2018 South Pasadena High School grad, Harper Fox, like millions of other young people, has been spending the summer back in her hometown, a town that she says inspired her to pursue her current internship. Currently attending University of Alabama, Fox majors in International Studies with a focus in global communication, where she hopes to spend a year in Spain or Mexico to hone her minor in Spanish. She’s spent the summer working with The Borgen Project, a Seattle-based non-profit that works to make poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy. Created by Clint Borgen who, after working as a young volunteer in refugee camps during the Kosovo War, recognized the need for an organization that could focus U.S. political attention on extreme poverty. As Fox explains, “Borgen felt our House and Senate were not doing enough with the power we have as the United States to address these issues in third world and up and coming countries.”
Each week this summer Fox has been reaching out to all of her congressional leaders including Congresswoman Judy Chu, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Alex Padilla, as well as Alabama leadership, Representative Terri Sewell and Senators Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville. “I call them about global aid reform and the international affairs budget,” Fox tells us, “to get the message out there and lobby about the importance of even just recognizing that it’s an issue and finding ways to implement United States tactics to improve the global poverty situation.”
In addition, Fox has been doing a fundraising campaign which has raised over $2000 thus far. She explains that “The Borgen Project is an advocacy organization; so we have people in over 1100 cities in the U.S. who know The Borgen Project and call their Senators every day to make sure that they are getting the word out. Every phone call, email or letter that a representative gets has to go into their log, so they have to look at it. So the more people who are contacting them on a given issue, the more attention it will get. As constituents, we should be able to have our voices heard, so through my fundraising campaign the advocacy part of the project is training people, creating posters and sending people to Washington to lobby.” Funds also go directly to specific projects like water relief in Africa. “With the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve had people in Africa working on getting clean water supply, food trains coming in, and trying to supply as much as we can with the aid that the U.S. has given.”
Fox tells us the experience has been incredibly rewarding and that work like this has always been where her heart is. “Since high school I’ve wanted to do something that’s rewarding. For my Girl Scout project, I had a club on campus (Prom Perfect, a club that worked to give underprivileged students prom dresses and tuxes), and in college I’m involved with clubs like Al Pals where we mentor young kids, so it’s just something that growing up in a town like this that’s small and everyone knows each other, and there are so many opportunities to help and I feel like everyone is passionate to help in this town; it’s all shaped me to want to help. So this organization is helping and being able to physically speak to my representatives and tell them about it has been incredible.” Fox recently was able to successfully lobby two of her representatives and says she spoke to their legislative assistants and was able to speak at length about the work of The Borgen Project and the Acts they’d like to see pushed through the Senate and the House.
Within the internship Fox explains there are multiple arms including learning how to lobby, learning all about the various bills and how our reps have voted and what they’ve sponsored so they come in the room armed with this information and can be specific and effective. “Another thing the Borgen Project tries to get across is that this is a non-partisan issue. One of my favorite things about the internship is being able to speak to two completely different sides of the spectrum because there are obviously differences but I’ve actually seen a lot of people care about this issue. There’s an act we’re trying to get passed right now called The Girls Lead Act, which is about younger girls in school; there are millions of adolescent girls here and in other countries who are not enrolled in school. I’ve recently gotten the attention of the legislative assistant to one of the Alabama senators who has pledged his full support, so it’s been really interesting to see how both sides of it work.”
Fox has been putting in 10-20 hours a week calling legislators, writing letters, educating herself through watching documentaries and listening to podcasts on the subject and says, “I’ve learned a lot and I’m figuring out what I want to do, the different career paths I might have and this has really shown me that it’s really important to give back. I’ve been raised here to give back and I hope that will carry through with whatever I do after college.” Heading to D.C. looks like it very much could be in her future.
“I know how fortunate I am growing up and living in South Pasadena” says Fox, “I know I need to use what I have and what I know to help people.”
Fox has re-applied to The Borgen Project and hopes to continue her work with them in the fall.
For more information visit BorgenProject.org