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Reach for RESULTS

Earlier this week, we were invited to attend the RESULTS conference in Washington D.C. An important A Path Appears partner, RESULTS is an organization that brings together a group of passionate, committed everyday people. Together they use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty.

Almost 600 volunteers and activists came together this week to receive training, support, and inspiration to become skilled advocates. Then we took the capitol by storm! The activists had set up meetings with the office of U.S. House Representatives. And as it turns out, 97% of those representatives say that the number one influencing factor on their policy decisions are the visits they receive from their constituents, a phone call or letter comes in second.

We were fortunate to join the New York team on their rounds to talk to Representatives and their aids about the Reach Act. If you’ve followed us since Half the Sky, then you will know that each year, 5.9 million children still die of mainly preventable and treatable causes before their fifth birthday — that’s 11 children every minute. That’s not even counting the mothers who lose their lives in the process of birth, which often times is just a result of limited access to healthcare.

RESULTS advocates before kicking off a day on Capitol Hill

RESULTS advocates before kicking off a day on Capitol Hill

Members of Congress from both parties have quietly come together in support of the health of mothers and children worldwide through the Reach Every Mother and Child Act. If Congress persists and passes the Reach Act, it will change everything for millions of mothers and children. This legislation aims to end unnecessary maternal and child deaths by 2035.

The experience in itself was empowering and enlightening. Not only did we learn a lot about how our process works to shape new laws, but we were pleasantly surprised at the disposition of our representatives to make time to meet with us. Luckily, those we were able to visit were either already on board with the bill or looking forward to signing on. But then again, who doesn’t want to help mothers and kids?

If you feel strongly about a topic, like maternal and child health or any issue near and dear to you, you don’t have to wait for a bill to come in for consideration. You can write your own, and the folks at RESULTS know just how to help you get it in front of the right people. You can learn more about RESULTS here: www.results.org

And if you’d like to learn more about the Reach Act, you can read more about here: www.results.org/issues/maternal_and_child_health

We hope you’ll also take it a step further and call your representative to talk to him/her or someone in their office about why this matters to you, and why they should support it.

“Sex Trafficking in the U.S.A.”: Keep Shining a Light

The end of the film

On January 26, 2015, episode one of A Path Appears, “Sex Trafficking in the U.S.A.” aired on screens across the nation. The story began and ended for viewers around the world in under two hours; however, the harsh reality of sex trafficking continues — to this day — to affect victims across the nation.

The story

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 3,093 reports of sex trafficking in 2015 alone. Over 90 percent of the cases reported were of women, and 35 percent were children. Globally, the International Labour Organization estimates that 4.5 million individuals are forced into sexual exploitation each year. Ninety-eight percent of these individuals are women, and 20 percent are children.

In the United States, prostitution is distinguished from sex trafficking in that prostitution does not involve external force or coercion. Under this definition, approximately 47,598 individuals were arrested for prostitution in 2014. However, studies have found that nearly 80 percent of women charged with prostitution are coerced or forced into sexual exploitation. Women engaged in sex work typically enter the industry when they are 12 to 16-years-old.

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Thistle Farms has found that, on average, residents and graduates first experience sexual abuse between the ages of 7-11 and first use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism as early as age 13. These women spend an average of 10 years on the street before finding freedom. All of Thistle Farms’ residents and graduates have survived rape and/or sexual abuse. For the majority of women, sex work is not a choice. It is one piece of an aggressive cycle that often includes abuse, drug addiction, homelessness, and selling one’s body out of desperation.

Changing the story

At Thistle Farms, we continue to break this cycle by providing housing, physical and emotional healing, and employment to survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution in Nashville, TN. As a result, the stories of survivors change. Eighty-four percent of residents at Thistle Farms graduate the two-year residential program clean and sober; since 2005, 62 percent of graduates of the residential program have remained in stable housing, are working, and are sober. In 2015, alone, residents and graduates employed at Thistle Farms social enterprises earned a combined total of $825,000 in income.

Thistle Farms

Why show the film?

The challenge to the viewer, and to each of us, is to not let the story end once the film is over. Keep showing the film, because if you do it will change a life. When A Path Appears premiered on January 26th, Thistle Farms’ website welcomed 6,934 visitors in one day, attracting over 3,470 new Facebook fans and garnering record online product sales. As a result, it was a monumental day and an incredible year for the residents and graduates at Thistle Farms: Anika purchased her first home; Kristin drove her children to school for the first time; Lori relished her first glimpse of the ocean; and Jovita spoke in front of a crowd of hundreds.

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These survivor-leaders’ stories are changing because of you. The cycle is being broken, and women at Thistle Farms are finding freedom.

Get involved and become a Social Good Ambassador today! And find out how you can get a grant to screen A Path Appears on your campus: showofforce.com/ambassador-screening-grants.

Your voice matters on Capitol Hill

A friend of mine took her first job in a congressional office this spring, after many years working in D.C. “What surprised you most behind the scenes on Capitol Hill?” I asked her just a few weeks into the new role. Without missing a beat, she answered, “How much influence just one constituent can have.”

That’s not the standard line about Washington. But it’s the one I hear every day in my job at RESULTS. I hear it from our volunteers across the country who experience the same thing from the other side – as constituents.

People like Barbara in Miami, Ginnie in Columbus, and Andy in Tacoma are the heart of RESULTS, a movement of passionate, committed everyday people. Each of them is that “one constituent” asking local members of Congress to prioritize the things that matter: things like health, education, and economic opportunity. Together they use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty.

RESULTS volunteers on the steps of the U.S. Capitol

RESULTS volunteers on the steps of the U.S. Capitol

When our volunteers call their members of Congress, it’s not from a fancy lobbying firm. It’s from their cell phones, on their lunch breaks, or between classes. And when they meet their members of Congress, it’s as a voter who Congress was elected to represent.

It’s not always easy at first; but they get detailed training and support from RESULTS staff in Washington and a network of volunteers across the country. Minh, a graduate student in Houston, had never spoken to a member of Congress at this time last year. After practicing all night for one of his first congressional meetings, he said, “I was nervous to the point that I was visibly shaking.”

Minh went anyway. And he got hooked. A year later, Minh’s already had a whopping 12 face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and another 16 with their staff.

Volunteers learn to work with the media, too. Last year, I watched in awe as Bob got published in the New York Times, Lisa was in the Washington Post, and Willie was in TIME magazine. They’re not PR professionals or journalists. They’re volunteers writing their letters and op-eds at home, often with multiple drafts and tracked changes (kind of like how I’m writing this blog post).

Volunteer advocates bringing their message on vaccines to the U.S. Senate

Volunteer advocates bringing their message on vaccines to the U.S. Senate

Not more than a year ago, a volunteer told me she was almost in tears because writing her first letter to the editor seemed so daunting. Since then she’s had over a dozen published in the biggest papers in her state.

They do all this because they’ve seen the power of advocacy: by helping shift government policies and investments, their work touches the lives of millions.

Our volunteers come to RESULTS for all different reasons…

  • Some collect donations for local food pantries, and now also push Congress to support SNAP (formerly “food stamps”), a program helping millions of hardworking American families put food on the table.
  • Others trick-or-treated for UNICEF as kids. Now they ask Congress to do its part by investing billions of dollars in the world’s most vulnerable children.
  • A handful of them are even teachers who spend their days in the classroom, and spend their nights calling on the President to support quality education for all.

And their voices are changing the world. Just this last year, RESULTS advocates helped fight back billions of dollars in proposed cuts to SNAP. They helped secure landmark investments from our government to support the world making sure every child has access to vaccines and every child has access to education. Together they’re helping make the end of poverty a bipartisan priority, call-by-call, letter-by-letter, meeting-by-meeting.

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How about you? What issues do you care about? Want to multiply your impact across the country and around the world?

Join us at the RESULTS International Conference next month in Washington, D.C., to learn new skills, meet advocates from around the world, and take your message straight to Capitol Hill. Don’t know how advocacy works? Come anyway – we’ll learn together.

**Exclusive A Path Appears discount for the RESULTS Conference, enter “IC100” at registration.

About the blogger

Colin Smith is the Director of Communications for RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Every day he gets to come to work to support a network of passionate, committed every-day people across the country who are using their voices to change the world.