It is 1 o’clock in the morning and I just finished my dinner, a product of myself and my frying pan. This came fresh after we have conducted a workshop for our future volunteers. I remember when I just started.
I am pretty sure back then I wouldn’t think of training like-minded folks to be the advocates for the community. This has been a really enriching journey. Two years and this is how long it takes for me to understand I need more than bulldozing through hardships alone. If you have a vision, you need to share it with people who have a similar goal. They could be someone you meet from a casual coffee session with some mutual friends. They could be someone you haven’t met but he or she has been doing what you are doing, for a long time. They might be hiding in your list of friends on Facebook. And what you need to do, in order to achieve the collective or collaborative community goal, is sometimes called a movement.
At this point, you might think of Mr. Derek Sivers. Oh yes, the guy who introduced us to the funny yet realistic video, talking about how important your first follower is. About more than a year ago, I had the opportunity to work for him on a research and it got me thinking right away. What would you do if you have your first follower? How will that change your way of work and perhaps the impact that you’re trying to create in the community?
I was and am lucky to have met people who are willing to stop and listen to me. They are my mentors, allies, friends and yes, a group of followers. You will definitely appreciate your followers better when you have gone through numerous occasions sharing your vision with people who would ask you if homeless community are trustworthy enough to start a co-operative. I have also encountered many businessmen who told me to stop advocating for the community because this is going to burn a hole in my(their) pocket(s). Just a soft reminder though: “You don’t have to be rich to help.” In contrast, if everyone of us comes together with the same end goal in mind, no matter how “poor” we are in the material world, people like you and me, students, youth, even people from the community we’re helping, can create a lasting impact in someone’s life. This is because ironically, the most valuable thing you can probably give to someone is your time.
So, this is a movement about sharing minutes, hours and days of your life with a homeless stranger who needs a pair of listening ears. It should be a movement that is championed by people who wants to fight for rights and dignified living in the less fortunate community. Dignity is more than having the access to tangible belongings or living at a certain level of wealth. I learned that struggling to live is also part of the process of learning to live a dignified life. Ultimately, when you have all the time to ponder over the concept, you would realise that “Freedom ultimately is dignity. And dignity, not income, is the opposite of poverty.”
So, if I am allowed to express myself more eloquently as I stand in front of you one day, this is about a movement to preserve and advocate for freedom. In the future, we will help bring more friends to the community in order to address the community’s unfulfilled needs, as little but significant as replacing new ICs, access to medical access and post job-placement follow-ups. These might seem so insignificant to you but enabling every single thing on this list, opens up their lives to solutions and opportunities.
I may not be an activist but I understand what oppression means. I may not live a homeless life but I understand the lack of freedom to rest your body in public spaces. I may not have lost my identification (ID) cards but I am able to empathise with folks who lost their ICs and eventually not allowed access to jobs, welfare and their identities of being human. They are wrongfully called “the homeless”, even though homelessness is just a state, not an identity. So this is a shared vision from all of us: One day, we are who we want ourselves to be.
We are the community. I am because we are.
That’s the essence of ubuntu.
That’s exactly why I started a movement for, and by humanity.