Why I Care About Water: NancyWe asked some Women of Vision to share why they care about water and are advocating for the Water for the World Act. Here, Nancy Johns from Columbia-Willamette Women of Vision shares her answer.
WOV: How did you become involved with Women of Vision?
I’m Nancy Johns, the International Committee Co-Chair for Columbia-Willamette Women of Vision (CWWOV). I’ve been a part of CWWOV for about 7 years. I was familiar with World Vision before that since my church, Columbia Presbyterian, in Vancouver, WA has partnered with World Vision since 1998, and still is, in Senegal, West Africa.
WOV: How did you first become engaged in advocacy?
I’ve been on the Senegal Mission Team at Columbia for some time and in a certain way, have been advocating for that project(s) for a while. Several years ago, I attended a Women of Vision Conference in Washington, D.C. where we had the opportunity to meet our Representatives. I “caught the bug” of advocacy! I loved Jesse Eaves’ (World Vision Policy Advisor) comment that our Representatives work for us and we have every right to tell them how we feel! The World Vision staff who trained us in being good lobbyists was great and I was off and running.
WOV: Why do you view water as a crucial issue today?
I know that water is one of the first steps to providing sustainable transformation in communities. I’ve seen that first hand in Senegal where we started with water, then education, and so forth. Like I say to folks, “You’ve got to be kidding me, how can you be against folks having clean water!” Of course, I know the issue gets more complicated but, it’s a great foundation!
WOV: When did you hear about the Water for the World Act?
Our CWWOV Advocacy Chair does a great job making us aware of World Vision advocacy actions like the Water for the World campaign so I’d already sent in the postcards urging my representatives to get on board.
WOV: What steps have you made to engage in advocacy for this issue? And what encouragements or discouragements have you faced along the way?
I’ve listened to the various WOV topical conference calls and especially the one on Advocacy and the Water for the World Act. I decided that I’d do what I could! Since this time the bill was focused in the House, I decided to approach Jaime Herrera-Beutler, my representative. I had meet her during her first term when I was in DC and had thought then that I should get to know her Vancouver staff but had just never done anything about it. So, I put a plan together with the help of the tools on the World Vision Advocacy website.
I had Advocacy send me 50 postcards. I attached a personal note to each one explaining my plan to visit and deliver them to the local office and changed the mailing address to my own. They I handed them out to friends—at church where we have over 70 people who have physically been to Senegal and among work colleagues. I did not try to mobilize the church as a congregation. We just are pretty careful to not “get political” so I just approached friends with the handout, said read it and if you want to participate sign and mail back. Within a week I had 25-30 cards back!
Meanwhile, I set up a meeting with the local office knowing I would not meet Jamie herself but with a staffer. Now comes the “God part.” Turns out on the advocacy call, Lisa Bos, from World Vision, shared that one of Jamie’s D.C. staffers was about to go on a Vision Trip to Kenya with WV!! So I set my meeting to coincide with her return and when I meet the local staffer, we conference called in Jessica, the DC staffer. The three of us talked for 30 minutes about water, the Act, and her trip. I continue to follow up with her. I directly asked for Jamie to co-sponsor and told the staffers that I represented a number of folks through my involvement at Women of Vision and at church who were anxious to know her position. I am continuing to tell folks about it all, and see what other leverage we might find that will encourage her to get on board. She has a decidedly domestic focus so it is important that she realizes her constituents care about international, humanitarian policy as well.
WOV: What encouragement would you give to women who aren’t sure how to begin advocating?
I can’t encourage other WOV enough to just start. Call one of us who has done it; use the Advocacy gals in Federal Way, they are great! Find a way to share your personal conviction and story. Talking with the D.C. staffer about what it was like to pull and carry water made our connection very real.
Women of Vision is joining World Vision in its goal for the Girls Count Act and the Water for the World Act to pass before the end of the 113th Congress on January 3, 2015. Join us on September 9th to add your voice!