After reading this week’s article and working on fundraising and spreading the word about the events we are planning, I was struck by the thought of just how big the advocacy community is. I had actually read the article this week that our professor Aaron co-authored. But the first time I read it I was more focused on understanding the communication theory concepts used in the article and how they applied was secondary at the time. Now, re-reading the article after all I have learned so far in the class and been exposed to, my eyes were opened up more so to the implications the article has in the field of advocacy. And while I found the proposed idea of switching to an agent-center approach in genocide advocacy interesting and logical, the biggest take away I got was a sudden realization of the scale of advocacy work.
This concept of how to view campaigns against genocides and mass atrocities is very different from anything we have talked about this semester. And it is just another small facet of the huge field. There seems to be so many little pieces to the field of advocacy that it is hard to process it all. Advocacy work comes in so many stages like becoming informed, informing others, getting involved, research, fundraising, service-learning trips, reflection, message-spreading, I could go on and on. And each of these stages or categories have even smaller parts to them. And then I began thinking about how many different social issues exist that people advocate for. With so many worthy causes out there how can we begin to say which deserve the most attention or priority attention. Granted that there is a difference between protecting the lives of people who are victims of genocide and legalize same sex marriage. But see even that can be questionable to some people. I am passionate about genocide and refugee advocacy so I will always side in favor of its importance above other issues. But other people are equally passionate about other social issues and everyone using their voice for advocacy has an important message to spread or a goal of educating people or raising money.
So then how can we as advocates of refugees and genocide victims and their families reach out past these other voices and influence and inspire other people? For a little while after reading this week I was a bit discouraged because the world just seemed way too big for me. And if it all seems too big for me, how can I communicate and advocate effectively to people who have no exposure or limited exposure to these issues. I definitely was caught in a downward spiral of negative thoughts for a while. But then I checked my e-mail and saw I had an e-mail from my grandma. She wrote to me telling me how amazed she was by the experiences I wrote about in a fundraising newsletter I wrote and how moved she was by the people I wrote about. She told me she even forwarded it on to her friends from her book club and looked up more about the Lost Boys! My grandma had no way to know of the confusion and discouragement I was feeling but her words helped snap me out of it.
After reading her words I realized that what I had done in my letter was something similar to what KONY 2012 did. I put a face, or rather multiple faces, to the problem. In my letter I wrote about the class and some of the ideas we were learning about. But the bulk of the letter I spent telling stories about the inspiring people we met. I included pictures with the stories too which I’m sure helped—especially the picture of the children we played with. By spending more time telling stories about the individuals we met, my grandma was able to feel a stronger connection to the issue then if I had just given her a history of the conflict and simply left it at the Lost Boys, or refugees, or simply just relaying where the people we visited were from. I’m sure I will still feel doubts from time to time working in the field of advocacy—which I hope to continue doing—but moments like the one my grandma brought to my attention gives me more hope in advocacy and also the methods of advocacy we are learning. The world may be large, but we can still be heard.