Hiba El-Azar, 26, is a 2018 RESULTS REAL Change Fellow in Lexington, Kentucky. She spoke to us about how the fellowship has shaped her work as an advocate.
Q. You began your REAL Change Fellowship last summer at the RESULTS International Conference. What have you learned so far?
A. I’ve learned I have a voice, that I matter, and that I can speak up for myself and others. I can be someone who changes things.
Q. REAL Change Fellows come together twice a year for policy and advocacy training. When you’re not together learning, what kinds of actions do you take at home?
A. We have monthly calls, and we write letters to our local newspapers about issues we’re working on. For example, this summer I got a letter published here in Kentucky, where I asked my members of Congress to protect SNAP [formerly known as food stamps], a very important program to me personally. I was really happy to learn that nothing was cut from SNAP in the farm bill that just passed.
Q. Why is SNAP important to you?
A. I moved to the United States with my family seven years ago. We came as refugees, originally from Iraq. It took a while for us to get settled and for me to find a job. SNAP helped us survive during that time. As I wrote in my letter to the editor, without SNAP I don’t know where we would have been.
Q. What draws you to advocacy?
A. I think it’s very important we connect to our representatives. I became a US citizen last year and I have freedoms here I can’t have anywhere else. I want to take advantage of that and do whatever I can to make a difference.
Q. You’re working towards your college degree now. What would you like to do afterwards?
A. I want to work on behalf of refugees and immigrants. I have a heart for people.