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Raise your voice

You have power to fight poverty by David M. Cook Special to the Democrat-Gazette | August 6, 2018 at 2:11 a.m.

Since 1990, nearly 100 million children around the world have been saved due to global efforts to reduce child mortality, and maternal deaths have been cut nearly in half. These successes are due in large part to leadership and contributions from the United States government.

Yet, each day, more than 17,000 children's lives and nearly 800 mother's lives are lost, due mostly to preventable causes.

I recently had the opportunity to join leaders and advocates from across the globe to have in-depth discussions with lawmakers about the U.S. response to global and domestic poverty issues. I was able to meet with all six of Arkansas' congressional delegation to discuss the instrumental part they play in policy decisions that will bring relief to the global community's most vulnerable citizens.

As Arkansans we are no strangers to issues of poverty, and we are familiar with stories of our neighbors who struggle to make ends meet and provide for their families. As a former minister I was very active in my church's response to assist the poor in our community. Organizations like the Choctaw Food Bank fueled my passion and were the inspiration to continue my fight to alleviate suffering and poverty, not only in my own backyard but across the globe.

In my time as a volunteer with the food bank, the narrative of poverty began to shift for me in a powerful way as I built relationships with the clientele whose needs were being met by this organization. That is one of the many reasons why, when RESULTS.ORG reached out to me to partner in their work, I answered the call.

RESULTS is a movement of volunteers and advocates from across the globe who use their voices to influence policy decisions that will help bring relief to those who are suffering in poverty across the globe. It was empowering to hear from advocates who not only chose to volunteer their time to raise their voices to support ending poverty but also shared their own stories of experiences in impoverished conditions that inspired them to get involved.

One of the many issues that I was advocating for was the REACH Act (HR4022/S1730). If this act becomes law, it will empower the U.S. to become a leader in foreign aid and set as a budget priority to end child and maternal deaths from preventable diseases across the globe. The REACH Act will also create more accountability and transparency in the foreign aid budget and ensure that the U.S. investment in foreign relief is delivering a measurable impact on the people that need it most. The REACH Act is a more fiscally responsible way to bring much-needed relief to the impoverished global community.

It was refreshing to meet with each of our elected officials and hear from them about their deep concerns on these important issues. What was even more empowering was to learn that the Arkansas delegation is being called upon to play a critical role to ensuring that this act becomes law. Sen. Tom Cotton's office informed me recently that he has agreed to become a co-sponsor of this critical piece of legislation. My words are insufficient to explain the emotions that were accompanied by that news. When his staff told me the news they also added, "Thank you for stopping by and putting this on our radar. Had you not brought this to our attention, the senator would not have taken action."

That story is only meant to tell you that regardless of the issues that you are passionate about, your voice matters and you have influence.

I would like to invite you to join me in thanking Senator Cotton, Rep. Bruce Westerman, and Rep. Steve Womack for their co-sponsorship of this bill. I would ask you to call their offices and thank them for their support. Too often our elected officials only hear from us when we want something from them and we forget that they spend time away from their families and work tirelessly for you. I would also like you to call Sen. John Boozman, Rep. French Hill, and Rep. Rick Crawford's offices and ask them to sign on to this legislation.

Our elected officials need to hear from you on this issue. The Arkansas delegation has a unique opportunity to be a leading voice on alleviating poverty across the globe, but they won't get there without hearing that they have support back home.

My time in each of their offices reminded me that they all care about issues relating to poverty and, though we might sometimes disagree on the avenue to get there, they are caring men of faith whose personal convictions about people influence their decisions. They also care about the voice of their constituents and really do want to hear from you. Rep. Hill sat down with us for nearly a half-hour and asked specific questions about the challenges that I face as a councilman in Shirley and some of the issues that I work on in state policy.

They really care about the voice of everyday Arkansans.


David M. Cook is a resident of Shirley and is a volunteer advocate for RESULTS.

Editorial on 08/06/2018

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