OIAA - Interview
ONE IN AN ARMY
As we all know BTS are due to address the 73rd session of United Nation's General Assembly in New York on Monday 24th September 2018 to launch Generation Unlimited; an initiative that aims to "tackle the global education and training crisis currently holding back millions of young people and threatening progress and stability".
BTS first began a partnership with UNICEF with their #BTSLoveMyself #ENDV'iolence campaign which has inspired many ARMYs to also donate, do charity work, and start charitable initiatives themselves, all with the aim to create a better tomorrow for those who are in need of help.
One in an ARMY is a group of like minded people who have done some amazing work; and I am so happy that they agreed to talk about their work; how they were inspired to come together, the projects they have done, and what we can expect in the future.
For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us about the group?
One in an ARMY is a charity project organised by a collective of ARMY volunteers from all around the world. We hold a different charity campaign each month and encourage ARMYs to donate or get involved in other small ways. Since we're part of such a big fandom we figured, if each of us gave as little as $1 per month, the impact would be huge, hence our name and concept, "One" in an ARMY. Our mission is to bring our fandom together as one to hopefully make a bigger impact each time!
How and why were you inspired to start the group?
At the beginning of a weekend in early March 2018, @rwapmon put out a call on Twitter to see if any ARMYs were interested in working on a project for #ENDViolence, #BTSLoveMyself, or a Syrian relief project. The tweet went viral. Everyone who had interacted (replied) with the tweet were put into a group chat and ideas were thrown around. In the end people moved over to discord and over the course of that weekend, everyone worked pretty much 24/7, and ended up with a concept and a twitter account that was named One in an ARMY. We choose the name One in an ARMY to show that many people giving small amounts can create a substantial impact when we work together.
How many members are there in the group?
We are currently 17 active and semi active members in the OIAA Team. However, this number tends to change as new people join and some have to leave or go on hiatus. Then we have all the amazing discord volunteers who help us with brainstorming, spreading the word or translations. These people help out when they can and the platform currently consists of 80+ people!
What kind of responsibilities do you all share?
We have four different sub-teams.
Communication Team, who manages all communications on social media, whether it be with ARMY or other interested parties.
Design Team, who make all our amazing posters, filters, layouts, videos, you name it!
Research and Outreach Team are the ones who look into all the organisations that are mentioned on our account, they are also the ones who handle the official contact with the campaign organisations.
Lastly we have Web Team, who pretty much consists of one person, because she’s amazing like that. There are also three facilitators who keep the teams organised and the plans moving forward in a positive direction.
Are you all based in the same location and if not how do you work things out regarding what you do?
The OIAA team are from all over the world! The members are divided between Asia, Europe, Africa and North/South America.
Our team discord makes it fairly easy to go back and see what’s been discussed as we each wake up in our respective time zones, and add any points to the most recent discussion that seem relevant. With a little patience; knowing and respecting each other’s schedules, it works out very well. We’re getting better at planning our time so that we can give plenty of time for teammates to catch up, weigh in, and then move forward with the plans.
What kind of projects have you done so far?
Our first campaign was with Medical Teams, where ARMY managed to bring medical supplies and equipment to high-need health clinics for Syrian refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries.
The second campaign continued to help Syrians as we partnered with Syria Care to bring food for Ramadan to people in need.
Our third campaign was in June, the month of BTS anniversary, and naturally we decided to work with BTS’ own Love Myself campaign together with UNICEF.
Since it was summer our next campaign’s main focus was water. Together with Thirst Relief, ARMY managed to supply enough for a whole village (and more) to receive filters to get access to clean water in Tanzania. These filters will last families for the next 25 years!
In August, our birthday campaigns began, kicking off with Jungkook’s. We then partnered with KKOOM, who help children that have nowhere else to go to have a better life, with a roof over their head and means to go to school. This was also the first time we had a little side project, for those who may not be able to donate or wanted to do more. This resulted in over 240 letters that will be given to the children of KKOOM during christmas celebrations.
The current campaign is for Gili Eco Trust, who protects and restores the coral reefs around the Gili Islands and along the coast of Lombok. They also manage recycling projects with the waste found in the ocean. The side project this time has been to encourage each other to be more aware of how you can help the environment by changing small things in your daily life, as well as bigger things, like planting a tree.
How successful do you think the projects were?
We count success as participation by ARMYs working together in making a better reality. By our standards, they have been extremely successful. Thanks to ARMY, refugees were provided with food and medical care, families suffering from contaminated water illnesses can now safely drink and live positive lives, orphans have received not only scholarships, but letters of love from around the entire world encouraging them and offering friendship. Not only that, but ARMYs ourselves are getting a sense of our potential to continue to do these things for others just by working together, so it is also successful in making us all proud to be part of creating positive change in the world.
How much do you feel you have you been able to accomplish/raise (if the project was money based)?
Though all amounts raised are published, we generally don’t put the main focus on the dollar amounts, because the impact of our contributions is what we think is most important. Some campaigns may raise more than others, but in some places, the smallest amounts may have had the most impact. The money is only a means to facilitate the impact so we find it always better to highlight what ARMY has accomplished by donating, rather than how much was raised. Besides that, we feel it is better to have the impact as the focus on each cause, rather than unintentionally create any value-comparisons between this cause or that based on the amount raised. As more ARMYs learn of the project and participate, it continues to grow, so we are confident of ARMY’s increasing ability to affect change, by each giving their “one”.
Have you been to see or have you overseen any of the projects that you’ve done?
Unfortunately no, since none of the campaigns have been working in any of the countries of our team members. However, we have been invited to join the Christmas party that KKOOM will be having in Korea for the kids. We’re also nudging Gili to invite the boys to a vacation there sometime, but of course that is something we can’t control.
Have you faced any difficulties with regards to the projects and how have you overcome them?
We did have a surprise from ARMYs when we worked with Thirst Relief! Wanting to keep the goal at “one filter at a time” we set up an interactive game to play as each filter goal was reached. We thought Phase One would last us through the first week. ARMY blew through the entire week’s plan in just a few hours! We were left scrambling to keep up. As a “difficulty” though, you can’t ask for a better one. It kept us laughing and flailing about.
Other times, we’ve had organisations that we’ve really liked and wanted to work with but there was a lack of communication; possibly due to them not taking our proposal seriously, possibly just because they were too busy to make the time to work with us. We’ve encountered the issue of emergency situations or political situations that come up that many people ask us to make immediate campaigns for, but we are unable to do so because of our structure. We solve that by publishing what resources are available, so that they can assist as best they are able.
Often, people have personal fundraisers they want us to share; however, since we cannot always verify them, we felt it irresponsible to promote them from this platform. So we had to set a hard rule against sharing personal fundraisers; though when we are asked, we always take them to the team, who can decide individually whether they feel comfortable sharing it from personal accounts.
How do you choose and verify the projects that you do support?
First we start with visiting the organisation's website to see what they claim to do and if they offer any proof of past accomplishments, for example field reports, and budget reports. Then there are websites that rate charities on their trustworthiness, however the organisation is not rated if they are below a certain budget but there will often be some information available there anyway. Then we do old fashioned research, google, articles, negative search words to see if anything comes up about them. If everything seems legitimate after this process we will reach out with our questions about accepting micro-donations and providing tangible results and things we prefer the organisation to accommodate our queries.
How has being involved with the group changed your own perspective on life?
Erika - being ARMY has changed my perspective a lot; I’ve always wanted and tried to help people but when I joined this family around BTS called ARMY, I saw that having people around the globe considering each other and caring about each other as family (despite language & cultural differences) is actually possible and happening; it’s no longer just an idealistic fantasy that I thought “would be nice.”
Fati - I can't say it changed my perspective on life in a huge way, but it definitely got me thinking more deeply about various things in life. Being an ARMY in general made me more aware of a lot of issues, both general but also fandom based. I feel like we're truly changing the way a fandom (and a boy group one at that) typically behaves, and I get amazed every day again at how organised and mature ARMYs are compared to many other fandoms.
Robin - Joining OIAA and BTS Army changed the way I’m thinking about how I should look into my life and other’s. There are much more considerate acts and positive thoughts. It makes me believe that living in distant places doesn't restrain you from having a good relationship with other people around the globe and connecting with them while trying to spread awareness and help others in need.
Ace - It has given me the opportunity to work with people of all ages, languages, and cultures. The effect isn't grand, but it gave me hope that despite the socially constructed barriers, we are able to help change the world a tiny step at a time, if we only decide to work together and see past these differences. It's similar to how BTS influences and spreads its message and music to a world that doesn't speak Korean; you have to look past the language barrier to really feel and understand.
Sammie - Not trying to sound corny, but perhaps “my faith in humanity has been restored.”
On a human level, we all have more in common than we know and all have this altruistic “love” inside us that is energetic and inspiring. Because of this, people across the world who have never met before, can come together and remain positive and maintain the understanding and respect to focus on common goals.
Also, some of us can feel so small on our own and don’t realise the impact our actions can have on society and the world. But through common ground, ARMY and OIAA itself proves that in numbers we can truly move mountains, even if those mountains are really small at first.
Simply put, there’s intrinsic good in people, so don’t give up on them just yet.
Has it changed your outlook or thinking on a personal level?
Louise - Not much, but I've started to value what kind of people I let in to my life and what I focus on, both in my real life and on twitter. And I've realised how much better life is when you fill it with positive people and things. It’s made me realise where I should put my focus.
Erika - Basically it’s made me want to strive even more to build connections between people around the world to create positive change, because I’ve seen now what we can do together.
Fati - The whole OIAA concept has actually been a dream of mine for a few years now, so seeing it being realised is just making me really really happy. 😊
One thing I started to appreciate a lot is ARMY's wish to help people in need, it's very inspiring! When we say ARMYs are unique we truly mean it, I've never witnessed such a mature, socially conscious and caring fandom before and I'm so glad to be a part of it.
Robin - Not really, but it does help me to stay positive in various ways. It let me take things more seriously by replacing negative beliefs by positive actions.
Ace - Both the BTS members and OIAA in general removed one of the biggest burdens I had in life: that I need to be the best and do extraordinary things for my efforts and contribution to be valid. You never really know whose lives your simple action can save. With that, I learned how to completely value simple and little things (words of encouragement, simple volunteering tasks) and try to continually do them in my everyday life.
Sammie - We all have our insecurities, shortcomings and are constantly seeking to find our place in this world. Fitting in and feeling successful to me now is when we can use our intrinsic strengths for something good and being able to contribute to this world we are a part of by simply being ourselves. I’m also learning that we can experience love in so many ways in life that is also fulfilling to ourselves. Making positive connections and sending positive energy through a smile or a simple gesture is a way to send and feel love. Every positive encounter can impact another life greatly, I know that now.
Sara - I got involved with OIAA at a time when I was struggling to find meaning and purpose in the rest of my life, which was a hard place to be. However, starting to be involved in all the great projects and having this wonderful, supportive team there at the end of the day helped me realise that just taking small steps to help people and become the person I want to be is enough. I don’t need a grand plan for my life and I am in a happier place.
Can you explain to us what #AnpanARMY Day is about?
#AnpanARMY is a monthly tradition where we celebrate the ideals of BTS and the giving spirit of ARMY. On the 17th of every month, ARMY will come together and celebrate any acts of kindness they've done themselves or have seen someone else do during the month using #AnpanARMY.
This can be anything to help male the world a better place; saying something kind to someone, feeding a stray animal, volunteering somewhere, helping someone perform a task, etc. You can share your experience in any way you want, through text, picture or video.
"We believe the kind hearts and good spirits of ARMY should be celebrated. Our timelines tend to fixate on negative issues, and it's easy to forget that ARMY is a massive fandom - which means sometimes the positive things get lost in the shuffle. The negativity comes and goes, but as our fandom goes through growing pains, it's important to remember that ARMY's are an incredibly diverse group of people brought together by a shared love for seven Korean men fighting to make the world a better place through music."
What are your plans for the future?
Continue doing what we’re doing and hopefully expand us much as we can so that we can include activities that really anyone can join, regardless of what their life looks like. We hope to continue spreading the love BTS has shared with us together with this wonderful family called ARMY.
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone who would like to do charitable projects as you do? What should they be prepared for?
Don’t stress or break yourself into pieces trying to save the entire world at once and thinking you’re not doing enough. Each one of us has something we can contribute to making the world a bit better. However small it seems to us, it makes a big difference when added to the big picture. So celebrate the small gains because they add up, and keep going!
And remember, we’re always here to help if we can!
Thank you very much to the One in an Army team for taking the time for this interview. I think I can safely say that I am in absolute awe of all the work they have done, and so proud of them and all ARMY's who have gotten involved in all the projects.
If you would like to know more about the members you can find information on their 'Meet the Team' page on their webwizard page. *note the page is being updated so not all the members are on there yet.
Meet the Team at:
You can also follow them on Twitter: @OneInAnARMY
Pictures used with the permission of One in an ARMY
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