Leah Howard’s upbringing is a heartening lesson in what compassion and kindness can do for a person.

Adopted by her mum and dad at the age of just seven weeks, Leah is unsure where she would be today if not for their love and belief.

“They have shown me how an environment, and having stability and a supportive structure around you, can completely shape your life and opportunities,’’ the Centacare psychosocial recovery coach said.

“It’s like sliding doors; I am sitting here today and the light is shining, but without Mum and Dad, I could easily be in the dark with a very different life.’’

On World Day of Social Justice, Leah’s wish is that everyone is treated with empathy and respect, regardless of their background or the circumstances they face.

To play her part, the 31-year-old mother-of-two swapped medical radiation science for social work four years ago, and is completing an honours degree while supporting others on their own recovery journeys.

The NDIS recovery coaching role has been introduced to address a gap in services for people with long-term mental health challenges, which can episodically compromise day-to-day life.

“The people that have supported me through challenges I’ve experienced have showed me how it really helps quality of life,’’ Leah said.

“I’ve learnt that sometimes we have to look for support and accept the help because it doesn’t always come straight to you. That’s what I hope to do for others – bridge that gap”

The United Nations celebrated the first World Day of Social Justice on February 20, 2009.

Every year since, the date has been an opportunity to focus on an area of social justice and how it impacts the world. The theme for 2021 is “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy’’.

“Social justice is important for acknowledging the power and privilege distributions in the community, workplace, home and really anywhere within society,’’ Leah said.

“Power and privilege comes in various and intersecting ways; it may be inherited, acquired during life, and can also be taken away or lost.’’

Leah is encouraging people to consider how they may be powerful in some ways and less in others.

“Being aware of any power and privilege you have can help you to be mindful, preventing any oppressive actions towards the vulnerable,’’ she said.

“Your power and privilege can come in forms of technology accessibility, skills, money, wealth, education, abilities and experiences.

“Social justice should be everyone’s issue. You can serve social justice by being fair and compassionate.’’