What it’s like to volunteer for ONE at Bonnaroo

Fourteen of our top college students from ONE Campus chapters across the country came together at the legendary Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee as part of this year’s ONE Campus grand prize. Lauren Bergaust from Brigham Young University–Hawaii takes us through a day of volunteering with ONE at the festival.

For the last year I have been heavily involved with ONE at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. The founding president of our school had a vision that “from this school will go men and women whose influence for peace will be felt internationally.” Our school has students from 70 different countries who come to this one place. I feel it makes our little oasis in Hawaii very special.

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Flying a few thousand miles from our small city in Hawaii to another small city in Tennessee was an exhausting but incredible trip. Students from Hawaii, Washington, Michigan and Florida all flew into Tennessee to start what would be a meaningful and unforgettable experience working with ONE at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

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Every morning was a rush to sleep in till the third snooze button rang and then hurry down to grab breakfast. Our call to leave was 9:30 a.m.; 9:43am rolled around and we finally loaded in the vans. We spent the morning and early afternoon walking around the festival site and interacting with different people and sharing our message about the Beginning of the End of Aids.

The types of people we interacted with varied in every way possible. From the interested and the bleary-eyed, the hippies and the punks, the old and the young, and the foreign and the native, we talked to them all. Our message was short, but meaningful. Together, we can end AIDS.

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In the afternoon, when we could no longer resist the enticing smells of fried pickles, beef kabobs, and Vietnamese sandwiches, we took a break from our campaigning and headed over the Food Truck Oasis where we welcomed the shaded tents and misted showers.

When the evening hours rolled around, the anticipation of listening to some of our favorite artists like Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bon Iver got us through our sagging eyelids. For the next few hours we, along with 80,000 Bonnaroovians, flocked to “This Tent,” “That Tent,” or “The Other Tent,” threw aside our qualms on personal space, and sang along with the live beats that unite us in a way that nothing else can. 1:47 a.m. my head hit the pillow, 1:48 a.m. I’m out. Wake up. Repeat.

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While I spoke with hundreds of people every day about ONE and an AIDS-free generation, one conversation stands out particularly vividly. A woman asked me if I really thought that there could be an end to extreme poverty. My answer? Absolutely. She may have been skeptical, but I stand by my answer. I know that my one voice has the power to help. I’m not trying to save the world here, at a music festival in Manchester. I’m simply trying to help. Being a part of the end of aids is an amazing thing to witness and I’m hopeful that this is only the beginning of better generations to come.

I strongly believe in the vision of my school back in Hawaii and I feel that I was blessed to come together with these other students across America and unite for a common cause: a cause to help those around us and engage others to do the same. I hope that through all the wonderful and quirky people I met at Bonnaroo, that at least one person really felt my influence and will go out of their way to help be an influence for peace and service in their own community. All it takes is ONE.