Before I left home in October I knew myself to be a strong, independent woman. I did not need anyone else to look out for me. I could handle myself; deal with stuff as they happened. I was the poster picture of modern woman! Yeah!
Then Kenya happened in my life and I have add to realign and re think certain beliefs about myself and my surroundings.
When I was planning on volunteering I scoured the net looking for resources on what to do and not do. I came across a lot of contradictory ( and at times rather abusive ) articles and comments related to the topic.There were those who were all for it and then there were those who lashed out even before you said”volunteer”.
I am no expert on this topic but I would like to add my thoughts and my experiences to the millions of threads that are there on the net devoted to arguing for and against volunteering. Before you read any further I would like to add that I consider volunteering to be a very personal thing. Having said don’t make up you mind as to whether it is a bad aspect or a good one until you have spent at least a week volunteering far away from home.
A lot of people who offer opinions about volunteering ask you not to travel hundreds of miles across the globe to grab some one else’s job. Instead. they say donate all the money you would have spent travelling to a NGO. It is my opinion these noble souls have not volunteered a day in their life in a location far away home.
Think of it as a two-way education. When you use your skills at the project site, some one else learns it too. So what you are doing is in fact sharing your knowledge and learning something else in turn. Do not ‘ONLY’ donate your money to an organisation. Spend it at the place too. My view of this is that when you donate some/most/all of your donation goes into keeping the administrative side of the organisation alive. The entire amount does not reach the people at the ground level.
On the other hand when you spend your money at the site, think of the cycle you start. You pay for your food and shelter to a family. The family uses it to buy food from the local grocer, who needs to replenish his stock and so uses the money to get fresh stock from the farmer and so on.
Another argument for volunteer travel and one that is close to my heart is human connections that it creates. I cannot put down in words just how wonderful people are. They become part of your extended family. Before October I did not really care about what happened in the coast of Somalia nor was I deeply affected by the famine in the horn of Africa. But today these things really matter to me. Today if I were to see a headline that remotely affected Kenya I would read right down to the bottom and even click on the related links. If it matters to them, it sure does matter to me.
Above all the argument that should put this debate to rest eternally is the aspect of change. The change they bring to themselves. I was foolish enough to think that I was going to change the world and such like. The person who I really changed was myself , to see myself for who I truly am, to recognise strengths that I never knew existed, to turn around weakness.
So by volunteering you are not taking someone else’s job , you are simply providing yourself an education that the four walls of a classroom cannot.