Gaia Croston is an international student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Geography and Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. She has been a member of Edinburgh Student Stop AIDS for two years and was President in 2014-2015.
Last week I had a lovely chat with our new Campaign Coordinator Tabby about the campaign and Edinburgh’s Stop AIDS Society. When reflecting on my past year as Edinburgh’s president it can be very easy to become critical and negative, to say not enough was done here or too much time was wasted there. But chats like the one I had with Tabby make me realize there are so many positives to the past year, and we do accomplish a lot.
Student Stop AIDS Campaign has a reputation for being small but having incredible, impassioned members. It’s built on intimate, mutual relationships where everyone wants to help each other grow. The diverse passions, interests and skills shared between us within societies and in our wider campaign mean that when we set a goal and go after it, we’re a force to be reckoned with.
Sometimes, within activism of any kind, morale boosts are hard to find. The fundraiser you planned falls flat, or the person you chatted with for ages about your cause disappears after that chat, or the people you are directing your campaign towards turn a deaf ear. What I’ve learned in the past year as Edinburgh Stop AIDS Society’s president, though, is that quality really does come before quantity.
The members of Edinburgh Stop AIDS want for people to be knowledgeable and open about topics like HIV and sex, they want for people living with HIV to enjoy the best care and comfort possible (whether they are individuals in another country or right in Scotland) and they want access to medicine for people globally (which sounds daunting just typed out). At times it can be difficult to persevere when discussions around medicine, trade policy and intellectual property become confusing, or when the people we bring our message to don’t want to listen, but time and again the members of our campaign continue meeting targets.
“What activism needs is care and commitment from participants, and we have that in spades.”
Consider our Speaker tour, easily one of my favorite annual events of ours. We didn’t have the highest attendance of the lot, but everyone who came seemed really engaged and we had fantastic chats about Global Health and everything in between after the fact. The campaigning that day was invigorating and successful even though Edinburgh was pouring rain on us. I heard from several students I had never even met before who were incredibly passionate about global health and development, and it renewed my interest in this society and in Restless Development.
We see the same sort of enthusiastic response when we fundraise, when we raise awareness, when we talk to other organizations and societies, when we contact MEPs and MPs about our campaigns. And that delights me. Can small be mighty? It absolutely can, and our campaign is great proof of that.