June 24, 2004
|UMNS photo by Pat Rogers
carrying letters in support of funding for worldwide hunger relief
projects pose with Lindsey Neas (second from right), an aide to Sen. Jim
By Pat Rogers*
(UMNS) -- The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church is
lobbying Capitol Hill to keep federal funds flowing to poor and
disease-ravaged countries around the world.
Kreamer, coordinator of the conference’s “The Mozambique Initiative,”
and Peggy Eshelman, the conference’s social justice coordinator, visited
Washington June 22 to hand-deliver more than 700 letters to 11 Missouri
The letters were written by Missouri’s United
Methodist congregations in an effort to influence their senators and
representatives to help poor countries in Africa and the Caribbean.
letters were delivered as part of Bread for the World’s “Offering of
Letters,” where members of a church congregation or other entities write
letters to Congress in support of hunger-fighting legislation. Bread
for the World is a nonprofit, hunger-related organization and this was
the first time that the Missouri Annual Conference participated in the
and Eshelman – along with Tom Wehrman and Scott Benolkin from Bread for
the World – met with legislative aides for each member of Missouri’s
legislative delegation, including Republican Sen. Jim Talent’s aide,
Lindsey Neas. June 22 was Bread for the World’s annual “Lobby Day.”
listened to Kreamer and Eshelman’s pitch for more than 20 minutes and
received 130 letters from Talent’s constituents. “The most effective way
to get your voice heard,” he said, “is to come in with a strong,
merit-based argument and to propose a specific solution to the problem.”
pair used the letter-writing campaign to urge lawmakers to fully fund
the Millennium Challenge Account, or MCA, and other HIV/AIDS spending.
The Bush administration proposed the MCA in 2002 to help poor but
developing countries in Africa and the Caribbean. The program calls for
funding to those countries to climb to $5 billion by 2006 – a 50 percent
increase over current U.S. core development assistance.
|UMNS photo by Peter Williams
World Council of Churches
Villagers in Inhambane Chicome, Mozambique, carry water containers to the nearest well.
But, the MCA also
requires the recipient countries to “rule justly, invest in their
people, and encourage economic freedom” and 16 countries thus far have
met those requirements. “It is a tough-love approach to foreign aid,”
Neas said. “You have to have controls in place, there has to be efficacy
MCA passed Congress with bipartisan support but Kreamer and Eshelman
want to make sure lawmakers fully fund the project without taking money
from other humanitarian aid programs to pay for it.
also pushed for Congressional support for President Bush’s $15 billion,
five-year plan to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa. “We just want to make sure
that Congress helps President Bush fulfill the promises he made,”
Eshelman told Neas.
million people around the world are infected with HIV/AIDS and as many
as 80 percent of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. “The average life
expectancy is 45 years,” Kreamer said. “By 2010, it will be 35 years; by
2015, it will be 31 years if the HIV infection rate isn’t slowed.
countries need everything,” she added. “From clean water, to medicine
to schools and infrastructure, they need our help and without it they
are going to die.”
Kreamer, a first-time Capitol Hill lobbyist, walking the halls of
Congress and pressing her issue was somewhat unnerving. “I was a little
intimidated,” she admitted. “You are going into offices of people you
were walking the halls of Congress as well. The Missouri United
Methodists were competing for face time and legislative commitments with
far more powerful lobbyists representing wealthy corporations.
the competition, Kreamer was not deterred. “Ordinary people can
advocate, and we are advocates for those who don’t have power, who don’t
have money, and we think we’ve been heard,” she said.
To learn more about Bread for the World or the Offering of Letters, visit the Website www.bread.org.
*Rogers is a writer and producer based in Washington.
News media contact can Linda Green (615) 742-5470 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.