Social and Environmental Change

Oxfam: Empowering Basic Human Rights

With today’s issues, it is hard to find good in the world or the news. Seeing an uplifting story or hearing good news is similar to someone claiming they saw Bigfoot. People choose to see it while others ignore the possibilities of it. It is a breath of fresh air when you can find someone trying to correct the “imbalance in the world.”

Luke Baines is an English-born actor who is known for The Girl in the Photographs, Truth or Dare, and the popular sci-fi show Shadowhunters. In 2016, when his career began to take off, Baines wanted to find a charity he could align himself with long term. His research led him to an international NGO that contributes funds directly into their programs.

Oxfam focuses on the alleviation of global poverty and enforcing basic human rights. Baines explains the many avenues of poverty that need to be corrected, “Whether it’s foreign aid, whether it is political, or trying to get different pieces of legislation passed for people who are usually underserved or unprotected. But it also means empowering people with skills, training, access to basic human rights and things that they need to be empowered and to live.”

Baines passion to help the world goes back to when he was ten-years-old and would write letters on behalf of Amnesty International. Now, at age 29, his heart has remained golden and he still wants to save the world. “I wanted to find an organization that I could align myself with in a long term sense, and so I researched every major international NGO because I knew I wanted to do something in that space. I came across Oxfam and I just loved the fact that the majority of their funding goes directly into their programs,” says Baines. Oxfam focuses on international injustice and works to fight the root of the problem instead of patching it up.

Recently, a trip to El Salvador and Honduras opened his eyes even more to the struggles facing Central Americans. “There are farmers that I met who are struggling to remain in their own country because they’re in a drought and they have been for years. They can’t put food on the table anymore; that’s why they are looking at moving north. Some women have been abused by partners, who because of the impunity that stands in Central America for actually charging offenders of domestic abuse, they also can’t stay. And then some people are in a gang-controlled territory who have no choice but either to leave or to join the gangs. They either don’t want that or they don’t want that for their children…” Witnessing these events made Baines more passionate about Oxfam when he didn’t think it was possible.

It is about supporting the families and communities that need it, but also empowering and encouraging someone when there seems to be no hope left. During his time in Central America, Baines was able to witness Oxfam helping one of the many families in need. “We met this one mother of three whose husband’s a farmer, and he is having an incredible time, incredibly hard time putting food on the table. And so Oxfam came in and gave her a small loan and some training in basic food and safety regulations so that she could start her own tortilla stand near her home. She was making tortillas every day for her family anyway, so this was adding to that, making more, selling them in her own tortilla stand so that they could earn some more money.”

Poverty is often associated with being hungry or poor. In reality, poverty has grown to encompass more than Webster’s dictionary can define. Fighting poverty is providing foreign aid, passing legislation, empowering people with skills and training, and making sure basic human rights are provided for all.

So what impacted Baines decision to fight for the right of others? “Even as a kid, I would hate when people would cheat playing board games or I would hate if someone was being bullied, or if a person was left out. It’s something that I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s just something inside of me that I don’t know why people get treated differently. Just because one person was born on one side of the world and another person was born on another side that doesn’t mean one of those people should have more than the other person. So I think that’s just something that’s always been in me and something that I will never understand until I try and help correct the imbalance.”

Over the past year, the Shadowhunters family made a huge impact on the world and has proven time and time again they will not be ignored. It is an example of how no one achieves anything alone. “I loved seeing the fact that people were using their voice to make a change. I think that just looking at the world and being upset with something or being angry about something or being disheartened is one thing. But taking a stand, you know, saying no, I don’t agree with that. That’s not something that I want. This is what I want and going after it is so important,” says Baines. There is power in numbers, and the Shadowfam is capable of the change we need to see in the world. Supporting Oxfam makes the possibilities endless.

Currently, the war in Yemen has escalated, and Oxfam is fighting to stop the sale of U.S. made bombs to Saudi Arabia. Bombs have contributed to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians since 2018, and no end is in sight. Additionally, there is a call to action for the U.S. to address the root causes of migration from Central America by treating asylum seekers with dignity and understanding before shutting them out.

Do not turn a blind eye. Choose to correct the imbalance affecting basic human rights. “Take five minutes and really do some research to look into the sort of organization they are. I doubt you’ll be able to look away,” says Baines. Look beyond the pictures and see the mother who is struggling to feed her family, the child who is starving every night because of a war-torn country, and the family trying to escape from violence and crime.

Thank you to Luke Baines for taking the time to answer my interview questions.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit the Oxfam website.

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