The Pro Bono Spotlight honors Advancing Justice - LA's dedicated volunteers and the important work they do to help us fulfill our mission. With this Spotlight, we recognize Elaine Hang, a recent graduate from Arroyo High School who will be studying political philosophy at Dickinson College in the fall. Elaine has volunteered by phonebanking at three Your Vote Matters! campaigns since Fall 2014, helping the campaign reach 1250 Vietnamese American voters.
How did you learn about Advancing Justice - LA?
I learned about Advancing Justice - LA through Center for Asian Americans United for Self-Empowerment (CAUSE), where I interned for the past year. I graduated Arroyo High School in El Monte this year, and I will be attending Dickinson College in the fall, where I will be studying political philosophy. I will be working with Dickinson College's Democrats, Republicans, and Working Group on Voting on a non-partisan registration/GOTV campaign on campus.
What prompted you to get involved?
I have been involved in various voter empowerment projects, because I understand the importance of voter participation in the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community. I believe that one of the best ways to empower AANHPI voters to turn out at the polls is to help them better understand the voting process. So when I found out about Advancing Justice - LA’s Your Vote Matters! campaign, I knew I had to get involved because it is a great way to directly speak to AANHPI voters and answer any questions they may have about how to vote and where to vote.
What have you learned or how have you been affected personally by your experience as an Advancing Justice - LA volunteer?
I have volunteered for three Your Vote Matters! campaigns since October 2014 (for elections in November 2014, March 2015, and May 2015). Since then, I have become more aware of the increasing influence the AANHPI electorate has over the outcome of elections—which is exactly why their votes matter. I was surprised to realize that voting is a hard-won right that is only about 60 years old for most of the community. That realization led to me to also view voting as an essential component of American citizenship, something I cherish as the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants.
I have spent about 30 hours volunteering to do voter outreach phone banking with Advancing Justice - LA, and I have spoken to about 1250 Vietnamese voters since I started volunteering.
Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly tell about your experience volunteering?
I have two stories I would like to share.
First: I was able to volunteer alongside a number of my wonderful friends. We have learned things about politics that textbooks don't teach us, and came to realize how important our votes—our voices—are. After working on phone banks, we engaged in many conversations about voting and civil rights. Furthermore, my friends have expressed an interest in registering to vote when they are old enough, as well as possibly pursuing other similar volunteer work.
Second: I have had the pleasure of assisting eager voters, whom I hope voted. For some, it was their first time voting. For others, they were thankful that I had reminded them about the elections. The feeling of helping young people and elders get the information they need to exercise their right to vote is fantastic. In my five most memorable cases, each person I spoke with was energetic and enthusiastic about voting. Those cases and other moments encourage me to improve my Vietnamese and continue serving my community as best as I can.
What advice would you give other individuals who want to participate in volunteer or pro bono work?
I have two pieces of advice for potential volunteers, especially young volunteers. First, if you participate in volunteer or pro bono work, try to encourage others to join with you. You can share new experiences with them, as well as discover new interests together. Second, your time and effort is extremely valuable and impactful. The work that you do really does empower people.
Finally, as a volunteer for the Volunteer Engagement team, I want to add a general call to action: You need to vote, but you also need to do more than vote. Please organize, mobilize, and energize others (i.e., friends and family members) to vote and volunteer as well. Citizenship requires active engagement in the democratic process.