Youth Ambassador Claudia visited East Timor with World Vision. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision
I remember once reading, at a migration museum, that the worst kind of noise is silence. I remember reading stories on the wall of people who couldn’t speak up about the situations that they were in. I also remember feeling guilty, that although being in a position where I could speak up about the injustices of the world, I often didn’t.
My time overseas as a Youth Ambassador was my second visit to East Timor. It only cemented the love that I have for this strong and beautiful country. East Timor is a luscious, green-place, filled with breathtaking scenery of rice paddies and mountains that seem to never end. I found myself sitting back, feeling proud, that after all these years of doing the 40 Hour Famine I’ve been able to see that our donations are making a tangible difference. But the reason why we travelled to East Timor as Youth Ambassadors is because there is an injustice threatening its people, an injustice that often isn’t spoken up about; and that injustice is hunger.
In the middle of a deserted village laid a row of small, straw huts. Welcomed inside of one hut, I sat next to an elderly lady named Elisa. I remember how she greeted me with a warm smile, cheeks lifted, and eyes crinkled. Elisa is a strong woman with a gentle soul. The name ‘Elisa’ – meaning ‘speaks truth’, – was certainly a name that she lived up to.
Elisa and I instantly connected. It was an unspoken bond, placed together with two small hands, one being mine and one being hers.
Elisa led me to the rows and rows of crops in the front of her hut. I couldn’t understand how they were going hungry when they had so much food in their garden. You see, what you grow in East Timor is determined by the rainfall during the wet season. Elisa pointed over to the crops on her left, and said, “The wet season wasn’t wet enough. Our crops have failed. We have enough food for the next two or three days but after that – there’s nothing.”
It was in that moment when it all really hit me. I distinctively remember feeling overwhelmed with the truth of her words… because I couldn’t comprehend how this was real. But it is real. I couldn’t accept that hunger was robbing people of their basic rights. I couldn’t just sit back and watch it all happen. I had to do something. I couldn’t stay silent any more.
So I chose to speak up.
Each day we use our voices. It’s said that the average person speaks 16,000 words every single day. Imagine if you could use your voice, even just 100 of those words, to advocate for the issue of global hunger?
Our voices are the most powerful asset to us. They are stronger than the sharpest of weapons, and louder than crackling thunder. But because we live in a society that doesn’t encourage us to use our voices, they try to silence us, because they know the power that our voices contain. They know that if we speak up about an issue like global hunger, when the world stops and asks our leaders: “what are you going to do?” change will be enforced.
There are some really easy ways to make your voice heard. You can speak up about Elisa’s situation by writing a blog, posting a photo or having a conversation with someone. I can guarantee you that when you speak up about injustice; people will listen. People will feel empowered to join you and spread this message. And when people just like you are sending sparks out into the air about what you believe in, you’re joining a revolution that leads to change.
After meeting Elisa and hearing the truth of her story, I made the simple decision to be an advocate for global hunger – because I realised that the sound of one person’s voice cannot be ignored.
I want to encourage you to use your voice as your weapon. Use your voice as your striking thunder. Tell the world that just because hunger exists, doesn’t mean that it can’t be overcome. Global hunger can be overcome when people just like you speak up and tell the world that it shouldn’t exist, and when change is made, doesn’t have to.
There are many people worldwide whom cannot speak up about their situations. Human rights – denied, equality – unaccepted, and justice – neglected. Knowing all of this, how can we stay silent?
You are in the position where you are able to freely speak up about the injustices of the world. You have the power to make a difference. Don’t let your silence speak for you.