By Caleb Rollins, Development Manager
On May 5-6, I had the unique opportunity to represent Lutheran Services in America at the Climate Action 2016 summit in Washington, DC. The summit was a two-day event designed to drive high-level engagement with global leaders addressing how to deliver on climate commitments and how we can embed changes across the globe in government, key sectors and among the general population. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the gathering by proclaiming, "Together we can build the world we want."
I couldn't help but agree with his sentiments as I sat with global leaders from the private sector, public sector, and civil society. I spent the first day of the summit listening to speakers like Vice President Al Gore, Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin, and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo speak on how the global community can implement the recently-signed Paris Agreement, a landmark agreement reached this past December that commits countries to holding global temperature rise. While a compelling event, it suddenly dawned on me how strange it might seem to be representing LSA's national social ministry network at an international climate action conference.
The connection to climate action comes from Lutheran social ministry's long-standing work in disaster response, and the desire to help communities plan and implement efforts that can help them be more resilient to shocks and stresses, such as extreme weather and other impacts of climate change.
As the second day of the summit began and the focus shifted to the important role of community resilience as it relates to climate change, LSA's role became even clearer. Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the White House, announced the launch of a new cohort of Resilience AmeriCorps organizations that includes LSA and seven of our member organizations.
For its part, LSA is sponsoring eight AmeriCorps VISTA service members in lower-income or underserved communities throughout the country, who will take a proactive approach to resilience by assisting the most vulnerable people in those communities so they can be better prepared to rebuild and rebound from disruptions ranging from home fires to economic crises, extreme weather events, and human-caused disasters.
The VISTA program (Volunteers In Service To America) is a national service program to fight poverty in America that is part of the AmeriCorps network of programs. Each year, more than 7,000 Americans commit to a year-long, full-time position to support community efforts to overcome poverty.
Resilience AmeriCorps builds on the President's Climate Action Plan, and is a partnership between the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers the AmeriCorps program, and other key federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency; and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation. As Director Donovan outlined the importance of these public, private, and philanthropic partnerships, he reminded the globally-minded audience that, "resiliency starts at home."
And so it is close to home that LSA and our members are joining together in this global work. LSA members have always worked with the most vulnerable in our communities to strengthen their resilience towards the stresses of everyday life and the shocks of natural and human-made disasters. The opportunity to host VISTA members and work in partnership with Resilience AmeriCorps will put a spotlight on the work of the LSA network and increased focus on the importance of building resilience in lower-income communities.
For us, this work is simply following our call to love and serve our neighbors in our communities. But, by doing our part in our own communities, neighborhoods, and homes, we are joining together in building the world we want.