Photo by Genesis Photography-R.E.W

Some days genuinely are overwhelming. We hear about disasters, we hear about starvation, we hear about tragedy and slavery and injustice. We can read books, watch documentaries and even take short trips to areas of extreme poverty or disaster. But how can we legitimately make a difference? How can we have an impact?

Is it through giving to government programs that partner with global leaders in the fight against poverty? Is it through handouts? How are vulnerable women and children in developing nations cared for best?

The truth is–there is no one perfect solution. But there are three primary things we can do to be advocates.

We have so many answers on how to improve western society, but often those improvements don’t translate to other cultures. Through patience and humility, it is vital we learn from local leaders and natives with integrity. They are the ones who can indeed tell us what works in their community. By asking community members what is needed, we can address the real problems with real solutions.

Jumping in unaware of our surroundings will often lead to unstable attempts at progress and can fail or even cause damage. Many books have been written on this topic, such as When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity.

Listening and learning before taking action can be tedious and discouraging, but in the long run, it leads to sustainable, stable change. It is only after listening that we can move to the step of acting.

How we act in different situations varies. But ultimately, we must work to alleviate poverty and violence for the vulnerable women and children in our world. The most promising means we have found for this has been through ethical consumerism and creating well-paying jobs in remote and developing areas. In the ethical consumer space, we continue to hear that we must stop asking why ethical clothing is so expensive and start asking why non-ethically produced clothing is so cheap. Who is being taken advantage of in this scenario to provide us with our discounted fast fashion? Our chocolate and coffee? Our diamonds and conflict minerals?

Poverty is far more about than just finances, and our advocacy should reflect that. As one individual (name is concealed) commented, “You know, the biggest danger of poverty is it puts your dignity at risk and anyone who passes by can manipulate you. Because of your poverty, anyone can abuse you. And you know, we Ethiopians, wherever we are, we’re at risk, inside or outside. That’s painful! It is painful!”

By creating jobs and supporting businesses with purpose, we can prevent these kinds of human rights injustices. We can vote with our dollar for a better world. We can create jobs and boost local economies, but more importantly, we contribute to dignified labor.

We must also act by continuing to raise awareness. There are so many ways to do this, from donating a birthday (i.e. using your birthday to raise money for a cause) to the Dressember campaign to end human trafficking. Fundraisers and awareness campaigns can be carried out using any number of skills and interests.

These are only two ways to be an advocate. There are so many more. But if we move forward with humility and earnestness, we can, and will, see real change.

Having said all of that, I want to leave you with one challenge. Start with the first step. Find a book written by someone who is native to a developing nation. Read their story. Let their words lead you to your next step.

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