Tag Archives: personal gain

11 things I learnt as an overseas volunteer:

20 Jun
  1. Stopping a meeting midway to go eat ice cream is perfectly normal.
  2. So is stopping to go and sing karaoke.
  3. The definition of being ‘professional’ is highly subjective.
  4. Work plan? What work plan?
  5. Many of my workmates were more technologically-literate than I was.
  6. It’s all about relationships and how you connect with others. Using a distant, formal, business-like manner won’t get you anywhere. Whereas, being warm and familiar will.
  7. Rubber-band or elastic-band time is the time that everyone abides by. Thus, a 9am start can mean 11am.
  8. Also, a 7.30am start is normal. Get used to it.
  9. You feel like a hypocrite compared to the local volunteers, who give up so much more than you do.
  10. You don’t make as big a difference as you thought you would initially. The complexities and dynamics of the world of aid and the development industry can quickly overcome any individual efforts.
  11. Letting loose at karaoke with a good bunch of friends is a great way to get over the fact that you’re not making that much of a difference.
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Oh Little Decisions

12 May

Response to Carlos’ question:
Was your volunteer placement a hard decision to make or was it rather easy, a no-brainer? And why?

My heart longs to travel and to see the world and explore unfamiliar places. At the same time, it also loves to help people and experience new things. My decision to volunteer was a no brainer. I knew that I wanted to go somewhere. Actually I would take whatever possibility affordably presented itself. I was scheduled to go to Ghana for 3 months. I had paid the fee to go and was just waiting for uni to finish. In fact, I picked my uni subjects around my trip so I would be able to leave as soon as possible. I was too keen to go.

But when I saw the PACE Peru program, I knew that was where I needed to go. I could not explain the sudden shift but it seemed so right. I inquired about the details about Peru and learned of its application process. Without having been accepted yet, I canceled my scheduled Ghanaian trip with painful financial penalties and applied for Peru. After a long process, I got in! Best decision ever.

In all honesty, my decision to volunteer was not altruistically motivated. To put it bluntly, it was to better my career prospectives since cross cultural experiences seem to be the biggest rage. But since I have returned from volunteering, being the experienced employee does not even matter to me. Upon arrival, the smiles of the kids broke me and I realised that my time there was for them. Building a website, the walls and the school was to better their futures. In development and volunteering, I have to be fine with fading into the background. I can see why it’s easy to fall into the trap that volunteers are the answer to the world’s crises because they are loved by the villages that they are visiting. They are a sign of hope from the rich, rich west. They are different and exotic. But we are just in much need of help as the people we set out to help. At the end of the day, it was a reciprocal benefit and that was nice and necessary.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Live the high life! Be a volunteer!

1 May

On the volunteer program I joined up to, the program’s organisers said quite frankly that the professional experience gained by us will be greater than what we contribute to the organisations we work with overseas. Of course we have valuable skills, a unique perspective and the desire to do good. However, it takes more than that to make a lasting difference.

So the organisers said that for us, the experience will be fantastic and invaluable. Try your best in the circumstances you’re in, and be happy with that. Some of us were on 6 month, 9 month and 12 month assignments. These were considered short-term assignments, as some people work in the development industry for over 10 years.

Two articles were provided as links in one of the recent posts, no brainer, all gut-ter. I agree with most of the points made in both articles. We don’t lose too much by volunteering. It’s fantastic for our careers, sense of self, understanding of others and how the world works, and contributes a lot to the development of us being individual thinkers. Many people go through university being taught how to think inside prescribed frameworks. With overseas volunteering, we can take a step back and think about things through different angles.

It was also definitely a no brainer for me too. I knew I wanted to take this opportunity to work on climate change education with young adults, in an emerging space globally and in the developing world. I was curious as to the young ‘green movements’ that were forming in Vietnam, and I wanted to get in on the action! It was hard convincing my parents that it was a good career move, but in the end, I made my decision regardless and jetted off over the horizon!

-Huong

Youth setting up their exhibit at the "Hanoi & The Environment" exhibition

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