Advocacy Stories

Students Meet with U.S. Congressmen and Staff to Share Christian Perspective

November 14, 2015

by Kathy Erb

Liberty University student Olubunmi Sharon Obayemi said she always wanted to be a Christian voice encouraging U.S. leaders to support health care for women and children in need. In October 2015 she got her chance when she came to Washington, DC along with other Liberty students participating in an Advocacy Day organized by CCIH. Olubunmi is in her first year at the university studying for an MPH degree with a concentration in Global Health.

Students met with two Representatives and staff members of the offices of two Senators and another House Member on October 23. The day before the visits, students attended an advocacy training conducted by CCIH and hosted by IMA World Health at its Washington, DC office.

The student advocates met with Dr. Jody Hice, (Republican-10th District of Georgia) (pictured above with students) who served as a Baptist Pastor for 25 years, and Congressman Mark Walker (Republican-6th District of North Carolina), who is also a Baptist pastor. In addition, the students met with staff from the offices of Congresswoman Kay Granger (Republican-12th District of Texas) and Representative Ander Crenshaw (Republican-4th District of Florida) both serving on the House Appropriations Committee; as well as staff members from the offices of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (Republican-West Virginia) and Senator Joni Ernst (Republican-Iowa).

In the meetings, Olubunmi shared statistics of women and children dying of preventable illnesses worldwide and the importance of U.S. foreign assistance through USAID and the U.S. State Department, especially in maternal and child health. “But we still have more to do,” she says. “There are more lives we can save and we should continue to support women and children.”

Fellow advocate and Liberty student Diana Tsra explained the importance of family planning as a strategy to reduce maternal and child deaths. “CCIH’s definition of family planning includes the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, excluding abortion, and many women in developing countries do not have access to family planning,” she said. Diana said she felt the Congressmen and the staff were very receptive and engaging and wanted to hear from her. Liberty MPH student Saba Lemma said she was excited to be able to boldly state her support for family planning and discuss it from a Christian perspective, explaining the clear distinction from abortion.

Students shown above with Representative Mark Walker.

Student Tobechukwu Udeigbo also found the legislators very open to meeting with the students. “I was impressed that, somewhere in their busy schedule, they (the legislators) made time to meet with students and hear our views. I was totally flabbergasted when I saw that young people like me were working directly with their representatives,” said Tobechukwu. “It was very inspiring to witness because I believe that all hands must be on deck to create a world where we become more compassionate and sensitive to the needs of one another. By coming together and targeting global, national, and local issues as one entity, rather than separate bodies, we can truly make a significant change in our living experience and the world at large.”

Tobechukwu believes the advocacy experience on Capitol Hill gave her experience in public health outside the classroom. “I recognized that inasmuch as global health focuses on developing and implementing culturally competent health programs, policies are necessary to make a greater impact on the lives of the poor,” she said. “This means that when I become a public health educator, it is my responsibility to not only focus on changing human behavior by developing health promotion programs; but to also educate policymakers on health issues such as cancer, maternal and child health, family planning, obesity, diabetes and smoking.”

“Before this student advocacy day trip I was just another U.S. citizen going to school full time, with not a great amount of knowledge of health and how the government plays a role,” said MPH student Megan May. “Now that I have participated in the advocacy trip I have a better understanding and appreciation for politics, the U.S. government, and how it all works together in support of healthcare in not only the United States but globally as well. As a citizen this is something I should have known, but until really getting in the trenches of Capitol Hill it was just not on my radar.”

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