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Change, community, Possibility

In the name of love

That is really why I did it, why I signed up to be a volunteer for ONE. It had nothing to do with U2 or Bono or The Edge.
But let’s go back a few months to when I received an e-mail from ONE Campaign asking if, as a member, I would like to volunteer for the Campaign at the U2 360° Tour in Montreal in July. I didn’t hesitate and I sent off an e-mail telling them a little bit about myself and pretty much forgot about it. Then in the middle of June as the buzz about the concert started in full force here in Montreal I remembered I had volunteered and assumed that I must not have been picked. And as seems to happen more often than not, the next day, on June 16th I received an e-mail from Maura telling me that “I would be joining them on Friday, July 8th”. Simple, just like that.
I was told I would receive the info of where to go and to look for an e-mail on the 7th with details. Now I have to tell you, I was not a Bono fan, U2 fan, nor did I even know who The Edge was until I arrived at the site on Friday. You notice I said, was not, because I am now.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I cleared my day on the 8th and on the 7th I found myself checking my e-mails a little more often than usual. Earlier than expected, the e-mail from Maura came in telling me where to go and a follow up e-mail that we needed to be there at 2 pm. There was the usual info for any outdoor event about wearing sunscreen, comfortable shoes and then NOT to bring professional cameras. I guess some people volunteer for different reasons than mine.
It was all over the news about how bad the traffic would be and to take the metro and I of course was late so I hopped in a cab and had no traffic problems and arrived at the corner of the site with the police and the concert goers who were getting off the metro in droves at 1:45 PM. They were expecting 80,000 people and there were some who had been camping out since the day before.

A rock concert virgin

I have to tell you a secret: THIS WAS MY FIRST ROCK CONCERT! Yes, at 48, I had never been to a rock concert so I was not sure what I was in for. I made my way in with all of the fans in their “we love U2” t-shirts”, getting lost, something I am very good at, until I finally found the other volunteers trying unsuccessfully to find some shade under one very thin tree.
As we introduced ourselves I saw that we were certainly a mixed group in age, languages spoken and nationality. Appropriate for an organization that is all over the world with its only goal to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. It was not too long before Maura came, introduced herself, and moved us down to our home base near the site.

Maura - our amazing ONE team leader

We’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice

We were given our ONE t-shirts and then given the instructions on why we were there: to sign up new ONE members and what we would be doing over the next few hours
For any of you that don’t know, here is what ONE is all about:

ONE’s mission is to fight extreme poverty and preventable disease in the poorest places on the planet, particularly in Africa. We hold world leaders to account for the commitments they’ve made to fight extreme poverty, and we campaign for better policies, increased and more effective aid, and trade reform. We also work closely with leaders in Africa to support greater democracy, accountability and transparency in how these resources are deployed.

Maura was amazing, not only did she know her stuff and what we would need to know, she knew how to make us feel comfortable and feel part of ONE right away. She also was able to make us see the importance of what we were going to be doing and that each of the inscriptions we got would make a difference. I was reminded again that each of us has a voice and we have to use it. With over 2.5 million members ONE has a real voice in making change in our world.
We were given our elevator speech about ONE as we only had 3 ½ hours to collect as many names, e-mails and postal codes as we could and our goal was to beat Nashville where they had collected 4,000 names. We were also told that we each needed to get at least 100 names to have our place in the Inner Circle for the show. I was laughing to myself as I did not even know that we were going to get to see the show. At least you know what my motives were in being there!  We were also told that the top five, WOULD GET TO GO ON STAGE. You should have seen our faces! What a great incentive to get us all going. It certainly worked for me – a chance to go on stage in front of 80,000 people and see what that was all about? WOW!
We were handed our iPads, yes, we each had an iPad, that had a ONE screen that explained the latest petition, which is about vaccines for pneumonia and diarrhea which are still killing children in Africa – something we cannot even fathom here in North America. The touch screen had three slots to fill in: NAME, E-MAIL, and POSTAL CODE. Easy enough I thought.


Armed with our iPads and a lot of enthusiasm, off went 30 passionate new ONE volunteers to tackle the U2 fans. And tackle them we did!
At 7:30 PM we all headed back, hot, sunburned and feeling like we had not done enough. Feeling like we could have signed up one more, understanding that one more signature on the next petition could make a difference.

ONE Kiosk

I was able to sign up 145 people and I can tell you, for an Anglophone from Winnipeg who must have talked to at least 175 people – no not everyone said yes believe it or not, 165 of them were Francophone. For those of you who know the French language you know how easy it is to mix up ‘G’ and ‘J’  – why couldn’t Quebec have postal codes started with ‘T’! There were some very patients fans out there I can tell you!
We came back with 3,382 new ONE Members! Shy of what our goal was, we were assured that we had helped, and that it really is what ONE is all about. It is the idea that each one of us can make a difference if we speak up, if we assume the voice and place that we have. As the wrist bands that we handed out to new ONE members said: GET LOUD and USE YOUR VOICE!

It’s a beautiful day

We handed in our iPads and gave in our numbers and all of us of course had access to the Inner Circle to watch the show, and the top five and another five drawn at random were picked to go on stage. Did I make it? You bet I did, by the skin of my teeth! David and I tied at 145 and they let us both join the group. I felt a little guilty as not being a true fan I wondered if I should give my place up. But the idea of being on stage in front of so many people intrigued me.
Next stop for us was training for what we would do on stage. Allison was our patient trainer who whipped us in to shape to be ready. Off we went to the Inner Circle to see the show with clear instruction on where to be and when to be there. We were NOT to wear our ONE t-shirts as we would be doing this with the Green Peace members and Amnesty International members who had been on site that day as well. As we really are all one, looking to accomplish similar goals, we did not need to make ourselves different from each other.

The Inner Circle

There was absolutely no better vantage point to see the show than where we were. We were right under the rocket ship and between the main stage and the outer circle stage that I would end up going out on 14 songs later. For a first time rock concertgoer, it was amazing to saw the least.

The Inner Circle under The Rocket Ship

The show started at 9 PM and I watched and listened and started to get into it like the fans around me. I kept waiting for the song that would be the signal for us to go back stage. I watched Bono as he did his thing, as he worked the crowd and as he gave it his all. I have to say I was impressed that he did so much of the show in French, not something that always happens even in Montreal.

Walk On

Finally the signal came and we all made our way over to the backstage area. Security checked and double-checked our wristbands to make sure we had access. We were given our lanterns that we would carry on stage with us. We got in our lines and we waited for our cue.
I felt like I was getting cramps in my legs and the cue came and the cramps were gone and I walked up the stairs to the stage. Then the tap on the shoulder for me to walk on came and I went to the front of the stage. We were told to keep our eyes on the person behind us to be ready for our cue to leave but how could I help but look out at the 80,000 fans with their arms in the air? How could I not feel the power of the words that I heard Bono singing behind me? How could I not then at that moment, truly understand what ONE meant?
The cue came and I placed my lantern on stage and walked off, feeling the power of the energy that was there and more importantly feeling the power of possibility.

Goosebumps and Tears

I looked up at the screens as I got to the back stage area and I saw the messages that were being projected. I looked at Bono and his band and I saw that they got it. I stood there with goose bumps and a few tears in my eyes knowing that I had been part of something bigger than I was.
It was only a concert you say? Was it? I heard that crowd as Bono sang Walk On and I heard the words he sang:

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on, walk on…
Stay safe tonight

The song was written about and dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi. It is written in the form of a supporting, uplifting anthem, praising her for her activism and fighting for freedom in Burma. She had been intermittently under house arrest since 1989 for her efforts. If those words touched one more person, if in signing up 3,382 people one of them does something to affect change, if you from reading this decide to do something, then it was certainly more than a rock concert wasn’t it?

For more information about ONE or to become a ONE member, click on the link: ONE.


About Simon Tooley

I was born in Winnipeg, moved to Montreal to study economics at McGill University and then studied fashion design in Paris. I worked in the fashion business for 20 years until I gave it all up to find the answers to life. I learned of course that there are no answers and so I decided to do what I always wanted to do and open a little shop. The shop is called Etiket and we sell the best beauty products and perfume available and a candle or two. I continue on my journey and I will see where it will take me. Part of the journey has always been writing, creating and giving. "Your soul doesn't care what you do for a living - and when your life is over, neither will you. Your soul cares only about what you are being while you are doing whatever you are doing." Neale Donald Walsch


2 thoughts on “In the name of love

  1. Hi Simon!
    I was a volunteer too that day! A friend of mine asked me if I would join her since they were still looking for people. I had heard about ONE, but didn’t know Bono was behind it. Quite frankly, I knew Bono was involved in humanitarian causes, but did not know he was behind this one. I love him for all that he does! But I jumped on the occasion to be a volunteer. I didn’t even know we would get to see the show so up close. I did it, well, for the sake of telling people what ONE is all about. People who sign up become a voice for people who do not have a voice in their country! I love it! Now, I did not get as many names as you did, but I had the same feeling, that I could have gotten more people. I have never been so hyped up for an organization. Also, you got goosebumps too? haha! Me too! I still cannot find the words to describe to you how amazing this campaign is, and I want the whole world to know about it (idealistic much? Probably!) and how the whole experience was. I also got a chance to go on stage. What a feeling right? It was simply an amazing day! Long live the ONE Campaign! 🙂

    Posted by Zeina | July 11, 2011, 9:19 pm
    • Idealistic? Hopeful. We need hope right? LIke you said, it was an awesome experience all around. I have learned and I keep getting proven right: GIVERS GAIN. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

      Posted by Simon Tooley | July 11, 2011, 11:11 pm

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