6 months have now passed. Working at Oxfam has been a strange and interesting process personally- to be working on
‘development’ from an office located in a country with one of the highest standards
of living in the world. While I am relatively privileged, growing up in Bombay meant
that I saw, and heard hunger, poverty and struggle everyday. (By making this statement however, I am in no way implying that I have ever experienced any of these things). Connecting to a
social issue, hence came easy. It was easier to visualize and understand what
it meant for 1 out of 8 people go to bed hungry everyday.
So, I wanted to see
how people related to these issues in the Netherlands. I am not implying that
the Dutch public is unaware of social problems and don’t recognize their
privilege. Infact there is a large population at home in Bombay who are
completely oblivious. However, I imagine it is harder to immediately connect to
something that you don’t see on a daily basis (or that you choose to ignore).
So I took the opportunity to head to Pinkpop as a volunteer and see for
myself what conversations with Dutch public could bring!
While issues of hunger and poverty were perhaps more hard-hitting
and hence effective due to their shock value, I think the choice of campaign
chosen was strategic and timely- that of Climate Change. I think that it is an
issue which people in Europe resonate with better and hence people are also
driven to do something about it. And by that I do not mean, merely pledging
money so that one less person goes hungry everyday, but it is also about
empowering people, and for that matter, also empowering myself to know that I
could still contribute by showering less or by supporting fair trade products
or by simply joining in the protest in November! I have realized that I can continue to make a
difference in these ways when I am far away from home.
The Coffee & Climate Cooler (and Fair Trade) Bar | Photo Credit: Oxfam Novib Pinkpop Volunteers
duties for the three days comprised of the ‘Catering Shift’ at the Oxfam Fair
Trade Coffee bar. The way the team had managed to bring a synergy in the
activities with the theme of Climate Change was impressive. Lemon and Raspberry
slushes in the form of Climate Coolers and Cooler Kicks was catchy and by the
end of the festival, was at the tip of everyone’s tongue (quite literally.)! Apart from the bar, there was also the Action
Shift which comprised of raising awareness amongst the public about the upcoming COP21 in Paris. Instead of merely walking up to people and starting up a
conversation which could quickly turn into a monologue, the volunteers invited
people to participate in
a quirky quiz about climate change! A photobooth was also part of the stand,
pictures of which can be found here
As a volunteer and a trainee at Oxfam, I am definitely an
already ‘converted’ individual who ‘cares about the world’. However, meeting
new people and working with other volunteers was an extremely rewarding and fulfilling
experience. It was a group of 30- passionate about sharing their concerns and
message with the rest of the world (I even met volunteers who keep coming back
even after 6 years!) Even if I managed to engage a handful of people in a
conversation about climate change, I can say that it was a successful
Although I find it incredibly uncomfortable to use terms
from the business and marketing world, brand recall is indeed, an important
aspect for Oxfam’s work in the Netherlands. There is some truth in the old adage-out of sight, is
out of mind. Organizations such as Oxfam or Cordaid carry the face of poverty
in its physical absence in the country itself. I am sure that simply walking
past the Oxfam stand every single day was enough for a festival attendee to
remember that Oxfam exists, and was actively present at the festival with the
general public, even though they may personally not care about the issue. It is
probably unrealistic to think that everyone cares about the same things you do.
When I told a friend I was going to be volunteering, she immediately quipped, “Do people even care about this stuff at a music festival? Are you really going to be making a difference?”
I guess she is right. People possibly don’t. They have
different priorities and may not have the privilege to be able to afford fair
trade products. But, giving them a basket of options which accommodates all
sorts of individuals and all levels of commitment is also what Oxfam tried to
facilitate at Pinkpop and I think that’s a lesson learnt in itself for me!
Photo Credit for the picture on the right: Oxfam Novib
And finally: That’s me with Annet, a fellow volunteer during our shift. Special appearance by the Climate Cooler!
To read more about Oxfam Novib at the festival: http://www.oxfamnovib.nl/Pinkpop-in-actie-tegen-klimaatverandering.html
And not to forget, a special shout-out to the Oxfam team who made this happen. You guys made all of us (volunteers) feel valued and honoured our contributions!
Tasneem is working on building the Oxfam Novib Academy at Oxfam Novib. Born and raised in Mumbai, she believes in the magic of intersectionality for development. Her passion for change is as contagious as her love for smoothies.