As a writer for the Borgen Project, I can safely say that this is the most constructive internship I’ve ever had. I have learned so much not only about non-profit work, but also the impact of global poverty on all aspects of life and the multitude of benefits everyone would receive if we take foreign aid seriously.
Although we may have varying views on America’s role in foreign relations and potentially intervening too often when we shouldn’t, most of our foreign affairs tend to be too often in the aftermath of problems rather than proactively preventing further strain and conflict stemming from poverty. If we support congressional bills that specifically target critical areas, we can make a lasting difference.
Now I’m not about to talk your ear off today and convince you of everything I’m selling (although if you want to donate money to my Borgen Project fundraiser, I’d appreciate it). I want to emphasize an aspect of advocacy that can really hold people back, and that is the fear of not doing enough.
More specifically, it’s that group mentality of not wanting to go against the grain of the majority, even if that means sitting idly by while others near or far suffer. We don’t want to vote in an election knowing that we are in the minority opinion and “this or they won’t get elected anyway.”
So we ask ourselves, what is the point? Why would you want to put time and energy toward a cause or project if the likelihood of change actually occurring seems minuscule? Will my small actions really matter in the grand scheme of things?
The realistic answer is, I don’t know. If people are striving toward opposing goals, there’s inevitably somebody who will fall short of their original intention. Especially if the campaign involves anything political, things can quickly become cutthroat.
As an advocate of any cause, you have to be flexible with the progress you make. If you don’t win a fight, that doesn’t mean you have achieved nothing. The process getting to your end result turns out to be the most productive. For example, my internship requires that I call and email my state’s senators and representative in Washington, D.C., each week. I always leave the same message, never spending more than one minute on the phone. So now I receive emails and mail about different foreign aid bills.
But from sharing my efforts and information with others, I have been able to inspire people to just be more aware about the world and their role in it. I’ve been pushed outside of my comfort zone to ask for donations, to speak on behalf of a cause, and that alone has been a rewarding experience that has really opened my own eyes to the many opportunities out there and the purpose I can serve as an advocate.
Regardless if you’re in a formal position with an organization or not, we can all be advocates. When the world, especially developed societies, feel very self-centered in our own lives and ways, it can be refreshing to look beyond ourselves and have selfless ambitions. I can easily say my outlook on life has changed drastically over the course of a few months from refocusing my energy toward advocacy and action. Rather than sticking to what I thought was best and expected, I feel like I’m following a path that feels right to me.
We aren’t all going to have those epiphanies that turn a 180 on our priorities, but when I say a single email or phone call or opportunity or signature or any effort can be the start of something much bigger than yourself, I am completely serious. You have to start somewhere. Insert some cliche encouragement to go volunteer or donate to charity.
But if we all act with the same intention and determination to make a difference, individuals become groups that become majorities that can move mountains. A machine would not function without the gears and technology churning inside it. A wildfire starts from a single spark.
Because a single person might be the leading force for a certain campaign or cause, but they would be nothing without a support system of like-minded individuals backing them up. We don’t all have to be an outspoken authority to be inspiring or get involved with revolutionary ideas. Maybe your work isn’t admired by thousands, but if just one other person or animal or anything has a better quality of life and is better than how you found it, isn’t that the goal anyway?
With that, I challenge you to do something small. Call your Congress representative. Sign a petition for a local cause you support. Buy something from a fundraiser going toward charity. Heck, if you don’t already, bring reusable cloth bags to the grocery store. You don’t have to exaggerate the energy required to be a positive influence on the world.
As the wise Michael Jackson once said, “If you want to make the better place, take a look at yourself and make that change.”
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie