“An hour more,” I repeatedly murmured to myself.
90? 100? I counted again. 120 people managed to show up here. We were almost in disbelief! We have never initiated an event with a crowd as huge as this and it was never this ambitious. But the audacity to run through with this ambitious project is for a good reason.
The Philippines is currently ranked third as the most vulnerable to climate change. For anyone who cares deeply for the environment and for our future, we were alarmed. We panicked. But climate change is the kind of topic that people would normally veer away from so we had to think of a better approach.
We have thought of Art. Art is something anyone can relate to one way or another. We called on all artists, poets, and writers from all over the country to talk about the climate. Submissions started pouring in and a lot of people have shown interest already and would even go the extra mile (literally) to see the Art Exhibit. That’s the time we knew we can’t just wing this like our previous events. We must make this big. So we did.
“5 minutes na lang,” I mouthed the words to one of my friends in the organization.
I saw her smile. The kind of smile full of relief and feeling of accomplished. We did it and we could not be any happier.
That kind of moment is what you don’t normally see in photographs or after-event videos. What you can only see are big smiles, people laughing and shaking hands. But you don’t know, however, how much effort and passion was poured in to bring every successful event up to that point.
Volunteers have complicated and challenging lives they live by. They are students who have to juggle between academics and their advocacy. Skip class to attend weekly meetings, skip meals to pass deadlines for school and assignments in their organization. They are also employees who just logged out from their office after eight hours of work that sacrifices their sleep just to be present at an early coastal clean-up or free check-up drive in a barrio.
What’s even more challenging than a volunteer is a volunteer that leads an organization that is built in volunteerism. You get anxious by the day knowing you have no hold over your members. If they choose to leave, you can’t do anything about it but just watch them go. You have to be good to keep the organization intact and make sure no one loses interest on what they are passionate about.
Yes, it is hard being a volunteer. You never get paid for your hard work. No salaries or even small allowances. So I guess your next question is, “why do you do it anyway?”
It is because we love being a volunteer. Yes, we might not get paid in monetary value, but the amount of sincere “Thank You’s” and warm hugs you get from people you helped is priceless. The transformation you took a part in a community and seeing how much they have changed brings a feeling of extreme bliss. The impact and the mark you leave on all the people serves as a reminder that there’s no stopping you from volunteering even more.
Next time you see Manong delivering boxes of free medicine on both hands, Manang teaching kids on a hot afternoon or that young lad still in uniform facilitating energizers for a local community, know that it is their passion that brought them there amidst all the challenges they have to go through.
That even when the curtains have covered the centered stage, they’ll still know what to do the next day.