This is How to be an Activist, a reoccurring blog series published by Day of the Girl. To learn more about How to be an Activist, please click here.
It’s easy to fulfill a passion for activism if you live in a place like Chicago or New York. These massive cities have all kinds of opportunities for young activists looking to get involved, whether it’s interning or volunteering at social justice organizations, attending rallies or big events every other week, and more. But, if you live in Central Illinois (like yours truly) or a similarly overlooked location, you’ll quickly discover that finding an outlet for your activism can be challenging. But never fear: where there’s a will, there’s a way. Besides just taking the online route (which you can learn more about in a different post) there are multiple ways to be an activist within your local community.
Start a chapter of an organization in your town (or just start your own club!)
This may sound daunting at first, but starting a club or a chapter isn’t that difficult. A lot of youth-run organizations have start-up guides on their websites for young people looking to bring their work to local communities. Some of those organizations include:
PERIOD (formerly Camions of Care)
Day of the Girl-US has many opportunities for you to host local events or bring campaigns like Menstruation Stations, In Solidarity, and Truth-Only Sex Ed to your high school.
If you don’t want to go through an organization, the other option is to create your own opportunity! Find a teacher who’d be interested in helping out, gather a group of your friends, and start recruiting your classmates. Or, you could meet with a wider group of people by having meetings at a local library or community center. Starting a group yourself allows you to bring together like minded people you might not have known otherwise, and create change at the local level.
2) Look for volunteer work or internships
Your town probably has some nonprofits within it, so ask around. Even if these places don’t have specific programs in place for youth to get involved, don’t be afraid to ask for an opportunity to help out. Some places may have one-time activities you can participate in, but others may recognize your passion and find a way for you to be involved continuously. Some suggestions:
Even programs through your school can be a great place to help out in the community.
3) Organize an event
If you don’t have the time to make a long-term commitment like running a club or interning, do a one-time or annual event that will still have an impact.
You can also think of ways to host an event for Day of the Girl - we have lots of resources for you! http://www.dayofthegirl.org/joinus
You could also hold a food drive, book drive, clothes drive or another type of drive in your school (if you clear it with your principal) or in your town. Just set up a place to collect the items and try to make a game out of it if you can. Maybe the winning class gets doughnuts or the neighborhood that contributes the most gets their lawns mowed by you and your friends for free. There are many ways you can spin this. Just make sure you have a plan for the donations you collect: approach a nonprofit like United Way or others to distribute the donations to the needy.
If you would rather spread awareness than collect donations, there are a couple of different things you can try. Screen a documentary about an issue you care about. You can do it in your school’s auditorium, or if it’s warm out you could do it on the side of the building if you have the resources. Girl Rising is one organization that gives you the opportunity to host a screening of their film bringing attention to gender equality. You could also try a reverse trick-or-treat where instead of collecting candy, you go from house to house handing out information about your cause and collecting donations. There is really a variety of ways to raise awareness about an issue.
If you really, really care about something, you shouldn’t let any unfortunate circumstances stand in your way. These are just some of the ways you can be an activist in a small town, and there are so many more that you might think of while I can’t even imagine them. The possibilities are endless!