The other day, a charity advertisement in the bus shelter across the road from my house caught my attention. It’s the one pictured above, part of Mencap’s Here I Am campaign.
It’s a bold image, in every sense. Larger than life, and daring you not to ignore her is Ellen, an actor and writer. There’s such strong personality and mischievousness in her face, and she’s sticking her tongue out.
The words underneath the arresting picture make an important statement. Ellen is not a learning disability. She is a person with vibrancy, character and interests first.
I like that this campaign gives a voice to people with a learning disability. And to me, that voice is saying, “Notice me! Understand me! Let me tell you about who I am.”
And what I like about this most is the timing of it. This is campaigning in every sense of the word, at a time when the extent to which charities should get involved in campaigning is being questioned and is under threat.
This is important stuff. Because real charity work, in my view, isn’t about doers and beneficiaries. It’s about empowerment, making a difference, engendering change. We hide away too often.
Charities, like Ellen and like Mencap here, need to be bolder.
We need to show our personality. We need to stop hiding away for fear of surprising people. We need to confront and challenge when it’s necessary to further our cause, or to be understood. And we need to have authentic voices.
Let’s learn from Mencap, get our faces in extreme close up, and declare “Here I am!”