• Looking Forward With Passion

    Posted by Sarita

    23 May, 2012

    I'd like to take you through the story of how I initially got involved with advocacy, why I do it now and what motivates me to keep going when it gets hard.

    My advocacy journey started when I was in year 8, when I went to a Micah Challenge training day. I knew that poverty was wrong, and I wanted to do something about it. I had explored ideas, but didn't really come to something that I could do. I was too young for many of the volunteering-type activities, and I was at school during the week!

    Anyway, I found out about Micah Challenge and went to their training day. There were workshops to choose from, and somehow I found myself at the one on how to visit a politician. I am not sure how. Maybe the other workshops were mostly for adults, or I had already been to them... I am not sure. So I sat in the room, listening to two ladies talking about how visiting politicians really is quite easy and not scary. I didn't believe them. I hated (and still do!) public speaking. I listened, I took notes, I took the papers that I was given. But in my mind I was thinking, "There is no way I will ever visit a politician! That is crazy!"

    A bit later that year, we ran a Micah Challenge advocacy day at our church. We wrote letters to our local MP (who, at the time, was Ms McKew) asking that we allocate more aid to child and maternal health. This was something I was very passionate about, so I wrote a letter and was very glad the campaign was being promoted. I sat at church listening to my dad talking about the campaign and saying that if we wrote letters he would deliver them to Ms McKew. I started thinking that if I thought this was so important then I should be willing to visit Ms McKew and talk to her about this important issue.

    So during the next school holidays I found myself in the car with dad  on our way to Ms McKew's office. We didn't exactly know what we were doing so we hadn't really planned what we were going to say and who would say it. Thankfully though, the meeting went well and Ms McKew was lovely and supportive of our ask. It was then that I learned that politicians are just normal people -- they are not that scary! And that was the beginning of my advocacy adventure.

    Sarita (far left) gets behind the Give Poverty the Flush Campaign at Voices for Justice in 2011Sarita (far left) gets behind the Give Poverty the Flush Campaign at Voices for Justice in 2011Sarita (far left) gets behind the Give Poverty the Flush Campaign at Voices for Justice in 2011Later on that year I found myself at Voices For Justice in Canberra, then the next year helping run a "Survive Past Five" birthday party.

    Since then, I have written to and met with many politicians. Some have been great experiences, some have been quite eye-opening. I don't always get a positive response, but that is all a part of learning, and showing those who are not supportive of increasing overseas aid just how important it actually is.

    But what motivates me now? What keeps be going when I get discouraged (for example now, when the Government delayed the aid promise)?

    I know this is what God wants. It is obvious in the bible that God cares for the poor. One of the verses that constantly motivates me is Proverbs 31:8-9:

    "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

    It is amazing how God can use us, with all our faults and failures, to help those in need.

    Another thing that motivates me is that advocacy works! An example of this is the chocolate company Ferrero who recently announced that in eight years time its supply chain will be ethical. This announcement came after many letters and petitions were sent to them.

    Ultimately though, how can I let my fears or discouragement stop me from speaking up for those who are suffering?

    _______________________

    Sarita Hales is a Year 11 student who lives in Sydney. She has attended three Voices for Justice events and is involved in the West Ryde Baptist Social Justice Group.


    Sarita's blog forms part of this week's 'Looking Forward' blog series which aims to wrap up our reflections on the Federal Budget, and plant the seeds for what comes next as we continue with perseverance, hope, passion and courage to change the hearts and minds of our nation's leaders.