Have you found your cause?
This past week I’ve been really inspired by Erzsebet Szekeres, a Hungarian human rights activist who has made waves for disabled adults in her home country. I was so moved by her story in the book How to Change the World. Inspired by her disabled son Tibor, Szekeres identified a flaw in the system Hungary had in place for adolescents and adults with communication problems and similar disabilities. The dominant school of thought at the time was that they should be locked up in institutions away from friends and family. In these buildings, they lacked any way to develop and improve social skills, and often their symptoms would worsen as a result. Szekeres, whose son was only six at the time of her initial social change work, was scared that Tibor would face a long and uncertain future in a similar venue.
After researching how successful institutions operated in neighboring countries, Szekeres returned to Hungary and began building. She created over twenty facilities in all, and in each there was piecemeal work for the members to do and free time in which to mingle with others and develop crucial life skills. Many of the adults she helped saw their disabilities improve over time, including Tibor. It was a slow process and took many years of concentrated effort but the residents flourished in their new environment(s) with the encouragement and help of carefully-screened caretakers. Today, Erzsebet Szekeres is a proud member of the Ashoka Fellowship and founder of Alliance Industrial Union, the inconspicuous name she created for her nationwide program.
After reading about Szekeres’ story, and how much she did to create change in Hungary for an entire sub-population of adults, I was intrigued by her patience, hard work, and all of the sacrifices she made. I have said for years whenever anybody asked me “Oh, your major is public policy? What do you want to do with that?” that I want to change the world. I would always say that I simply didn’t know where to start. But now I feel a second wind of energy. My brother, Thomas, suffers from muscular dystrophy, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and other mental and behavioral problems. He has always had a hard time communicating effectively and appropriately, dealing with his anger issues, and performing normal tasks like counting change, telling time, and basic math. He will be 22 years old in October. I live two hours away from him but have always felt responsible for helping him. I would love to make lasting change for him and others, to help him get a job and his own living quarters, and to improve his quality of life by offering help and support.
When I think about graduating, it always seems like a ticking time bomb. Only one semester left. A few months. Right around the corner. I feel anxious about the future, about where my degree will take me. I want to do something that I enjoy so that I never really ‘work’ a day of my life. I think I have found my passion in social change. I have always wanted to help people and make a real and lasting change and now, thanks to reading about a fellow activist’s story, I know that it is possible.
Never give up! Your passion is out there ☺