QUESTION: How can I better advocate for two HIV+ girls in Ethiopia since the Ethiopian government does not allow photographs?
Orphan advocates face many challenges. Not the least of these is how to capture attention if a picture of the child/ren is not allowed.
I would encourage someone in this position to paint a word picture for others. Many times a photo can be held privately, just not published. Describe what the girls look like for folks. Talk about their bright smiling eyes, playful expression, etc. Use as many descriptive adjectives as possible.
More importantly, if you know anything about their personality, share that. Tell what their hopes and dreams are. If you don’t know those things, share what your personal hope for them are. Explain just how much you care about the children. Tell why you care so much.
Write the kids into a family. Many advocates are creating blogs for the children they are advocating for, using them as powerful tools communicating the needs of orphans to the world. Use a blog to describe what life would be like for the girls within a typical family, using what you know about them to enhance the family you create. Use your imagination to paint a realistic picture of what caring for children with HIV is like. Don’t exaggerate or under share, just give the facts. You can also send interested parties to blogs of parents raising children with HIV to get a taste of what these families are like.
Use imagery of what life could be like in a family to contrast what it is like now. If possible write the children and ask them to share some of their daily experiences in their orphanage, andabout their hopes for a family.
When you can express your passion people’s hearts will be captivated. The key is to invite others to listen while being a listener yourself. Many people have never heard about HIV adoption and have reservations. The key is to prevent them from feeling embarrassed for not having all the answers right away and to avoid causing them to feel shame over any fears they may wrestle with. It is important to give people the time and space to explore HIV adoption fully. When we don’t talk down to people and approach them from a standpoint of compassion and a willingness to assist them with education many doors can open. With time and the right resources people begin to think that the once seemingly impossible could become their reality.
For more information on the FIG program and how YOU can become an advocate see our website or contact me, Traci Heim, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.