On Tuesday, February 26, a wave of neon green shirts descended on Capitol Hill. More than 700 representatives visited their states' senators and state representatives to advocate in the Lobby Days for Northern Uganda.
Before taking the Hill, participants met beforehand to go over tips on lobbying. The crowd greeted Grace Akallo, a former child soldier, with a standing ovation worthy of rock star. "War/Dance is real, not just a movie." she told them.
Then the teams were off. The gray skies and drizzle outside only served to make their green shirts more vibrant and noticeable. People in the halls of the Senate office building stopped team members to ask about their cause.
Kathleen, from the West Virginia team said, "I didn't know that much about the issue before coming here, but I learned so much."
Jessy and Jenny from Colorado are young mothers. "I most certainly don't want to get to heaven and tell God that, you know, I didn't do what You told me to do. You told us to help the widows and the orphans. I didn't do anything. I just had a great life in America all by myself," Jenny says. "There has to be some point where people feel accountable for the atrocities going on and feel like you need to do something about that."
Jessy said she knows a lot about the crisis in Darfur, but first learned about Uganda by watching the movie Invisible Children in a social work class at Colorado State University. Jessy seeks to raise awareness with her clothing and bag line called "Who Cares." The bags and clothing carry attention-grabbing phrases that provide a jumping-off point to start a conversation. She then donates half the net profits to causes.
Near the end of the day, they met up with their district's representative, Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, who told the entire Colorado group, "I'm proud of you for doing this."
Wendy and Patricia, from Massachusetts, felt called to do something about the crisis in northern Uganda when Grace Akallo came to speak at their church. The two friends journeyed to Washington, D.C. to learn more about the issue so they can share with their church the Sunday they return. They hope that what they share will encourage the church members to "put their faith in action in northern Uganda," Patricia said.
"I wish more people could see how active the youth are," she continued. "We get a lot of bad news about youth in the news. You don't hear so much about the positive."
Wendy said, "I've never attempted anything like this. They made it easy for non-advocates. You're not facing your senator all by yourself."
At day's end, Alison Jones of Resolve Uganda thanks the group and says, "This is the largest lobby event ever for an African Initiative. Thank you!" She tells the group that their efforts have definitely been noticed. She talked to Senator Feingold (D-CA) earlier in the day (a co-author, along with Senator Brownback (R-KS), of a letter urging the U.S. Government to allocate funds to northern Uganda), who said, "I've seen a ton of green shirts on the Hill. Thank you for what you're doing."
The success of the Lobby Days can be seen on multiple levels. The event reached out to people across the generations. People feel more knowledgeable about the crisis now. The prospect of being advocates and lobbyists for their cause is not quite so intimidating anymore. "I'm definitely going to write follow-up letters," said Jake, from Ohio.
The most important result of the Lobby Days for Northern Uganda is that the voices of all the people in vibrant green t-shirts could help secure financial aid from the U.S. Government so the Acholi people in northern Uganda can return to their homes and live with dignity.
Posted by Larry Short on behalf of Laura Reinhardt in Washington D.C. Laura is Assignment Editor for World Vision in the United States and has just completed her coverage of Lobby Days for Northern Uganda.