Watching the Other Volunteers

9 May

While I was at the centre, a group from Denmark started a 6 month volunteer session that was part of their requirements for their degree. By the end if their volunteer time they were required to put together a presentation to the leaders at the centre which would demonstrate some things they could see which could be improved and how they could go about this. As an anthropology student, it was obvious that I was going to have a problem with this as I felt the assignment was deeply ethnocentric and unnecessarily encouraged a cultural relativist attitude.

One of the girls from the group was put with my class for a little while. While I had purposely gone into my volunteer experience with an open mind (probably a little TOO open minded) she clearly had not and had a lot of trouble at the centre. She often complained to me about the way the teachers at the centre occasionally gave the kids a light smack on the behind if they continued misbehaving. She even confided in me that several of the children were sporting bad bruises and we should complain. These “bruises” were clearly birthmarks but she was adamant that child abuse was occurring. Also she and several of the other students were totally disgusted by what they saw as disgraceful hygiene levels at the centre. Never mind that while they were from a country which has amazing services and technology we were now working in a third world country. They also regularly complained about the country in general and often didn’t show up to work as they were too distressed by the whole experience. I was often outraged by their attitudes and found myself avoiding spending time with them, as I found they looked at me with a mixture of confusion and pity.

I often wonder how they dealt with their experience when they got home. While I feel I had the time of my life and would jump at the chance to go again, I sense they wont share these feelings. I wonder how much they were prepared for their trip back at home and why they had agreed to go in the first place. Honestly, I really felt sorry for them and their close-minded attitude that ruined an experience so many others would have really enjoyed

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One Response to “Watching the Other Volunteers”

  1. lizrose1 May 11, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    I think this demonstrates that obligatory volunteer work is an oxymoron for a reason. I think its good that programs like the GLP stipulate that volunteer work can be done at home or abroad. Sometimes when I met people overseas in a developing countries I was confused when they would complain about people not speaking english, or about the dirtiness or the customer service not being good. I thought “Well what did you expect?” and “If you wanted a 5 star experience why did you even come here?” I know everyone has different expereiences volunteering but I don’t think I have as much sympathy for people like that as you do. If you are in a position where you are lucky enough to travel overseas you better do your damn best to appreciate it!

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