Upon beginning this class, I had a much narrower focus concerning the global issues that meant something to me. Each week, however, I have found myself becoming more aware of the massive amounts of problems that exist. My difficulty has been trying to figure out how I can support them all, but it had become increasingly challenging to keep up with it. Among classwork and job searching, it is easy to say that I just don’t have time to read another article on an emerging conflict. I know I need to though, because I want to be the best active citizen that I can be. Another struggle that I’ve faced, and I know it’s something my classmates are struggling with too, is how to get people who have no connection to the issues that matter to me to pay attention?
So this is the big wide world of advocacy. You’re working to promote awareness and change for your issue but you are competing with so many others. I know that my post about raising money for our friend Jany to speak at JMU was lost amongst other philanthropy and charity posts on Facebook. It becomes overwhelming to think about all the things people want money for, so we often just shut down. We assume someone else will do something about it, so we take comfort in our own inaction. Well that’s the last thing raising awareness needs, so how do we get people to pay attention at all?
We care through connection. I know people often care the most about issues that have affected them personally, and if it is something outside of their social sphere, they usually care because someone they know told them they should. What we have learned in our class so far is the importance of making the issue personal. Whether that is by showing people pictures of the refugees we met on spring break or by posting a YouTube link in our blog, we know that people pay attention when we show them their fellow humans suffering.
For our assignment this week we read an article written by out very own professor, Aaron Noland, and his colleague Matthew Brigham concerning the importance of and agent-centered approach when advocating for a particular issue. Aaron has always said that he places the readings for our class in a purposeful order, and each week I always immediately understand why. As I mentioned earlier, our class is currently working on bring Jany Deng to visit and talk with the JMU community. We have planned to place the focus of the event on Jany and the other Lost Boys instead of looking at just their issue. It is our hope that we can use this human interaction to get people to pay attention to the issues of genocide, refugees, and refugee resettlement.
If you would like to donate and help fund Jany’s trip here’s the link! http://www.gofundme.com/pb2l88