Advocacy: The Road to Change

15-Advocacy (7)Olalla Duato

Student Ambassador for Save the Children

March 14, 2016

When people aspire to make a difference in the world, some may dream of going to faraway places. They hope to venture to the very spot where people are in need – performing good deeds firsthand. While immediately rewarding, we must remember that one does not have to travel far to make a change. It is possible to start amidst your own community – with your own voice.

Rather than focusing on the place where the struggle exists, one should examine the source of the struggle – striving to alter the policy that causes hardship in the first place. During my short time volunteering at Save the Children, an employee told me an analogy that conveyed this idea.

It is all much like a road trip. You can have the path planned out – the directions printed, the stops determined, and the tank full of gas. But with a broken car, regardless of preparation, you aren’t going to make any headway. In this analogy, the car symbolizes the policies in place. If the underlying policy is flawed, it will be very difficult to make any progress.

While at Save the Children’s DC office, I set out to learn what policy was all about. Before this experience, I did not fully appreciate the importance of advocacy. As a high school sophomore, I doubted that anything I would say would be significant or have any sort of impact abroad. Nonetheless, after advocating on Capitol Hill, I quickly realized the power of my words in making a difference.

I met with staffers regarding the Reach Act – a bill supported by Save the Children as part of a powerful coalition. The legislation hopes to end preventable maternal and child deaths worldwide by building on the strategies currently in place. The bill has gathered considerable bipartisan support in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

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It was thrilling to see the congressmen that I met with signing on to the initiative. At that point, it became clear to me that my voice was valuable. And even though I wasn’t witnessing any instant results, I knew that people around the world would eventually be grateful. Advocacy, by strengthening the policies in place, is setting the foundation for long-term, effective change.

Olalla Duato is a high school sophomore at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey