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Summit on the Hill: Conference equips college students in advocacy skills

Acting on AIDS chapter members from across the United States receive training and meet congressional leaders to speak out in support of children affected by AIDS.

June 2008

Solange's eyes light up as she reads through her sponsor's letter with Beatrice Bakayirere, her World Vision sponsorship worker.
Students from New York participating in the Acting on AIDS Summit on the Hill go over their notes one last time before meeting with Sen. Charles Schumer. Photo courtesy of Katie Doner.
Acting on AIDS — an advocacy program initiated by Christian college students and supported by World Vision — just completed its first Summit on the Hill, a combined student leadership conference and lobby day.

Some 90 college students gathered in Washington, D.C., May 19-21, for the successful event that culminated in a meeting with lawmakers to speak on behalf of children worldwide who suffer at the hands of today's greatest humanitarian crisis.

Conference details

"At the conference, students were able to talk with World Vision staff and learn more about what we're trying to accomplish in our AIDS advocacy efforts. They began to understand the challenges we face, met with congressional leaders, and shared their hearts," says James Pedrick, World Vision's Acting on AIDS advocacy adviser.

Organized and executed in conjunction with Micah Challenge International and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the summit featured three break-out sessions presented by:

  • Steve Hass, World Vision Vice President of Church Relations;
  • Aaron Graham, national field organizer and justice revival coordinator for Sojourners; and
  • Artist Scott Erickson, a World Vision staff member and director of the Boston Faith and Justice Network, who coordinated several workshops.

The sessions covered a variety of issues for students to discuss, including integrating political advocacy into their daily lives, focusing on their Christian faith and calling, and starting advocacy movements on their college campuses.

Lobby day a highlight

A voice for the voiceless

Watch a video about the Acting on AIDS Summit on the Hill that took place last month in Washington, D.C.

On the lobby day, students met with congressional members and their staff to request quick Senate passage of the Global AIDS, TB and Malaria Bill. The legislation passed the House of Representatives on April 2. However, it is set to expire this year if it is not reauthorized.

This vital legislation helps to ensure that children are not left behind in the fight against malaria and global AIDS. World Vision supports this bill's reauthorization, including 10 percent of funds to be set aside for the care of orphans and vulnerable children.

The lobby day culminated in a concert by Christian recording artist Derek Webb.

"The most valuable experience was the actual lobbying day," says Pedrick. "Students were immersed in the entire advocacy process; they were able to see how a bill gets passed and how the political process works. You could see them begin to understand why advocacy and speaking up on these issues is so important.

"It was great to see students gaining confidence, empowered to go back to their campuses to be knowledgeable advocates. They also have a greater sense of urgency in why it's important to get involved in promoting measures like the Global AIDS Bill."

Learn more

>> For more information about Summit on the Hill, please e-mail Acting on AIDS.
>> Check out the Acting on AIDS Web site.
>> Read more about Micah Challenge International, the organization with whom Acting on AIDS staff worked to ensure the success of this month's Summit on the Hill.

Two ways you can help

>> Thank God for the collective voice of these students in speaking out for AIDS-affected children worldwide who have no voice. Pray that students' advocacy skills will sharpen and that they would continue to serve as powerful representatives for children who suffer at the hands of this ruthless pandemic.
>> Join with Acting on AIDS students: Ask Congress to swiftly reauthorize the Global AIDS, TB and Malaria Bill and ensure that care for children is prioritized.

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