“The conscious, seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel — arts, culture, geography, history, and recreation — in that destination” —Voluntourism
As I signed up for different excursions to partake in on Semester at Sea, I had no idea what voluntourism was, lets just keep it real. I signed up for several volunteer trips on my computer at my kitchen table in Jersey, not realizing that I was signing myself up to become part a pretty big movement in global travel. Two of the fated excursions would be for the $100 Solution and Habitat for Humanity.
Throughout institutionalized schooling up to this juncture, I had been as involved in volunteering as time had allowed me. Voluntourism is the epitome of both globalization and volunteer work. In no way am I belittling localized volunteerism, but volunteering overseas is truly an experience of immersion and cross cultural learning.
Feel free to disagree, but success is wealth of both knowledge and experience. They imply a never-ending consistency of yearning for more. To be able to feed your ravenous curiosity as often as possible, is a life lived successfully. Choosing to serve those you can with your knowledge and experience is the answer to the same centuries old question; why are we here?
We are here to understand a truth that is different to every single soul on this planet, and yet, a truth that is uncannily the same. We walk, run, jog, and hide on a plethora of paths to get there, yet eventually we all do. It is not with money, fame, or botox that this happens. We reach the apex, always, because of how we chose to utilize our wealth of knowledge and experience. That’s why I (and possibly millions of others) have chosen a life of service.
The fact that I signed up for something that dealt primarily with children surprised most of my close friends and family. Up to that point ( 19 years old), I was not and had never been about the kiddies. They were too energetic, always wanted something, and I just basically couldn’t deal. Yet, this one afternoon with a bunch of orphaned, beautiful, children –my entire mind frame on kids altered. So much so that I always seem to now be around the little joints! (I’ve worked for Kumon and Pre College Programs, and I’m in the midst of getting certified to be a teacher after substitute teaching for two years. Funny how things happen).
After roughly thirty minutes of semi traffic through Osu, Ghana, we reached a run down set of brick buildings. Kids came running out toward our bus from all directions; smiling and giddy with joy. The whole scene not only eradicated any thoughts about my stolen camera, but it honestly floored me. These kids had “nothing” in our first world minds, but actually they had the most important thing; love. Their adult figures (the women and some men running the facility) clearly loved every one of their orphans, which we saw throughout the afternoon.
As we were being told what we would be doing and how we would help, a little girl, no older than three, walked right up to me with her arms held out. I looked around, but no one cared. I picked her up and she fell right at home in my arms. We walked around the facility together and saw SASers paint the buildings, assist in a religious event, run around in the playground, and hand out food.
The baby’s nose was running and I wanted to put her down to get a tissue, but the shrieking terror-wail that erupted from her mouth as I started to put her down would stop a hyena from tearing apart its prey. It was that bad. I brought her back up and just looked at her, trying to understand.
A facilitator came up to me, “She was abandoned by her mother one week ago. She won’t let you go. Good luck.”
To be continued in part 2 —