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When I saw Gina Martin’s activism guide, I was intrigued. I spent most of my early life and teenage years volunteering, raising money for charities, and working with different NGOs to spread awareness and help raise funds. It was an extremely rewarding time in my life, and I was able to raise over 40,000 AUD for various charities before I turned 13. I was awarded Young Volunteer of Year when I was a teenager and was also a member of St John Ambulance—a volunteer first aid service—for many years throughout my teens. I learnt a lot of skills that have helped me help people, and I am extremely grateful for that time. Throughout school, I was bullied a lot for my charity work. I was made fun of and ostracised. To be honest, I hated how I was treated in school, but I really hated how fellow classmates would find out about my charity work through local newspapers and use it make fun of me at school. If I am honest, those bullies stopped me doing a lot more with my charity work. I needed to fly under the radar to survive, so I slowly stopped doing things or I would do things more annonymously. Volunteering, activism, and charity work didn’t just attract bullies at school for me. When I was 9, I had a stalker who called my house regularly to describe what I had been wearing at school and what they wanted to do with me. I was the youngest person to be nominated for an Australia Day award in my home town, and the write-up in the paper had attracted my stalker. I wasn’t allowed to answer the phone and my father started to drop me off and pick me up from school.
I wanted to share this personal story of my experiences with activism, volunteering, and charity work because whilst it can be extremely rewarding and life changing, it can also be really scary to put yourself out in the world for a cause. Some people will admire and support your work, and others will systematically tear you down. When I started getting into activism, I was young, and there was definitely no guide books. I had really supportive and understanding parents who wanted to help me achieve my dreams to help people in need. Although not everyone can have this level of support.
Be The Change is the perfect guide book for navigating activism in our contemporary social media-fuelled society. Martin gives you a detailed plan to help you achieve your activism goals. Martin is right in stating that the digital world has completely changed the way we interact with the world and therefore, how we can campaign for things. It has both an extremely positive and negative impact on our lives. It is easier to share human stories and helps you get your message out in the world with very little money behind it. Hashtags are changing the world.
Martin lists all the pros and cons of different campaign styles from crowdfunding, how to use different social media platforms for your cause, the effectiveness of petitions, and how to get the right people to listen to your voice. Martin wanted to make upskirting—someone taking nonconsensual pictures up someone’s dress or skirt—a criminal offence in England. So her campaign involved lawmakers and politicians. However, as Martin outlines in her book, everyone’s campaign will be a little different and will require different work. The most important advice Martin gives is to ask people to envisage their end goal, then work backwards to create a timeline for the activism. Whilst you are doing this, Martin also asks you to look at how your privileges might shape your worldview and therefore your activism.
If you have ever wanted a book to kickstart your activism or help you reach further with your goals, Martin’s book is really easy to understand and read. She has some excellent advice and also gives tips for regular people who maybe don’t have time to campaign but still want to make the world better through ethical shopping, for example.
Have you ever worked in volunteering, activism, or charity? What were your experiences with it, and what advice would you give to people just starting. As always, share the reading love.