ADRA is an action-orientated organisation. From working in conflict zones, supporting refugees and internally displaced persons, to running development projects throughout the world, it is an agency that some have described as being ‘the hands and feet of Jesus’.
ADRA is changing the world through four key areas – health, education, livelihoods and emergency response – helping to relieve the suffering of millions around the world. But underpinning our implementation work is the need for advocacy.
But what exactly is advocacy?
Put simply, advocacy is a written or spoken activity by an individual or a group whose purpose is to influence decisions within the political, economic or social institutions.
How is it demonstrated in ADRA?
Did you know that there are 262 million children around the world who are currently denied the right to education? Most of us living in the UK can only imagine this statistic, as we have mandated education for children, most of which is funded by the Government. Children out of school are vulnerable to recruitment by militia and child trafficking. Girls have an increased risk of early marriage and teen pregnancy. ADRA, supported by the 20 million Seventh-day Adventist members around the world, was able to get more than a million signatures advocating that world leaders ensure that all children, adolescents, and youth have access to free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education.
Currently, the three main issues that are fully developed revolve around education (girls’ education, education in emergencies, and children with disabilities), but more advocacy project initiatives are in the pipeline for the future.
Advocacy in the UK
Over the weekend of 22-24 April, thirty community leaders gathered at the BUC office to be trained as advocates under ADRA-UK’s ‘I AM Urban’ initiative. Leading the training were Maja Ahac (Head of Advocacy for ADRA Europe) and Siri Karlsson (County Director for ADRA Sweden). Both ladies have a wealth of experience in the field of advocacy. Joining them was the special guest speaker and newly appointed Head of Advocacy at ADRA International, Dr Herma Percy.
Topics over the weekend included ‘Injustice and inequalities’, ‘Speaking up for the rights of the poor’, and ‘Called to be agents of justice’. The weekend began with a key devotional thought by Bert Smit, CEO of ADRA-UK, who spoke about ADRA’s values of justice, love, and compassion. Additional content was provided by the writer; Pastor Max McKenzie-Cook, SEC Community Services, Prison Ministries and Diversity Director; and Abigail Wright Stephenson, LAMP NHS National Project Manager, with input from Sharon Platt-McDonald, BUC Women’s Ministries, Health, and Community Services Director.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the chance for attendees to speak about the work that they are currently doing in their local communities. Stories revolved around the impact of grassroots community hubs throughout the pandemic. There was also a desire to become more impactful through becoming advocates. One attendee at the weekend described the training as ‘life changing’ as she wept, while another stated that ‘it was the best training weekend’ that she had ever attended.
Reflecting on the weekend, I can only say that it was great to be in a room of passionate individuals who now not only want to work in their local communities, but are advocates for ADRA-UK.
For more information see ‘Our Work‘.
Written by: Catherine Boldeau (Development Education Officer and ‘I AM Urban’ lead)