Fresh Perspectives at the CARE Conference
When you attend a lot of conferences focused on a specific subject, after a while, a lot of the information you already know. There’s always fresh stuff, updated information and inspiring speakers to re-rev your engine and keep you engaged, but it’s never like the first time. It’s never as fresh as the moment you first believed.
I’ve been attending conferences like this week’s National CARE Conference, (which is happening in connection with International Women’s Day) for several years now and while I find them invigorating, I admit, I do sometimes glaze over just a wee bit during certain breakout sessions. But this year, I traveled with a few women for whom this was their first humanitarian conference and first experience learning about poverty eradication and women’s and maternal health issues. Their fresh perspectives re-energized the essence of the mission we’re all committed to, both at CARE and at Every Mother Counts – to improve lives for girls and women, make it safe for them to have babies and make the world a better place to live.
Sarah Gordon, 15, has already traveled to 13 developing countries.She came to her first DC conference and lobbying experience from Oregon because she’s seen “big time poverty” and been focused on the principles of democracy and citizen entitlements, “for years.” Sarah says, “By taking part in our First Amendment Rights, Americans can make a big impact. Coming to a conference focused on women’s issues and human rights provides a way for me to use my voice to make that impact. Americans are filled with opportunities and entitlements that can help reach the people who are crying out for help. We can’t just stay in the world without helping.”
Sophie Faulkner, 18 is a freshman at California State University Monterey Bay majoring in Global Studies. She says, “I’m fascinated with International Relations, but I’ve never known how exactly I could get involved in making change. I came to the conference because I wanted an opportunity to see how I can connect my studies to my future. I wanted to lobby about something I believe in so I could see if the process really works. This conference has shown me that getting involved in the political process does make a difference. It’s also been eye opening to learn how women are the building blocks of society in developing countries. Helping one woman spreads out to help the entire community.”
Lora Gordon is a marketing consultant in Portland, Oregon. It’s her lifelong passion for world travel, mostly in the developing world, that motivated Lora to explore ways she could get involved in making a difference. Lora says, “I’ve seen extreme poverty and I understand how personally impactful it is. I’ve never before been involved in any organization that’s making a difference, in part because the problem seemed so big and daunting. It seemed unrealistic that anything I could do could make a difference. I’d been looking for an opportunity though and was ready to get involved. After attending breakout sessions and listening to the challenges and success stories related to women’s rights and empowerment, I realized we may never end poverty, but we can make lives better. I also realized, as a mother living in the United States, I will never have anything to complain about ever again. Most women live in conditions we will never know. Travel adds perspective, but attending this conference adds perspective too.”
A very young conference attendee caught my eye, but she’s no newbie. At eleven years old, Kiran Davy Kocher McCabe (yes, she gave me all four names) of New York is attending her fifth National CARE conference. When I asked her to tell me why she’s such a strong CARE advocate, she stood up as straight as any politician I’ve ever met and stated, loud and clear that she was at the conference because she believes strongly that people need to know about these issues (meaning girls and women’s empowerment issues). “People need to know what’s going on in the world and then, they need to take action and make a difference.” What exactly is Kiran doing to make that difference? She writes about climate change and water issues for her school newspaper. Then, she says, “I needed more people to know and wanted to talk to my Congressman. So I came to a CARE conference to tell Representative Crowley about how important water is to the health of communities in the developing world.” Yeah, she’s eleven. Perhaps not surprising when she grows up she wants to be a singer, actress, writer and President of the United States. Today, she’s the perfect representative for why we celebrate International Women’s Day.