Airole Warden, of the Coös Coalition for Young Children and Families and the Coös County Directors’ Network, spoke at a Charitable Foundation community event in Plymouth in September. A transcript of her remarks follows.
Good evening. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to be before you tonight!
My name is Airole Warden and I am the project manager for the Coös County Child Care Director’s Network and policy and advocacy strategy manager for the Coös Coalition for Young Children and Families. My work with these two organizations has been nothing short of wonderful. The network has created a community of childcare directors that have continuously striven for high-quality early childhood education for the youngest citizens of New Hampshire.
These efforts have continued due to the directors’ and centers’ willingness to participate in childcare pilots, ongoing professional development, and this past legislative session, in allowing me to bring their stories down to Concord to advocate for our community’s childcare in the halls of the State House.
Those stories made a difference, those stories brought increasing attention to a childcare crisis that affects all. Those stories also taught a lesson about New Hampshire.
This lesson has taught me so much that when I first saw the phrase “A New Hampshire for All,” it invoked a particular thought.
“A New Hampshire for All” means that we need all voices from all corners to truly move forward.
Last legislative session, New Hampshire banded together to create change, just the beginning of the change that is needed, but still a strong step in a direction that supports New Hampshire families, communities and businesses.
On my first day ever in Concord, I was waiting to testify for Senate Bill 237 that now sits in the state budget. As the hearing began, we were told to cut our testimonies down to two minutes.
Let’s just say, mine was nearing six minutes when I wrote it. So, at the last moment, Lucas Meyer, my advocacy mentor on that first day, well, he gave me a piece of advice. He told me that if I only have time for one thing, “make it a story.” The story holds the voice and experiences that matter the most.
And I listened. I just gave the stories.
And he was right. Stories do matter the most.
In advocacy, one quickly realizes how powerful each voice is. How powerful each story can be.
And how that power can bring forth such powerful and positive change for New Hampshire.
That no story is held solely in one place. Each story can be echoed in all corners and all communities. One police chief’s story of not being able to hire officers to protect our communities due to the lack of childcare is mirrored across the state as fire stations, hospitals and schools struggled to hire staff that keep our communities running. These individuals who take the time to care for our communities. but struggle to find childcare and housing.
The individuals who open coffee shops, who tend the farms, who fix engines large and small, who open our libraries and tend the books, and so many more individuals working hard each day to provide for their families.
These are all the members of our communities that keep our towns, large and small, moving forward and building a stronger New Hampshire.
These families are also the ones struggling to find safe and quality childcare for their children.
This is not a solo struggle being faced. This is a collective struggle that is felt in every town, county and corner of New Hampshire.
They are struggling, but they have not lost heart. We are far too stubborn for that.
New Hampshire is strong. Every day I see this.
From the Senators speaking up on Capitol Hill all the way in Washington in support of their New Hampshire citizens to Concord legislators forging ahead and truly supporting the families and childcare communities this past year, and most assuredly to the individuals that continue to bring forward their stories to show that change needs to be made even if their voice shakes or their hands tremble.
I see people pulling together, supporting each other, and showing the true grit of character that is New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is for all. For all voices. For all stories.
And be it out of grit, or just stubbornness, we will continue to forge forward together as a state and be stronger for it. New Hampshire has done amazing things in 2023, and I, for one, cannot wait to see what New Hampshire will bring forward in 2024.
Thank you again and have a wonderful night.