Volunteer Reflection: World Refugee Day 2020

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World Refugee Day, like most things, was very different this year. One of our volunteers (and LIRS Manager for Congregational Outreach) Sue Ellen Spotts reflects on her experience participating in our first-ever Virtual Advocacy Day. 

Sometimes advocacy is a choir rehearsal.

In recognition of World Refugee Day, delegations of LIRS supporters conducted virtual advocacy visits. For the delegations from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, the visits were friendly. This is sometimes referred to as “preaching to the choir” and not seen to have a lot of value. In this instance, I would suggest that what occurred was more like choir rehearsal. At choir rehearsal, the voices already know they are going to sing the same piece, but time is spent honing one’s own part, listening to others so the blend works, and practicing together so the final piece is as good as possible.

The Pennsylvania delegation brought their voices to a call with staff from Rep. Chrissy Houlahan’s (PA-6) office. We came to new understanding of the depth of her voice when we learned that she is the daughter of a refugee. In discussing the Berks County family detention center, we learned of the effort by Devereaux Corporation to operate a shelter in the county for unaccompanied minors. This gave us some new insights and information to incorporate into our voices.

The Massachusetts section of the choir spoke with staffers from the offices of Sen. Markey, Rep. Jim McGovern (PA-2) and Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-3). Again, the staffers often hummed along as the advocates “sang” their part. In some cases, it literally sounded like humming as they showed interest in the stories being shared (“Hmmmm”). We were repeatedly thanked for being in the choir, raising our voices along with the legislators. We were encouraged to keep our voice strong.

Senator Markey’s office explained that hearing the voices that align with the senator’s concerns is important. It is what helps to move the needle in support of change. We heard gratitude for being in support of legislation on permanent prohibition of expulsions at the border, and for LIRS’ assistance with language to support a robust Presidential Determination.

Advocates from Massachusetts shared stories of the positive contributions of immigrants in their communities. Rep. Trahan’s staffer appreciated hearing those notes, saying “It’s the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.”

As voices were lifted on our Virtual Advocacy Day, all participants had opportunity to hone their voice, understand and appreciate the other voices, and pick up tips for adding depth to our part. It was not preaching to the choir, it was assuring that our voices combined are stronger and clearer for others to hear and be moved to join.s

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