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May 2024
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A Mother’s Courage to Speak

How I regained a sense of self and became an advocate for voiceless children.

By Priscilla Dickinson

Priscilla Dickinson, husband, young daughter, young son posing outside Priscilla Dickinson and family

Following a solid year of nights spent sleepwalking from exhaustion and changing nappies—most of my conversations with other adults having been on the virtues of various bottle brands—I returned to work part time. I had been so focused on my two young children and all the work that came with them that I felt out of place in the corporate world.

My job required me to dial in remotely to a weekly team meeting and give a five-minute rundown of my work in progress. Sitting alone in an empty room, I grew to dread speaking into the large mobile-conferencing speakerphone. Without body language or other visual cues, I was lost. I stumbled through sentences, my voice giving way to pressure to get through my task list as quickly as possible.

It was those meetings, along with the days of anxiety I experienced each time I was asked to present to new advisors, that drove me to find a solution. I couldn’t go on that way, my stress was affecting my loved ones too.

In late 2015, I decided to visit the Eden-Epsom Club in Auckland, New Zealand. The club members were supportive and diverse, reflecting many different nationalities, age groups and walks of life. I joined in October 2015.

Over the next three years, I slowly worked my way through the Competent Communication manual, seeing it as an ideal self-improvement tool while raising pre-school children. It was my fortnightly evening out and helped me slowly regain confidence.

In 2018, I completed project nine of the CC manual, “Persuade with Power,” delivering a speech titled “Being a Voice for the Voiceless.” While delivering this speech, I was able to step away from my notes, walk to the front of the lectern and make eye contact with my audience—a huge accomplishment for me.

“Nothing compares to the feeling of being heard—or speaking about something you’re passionate about.”

As a mother, I understand the extent of influence that parents—and other adults—have in shaping a child for adulthood, which is why I became interested in the global issue of child trafficking. Although the issue isn’t on my doorstep, I feel responsible to help protect all children from harm.

For this reason, I’m a voluntary advocate for Child Rescue, a charity that rescues and rehabilitates sexually enslaved children across Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. Since 2011, the charity has rescued thousands of children and offered assistance, such as a safe place to stay, counselling and training in practical skills.

My experience writing and delivering speeches in my Eden-Epsom Club has empowered me to write social media posts and newsletters for Child Rescue and spread the word about child trafficking to friends and family. I assist with fundraising activities in my community and intend to speak at my local church and other local events in the future.

In my early career, I felt more comfortable writing than speaking. Three years at Toastmasters has given me the courage to speak with authority and inject self-expression into my words. Evaluating speeches has improved my listening skills, making me a better communicator with friends and family. Beyond this, my skills are helping me spread the word about a cause that’s close to my heart.

Nothing compares to the feeling of being heard—or speaking about something you’re passionate about. Progress, no matter how small, builds over time. I joined Toastmasters to help myself. And now I’m able to help others too.

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