Clare Dickson, group leader for the RESULTS Aylesbury group recounts her experience of the annual RESULTS International Conference, which she attended last month in Washington DC.
Capitol Reflecting Pool, Washington DC. A fitting place for reflection during my last few days here, and fortunately much quieter and calmer than I’ve become used to here. The RESULTS International Conference – 4 days packed with impressive speakers, some all-American enthusiasm, a hot but scenic evening run, and hundreds of passionate and inspiring advocates from around the world – is over far too soon.
Ending poverty is a huge and multi-faceted task, and everyone here knows it. Yet they’ve come from across the US and around the world, to share their stories, to meet like-minded activists, to hear from the experts and to engage their representatives in the fight for change. Big names this weekend have included Dr Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, Mark Dybul of the Global Fund, Ambassador Tony Hall of the Alliance to End Hunger and many more. It’s been an amazing opportunity to hear from world leaders coming into the global poverty debate from so many different angles.
It’s also been an opportunity to hear real people’s experiences in advocacy and campaigning, and also their stories of poverty and international aid. Loyce Maturu lost her mother and brother to HIV when she was 9 years old. Four years later, she found that she also had HIV. The suffering she went through in the next few years, with abuse from her family due to her HIV causing her to attempt suicide, is more than I can imagine. Today, Loyce is a global advocate for HIV survivors on the board of the Global Fund and has been a volunteer counsellor for other young people with HIV and other diseases. She speaks passionately and emotively about the life-saving treatment and psychological support she received from the Global Fund, to help others like her to receive the same. Our lives and experiences are wildly different, but I know that our passion and our goals are the same. She has achieved so much that it is hard to believe that, like me, Loyce is 24 years old.
As a new Group Leader, I’m keen to take my experiences home to help RESULTS in Aylesbury and across the UK to learn from the successes of the inspiring advocates and experts I’ve met over the last few days. Workshops to help me with this have included leadership skills, network mapping, keeping volunteers engaged and developing relationships with political representatives, leaving me full of ideas and keen to get started. Results in the US is so different to back home- more so than I was expecting- but there’s still so much we can learn from each other. Advocates here have a confidence and unquestioning enthusiasm which is in many ways enviable, whilst also making me appreciate the reserved, more cynical approach I’ve become used to.
The last day of the conference had us putting our skills to good use as the US groups travelled to Capitol Hill to meet their representatives, and groups from the rest of the world set off to the World Bank for their country meetings. Not wanting to miss out, I did both. I spent the morning as a ‘Hoosier’ with the Indiana group, before racing to the World Bank to meet the Canadian and UK executives – I guess I’ve got used to packing my days as full as possible! We came prepared, with personal stories, relevant background knowledge, specific asks and handy take-away sheets, and left with that amazing feeling of having contributed to real change.
It’s been an intense, diverse and fascinating weekend that’s left me with a lot to think about, and too many inspirational speakers and soundbites to mention. Lawrence Haddad, lead author of the Global Nutrition Report, spoke about the ability of our efforts to “make malnutrition something our children read about in history books.” Linda Mafu, Head of Civil Society at the Global Fund, was confident that we can overcome global poverty, “in our own lifetime…We do not have to get to a point of desperation again.” These confident dreams for an end to global poverty were thrown out to a room full of passionate, engaged global volunteers who were only too eager to chase them, to catch them, and to make them a reality together.