SEATTLE — Three billion people live on less than $2.50 per day, according to the Foundation for International Community Assistance. One in eight people on the planet does not have access to clean water, reports The Water Project. Twelve million children in America struggle to have enough to eat, according to Loaves & Fishes. But as the global community becomes better-connected, there has never been a better time to be an advocate for the poor.
Statistics like these and the internet’s ever-growing wealth of information allow us to be better informed than ever before. People from across the globe are now able to communicate, share ideas, connect on issues and make one another aware of what their respective countries are facing.
But knowing what to do with the facts and figures we are constantly presented with is a daunting task, often paralyzing those with the power to affect change and keeping them from doing anything at all. Where is the best place to start? How much money will make a difference? Is the problem too big to fix?
Founder of The Borgen Project Clint Borgen says “while the problem is huge, the solutions are easy, affordable and proven to work”. Figuring out how to advocate for the poor is vital to creating change, and the following are five practical ways to transform knowledge into action that will help end global poverty.
The Huffington Post reports the first step in effective advocacy is to know the issues. Find reliable sources on the internet that will give facts supported by evidence. Decide what issues are happening in your community or in an area about which you care specifically, and use this information to shape your next step.
Start local. Find organizations in search of volunteers and support in your community or state by getting involved. This can be as simple as attending a fundraising event or donating money. The experience will help you learn what techniques are most effective, and connect you with other people working to end poverty.
Contact your congressman. This may seem like an intimidating task, but organizations like The Borgen Project have made it simple with pre-written emails. Congressmen take note of what issues are important to their constituents and they measure this by the emails and phone calls their offices receive. Add the three congressmen who represent you to your contacts and call them once a week. An example of all you have to say is, “Hello, I am one of your constituents and ask you to please support the ____ Act.” It’s that simple!
Be consistent. Work to fit the above practices into your existing schedule. Set ten minutes every Friday afternoon aside to calling congressmen. Make it a habit to email your senators every Tuesday morning. These simple changes to your schedule can make a huge difference in the lives of those facing poverty.
Do what you love! ONE, a campaign and advocacy organization of seven million people, advises advocates to set goals and be passionate. Whether it’s writing, photography or spreading the news, find an organization who can utilize your skills. Even if your tight schedule will only allow for small steps, take them. Every effort counts and your work will not be in vain.
J.K. Rowling said in her speech at a Harvard graduation ceremony, “If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless […] then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change”.
Learning how to advocate for the poor can be intimidating, but these simple steps are a great place to start. Be a voice for those without one, and together we can end poverty.
– Rebecca Causey