Advocacy Week campaigns for change

Christine Haggerty

This week, the University hosted its third annual Advocacy Week. Over the course of the past four days, students from different groups on campus have had the opportunity to raise awareness about issues that are prevalent to their work. Classes, clubs, teams, fraternities and sororities, offices, organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy efforts such as sponsoring petitions, starting letter-writing campaigns and other activities to shed light on the numerous causes they support.

Monday, Invisible Children hosted a documentary screening and discussion of the film “Kony 2012,” which has gone viral on YouTube and Facebook.

From Tuesday to Thursday, participants in Advocacy Week set up tables at the Oreo where members of the University community stopped by to learn more about and advocate for a cause. For example, a group of students who went on a service break trip to Athens, Ga. this past spring break advocated for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act-also known as the DREAM Act-a piece of legislation aimed at giving certain young illegal aliens conditional permanent residency in the United States.

Tuesday evening, the University chapter of Habitat for Humanity held a panel discussion titled, “Effects of Habitat Housing.” Wednesday evening featured the “Dance for Humanity,” a semi-formal dance for members of service organizations on campus.

Tonight, the Student Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia and Back on My Feet will host a discussion, “Homelessness Myths, Misconceptions, and Stereotypes,” at 6 p.m. in 2046 Bartley Hall. The talk will focus on the realities of homelessness, and attempt to dispel certain misconceptions about the homeless. In addition to this discussion, Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors will present an a cappella concert featuring Minor Problem, Vocal Minority and Nothing But Treble in Connelly Cinema at 7:30 p.m.

 Advocacy Week’s slogan, “A Voice for Change,” highlights one of the major goals of the event-to demonstrate to all members of the University community that they do have the power to be a real force of change in the world.

Monique Stenger, Service Council Advocacy chair, is the event coordinator for this year’s Advocacy Week. Stenger, a senior, has been involved in advocacy on campus since her freshman year. It was after the first Advocacy Week occurred during her sophomore year that Stenger fully realized the impact students could make. “I’m still getting e-mails from the senators and representatives who I wrote letters to during Advocacy Week [saying] ‘I am supporting this cause. This is what I’m doing,'” Stenger said. “When you write, people will respond.”

 When asked what her main goal for this year’s event was, Stenger said, “It’s kind of a lofty goal. The whole purpose of the week would be to highlight the importance of advocacy on Villanova’s campus. Villanova does a lot with social justice, but the one part we can always do more with is advocacy. All the events tie into the importance of doing what you can do to change.”

This year, Advocacy Week overlaps with Habitat for Humanity’s international Act! Speak! Build! Week.  The major goal of both events is to elevate education about important issues, such as Habitat’s main cause of affordable housing.

Sponsored by Habitat for Humanity international, the event aims to advocate, educate and inspire more volunteers to become involved with Habitat’s work. The University chapter of Habitat had an advocacy table at Connelly Center, featuring a letter-writing campaign and guides to the upcoming presidential election to educate the community on the candidates’ positions on various housing issues. 

Timothy O’Connell, coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, expressed his hopes for the outcome of this year’s Act! Speak! Build! Week.

“We hope to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing, both locally and internationally,” O’Connell said. “[We] want to empower students to become involved in issues of affordable housing either through service break experiences with Habitat…or getting involved locally with the campus chapter of Habitat.”

He also emphasized the significance of the University partnership with Habitat for Humanity, stating, “One of the reasons Habitat is an appropriate partner for Villanova is because it is a faith-based organization…so much of what they do corresponds with what we’re trying to instill here at the University, in terms of Catholic Social Teaching and Augustinian values.”

For more information on Advocacy Week, see the Campus Ministry website or stop by the Oreo to learn more about the participating student groups and their causes.