I have experienced advocacy firsthand as someone who has needed it. As a child, for years, I suffered at the hands of abuse. My basic right as a human being, the right to enjoy life, was taken from me. I needed a voice, a hero, an advocate. The people that were my advocates inspired me to help others who suffered. I want to help others in the way that advocacy has helped me. Throughout my life, advocacy has always played an important role. Advocacy, by definition, is the act of supporting and standing up for a cause or proposal.
As a University of Dayton Human Rights Fellow placed at the Legacies of War organization, I have learned that advocacy work to help victims impacted by unexploded ordnance (UXO) and the American Secret War in Laos is limitless. Legacies of War works to raise awareness and increase financial support for UXO clearance and victim assistance in Laos. The advocacy work within the organization can save countless lives and help to restore the enjoyment of life. I connected with the mission to help remove unexploded ordnance that still impact the livelihood of so many innocent civilians nearly half a century after the war’s end. People should be able to flourish in the societies they live in without being injured or killed by something that took place long before they were even around. Innocent children, women and men should not be in the predicament where their basic rights to enjoy their lives securely and safely is being compromised.
Getting involved in advocacy work is as simple as having a passion for helping others and directing that passion toward collective action. It may mean going to protests in your local community or starting a fundraising campaign for people that are in need of help. Being an advocate is being a defender. You defend people who have no voice. You speak up on behalf of those who are vulnerable and suffering. When being an advocate, it is important to focus on the issues and be clear about your goals. A person can also reflect on the privileges that they have and use that to give back and help protect others who are at a disadvantage.
I have volunteered for many community service opportunities and organizations. It has always been important to me to help the most vulnerable in the societies and communities that we are a part of and live in. I received the Hands of Christ Award from the Catholic Dioceses of Rochester through my work in their community.
Throughout my life, I have taken it upon myself to get involved in causes that mean something to me. During my time at the University of Dayton, I have been given so many opportunities to practice and learn about human rights advocacy. Within the classes, I have used my time to write and present about the grave humanitarian crises taking place in the Middle East and in so many other parts of the world. I have presented on the human rights crisis taking place in Afghanistan against women and young girls. I have also presented on the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen. I was also a member of the Model United Nations in 2020. It has always been in the forefront of my mind to spread awareness and inform people about human rights advocacy and why it is important, in any circumstance that I am in.
The cause of Legacies of War is a cause that I believe all people can learn and benefit from. This “Secret War” should no longer be a secret and should come to light and be taught in our education systems and in the societies we live in. This is not just a war of far and foreign places, but a war our country, our homeland created. As Americans and other international parties and spectators, we should reflect on how we can turn this dark past into a bright future of hope and peace for our world.
I intend to continue my advocacy work in my future career in International and Human Rights Law. I believe that this is just the beginning of my journey in advocacy work. This journey at Legacies has given me the opportunity to better understand the world around me. This fellowship has opened my eyes to recognize that sometimes human suffering is hidden in the shadows or even a secret. I now know the importance of shedding light and spreading awareness on issues that may be controversial to some but are a necessity to help others heal the wounds of the past. My only hope is that I will be able to advocate and help people in the same way that others advocated for me.