The COVID-19 pandemic won’t stop UNICEF’s fiercest advocates from making their voices heard in the halls of Congress. Hundreds have already registered to participate in UNICEF USA’s virtual Advocacy Week, taking place March 22–26, 2021. This hallmark event will bring UNICEF supporters together to advocate for the organization’s mission and legislative priorities in meetings with their Members of Congress.
Advocacy Week is replacing UNICEF USA’s annual Advocacy Day, which normally takes place in Washington, D.C. While the virtual format won’t offer the opportunity to come together in person, longtime UNICEF advocates are still eager to attend. As the week approaches, they are sharing their Advocacy Day stories.
A memorable meeting with a Congressman
For Isabel, a freshman at the University of Michigan, participating in Advocacy Day as a high school student was a formative experience. Her involvement in UNICEF USA’s volunteer program, UNICEF UNITE – first as a UNICEF Club leader, then a Youth Representative for the Chicago UNITE Council, and now as an Advocacy Lead for the Midwest region – has shaped her perspective on the power of youth voice and led to lifelong friendships.
One Advocacy Week meeting in particular stands out in Isabel’s mind, with former Rep. Pete Visclosky of Indiana, who represented her high school’s Congressional district at the time. Isabel recalls, "When my club met with him [on] Advocacy Day, it was the first time I saw the human side of politics. He engaged with us over our fundraising and advocacy efforts in my hometown, shared his interest regarding our [legislative] asks, and gave us a private tour of the Capitol. I learned that even as a high schooler, my voice was appreciated and could make a difference."
When my club met with [former Rep. Pete Visclosky on] Advocacy Day, it was the first time I saw the human side of politics ... I learned that even as a high schooler, my voice was appreciated and could make a difference. — Isabel, UNICEF USA Advocacy Lead
This story, and its impact on Isabel, inspired her younger sister and friends to begin volunteering with UNICEF USA, and motivated Isabel to continue her advocacy work when she left for college. As she explains it, “Advocacy Day has not only equipped me with the confidence to use my voice to influence change, it has also given me so many lifelong memories and some of my best friends.” This year, Isabel is scheduling meetings for Advocacy Week participants from Indiana and Michigan so they can experience the same sense of community and self-confidence as she did.
Speaking up for those in need
Claire, a 27-year-old French native, had an equally impactful experience participating in UNICEF USA’s Advocacy Day. Before moving to the United States, Claire participated in her college UNICEF Club and was eager to get more involved, leading her to become the New York City Advocacy Lead. She led a delegation of New Yorkers on Advocacy Day 2019 and recalls, "From all my memories living in the United States, walking into the Capitol wearing UNICEF colors is in my top five … When you have a great conversation with a United States Senator and you realize you are the reason he changed his mind, it makes such a great difference to your life. You feel useful and needed."
From all my memories living in the United States, walking into the Capitol wearing UNICEF colors is in my top five … When you have a great conversation with a United States Senator and you realize you are the reason he changed his mind, it makes such a great difference to your life. You feel useful and needed. — Claire, UNICEF Advocate
Claire’s experience deepened her commitment to UNICEF’s mission and led her to pursue a career working for the organization. Today, she lives in Dublin and leads the Donor Care and Community Department at UNICEF Ireland.
This year’s virtual Advocacy Week is shaping up to be an equally rewarding experience, with ample opportunities for participants to connect and deepen their passion for UNICEF’s mission. Advocacy Week is open to all, and it’s not too late to sign up!
Top photo: UNICEF USA advocates from Indiana meet with Congressman Pete Visclosky (D-IN), far right, in 2019. © UNICEF USA