“I thought my small voice was too small to be heard. I was wrong.”

— Volunteer Advocate Stan Smith after Advocacy Camp

Church camp. Band camp. [Insert sport here] camp. Everyone loves a good camp — or at least we like calling something a camp even if it has no resemblance to a place in the woods where you pitch tents and roast marshmallows.

We’re no different on the World Vision Advocacy team, and when we planned a brand-new, super-empowering, two-day advocacy-in-action event for the fantastic World Vision Volunteer Advocate Community, we decided to just call it “Advocacy Camp.”

Camp consisted of two jam-packed days: a day of training, encouragement, and strategy, and a day of in-person advocacy on Capitol Hill! It was an opportunity for us to show that advocating for justice is about demonstrating God’s love to people in poverty and to people in power by inviting them to create change with us! It’s good stuff. Seriously.

But did it work? Were advocates inspired and equipped to go out and create lasting change? We asked the campers, and here are 6 ways Advocacy Camp inspired them to become better advocates:

Christian advocates on Capitol Hill.
Volunteer Advocates Stan Smith, Carol Smith, and Carol Klukas with World Vision staff member Christina Jones. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

1. I feel equipped to connect with members of Congress and their staff.

“Advocacy Camp was such an eye-opening, heart-changing, and perspective-changing experience. Not only were the stories and the seminars inspiring, giving clarity and understanding as to what it means to be a ‘faith-rooted’ not ‘faith-based’ advocate; but also working in groups, practicing our talking points, using symbols, and prepping for our appointments with Congress boosted my confidence. It was an ‘aha’ moment.

“My meeting with Senator Isakson’s staff in DC turned out to be a completely different experience and outcome than my ‘before-Camp’ first meeting with Sen. Isakson’s staff in Georgia. I was able to connect more on a personal level with the staff, bringing stories that would connect with them, and just my demeanor was that of humility, empathy, conviction and confidence.”

—Volunteer Advocate Sung-Ae Lim

World Vision Volunteer Advocates
Sung-Ae Lim (front middle, in gray cardigan) with her group outside the U.S. Capitol building. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

2. Camp changed the way I think about World Vision.

“Attending Advocacy Camp provided me with a deeper understanding of the political process and enabled me to advocate more effectively. I recognized the value of our local advocacy voices to support and fund the efforts of World Vision; in fact they, and the global organizations they work with, are counting on our local efforts to raise the awareness of these important legislative issues. I learned how to educate and strategically present the legislative issues to my representatives. I realized how our relationships with our representatives is an opportunity to advocate differently by demonstrating God’s love.”

Volunteer Advocate Cheryl Ryan

Advocates outside the Capitol building
Cheryl Ryan with World Vision Grassroots Organizer, Cassie Rollins. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

3. I understand the value of building a relationship with my member of Congress.

“The impact of maintaining a relationship with my members of Congress is soooo much greater than I used to appreciate. Members of Congress really want to know what constituents value, so taking the trouble to establish and maintain an ongoing relationship means you can lift up your voice and speak effectively to amplify the voices of the poor and children and communities worldwide.

I now feel truly welcomed to continue building my relationship with my member of Congress. It was so scary getting started on building the relationship, but each step forward has been easier. Now instead of thinking I have to schedule a meeting with a staff member, I look forward to the next time, knowing the information I bring is welcomed and knowing my voice, a voice for the poor, will truly be heard.

Volunteer Advocate Carol Klukas

Just a few days after Advocacy Camp, Carol heard that her congressional representative had cosponsored the Ending Violence Against Children Resolution as she had requested! She’d met with her representative’s staff in August and then again at Advocacy camp to request that he cosponsor, and her relationship helped move him to action!

Carol at advocacy camp
Carol Klukas, talking to one of her representative’s staff members about the importance of the Ending Violence Against Children Resolution. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

More thoughts on the power of building a relationship with Congress from Sherri Vance:

One important lesson for me at Advocacy Camp was the importance of a long-term relationship with my representatives. I’m a newbie advocate, so I’m just getting started — and I heard from several other advocates about how their efforts to build a relationship had borne fruit. One person said that his representative’s office even calls HIM when their office is discussing a relevant issue, to ask for his input.

“This type of relationship takes faithful grace over time, but I was inspired to work towards this — even with one of my Senators who is negative towards humanitarian aid. If nothing else, taking the time to listen will help me pray for him and his staff.”

Volunteer Advocate Sherri Vance

Group of Christian advocates
Sherri Vance (far right) shows why we advocate with her group. From left: World Vision Policy Advisor Whitney Groves with Advocates Wanda Griffin, Diana Stone, and Sherri Vance. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

4. I feel connected to other advocates.

“One of the most impactful parts of the advocacy camp was meeting other people who wanted to make changes through relationships in our government.

“By hearing other advocacy stories, I felt more prepared to advocate in the future, and they also let me know some of the things I experienced were common in the political world (meetings being very short or referred to another person in the office). [At Advocacy Camp], I loved being able to put faces to names, and know there are others in my state and area that are working towards the same goal as I am. It helped to cement a sense of community and collaboration as we do this work.”

— Volunteer Advocate Diana Stone

Ready to use biblical advocacy
Diana Stone (third from left) advocates with her group. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

5. I am a more confident advocate.

“Advocacy Camp helped me to better understand the scope of advocacy. I can be a slow learner and being in a group or team has emboldened me to further tailor my work as an advocate. Hearing other advocacy stories has made me comfortable and even vulnerable to share some of my personal experiences that are related to some points that World Vision Advocacy works on. It reaffirmed my purpose as a Volunteer Advocate at this time of my life.

“Now that I have participated in Advocacy Camp, I feel equipped and prepared to use all the resources available to me and not feel overwhelmed. The camp was so productive, and I’m grateful for the opportunity and so thankful for the team that made it possible!”

— Volunteer Advocate Flavie Adja

Learning about advocacy at camp
Flavie Adja at Advocacy Camp training. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

6. I’m inspired to share advocacy with others.

The whole camp was a well-rounded, intense training with facts, inspirational and practical, touching both our minds and hearts. Because of this experience, I had this deep longing desire, excitement, and passion to share it with my church when I returned. I wanted everyone to share in this experience with me.

“Not only that, now I know how I can better help, plan, and prepare my church members the next time we meet with our Senators and Representatives.”

Volunteer Advocate Sung-Ae Lim

Volunteers show why we advocate
(©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

A huge THANK YOU to the Advocates who made it to Camp this year, and a huge THANK YOU to every advocate who takes the time to make a phone call, send an email, or raise their voice to amplify the voices of people in poverty.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

— Isaiah 58:6 (NIV)

Want to learn more about being part of the Volunteer Advocate Community?

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Top photo: World Vision Advocates and staff prepare to talk to Congress about the Ending Violence Against Children Resolution. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

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