So what can we do while we are sheltering in homes, and how can we help? To answer this question, it is prudent for us to first take a step back, and ask ourselves, is providing services via our community projects the only way we can promote our mission of improving communities through action? Is there more we can do, while we are social distancing in our homes?
As all of us are making daily decisions for ourselves, our loved ones, and our workplaces in light of the evolving situation caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Mission of the Junior League does not waver. By now, you hopefully saw the full updates from Michelle Lentz, JL Boston President, regarding the important changes JL Boston is making to address COVID-19. Many community projects and fundraising events have been cancelled through the end of the fiscal year, but many of our constituents need help now more than ever during these emergency conditions. The current situation can compound and exacerbate the issues our constituents face, without access to services that we and our community partners usually provide. Advocating for the needs of ourselves and our constituents is one way to help from home.
Picture this…. a metaphor for advocacy
Imagine that you are walking up a steep hill, on a cold, rainy March day. You get to the top of the hill, and you see a raging river below you. You look closer, and on both sides of the river, you see women pulling children out of the water. The children have no life rafts, no floating devices, and are just helplessly tumbling down the river, while the women are frantically pulling them out. You rush down to the edge of the banks of the river to help these women pull the children out. You are helping, but the river is raging and there are more children tumbling down stream. After a couple of minutes of doing this, you stand up, and turn to go upstream. Shocked, the other women frantically look at you and shout, “What are you doing? For Heaven’s sake, can’t you see, the children keep coming! We have to save them…we must pull them out of the river!” You very calmly, and with tremendous compassion, say to these women “I know, and I am going upstream to see why they’re in the river to begin with“.
For our almost 118 years, Junior Leagues have been going upstream.
That upstream part is where we get confused sometimes, as it cannot be separated from what is happening downstream. Through our Community Projects, we serve our constituents by providing a service downstream. Upstream, on the other hand, is all advocacy, and about the policies, practices, the public attitudes that create the systems in which we live.
Since the beginning, The Junior League has been on the forefront of social reform, identifying problems – pollution, illiteracy, domestic violence, foster children without a safety net – and finding solutions. Leagues have done this by educating the public on the pressing issues of the day and advocating for change, legislative or otherwise, on behalf of those who don’t have a voice.
How to engage in this additional texture of service
We encourage you to learn about how you can serve our mission in this crisis environment by becoming familiar with challenges the most vulnerable women in our communities are facing during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and utilize resources available to you through AJLI to learn how to navigate this crisis. On May 13th 2020, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women held a virtual Advocacy Day, which some Junior League of Boston members attended. They provided a guide for individuals to get started and share their viewpoints with the commonwealth. Resources are available showing inequities and impact on women during COVID19 in Massachusetts.
We encourage you to think about this concept, how we can put it into play, and the potential results. Let’s continue the conversation on our private Members only Facebook group.
Please keep your eye out for more information on JL Boston’s virtual Solutions Summit, tentatively slated for June.
Together we’ve got this.
Advocacy initiative is driven by member feedback
Over the last two years, Junior League of Boston has held an Advocacy Unconference and a series of open Advocacy Meetings. One of the key items which the Advocacy Lead and Leadership Team are working on, based on your feedback, is how to embed Advocacy in our brand and how to ensure we have a cohesive message outward. When we focus on an issue that directly effects our communities, there are many ways to make a difference. The Advocacy Lead is also working on structural and placement opportunities for next year. Member involvement and input will continue to be a key part of the process. As COVID-19 effects our communities and us all now, we cannot wait.
By Susan Moussalli and Pamela Lynch