The Irony & the Necessity

From the moment I first saw over-dramatized World Vision commercials to the moment my feet touched down on the red soils of West Africa, advocacy has been slowly shaping and forming the way I live my life. Yet despite all my volunteer work opportunities and speaking engagements, I have never looked at KEVIN MURRAY in depth, and least in the way I was given the opportunity to do this semester, through this column. By following the lives of environmental activists such as Matthew Bakker, I realized that the cords of advocacy and commitment run further than humanitarian aid projects in third world countries.

Bakker's commitment opened up a whirlwind of opportunities to analyze, such as North American-run projects that are shaping the way we see our planet, and the way it will exist in the future. Through hearing the powerful story of Alison Ensworth, a young Capilano student who struggled with eating disorders and now dedicates her time to helping others move past them, it became clear that much of advocacy work often results from harrowing personal experiences. Her story of trial and perseverance certainly encouraged me and reminded me that what is close to your heart is what will inspire you the most, and the most valuable advocacy work comes from those who have lived through something. I was given a reality check through my interview with Miryam Bishop, a Capilano student who realized that the prospect of volunteering overseas and the reality of it are two entirely different things, and often, you have to be prepared for anything – even if that anything is less fulfilling than you had hoped. Her story was a crucial and important reminder that the best development work is done in partnership with communities, not out of our own preconceived notions or ideas.

Overall, this semester has taught me to look at advocacy work for what it is: Complex, emotional, personal, and challenging. It is work that can either leave you feeling discouraged or completely invigorate your outlook on life. Yet whatever adjectives may be placed in front of it from time to time, advocacy work continues to remain one thing: Inherently ironic.

Advocacy is only necessary if there is an issue at hand, yet the whole point of advocacy is to remove these issues and make them disappear. Realistically, this begs the question of where the volunteer sector would be if we were effectively doing our jobs and solving the problems. After all, if the issues were handled, we wouldn't need volunteers to fix them anymore. So perhaps the real lesson here is that advocacy work is not to be seen through rose-coloured glasses as a solution to end world poverty, eradicate diseases, or make the world a happier, more perfect place, as I had once thought. Rather, it is to be seen as a means to improve some of the painful situations our world is facing, through constant methods of trial and error that may be as daunting as they are enlightening.

I will certainly never end poverty or cases of sexual abuse through my work in Sierra Leone [See for Krissi's back-story -Ed.], and I am confident that I will feel downright discouraged and useless from time to time – but if I can even make one shred of difference, perhaps only in the methods those who come after me use, then it is all worth it. Advocacy may not result in big changes, and definitely not in big salaries, but hopefully, through its ups and downs, it can cause us to examine our big world and consider how we might make a difference.

Remember that whatever contribution you are able to make, however small it may seem, is a necessary contribution, and one that could aid someone in unexpected ways. So ask questions, get involved, follow your passion, and don't wait to become an advocate for what you believe in. After all, someone else may be waiting on you.

//Krissi Bucholtz

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: