In these tough economic times, many Americans question the rationale behind sending aid to other countries when we face a 9.2% unemployment rate and a multi-trillion dollar federal deficit. Many may agree that we should help others eventually, but it is sometimes difficult to see how we can help others while still helping ourselves. Thankfully, there are ways to help our faltering economy while still saving the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Step 1: Understand the Issues
Global poverty affects more than just those living in poverty. Impoverished regions represent entire areas untapped by U.S. businesses, and if people in these regions are raised out of poverty and able to make enough disposable income to afford goods beyond the bare minimum necessary for survival, they will buy U.S. exports. These regions could lead to billions of dollars of economic growth for the U.S. and result in the creation of millions of jobs. Approximately 40% of U.S. exports are currently going to developing countries, without those markets the effect on the economy would be unthinkable. Foreign aid is an investment in their future as well as ours.
Step 2: Take Action
Contact your congressional leaders by calling or writing a letter to them either in support of specific bills, or to generally ask that they support poverty-reduction legislation. U.S. government foreign aid is the most effective way to get money to the organizations that are helping. Because we live in a representative democracy our congressional leaders base their decisions in large part on the opinions and factors important to their constituents. Your opinion matters so make sure you get it heard! For an example of how to call your congressional leader, visit The Borgen Project’s YouTube page and watch some of the example phone calls.
Step 3: Mobilize
Tell your friends, family, and community that this is important to you and ask that they call their congressional leader in support of the bill or issues. Every congressional office has call sheets, tracking every single call, email, and letter coming in about every single issue. If even as few as 6 or 7 constituents call or write in support of a particular issue that will bring the issue to the attention of the congressional leader, and be more likely to sway their opinion to supporting it.
Step 4: Engage
Stay involved, and hold your congressional leaders accountable. Keep calling every week to keep the issue on their radar, and be on the lookout for new poverty reduction bills. Keep talking about the issues, particularly how preventable a problem it is.
Step 5: Aid As an Investment in the Future
Recognize that it is not a problem that can be solved overnight. The U.S. economy will not be fixed immediately, and the investment of foreign aid to reduce poverty in other regions and thus boost our economy will not result in immediate returns. Like any other investment, time is required for the full benefits to materialize, but do not doubt that they will materialize.
Step 6: Tips & Warnings
Visit The Borgen Project (www.borgenproject.org) for more information about poverty and poverty reduction to help convince family, friends, and congressional leaders about the importance of the issue.
There will be little short-term change, however it will result in lasting, sustainable change over the long run.