I walk into the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill; immediately, I am in awe of how grand it is. Even the trash cans are gold colored and emblazoned with the logo of the United States Senate. My fellow UNICEF club leader, Michael, and I have arrived early to our meeting with the office of Senior Senator Lindsey Graham from my home state of South Carolina.
We frantically rehearse our pitch as we wait for the meeting to begin. After being seated in the Senator’s office for a few minutes, we are greeted Mr. Reece Pelley, a legislative aide. Michael and I have prepared statements to convince the Senator to not only support the U.S. government’s continued contribution of $132.5 million to UNICEF, but also co-sponsor the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.
I am passionate about UNICEF’s work because I am constantly concerned with not only making a difference, but being certain that I am making the most difference. As UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, I feel that the time I spend furthering UNICEF’s work is well spent.
It is thanks to UNICEF USA that I learned both the significance of advocacy. All this time, I had this sense of disillusionment with our system of government because I felt that I and many others in my position had no say in how our government would be run. At the most, I thought, we had a single vote; but even then, in the grand scheme of things, how relevant is it? I had no idea how easy it was to set up meetings with my congressional offices. I had no idea that they would be willing to take the time to hear me out. I had no idea that these in-person meetings can actually make a difference. But now that I know all these things, I feel a sense of empowerment and involvement in my government that I had not felt before.
Mr. Pelley was happy to tell us that Senator Graham would most likely support both initiatives. We were ecstatic! Senator Graham just so happens to be Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, a subcommittee that will be crucial in deciding the continuation of the US government’s contribution. Michael and I left that meeting feeling great. But there was no time to rest; my team still had five more congressional meetings to attend! Now that we’re back on campus, we will continue to follow up with these offices and advocate for UNICEF. We will be the voice for the countless voiceless children of the world.