When someone thinks of an advocate, they may think of one who helps the less fortunate or helps those who are hurting because of the harmful acts of someone else, or helps those who just need that extra helping hand. Actually, all of these are true. There are advocates who assist crime victims, those with disabilities, the homeless and many other members in the community who need someone in their corner.
That is one of the main goals of advocacy, to be in someone’s corner when they are in need. Many times that is what draws someone to advocacy and in that there can be great reward. When a person realizes that someone has been helped out of an abusive relationship, helped to become more self-sufficient and mobile in the community, or helped in finding employment or a home they can call their own, there is reward.
Advocates, who are sometimes social workers resolve themselves to simple living and expectations because recognition and respect for the hard work set before them is not always rewarded monetarily. The agency or the community wherein which they work do not provide the incentives provided to others, not taking into consideration the world of difference being made in the lives of children and adults. Likewise, advocates who many times are social workers get tagged with names such as “tree huggers”. Well, sometimes those “tree huggers” have Master’s and Doctorate degrees, some have been in academia, or have their own business, sometimes they are the husbands and wives of doctors and lawyers, but all feel they need to get into the real details of life and yearn to help. At times, they are well-meaning citizens who feel the tug at their heart strings and want to donate clothing or serve in a shelter, or an entrepreneur who donates money to different causes to build a ramp or fix a roof of someone who can’t afford it.
No advocate can be discounted, they all matter and should be rewarded, even if it’s just the respect they are due for their willingness to help someone in need.
Advocates come in many shapes and sizes and don’t have to be affiliated with a certain group or agency, just someone who cares. The reward is not necessarily monetary at the grassroots level, however if there is someone who understands advocacy at its core and the hard work that goes into it, then it can be. However, the reward is usually the satisfaction and relief in knowing they played a small part in making someone’s life better. That’s what keeps many going, just knowing that they have touched a life with the help of the network of others who strive to do the same. Be the voice and the reward will come.