Okay, who wants to spend hours working under potentially chaotic conditions, poring over smudged columns of numbers, doing shifts at odd hours, and all without pay?
Apparently, I do.
7 PM last night saw me and Don trooping to Ateneo de Manila in answer to an open call for volunteers for the Namfrel Operation Quick Count for this coming election. The full page ad said: “We are looking for 1 million people who will fight for this country.” And, seriously, sappy as it may sound, that’s the exact sort of stuff that I find hard to resist. I’m actually an anti-social person by personality, but I’m a sucker for patriotism.
The Namfrel quick count is just one of the suite of activities one can volunteer for, but one can also do stuff related to voters education, campaign monitoring, canvass watching, or poll watching, among other things. I’ve been thinking of doing some election-related volunteer work this May and was just looking for the opportunity, and this one seemed to fit the bill quite nicely.
Looking at the group that filled Escaler Hall to overflowing that night, I suddenly felt so old. Right. The fact that the group maintains a Multiply site should have given me a clue on its major demographic. Majority appeared to be students, save for a few nuns and some middle-aged people sitting at the back row. I was thankful that I didn’t have a client meeting that day and was able to wear jeans to the office, or I would have looked quite odd sitting on the floor listening to the presentations. Sitting on the floor was no problem, of course, it’s a skill honed by years of hanging out at AS Hall corridors, Main Library nooks, and the various available flat surfaces at Mass Comm.
The turn out was apparently a pleasant surprise to the organizers, who ran out of sign up sheets and had to adjust the process of signing up to accommodate everybody as fast as possible. Still, the Quezon City Namfrel chapter needs 2,736 volunteers to serve 4-hour shifts during the nonstop tabulation of results starting on May 14 and ending on May 20. We signed up for the first shift, 8 PM on May 14. After that, well, let’s see how it goes.
One of the speakers said that contrary to popular notion, the problem afflicting the citizenry is not so much apathy but rather a sense of disempowerment. It’s not that they don’t care what’s happening to this country, they do, it’s just that they don’t think that there’s anything they can that will make any difference. Well, I care about what’s happening to this country, and I’m not willing to just take it sitting down, and nothing will change if nobody’s even willing to make any effort.
As the old quote and Namfrel slogan goes, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” I know I’m lighting quite a tiny candle with this endeavor, but the point is, I AM lighting that candle.
Interested would-be volunteers can check out the Volunteers for Clean Elections site at http://vforce.multiply.com/ for the latest updates and volunteer opportunities.