In a world crowded with countless daily responsibilities, where our attention is drawn in every direction, why do so many people choose to work for nonprofit and social justice causes? As it turns out, a large number of people feel that taking action is less of a choice now that Donald Trump is President. For many, the 2016 election was the reality check needed to jumpstart their activism. It motivated tens of thousands of people to join our country’s political process and organize for change. While we face unprecedented challenges, we’re also experiencing an unprecedented surge in political activism.
Organizations like Food & Water Watch rely heavily on the hard work and dedication of our super star volunteers and interns. Desiree Batista has become an integral part of our Chicago office. As a full time mother, student and part time worker, it’s hard to believe she also finds time to lead the charge with our Midwest team.
Desiree reflected on her involvement in helping to organize the People’s Climate March in Chicago, admitting that she was surprised by the size of the Food & Water Watch volunteer network. In the past, she felt it was much more difficult to spark interest in the environment and to get people actively involved. She attributes this newfound wave of activism to a general desire to retake control of our Democracy and combat Trump. Her phone calls with volunteers lately go something like this:
“One time I was making calls to encourage people to volunteer in Maryland in support of the fracking ban and I connected with this older woman. I thought she was going to hang up on me or something but I started talking to her about fracking and she was super interested. She was like, ‘Give me that number, I’m going to call.’”
The tangible difference that something as simple as a phone call has is the motivating force that drives people to use the little free time they have volunteering. The turmoil we face under our current administration has ignited a remarkable energy among people not previously involved in activism.
Desiree also reflected on her personal relationships. She’s been surprised to find her friends and family, who aren’t environmentalists by nature, suddenly inspired to take on responsibilities and volunteer roles. She even had a friend who she’s known for years contact her and say, “I love what you’re doing and I want to get involved.” Watching the hunger for political change awaken in her community has made organizing near and dear to her.
As an intern, Desiree was able to embrace a level of autonomy while helping to organize the People’s Climate March that many don’t realize you can have as a volunteer. Just by sending emails, making phone calls and arranging various meetings, she was able to play an integral part in recruiting the 5,000 attendees of the march. Like most volunteers, she did all of this while still maintaining her home life as a parent of two children and balancing her time in her other roles as a student and employee. The best part? She said it was easy.
“This was a refreshing change. I have a way to mitigate the feelings of fear I have about the future. At the end of the day, I am always able to realize that this is what I want for the sake of my children, and it is worth it.”
When work feels meaningful, it seems to come more effortlessly. Oftentimes allocating time for activism actually transfers to higher productivity in other aspects of our lives. As the need for a climate revolution becomes more and more critical, we will rely more and more on volunteer involvement. Food & Water Watch has now launched a great opportunity for people looking to get active in their communities. Our Off Fossil Fuels campaign gives volunteers across the country the tools they need to fight the oil and gas industry and make sure we're building power locally.
Like Desiree found, we can all start making a difference. Now is the best time to get started--and together, our impact in our communities can be felt around the country.