Follow Joanna's Example

by Gillian - Date: 2009-08-23 - Word Count: 1014 Share This!

On May 21 2009, Ghurkhas veterans who had served in the British Army before 1997 won the right to settle in Britain, which had been previously denied to them. The battle for this right had gone on for years, but its turning point came when popular British actor Joanna Lumley became the public face of the Ghurkha Justice Campaign in 2008.

The Ghurkhas, natives of Nepal, have served Britain for more than 200 years. More than 50,000 of them lost their lives during this service and 13 Victoria Cross medals have been awarded to their number. Despite this honourable service, veterans from before 1997 could not officially make Britain their home, although Ghurkhas who had served after 1997 already had this right.

As such a small minority group, their voice was easily ignored until Joanna Lumley took up their cause. Ms Lumley has an emotional connection to the Ghurkhas through her father, who was an officer with the 6th Ghurkha Rifles.

She spearheaded what became a very public spat with the government, and almost single-handedly forced the government into an embarrassing u-turn on the issue.

Not only did she lead a march to 10 Downing Street to present a petition of 250,000 signatures to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, she also physically chased a member of parliament around a television studio, forcing him into an impromptu press conference and making him agree to hold further talks on the issue.

Within days of this event, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced that all Ghurkha veterans who had served four years or more in the British Army before 1997 would be allowed to settle in Britain.

Joanna Lumley's involvement in the Ghurkha campaign was a huge success and as a result of her campaigning skills there were calls for Ms Lumley to stand as a Member of Parliament at the forthcoming general election. Ms Lumley has said, however, that she has no intention of standing for office.

Although a popular actor for many years in the UK, Joanna Lumley is not an obvious choice to be a campaigning angel. Her celebrity status was used to good advantage by the Ghurkha campaign, but it can be argued that it was Joanna's own efforts that eventually force a government decision.

There are many other people in the world who make a difference in society through their campaigning efforts, yet because of their lack of celebrity status, we seldom hear about them. For anyone interested in using their energies for the common good in the way that Joanna did, there are other ways of doing it, without having to seek fame and fortune first.

1. Become a social worker
Social work has had a very bad press in the UK but it is still a worthwhile occupation, and social workers, despite their heavy workloads, still manage to have a positive impact on the lives of many people struggling to live in the UK.

A social worker works with people who have been socially excluded or who are experiencing crisis. Their role is to provide support to enable service users to help themselves. They maintain professional relationships with service users, acting as guides, advocates or critical friends.

Typically, a social worker will work with young people and their families, although they may work with other groups too, such as young offenders, people with mental health problems, people with learning and physical disabilities and the elderly.

As a social worker you become a vital component of a team that will deal with a family in crisis, so you are not alone in your approach to the issue.

2. Become a human rights lawyer

To become a lawyer takes several years of study but the career choices are varied. Once a law degree is obtained, a graduate of the law can then choose to specialise in human rights - a human rights lawyer is someone who specialises and believes in the principle that everyone is entitled to equal justice under the law.

Lawyers play a vital role in guaranteeing that the promise of equal justice translates into reality.

You'll need an aptitude for studying and analyzing complex concepts, with outstanding written and verbal communication skills and an ability to persuade others.

A bachelor's degree is required for admission into law school, although law schools do not insist on a specific undergraduate major. English, political science or one of the social sciences could be potential majors, depending on the student's specific interests.

With the right degree and experience, human rights lawyers have a choice of routes to apply their expertise. They can join international Non-Governmental Organisations that interest them, for example, such as Amnesty International or Anti-Slavery; or they can work for the United Nations in their various divisions, such as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child or the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

3. Start your own charity
This may sound daunting, but it's possible to start your own charity. It obviously helps to have a celebrity following but it's not essential.

A charity foundation is dedicated to a specific cause and uses financial donations to operate and further its cause.

• First, clarify the cause of the charity, and then make sure that you focus on projects that are connected only to that cause.

• Network with other groups. You can tap into their support networks and reach a wider audience.

•Maximize your resources. Bring attention to your cause anyway you can, through contacts, flyers, online marketing, and this will draw in funds and volunteers.

• Know where to go for help. Which government department or international body can you connect with, and how can you gain volunteers for your cause. Make contacts as soon as possible.

• Once you're ready to launch, you'll need o comply with official legislation.

o Documentation compliance with government laws.
o Enrol as a charity foundation.
o A clear organizational structure to ensure that all aspects of your operation are taken cared of.

Setting up a charity is not only a fulfilling cause, it is great experience and will take you out of your comfort zone. So not only will you be helping others through your efforts, you'll be improving your life too.

Gillian is a regular contributor of career advice and jobs news for leading UK Job Board http://www.careersandjobsuk.comn
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