Barbara-Anne Lewis is a programme specialist in Tearfund’s anti-trafficking and exploitation work. We were honored to chat to Barbara about her work within Tearfund, her heart for social advocacy and the importance of having passionate young people (people like you, our readers) ready to empower and support positive causes of all kinds within our world.
In her first year working at Tearfund, Barbara read a quote from Mother Theresa, “Love begins at home.” When it comes to working to neutralising social issues like trafficking, or advocating in society there is nothing more true; as Ms Lewis says “What we do in New Zealand in our own homes, schools, universities, workplaces and communities does make a difference to our global community.” It is easy for people to label an issue as ‘too big’ to be tackled by individuals, but if we all believed that, then no action would occur against anything.
The first step toward advocating is not only understanding some of the ins-and-outs of your chosen issue, (Tearfund has great resources to help you get some water for your fountain of knowledge) but it is also believing in the power you have to help others and make change in your own way. Your advocating may start within your own home; but it could take you worldwide, this is what happened for Ms Lewis.
She began as a young person advocating for the SPCA and now she is a part of advocating efforts, all over the world. Believe, that this could be you.
When it comes to dipping your toe in the waters of advocating, Barbara gives us a couple more pearls of wisdom, one being: travel. Travelling to different places around the world, especially places which are in absence of the western culture New Zealanders are familiar with (e.g nations which may be lacking in safe infrastructure, not have an established economic system, be corrupt in some manner or be vulnerable to exploitation) will allow you to witness first hand the different ways people live and the injustices which are prevalent in many different manifestations within many nations.
When you travel you might have a bucket list of the must see places, but make sure that on that list you make room to venture (safely) into some of the places that might not be so popular, because these places will show you and teach you so much. For Barbara, the place she traveled to which further empowered her want to work in advocacy was South America, saying “My first major trip was backpacking South America over 3 months. On return I wanted answers to all the inequality and poverty I had witnessed along the way.”
Wanting answers to her questions that came about after her trip to South America Barbara enrolled in university to study and get a Masters in International Development, travelling empowered Barbara to do this and travelling may empower you to further ignite your passion for your chosen advocacy.
However, travelling may show you that you do not want to work within advocacy and that’s okay too because we all have different passions – either way the only way these passions are discovered, is by broadening your horizons and exposing yourself to all that the world has to offer
Travel, travel, travel!
It is unrealistic to think that all of us who have a heart after advocacy can just pack our bags and head overseas to help. Again advocacy begins in our own homes and communities, this includes recognising how lucky we are to live within this society; we have a voice, we are able to make our own choices and have freedoms afforded to us.
This freedom, to use our voice and create public awareness is something we must utilise to help those who do not have the same luxuries.
An active voice and public awareness is key, not only to the neutralisation of trafficking, but to any kind of proactive advocacy.
The power of creating public awareness is that it can lead to public pressure; an example of this in action is the European Union who has threatened to boycott Thai seafood after reports of trafficking within the Thai fishing industry. This has prompted Thai authorities to launch an investigation and make numerous arrests of traffickers. If it wasn’t for public voice, creating awareness; there wouldn’t have been pressure for authorities to take action.
Again this concretes the fact, that you; yes you! Have a powerful and impactful voice, which can create more change then you could ever realise.
Believe in your voice now, make change in your own home, your communities and one day travel the world if you so choose because Barbara puts it right when she says that there is more than one approach to the neutralisation of large social issues especially trafficking. These issues are complex, but never forget that we can all do something. You have power, your voice has power.
To find out more about the cause or to support Tearfund visit Tearfund.org.nz #standwithher