said my goodbyes and shared my information with the Nashville CAT members to stay in contact after Advocacy Day.
Reflecting on Advocacy Day, I understand now just how closely UNICEF advocates are interconnected.
We came together, from Atlanta to Nashville, Seattle to New York, Chicago to Houston, and beyond, because of a common belief that the world’s children should come first. With that always in mind, I am excited to continue developing ways for the Atlanta and Nashville CATs to remain connected as we continue to meet with members of Congress on behalf of UNICEF USA.