Advocacy. What is it? How do you describe it or explain to someone how to become an “advocate”?
A number of months ago I was asked to talk about the topic of advocacy. It was the hardest discussion I have ever done. Its not something that I think about. I can’t say, go through these steps and you will be an advocate. An advocate is just something that we are when we are humans who take a stand. I was an advocate for what I believed in as a young pre-teen and I have continued to be an advocate as an adult and parent.
Google says that an advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. As a parent, when we stand up for our children in school we are their advocate. When we go to the doctor and ask for a particular treatment option, we become a health advocate. We may not be Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi but we are advocates nonetheless. We do make a difference.
We make a difference to ourselves and our perception of who we are. We see ourselves as stronger and more in control of our own destiny. We make a difference to our loved ones by providing them with a positive role model. Do we change the world? We just might.
Very rarely do advocates strike out on a journey expecting to change the world. Often, they have begun to travel the road they are on for selfish reasons–they want to change something in their own lives. They want to make things easier or better for them. I began to seek out change to the Disability Tax Credit
because I saw flaws in the current system. I knew that I had the strength to stand up for my son’s rights but as I continued on my journey, I realized that many others would not have the resources that I did. It was important for me to do everything that I could to make the road easier for those who came after me. After a lot of hard work and support, we have the changes and the much more fair treatment that we see in those applying for and receiving the tax credit today.
Parents are taking school boards and provincial departments of education to task and seeing changes in how diabetes is managed in Canadian schools. In California
, advocates stood firm and were able to fight to keep nurses in their schools for their children with diabetes.
Most recently, patients here in Canada took it upon themselves to push Health Canada to see the Animas
Vibe insulin pump approved for sale. Phone calls, emails, and letters from everyday consumers put pressure on this regulatory body to give Canadians living with diabetes another choice when it comes to insulin pumps with Continuous Glucose Monitoring capabilities.
Regular people did these things. People like you and me. People who simply were not happy with the way things were and publicly asked for change. Average citizens wanted to see a change in their world…and it rippled into the lives of many others. Its that simple and that complex.
It takes a step forward. It takes action. It takes confidence and a bit of blind faith but we all can be advocates–first for ourselves, for our loved ones…and then for others.
This posts marks the beginning of a new feature I will be doing at Diabetes Advocacy. On a regular basis I will be dedicating posts specifically to what is going on in the advocacy world–a recap as well as creating awareness of specific campaigns that are ongoing. If you are involved in an advocacy effort, please email me and let me know.