Written by Meagan Heber
A few months ago, I was presented with the opportunity to attend the Habitat national advocacy conference, Habitat on the Hill, in Washington, D.C. in February. At the conference, affiliate staff and volunteers from all over the United States join together over several days to talk to their senators and representatives at the Capitol, garnering support for legislation and funding. As a member of Greater Indy Habitat’s Young Professionals chapter who had never advocated in this capacity before, I was excited and very nervous.
To combat my nerves before I left, Joel, Greater Indy Habitat’s Corporate and Faith Relations Coordinator, gave me some advice—
“Be humble, but confident.”
As much as I love Habitat, and as confident as I am in the incredible power a home has to bring hope to a family and revitalize communities, I still felt small and shaky touching down in the midst of a bustling city full of polished and influential people. Why would a representative care about what I have to say? How could a young volunteer from Indianapolis contribute to the important and complex conversation surrounding housing affordability in the United States?
A few days later, after hours of inspiring speakers and an energizing rally with Habitat staff and advocates, I was walking down the steps of the Capital building. When I told my group that I was inexperienced and not the most educated on the statistics and stories that could influence our policy-makers, Gina, Indiana’s State Director, gave me an encouraging rebuke.
“You know plenty,” she said. “You just need to talk about your time with AmeriCorps and how you are pursuing a life of public service.”
I came to Habitat through the AmeriCorps program in 2016, fresh out of college and unsure where life was taking me. For a year, I helped coordinate volunteers, swung a few hammers, and mingled with homeowners, all the while seeing how Habitat raised up homes, supported families, and changed neighborhoods from the inside out. It was because of this incredible experience that I joined Habitat Young Professionals when I moved to Indianapolis, why I dived into the leadership team and got involved, and why I am pursuing a career in community development work.
It’s also why I got on a plane to Washington, nervous and excited to advocate for what I believe in—the power of Habitat for Humanity to change lives. I know that it changed mine!
Joel and Gina’s advice, and the encouragement of so many others, finally came together for me when I stepped into Representative Hollingsworth’s office with Habitat friends from Bloomington and Terre Haute. We had a friendly conversation, and when it was my turn to speak to the Congressman, I shared a piece of my story. I told him how influential AmeriCorps and Habitat had been in my life and how, as a result, I was encouraging other young professionals in Indianapolis to get involved in building affordable homes, communities, and hope.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to raise a voice with so many others on behalf of Habitat for Humanity. I’m excited for the continuation of the incredible work that happens on the ground raising walls and bringing people together. And I’m emboldened—because if even I can be an advocate for this incredible organization, then you can be, too!