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I Accidentally Became a Post-Election Activist, and I’m Not Looking Back

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I didn’t set out trying to do good. I was just looking to save money.

Our food co-op gives members a discount if you volunteer at a local non-profit organization; having just added a new baby to our family, we needed that discount. After a bit of searching, I connected with a staffer from the Association of Africans Living in Vermont. She didn’t have a lot for me to do, she said, but I could start by copyediting a program page. I brewed myself a cup of tea, settled the baby down next to me on the couch, and got to work.

And as I worked, I learned. The program they’d assigned me to copyedit for, New Farms for New Americans, helps recent immigrants by setting them up with small plots of land, seeds, and training so they can translate their farming experience to their new home. Vermont is still very much an agricultural state and this farming connection struck me as both beautiful and practical. A way of welcoming new Americans into our community by providing a path to sustenance along with a meaningful cultural link.

And then it hit me—these new Americans were up there among the people who’d been directly targeted by Trump.
Just days earlier, I’d gone to bed on election night with the results still uncertain. Waking throughout the night to nurse, I warily checked my phone—first in curiosity, then with a mounting sense of dread. When my husband woke up at 6 a.m. he found me at the foot of the bed, rocking the baby and crying.

The next days passed slowly and painfully. For the first time in my two months of maternity leave I felt lonely and lost, and wished I were back in the office, if only to be around people in similar despair.

Now, looking at the NFNA page, I saw a path forward. Something to do, some way to channel my angst. After the initial copyediting work was done, I suggested a small outreach campaign to tie in with the holiday season. I knew other people out there were feeling similarly, like they needed to DO something. The staffer I’d been working with agreed, noting that she’d seen a recent uptick in offers of help. Together, we launched a modest campaign, getting them a bit more exposure and even pulling in some donations.

Most of this was done from my laptop—perched perilously on my knees as I nursed my newborn, or on the counter as I cooked dinner, or in between mountains of laundry. It was a stretch to fit this new project in on top of caring for a newborn and my preschool-aged son, but I found that I needed it. The work gave me something tangible to do in the face of abstract fear and uncertainty.

I was reminded of the saying, “think globally, act locally.” I’d always thought of that as an altruistic sentiment, but in truth acting locally can be a personal life raft. A way to stay connected and feel a sense of power and direction in an uncertain world. And for me, right now, that’s exactly what I need.

Looking for a way to get involved in your community? Try VolunteerMatch.org to search for volunteer opportunities in your area that match your skills and interests.

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Grace Per Lee is a writer/copywriter and content strategist based out of Burlington, Vermont. Her work has appeared in Kids VT, Adirondack Life, and Vermont Magazine, and on airwaves and buses throughout Vermont and Washington, D.C.. Follow her at @graceperlee for rare but brilliant bits of commentary.

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