- Unitarian Universalism Connection
Considering the political climate in our country, it is vital for our youth to understand the workings of our government as well as citizens’ rights and responsibilities to petition their government to represent us all, including the “least” of us. Our LCUUC youth are engaged and ready to serve the poor and to speak out to our representatives in Washington.
This year our congregation has identified Economic Inequality as our social justice area of focus, and the youth chose to focus on this issue through relevant, hands-on, action-oriented experiences that will help them gain an understanding of the causes of poverty and a sense that they have the power to influence solutions. Eight youth and four adults will drive from Wisconsin to the Steinbruck Center in Washington, DC to expand understanding and leadership in this area.
The Steinbruck Center’s programs address the causes of homelessness through their Poverty Simulation, as well as giving participants an opportunity to directly help those affected. We will feed the hungry by volunteering at DC Central Kitchen, one of the largest soup kitchens in the country, where they recycle food and use it as a tool to help unemployed adults develop work skills, while providing thousands of meals for local service agencies in the process. The Center offers additional volunteer opportunities such as working at the community craft collective and assisting at the homeless shelter.
We are especially excited about the advocacy piece of the experience through direct lobbying of our congressional representatives, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, in whose district many of our families live. Too often, we can feel like we are applying band-aids to a problem without addressing the policies that created it. In DC, our youth will be trained on what to expect while lobbying and then spend an afternoon on The Hill meeting with our representatives in Congress to advocate on behalf of those who have been disenfranchised. The skills (and courage!) they learn will serve them well as they take their place as engaged adult citizens. If the recent election taught us anything it is that democracy cannot be a spectator sport. We hope this introduction to service and advocacy will result in a sense of agency that will last their entire lives.
*We set our fundraising goal with the idea that participants would still pay for part of their travel expenses. Any funds raised beyond our goal will be defray those costs evenly and be applied to experiences that require us to provide resources to the people we help.