At a time when life should be most carefree, being a child in the state of Florida is fraught with challenges.
Statewide, some 800,000 children live below the poverty level, which is defined as a family of four surviving on less than $22,000 annually. The ingredients for a happy childhood — good health, safe living conditions and a quality education— all suffered setbacks as last year’s state budgets reduced funding for programs promoting children’s healthcare and education and community programs aimed at crime prevention and keeping kids out of jail.
In an effort to improve the odds for Florida’s children, state agencies, nonprofits and corporate and faith-based organizations participate in Children’s Week, an annual six-day gathering at Florida’s state capital to promote children’s issues and celebrate the progress and achievements of the state’s youngest residents.
During the annual event, which this year begins Sunday, January 29, The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and the 11th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church will partner with Florida Impact and United Way to host Florida Advocacy Days on January 30-31.
This annual legislative briefing during the 2012 observance of Children's Week will provide resources and training to prepare participants to meet personally with elected officials regarding children’s issues.
“It’s an eye-opening experience,” said Tammy Fisher, Project Coordinator/Florida Advocacy Days for the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. “Before I began coordinating FAD, I was never involved in advocacy – it was something I thought somebody else can do. But FAD has changed my mind and opened my eyes that there is more at stake than my little corner of the world.”
Trinity United Methodist Church in Tallahassee will host Florida Advocacy Days, which include a newcomer’s orientation, briefings on the issues, a march to the Capitol and lots of prayer.
In fact, Bishop Timothy Whitaker will host a prayer breakfast on the second day of FAD. During his ministry, Bishop Whitaker was involved in several community service agencies, including tutoring inner-city children. The prayer breakfast marks his last before his retirement at the end of August.
“When I learned about the issues during the training sessions at FAD, I was surprised to discover that even the bills that seem to me to be ‘no brainers’ were not being passed,” said Fisher. “It’s because our representatives do not totally understand how these issues impact our children or because children’s issues have ‘no voice.’ That just seems absurd to me!”
|Bishops Timothy W. Whitaker and McKinley Young wait to speak at a news conference outside the State Capitol on April 5, 2011|
While the event has relevance for anyone - clergy and laity alike - involved in children’s ministries, Fisher says everyone should attend because it impacts our state’s most precious yet vulnerable resource – something we are called by God to protect.
“Proverbs 31:8 says ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy,’” she quoted, adding, “this event has shown me how really important that is.”
To make it convenient, Florida Advocacy Days organizers have a list of available accommodations and offer easy registration by mail or online at http://www.flumc2.org/events/detail/3692
Registration costs $50, and the deadline is January 20. Registration for other Children's Week events, such as the Partnership Dinner & Reception Monday evening is separate and not included in the registration for Florida Advocacy Days. Visit www.childrensweek.org to register for the dinner and reception at an additional cost.
“Christians are called to be the voices speaking up for our children and families in need,” says Fisher. “In the three years I have been the FAD coordinator, I have witnessed some amazing individuals who are determined to talk to their representatives to advocate for those in poverty across our state. But we need more voices! I hope and pray more folks will hear the call and come help us in Tallahassee, January 30-31. Not only does this help those we minister to, it will also open your eyes to a bigger picture of ministry. I know it did mine.”
For more information contact Tammy Fisher, Project Coordinator
Phone (800) 282-8011, Ext. 182 or firstname.lastname@example.org