From left, Ethan Touch (Tennessee), Sina Sam (Washington), Kham Moua (Minnesota), and Seng Vang (California) work together during the “Creating Compelling Narratives” workshop. (SEARAC photos)
The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center’s Leadership and Advocacy Training on July 24-26 brought together 75 advocates, including nine Minnesotans, to the nation’s capital to speak and build relationships with their elected representatives.
In the midst of this turbulent political climate, SEARAC believes that this is a critical time for elected officials to hear from their constituents on issues that affect Southeast Asian American communities.
Now in its 13th year, SEARAC’s Leadership and Advocacy Training is a three day intensive training guiding local community members on how to engage and participate in the political process. During the training, participants networked and strategized with colleagues from around the country.
The participants engaged in dialogue with experts and leaders on the advocacy process and created their own messages on immigration, aging, healthcare, and education access to take to Capitol Hill.
Saharla Sala, from the Center for Asian and Pacific Islanders in Minneapolis, was a previous participant in the education track when SEARAC held its Leadership and Advocacy Training in the Twin Cities in 2009. During this first training in 2009, she visited a legislative office for the first time ever.
Sala has traveled on several legislative visits since and has even testified at a hearing against cuts to programs that eliminate health disparities. Sala was able to use skills from the Leadership and Advocacy training not only at work, but also in her personal life.
“When my kids went to Head Start, and I found out that the program might be facing cuts, I was a vocal advocate against the cuts,” said Sala. “Without the SEARAC training, I wouldn’t have had the information to engage in dialogue with school board members.”
Sala had the opportunity to return to train with SEARAC this year on issues that affect elderly populations. Upon completing her second training with SEARAC, she says, “One thing that I’ve learned in visiting offices at the federal level in Washington, DC is the power of working together. If we speak collectively with one voice, then Congress has no choice but to listen to us.”
Kham Moua, a recent graduate of Winona State University, appreciated the opportunity at SEARAC’s Leadership and Advocacy Training to network with colleagues from throughout the nation.
“Overall, the training was a great experience, especially meeting all the people there,” said Moua. “Seeing advocates and meeting them and learning what they are doing across the country was really invigorating–it made me want to keep doing what I’m doing. Sometimes in this line of work [advocacy], you hit a lot of roadblocks and it can seem hopeless, but meeting people who are very optimistic and want do this work, it just makes me want to keep pushing forward.”
SEARAC is proud to bring together leaders of all ages and backgrounds to improve their advocacy skills on behalf of Southeast Asian American and other under-served communities. With policies being made and passed through law every day, the voices of Southeast Asian Americans must be heard if we are to take steps toward a just society for all.
The training is generously supported by AT&T, Southwest, and State Farm. To learn more about SEARAC’s Leadership and Advocacy Training or about how you can participate in next year’s training, visit http://www.searac.org/content/leadership-and-advocacy-training-lat or contact [email protected].