I was recently chatting with a friend about the challenges of affluent countries sending volunteers to not-so-affluent countries. Out of that I heard one of the best lines I’ve come across in a while…
|Photo: Swaraj Tiwari|
In our world of Instagram, selfie-loving, instant gratification societies, more and more people are being inspired to travel and to “help” wherever they can. They are inspired by photos they see, and want to have the same experiences.
But often this overlooks the reality that “helping” is often harder than it looks. There are the cross-cultural challenges and sometimes hard physical and emotional challenges, that are not explained through social media. But even more than that, sometimes the really helpful things for communities are not “exciting enough” for Instagram. They are plain old boring jobs, that may have to be repeated over many years to achieve anything. There is no filter that can be applied in real life to capture the exciting, positive moments, and leave out the hard slogs.
I’m not just ranting about social media and photos for the fun of it – they definitely have their positives. But if more people asked the question “would I go without a camera?”, I think it would help challenge some of the unhelpful expectations people have about what helping overseas is about – or indeed, even helping in your own neighbourhood.
Why not just let main priority be how the experience can change and grow you as a person, as you learn from the other culture? It should not just boost your social media cred by a bunch of likes.