Online advocacy for change

Rafii H. Ramon / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Technology is changing volunteering. Illustration by: June Anderson

Back home, I once signed up to this beach cleanup event held in an island that took us a 3-hour drive and almost an hour boat ride to get there. I went there with a friend who was a keen advocate of protecting the environment, especially sea creatures.

How did we get into that? Through Facebook. Yes, online.

A group of young professionals and students with the common goal of volunteering to do random acts of kindness. From beach cleanup to conquering peaks and clear the trails, to visiting orphanages or hospitals and entertain the kids and old folks, to participating in remote medical missions and stuff like that. Driven by good hearts with active minds and bodies. Truly admiring. So anyway…

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It was a weekend full of fun and adventure. The overwhelming sense of happiness to get into the water even if I didn’t know how to swim, with strangers who eventually turned friends, all for the love of nature and for the love of volunteering. We stayed there for a night in our tents and camping gears –both prepared and unprepared but we made it through. It’s a classic example of how impulsive we are when it comes to outdoor activities.

What was my takeaway then? Setting aside the fun times, it’s the fact that I, with my friend, were able to be of service to the environment. As mentioned, it was an impulsive decision to go there, no advance planning, no people to plan with in the first place and no idea what’s gonna happen in an island of strangers. Regardless, we ticked the “Going” button on the Facebook event the organisers created and it started from there. Next thing we know, our bags are packed and our determined souls who love the outdoors are off to go.

And just now, I realised, the amount of impact the online world can influence us is huge. Imagine, it’s a normal day scrolling down your Facebook newsfeed, and you saw a random but relevant event and decided to go. And can you imagine how much goodness people have? That they are determined to gather other individuals from random worlds to get a good deed done. Empowering. Inspiring.

‘1 like, 1 prayer’

Speaking of help from the online world, we all have seen a post, somewhere on Facebook or on Twitter or perhaps on Instagram, where a heart-wrecking photo of a physically challenged child or an old man asks for ‘virtual help’ through liking the said post.

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How does that sound to you? It usually comes with a “1 like, 1 prayer” description on top.

Does that sound sympathetic to you? To me, nah. Well, yeah, it is. But somehow it bears no meaning.

Well, it is heartwarming to see people doing the best they can to help whoever’s in need or better say, whoever’s in the post.

However, in some cases or in most cases actually, what the person in the post really needs is not our likes or hearts or shares. What they are asking for is real help. Virtual ones are good but not good. Just a question, when you like or share a post like that, up to where are you truly extending your hands to them?

Look, the digital world has provided us with countless portals that will lead us to dimensions we aren’t even aware exist. Before we literally had to fly to see new places and meet people from far continents but right now, everything’s a tap away.

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What I’m trying to say is, we have endless ways to help this world – both the living and the non-living things. We can, in our own little ways, improve various lives beyond our own world. And yes, we are capable of changing lives by a single click and a single yes to go out and do it.

Success stories

I’m not in any way bragging but the beach cleanup was one example of how a single click, the ‘Going’ and the decision to really go out and reach out can change a part of this world.

But not all events and advocacies get the attention and contribution they deserve. Some just end up ending and deleting an event because no one seemed to care, some just didn’t work or failed to attract the right people.

Is anybody here familiar with the GoFundMe site?

Well, GoFundMe is a personal online fundraising website that has raised over $4 billion for people in need. It is a not-for-profit crowd funding platform that allows people to raise money for events ranging from life events such as celebrations and graduations to challenging circumstances like accidents and illnesses.

One story that’s close to our hearts is this, “A group of nursing students who have chosen to participate in a volunteer placement in a small village situated just outside Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. Throughout their placement they were partaking in physical health assessments on numerous primary school aged children, identifying those at risk and providing them with the resources and relevant education to help promote their overall health status and quality of life.”

Created in September 2017, Bree Gardner and his friends were able to reach their goal of $2,000 to help the small village obtain the proper physical health assessments. The amount was raised by 41 people in 15 months.

Two thousand bucks is not much to some but to the children who received the help, it was more than enough.

Personally, I am incapable of changing the world. Fortunately, I can change and decide on my own. And gathering all those to alter a tiny part of my life can eventually affect, in a positive way, the people around me. And the world in the bigger picture.

As the saying goes, “volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart”.

May the year 2019 bring more kindness to your hearts so that the next time you browse your newsfeed, you think of doing something for the ones in need.

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