Read this post from Parth Savla, Be the Change Volunteer in New York City:
On Oct 4, I had the pleasure of participating in SAALT’s Be The Change event by volunteering with Chhaya CDC, located in Queens, NY on their Voter Registration drive. It was a great a experience street canvassing – going up to South Asians and asking them to register to vote. I was really surprised by how many people were compelled to vote for the first time in their lives. In addition to spreading the word about the importance of voting, we were also educating people on the public advocacy work that Chhaya does – providing everything from legal services to grassroots community development.
Supporting the voter registration, I believe, impacted the community on a variety of levels. It enabled those who want to make a difference but don’t know where to go, by providing them access to do so. Deep down, everyone wants to make a difference and support each other, but are often stifled by a lack of knowledge in how to do so. By being out there, it provided greater accessibility to folks while helping them realize that they have champions standing for them.
Street canvassing, I recall fighting my reservations about going up to one passerby and saying:
“Uncle, have you registered to vote for this year’s election?”
“No, I have never voted. Why would it matter? I’m only one person” he replied in his broken accent.
“Do you have children, uncle? Are they in school or looking for a good paying job or looking to get a loan for a house?”
“Uncle, voting in this year’s election will enable you to vote for the policies that will not only affect their ability to do those things, but also to safeguard your retirement. I can understand that you haven’t voted before, neither had my parents before this year,” I said empathetically.
“Oh, I didn’t know it made that much of a difference,” he said as he filled out the voter registration form. Once he was done, he took a few more forms to take back to his family.
“Thank you young man.”
By seeing you make a difference, they also get inspired to make a difference!
I wanted to participate in “Be the Change” this year because of seeing the difference that SAALT had made in our collaborative efforts during our YJA (Young Jains of America – www.yja.org) Convention this past July 4th weekend, and being inspired by the public advocacy work they’ve done for the South Asian community. For SAALT’s “Be the Change” efforts this year, they’ve been able to mobilize thousands of volunteers nationwide to support countless projects for the community. That’s a pretty incredible feat!I was particularly inspired about their Voter Registration drive, because this the most important presidential election of our lifetime. There are many things at stake from our economy – being able to get loans for college, to getting a good job when entering into the job market – to education, to retirement benefits for our parents. Being a South Asian American, it was a great opportunity to speak to elders in our community about the importance of voting in this year’s election and enabling their voices to be heard.
I knew that being part this event would not only enable me to make a difference but also meet cool people who shared a similar goal to make a difference. While one person can make a impact, many people who share a collective voice and vision can make an exponential impact!