I’m scared tonight. Really, genuinely scared.
I know I usually show a happy face. I know I stay incredibly busy, and spend exceptional amounts of time championing change, telling everyone to use their voice, to campaign, to speak up and shout out. I’m always on the twitter hashtags, enjoy networking between charities and communities and generally love getting stuck in.
People often ask me how I fit everything in. They tell me I’m everywhere and know everybody. I get messages every day from people asking for advice on how to navigate systems, or who to speak to when they need something.
Very few people see me without my public face, but tonight I want to share a small piece of that with you. Because I’m scared and it’s getting worse.
Tonight I found out that another charity I work with is becoming centralised to London and moving more online. It’s losing its regional hubs, the regional workers are losing their jobs and its new campaign is much more digital. That’s the third one in as many months.
I’m really struggling to think of a charity (bar ones which are 100% local) who I work with currently and will definitely still be functional in my area in 12 months time. (Apart from Scouts (which is completely run by local volunteers and funded by subs, so arguably doesn’t cost much to the central, London offices)).
This terrifies me. I’ve gained so much from working with charities. I left school lost, frightened and very, very, lonely. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wasn’t happy and I was fairly certain I didn’t want to look at another textbook for a very long time. Charities have given me confidence, skills, friends, hope and happiness. You don’t get all of that through purely online contact.
But it’s more than that; it’s more than worrying about my future, the future of my community, and the future of the kids who will be leaving school this year, next year, and in the years to come. It’s the fear of losing our voice.
As volunteers, particularly volunteers trained in campaigning, we are powerful and we are passionate. We have a wonderful network of fantastic people. We have a collective voice which can reach out and touch others. We can make a difference. But without these charities helping us to get our voices out there, to get them heard, where do we stand? Who will be there to raise our voices to those who need to hear them? Who will advocate for us?
I’m worried that we’re losing those with quieter voices. The members of our communities who need some extra help. The people, people with real lives and real stories, who need a shoulder to lean on. I’m scared that we will lose the louder voices, that we will lose our platforms. I worry that campaigning will become signing online petitions which those in power brush to one side. Are they really going to listen to an email as much as a living, breathing, person sat in front of them?
Tonight I’m scared. I’m sat in front of my laptop looking at a newspaper article I got published, a card from a friend I met through one campaign, a letter from a friend I met through another. I can see my camera, which I use to capture our successes, the notebook I use to formulate ideas, the blanket I curl up in when things don’t go so well. I’m scared of how much we’ve lost and how quickly we’ve lost it. I’m scared that it won’t stop here. I’m scared of what the future holds.