Advocacy. It’s a word of strength, perseverance, and leadership. Advocates can be loud and champions of capital hill, advocates can be a mom fighting to get her children the proper support in school, advocates can be speaking up and telling others what foods are safe for you to eat, or an advocate can be a “pitbull-dog-lover” standing up and raising awareness about the breed.
Advocates come from all different walks of life and go about advocacy in a variety of ways. Some are highly vocal and opinionated, while others are more soft spoken and share information via social media. However what all advocates are is passionate.
Advocates are the voices for the voiceless.
Advocacy is a concept which I am very passionate about. It is not a skill you are born with, but rather I believe advocacy is a skill which you are taught or learn. I believe advocacy is a skill which everyone can possess if they choose to. However, without passion and knowledge, and the will to persevere, advocacy will not be successful.
Self-Advocacy: Having a chronic condition such as celiac disease requires lots of self-advocacy. Whether you are a young adult struggling to find medical answers, or are a veteran to the gluten-free diet; at one time or another we all need to learn how to speak-up for ourselves, and state our needs. Self-advocacy can be difficult, but it can be empowering. Even at a young age, I truly believe the children can be taught how to be a self-advocate.
Advocating for a Greater Good: To me this would be advocating for a cause or for a community, rather than an individual person. When looking at advocating for a “greater good” I believe there is a spectrum to describe the actions. There are both “big acts” and “small acts.” Big acts are those like the 1in133 campaign that Jules Shepard, John Forberger, and the American Celiac Disease Alliance started or the petition started by a mother of a son with a peanut allergy to advocate that airlines institute a bill of rights for food allergic passengers. Small acts are those such as signing the petition, writing a letter to your state representative to pass a bill to mandate the school counselor to students ratios, or using social media to spread awareness about the cause which you are passionate about.
Advocating for the greater good is about voicing your opinion, or speaking up the next time someone says the “gluten-free diet is just a fade.” Though these acts may seem small at times, they can be just as empowering. Just like the starfish poem, one small act can cultivate change and make a difference.
Advocating for Another: Maybe you are a daughter taking care of your aging parent and support them at doctor’s appointments to ensure their needs are being met. Maybe your child was diagnosed with food allergies before they could even speak, or maybe you are a father who has a child with a learning disability and advocate that he/she get the proper accommodations. Whatever the circumstances, often advocating for another is for someone you love.
We don’t become advocates over night, but through time, through learning, and through some trial and error. We become stronger advocates when we are surrounded by support and can learn by the example of others. We become advocates through questioning the injustices which occur, recognize a need for change, and then we share and talk about our passion.
First and for most, I am a self-advocate.
I am an advocate for the gluten-free community. I am an advocate for the profession of school counseling. I am an advocate for my students.
And one day I dream of working in a profession where I can advocate for children and adolescents who live with a chronic health condition.
It’s funny how life leads you down a path. Someone once said to me, “in life there are no mistakes.” I believe this is true. I may not see it at the time, but as I look back on the events that have occurred in my life thus far, they have all led me to the places I need to go.
I could have chosen to sit back and take the easy road, I could have watched other advocates for the celiac disease/ food allergy community, I could have chosen to have my parents talk on my behalf when I was an adolescent patient searching for answers, but instead I chose to take a stand!
In doing so I have not only found my inner voice, but have found a passion.
What inspires you to stand up and advocate?
This post was inspired by the NFCA “Take the Pledge” Campaign. Stay tuned for future “take the pledge” inspired posts & sign the pledge today!