Monday, July 19, 2010

An Amazing Experience

By Alicia Sedillo and Debbie Ruiz

We went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, June 15, for Bread for the World's annual Lobby Day. Nearly 300 people from 108 congressional districts attended.

Participants met with 172 different congressional offices, asking our members of Congress to make permanent the current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit levels.

We happened to be in Washington for Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders Program, which was an amazing experience.  More on that later.  First we want to talk about Lobby Day. We went to the offices of Rep. Martin Heinrich, Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall.

Our meeting with Rep. Heinrich was especially memorable because we managed to score a face-to-face meeting with our congressional representative.

The meeting did not take place at his office, but just outside the floor of the House of Representatives, where members of Congress cast their votes.

We were not even sure we were going to get a chance to meet with him because  his schedule was unexpectedly packed.  But he was determined to meet with us. It really made us feel that he took us seriously and did not feel like he could just brush us off to a staffer.

So, we were led down to the floor where we spent a few minutes talking about the major issue, the Earned Income Tax Credit. Rep. Heinrich was supportive of the tax credits but he did express some uncertainty about convincing other representatives who think those credits are a good place to balanced the budget but he said he was going to try.

We also spent some time talking about other initiatives that might help our state succeed and help those in poverty, which empowered me (Alicia) to continue my efforts to address hunger.  That one conversation with our representative ignited a fire within my heart to heal the impoverished in our community, spiritually and physically.

Our Senate meetings

Aide Derek Dorn at Sen. Jeff Bingaman's office said the senator was 100% supportive of these tax credits and he even felt like they should be expanded so more people could be included. He said the senator would fight to renew the tax credit.

The congressional aide at Sen. Tom Udall's office was also very supportive of the EITC and other tax credits.  She noted that despite the discussion about the national deficit, Sen. Udall position in support of the tax credits was very firm.

Hunger Justice Leaders Training
We were blessed to have the opportunity to attend the Hunger Jutice Leaders training on June 12-15.  We were among the 75 participants, ages 20 to 30, who took part in the program.  New Mexico was one of 34 different states represented.  There was also a wide spectrum of denominations and Christian faith traditions.  We are both Roman Catholic.

The training was an invaluable experience. The workshops, practice labs and covenant groups were interactive and spiritual, there wasn’t a day that we went without prayer or praise.  

My (Alicia) favorite workshop was a practice lab called "Mobilizing Teams" by LaVida Davis.  She showed us how to execute our ideas in forming a Bread team and helped us think outside the box and set realistic goals.

By the way, that's me (Debbie) pictured with our western regional field organizer Robin Stephenson.

Our Favorite Speaker
We agreed that our favorite speaker was Alexie Torres-Fleming, who spoke so humbly about her experiences and really touched our hearts.

Her story was powerful and inspiring because she had a conversion experience that gave her the strength to create change in one of New York's harshest neighborhoods. She spoke of suffering and the impact it had on her relationship with Christ, and with her community.

Our Faith Experiences
Alicia:  Being able to share our faith and pray and worship with other Christians regardless of our denomination was an experience that meant a lot to me because for the first time in my life, I felt what it truly meant to be in solidarity with others.

Not only was I in solidarity with my fellow Christian hunger Justice Leaders but we were in solidarity with Bread for the World and with the poor and hungry that benefit from the work of Bread for the World does. I am now looking forward to collaborating with the existing efforts of Bread in Albuquerque .

Debbie:  My experience with Bread for the World’s Hunger Justice Leader’s training was a true blessing.  In the past, I had always taken a prayerful approach to the problems that plague our world, and was comfortable.  When people approached me about events that required me to take a stand, I respectfully declined and instead spent my time in the church praying.  I feel this was a very transformative experience.

(Photos by Alicia Sedillo, Debbie Ruiz and Robin Stephenson)

No comments: