There is a growing movement of people, who as John Prendergast and Don Cheadle say, have reached their "Enough Moment" and are standing in a moment of now. They want to take action right where they are to change something they can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch. I am one of those people, and this is my story on how I came to my “Enough Moment.”
It began for me on a trip to northern Uganda last September where I spent a couple of months doing fieldwork as a conflict prevention intern with Mercy Corps. The trip left me fired up about making a real impact and laid the cornerstone of my faith as an advocate in the value of taking the initiative. I left Uganda with a new appreciation for Ghandi’s adage that we must "be the change we wish to see in the world."
It is here that I stand today working at the grassroots level on projects to raise awareness, raise funds, and Raise Hope for Congo by supporting the work of organizations committed to using resources and influence to rally the cause of the Congo. The prospects for Congolese youth who have only ever known conflict, the exploitation of minerals that fund armed groups, and the sexual violence inflicted on countless men, women, and children – these are just a few of the interlinking issues that must be addressed for sustainable peace to come to Congo.
Now six months later, looking back over the stretch of time I’ve spent organizing for Congo Week with Friends of the Congo, lobbying on Capitol Hill with A Thousand Sisters, or coordinating for Team Congo-D.C. with Run for Congo Women, I've learned invaluble lessons, overcome obstacles, and made some mistakes. I've also grown tremendously in my knowledge on topics surrounding the Congo. These experiences have enriched my life and left me better equipped to advocate on behalf of the issues that are very dear to my heart.
I’ve learned no effort is too big or small and that unity is the key that unlocks the door to great possibilities. But the overall impression that I am left with is something that occurred to me after participating in the Run for Congo D.C. race. Run for Congo Women founder Lisa Shannon along with 20 Team Congo runners showed up to run in the 5k Race for World Peace on behalf of women in Congo. They raised $2,500 for Women for Women International’s Congo programs. Sitting back and reflecting on all that had been transpired simply by transforming inspiration into initiative and taking action, I realized that I was standing on the other side looking at change.
I realized that though I moved to D.C. to follow my dreams of becoming a Foreign Service Officer for USAID, I found my true calling in community organizing and advocacy. It was in losing control over “the plan” that a new chapter began in my life.
On the days that I am challenged with wondering if my actions are really making a difference in the lives of those who need it most, I’m reminded of something Lisa Shannon said to me when discussing the potential for change. It is that "showing up" is the all-important first step for helping bring peace to Congo.
I am convinced that she's right and inspired to think of the great potential that we have even just here in the United States to make a positive impact in Congo. We as advocates must work together, and we must call on others to “show up” for Congo and to respond to the urgency of now.
Sonya Shannon is a Washington-area Congo activist.