Although I’m proud to be an advocate, there’re times when I need others to advocate for me. Growing up, my mother was my advocate. If not for my mom, I truly don’t know where I’d be now. I’m appreciative that when I need help, I have a community I can call on including, the Super Coopers, my favorite guy, and a host of friends. No matter who you are, there’s going to come a time when you’re going to need help. Today, welcome guest blogger and amazing advocate Alicia, as she shares the importance of why advocates need advocates.
Advocacy can be a lonely road or can be one that brings great friendships. It’s important that people recognize that advocacy can lead to burn out without the right supports. All advocates need support. Most advocates are people with lived experiences. They can relate to the struggles of others because they experience the issues they advocate for on a daily basis or know someone close to them who is affected by an issue they are advocating for.
It’s important that outsiders looking into the world of advocacy remember the golden rule of kindness. People should never assume that an advocate has it all together and doesn’t need supports. Often advocates still need a great deal of support to be involved with the advocacy work they are doing.
The supports that each advocate needs are different. Some people need one to one support and others utilize peer support. Some people need assistance of a direct support professional to help assist them to attend advocacy meetings or to even help with activities of daily living.
Advocacy is an action that brings people together to unite on very specific issues and causes. It is often forgotten how much work it takes to be at the table to advocate. Sometimes people are on zoom while laying in bed and other times the work it takes to just show up in person is often discredited. Some people need supports that are often behind the scenes including the support of a note taker, someone to assist with navigation of online platforms or even the spaces in person. Sometimes people need assistance for someone to relay information, set up assisted technology and even just someone to help another stay calm in an in-person space or online.
We shouldn’t look at people’s advocacy and stereotype them. It is often harder to access the tables of advocacy than one realizes. People face all kinds of barriers to social and professional interactions. It’s best to honor the golden rule of kindness. We should work to honor people’s commitment to advocacy and work to learn how people are able to do the work they do.
It’s important to realize to that advocates need advocates too. Sometimes people can see someone speaking up boldly and think they don’t need assistance. We must work to unwind the stereotypes around advocacy and advocates, they are people too and need support.
We need to ask advocates how we can best support them in the work they are doing. It is important to acknowledge the amount of work it took to be at the table. We can acknowledge this to by checking in with each advocate asking them about their day, week or day to day life. Sometimes just asking people an ice breaker or asking people as an individual or group questions also changes the dynamics of communication.
It also makes me feel good when people ask if I need any accommodations to attend the meetings, it shows they are in tune with the needs of people supporting their cause. It also brings more confidence in me as an advocate to know that people are invested in me and my time, it encourages me to show up more.
Being an advocate offers so many opportunities of networking and connections, but it can also be draining too for some. It’s important to find a balance and to always have self care as an advocate.