Cultivating community and learning for young advocates
On a cold, wet weekend in February, 51 young REAL Change Fellows and alumni hailing from 24 states gathered together for the REAL Change Policy Summit. This RESULTS fellowship program provides training and community for advocates between ages 18-30. This year’s class had landed in Washington, DC for three days of learning, organizing, and advocacy.
The Fellows came to take action. Their focus: the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and housing policy, specifically public housing and vouchers. The fight to increase funding on these two issues will affect communities around the world, including their own.
They heard about how the Global Fund and its partners have saved over 27 million lives – truly amazing progress. At the same time, threats are looming. Malaria cases have been increasing after years of decline, and there is a risk of funding plateaus. On the TB front, nearly 40% of the 10 million people who fall sick with tuberculosis (TB) every year are missed by health systems.
They also learned about housing issues and the racial wealth gap, both from guests from the Experts on Poverty program, and from each other. Several Fellows shared stories of how access to public housing – or denial of that access – has impacted their lives.
The REAL Change Fellows have cultivated a sense of community across the country. They have partnered all year long to work on these important issues, and grow their skills and careers as advocates. As Freedom Richardson, a Fellow from Shreveport, LA said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my REAL Change experience, and I look forward to telling folks in Louisiana more and more about it. I love the idea that I’ve created a sense of home and a sense of family here, while also being able to debate and advocate on behalf of issues that everyone cares about. And that transcends party, political affiliation or even religion.”
Fellows practiced for lobby meetings together, quizzed each other on policy, and strategized organizing and outreach plans for the return home. After an intensive weekend of learning and preparation, they made their way through heavy rain to Capitol Hill on the final day of the Summit. They held 95 meetings with congressional offices, armed with over 600 letters to members of Congress and over 50 letters to the editor!
Fellows found the experience empowering. As Jericho Asis, from Maryland said, “Being in RESULTS introduced me to this whole other side of me that I’d never really explored before. I feel like RESULTS has shown me that I can be passionate about policy, and that I can move forward with this as a potential career.” We even ran into a familiar face on the Hill, Fellow Nijeria Boone, who is splitting her time between the REAL Change Fellowship and an internship with Representative Gwen Moore’s office this semester. “I think it’s really inspiring that RESULTS teaches people with little to no Hill experience how to navigate the Hill, and how to advocate for people.”
Want to join the 2019-2020 REAL Change Fellowship class? Apply today.