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Advocacy Interview

posted Sep 30, 2019, 1:16 PM by Omar Odom   [ updated Sep 30, 2019, 1:24 PM ]
The following is an interview I held with my cousin and public health advocate, Jasmin Smith. 

How did you become an advocate, was there a specific catalyst or was it a gradual process? 

- I'm a public health major at Lasalle University. One of my public health courses required that I did volunteer hours at a program of our choice. We have to do at least 10 visits during the semester. The program I chose was Pheed Philly. Pheed Philly is a program at La Salle University that allows students to go to different communities to help prepare meals for the people at their local community center. I felt that this was such an awesome program and a way to give back to different communities. After taking this course, I became more involved so I continued to work in Pheed Philly. 

Did you experience any personal fears, doubts or dangers? 

- In the beginning, I did have doubts if this program I choose was for me because I know I am not that social. While working in Pheed Philly, one of my fears was being more social with the people in the communities. The people in different communities were nice people that want to engage with the students. Every time I went it got a little easier to get overcome my fear of being shy. 

Did you face any obstacles internally and/or from external structures? 

-The obstacles that I faced were actually controlling my emotions while listening to people’s stories about the struggles they endured in their lives. While I am listening to them, it made me realize that these are public health issues. There are barriers people face in the urban community such as how many people can't afford food for their kids, how people have lost their jobs and housing, and how people do not have access to healthcare. 

What were the outcomes? How did what you advocated to change their lives and/or the lives of others? 

-Pheed Philly is an awesome program where I help the people in the community get a checkup, talk to a social worker, supply food, clothing, and childcare. This has had such a positive effect on me because it made me realize how fortunate I am and it made me want to do more to help others in need. Pheed Philly impacts people’s lives in these communities. The community is grateful for what the community center and Pheed Philly do for them. The people working in this program show them acts of kindness and take the time to just listen to them. 

I find Jasmin’s experience with public health to be quite inspiring, I never really knew or thought about it before talking with her. It’s a noble calling that actually improves communities, instead of profiting off of them like so many professions in health and other industries. I love that it helps struggling citizens and calls health professionals and the government to do something about it. This career gives communities a voice and hope for change. This is another encouragement for me to somehow do the same with my career. I hope to entertain and inspire with my writing and help others get their work published. 

I was able to identify with Jasmin’s shyness. I have social anxieties myself and understand how difficult it can be to reach out to others. Even if you are trying to help them, you are cautious in what you say and do to prevent getting hurt. The combination of the visible trials of race and the invisible struggles with mental ailments can be maddening. Racists will never help and the majority ignorant to your tendencies will think you are crazy, lazy, or stupid. Perhaps public health can even help the mentally ill by supporting them and offering assistance in managing their symptoms. 

I would very much like to advocate for things like mental health, housing, job satisfaction, and justice and equality. These are crucial topics I continue to want for myself and others. If housing conditions are detestable, it can be extremely challenging to achieve balance in other areas of life. One cannot operate without a base. It can also feel like torture having to work a hated job. This is truer if it does not even pay a living wage. Besides, if your heart is not into something, you are probably better off without it. I have always believed that everyone should get what they deserve. Arrogance holds society back. 

This interview has reminded me of the importance of community. Even though we are inclined to look out for ourselves and our loved ones, our communities can often provide free or cheap assistance that our government should but does not. As much as I dislike being social with strangers, it may end up being beneficial for everyone to communicate, understand each other, and put an end to non-progressive, negative, and arrogant ways of thinking. As an English major, I hope to bring awareness to problems and opportunities in our world. With a creative writing concentration, I aim to entertain and make viewers think.
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