Amy Luebbert, 30, may have a day job in the corporate world, but in her free time she’s a community organizer, vegan baker, and co-leader of the Oxfam Action Corps in Des Moines, Iowa. Below, Luebbert shares four tips with Oxfam’s Anna Kramer from a successful year of volunteering with Oxfam to fight hunger and poverty.
1. Don’t be afraid to go right to the top. At first, the thought of meeting with a member of Congress or their staffer [to talk about modernizing food aid and other anti-poverty policies] gave me a panic attack. Then I realized that this is just another person across the table; they’re not all-powerful. And when you meet with them, you are speaking on behalf of those in other countries who are affected by US policies but can’t come talk to our representatives themselves. Thinking about it that way, I realized I don’t need to be an expert—I just need to show that people in Iowa are concerned and that these issues do matter.
2. Make it hands-on. We host a lot of [informational] tables about Oxfam at farmers’ markets and music festivals. At one festival, we wanted to offer people something more than a petition to sign. So we invited them to use food items, like seeds or beans, to decorate postcards with what they thought a world without hunger would look like, or to write or draw a message to share with their legislators. We ended up with about 60 hand-decorated cards. When we brought the cards to our next meeting with representatives, they paid attention. Signatures are great, but a handwritten note or picture feels more personal.
3. Connect your community to the world. In Des Moines, the Oxfam Action Corps combines legislative efforts with hands-on projects that make a difference in our city. Once a month, we volunteer at community gardens or help out at a local food pantry. Talking to [our fellow volunteers] helps make people aware of Oxfam and the international angle to the issues. It’s also a great way to bring in new volunteers who are looking for ways to give back.
4. Reach out over a meal. Food brings people together in ways that you wouldn’t expect. It was an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet that first inspired me to work with Oxfam; I’ve been part of five Hunger Banquets, and each one is different. We co-organize these events with other groups, like the ONE Campaign or students at a local university, who can bring in additional people and ideas. We also co-hosted a potluck dinner with Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet ambassadors in Iowa, and we’re planning another potluck in the spring. There are always good discussions during the meal, and afterward a lot of people come up to us wanting to get involved in our efforts.
If you want to get involved, apply here to join the Oxfam Action Corps in Des Moines and 14 other US cities.