Owning Our Mistakes
Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes.
I, for one, have made plenty of naive choices in my short life already!
But the most important thing from these mistakes is to learn from each experience and better ourselves as a result.
After all, when we know better, we can do better; so here I am, owning my mistakes!
Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to help people. For as long as I can remember, I have had the desire to 'give back'.
At 16 years old, I set off to India in the hope that I could make a significant impact by teaching English in a slum. At 18 years old, I followed a similar path and booked a trip to Tanzania with the hope of making a difference in a small orphanage.
Writing this now, I feel very uncomfortable to admit my choices. Yet, it is so important to share these mistakes of mine.
My intentions were from a good place within my heart; I wanted nothing more than to ‘change the world’ for the better.
But this is where my dilemma, like many others, started. Upon reflection, I started to ask myself some questions.
Was I, a young teenage girl, capable of making a significant impact with the lack of experience and knowledge I had brought with me? Was it my place to go into these communities and determine what needed to change?
I convinced myself, as did many online volunteer programs, that the best way to find what I was looking for, was to travel thousands of kilometres across the globe and 'help' the 'less fortunate'.
The only problem was, they didn't ask for my help.
In hindsight, I had nothing more than a high school education to place on my resume. With no qualifications or skills to support me or the communities I was engaging with; I was faced with very serious and confronting issues.
Not only was this harmful for my own inexperienced state of mind, but also significantly detrimental to the communities I was engaging with.
For a more in-depth story of Georgia's volunteer experience, click the link below.
Through this long journey of realisation, I have seen first hand the detrimental and traumatic impacts volunteering without skills can bring to a community and individuals.
A typical response I have had, when arguing against volunteer travel, is the notion that “something is better than nothing”, which translates to a very undermining viewpoint that says, "if I do not help, no one will".
Through such a viewpoint, young unskilled people are replacing individuals that have real qualifications and beneficial skills.
There is then, an automatic assumption that people within developing countries have no skill; which significantly undermines these nations and automatically gives ‘developed’ nations a superiority.
The best way to look view the absurdity of volunteer travel is to flip the traditional definition of international service on its head. Instead of imagining yourself going abroad to volunteer, consider what it would be like to have these same programs and processes in your own country.
Each and every problem in this world is complex, it’s not as simple as just building a well or teaching children ‘ABC’ 365 days of the year.
"Learning Service offers a powerful new approach that invites volunteers to learn from host communities before trying to ‘help’ them. It’s also a thoughtful critique of the sinister side of volunteer travel; a guide for turning good intentions into effective results; and essential advice on how to make the most of your experience"