Follow by Email

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Responding to Crystal Hayling's, "Whose Volunteer Experience is this Anyway?"

Access the blog post here: http://www.effectivephilanthropy.org/blog/2011/01/whose-volunteer-experience-is-this-anyway/

In her blog at the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Crystal Hayling questions the motives and expectations of people and their volunteer experiences. Hayling discusses the phenomenon of donor/giver centered approaches to philanthropy work, based on her own personal encounter with woman at a cocktail party fundraiser. Crystal listens to a woman talk about how disappointed she was when her children went to Cambodia expecting to lead a library building project for a village, only to be sidelined by locals who directed the building process themselves. This conversation made Hayling really think about the purpose of philanthropic work, and how some might be misled in thinking that volunteering is all about experiencing some form of self-fulfillment. Hayling concludes that once the volunteer experience becomes centered on some alternative end like personal growth, you are crossing a line and forever preventing any chance of lasting social change. A strong emphasis on the donor/giver will taint the volunteer project in a deeper, more profound way.

I completely agree with Crystal Hayling and I think that her article is something every potential volunteer needs to read before embarking on their missions. It is so easy to get sucked into only thinking about yourself, in any given situation. This is just how people are engineered. But for something like philanthropic work, which one would think demands the complete removal of self for the greater good, you would expect differently. At least I did. But even as I am beginning this journey, preparing for my summer with Nest in India, I have done a lot of thinking about myself. I admit that it's hard not to.

Creating "lasting social change" is no easy task. Even if someone is able to completely remove him/herself from the philanthropic work, which is also not so simple, the solution is never guaranteed. But if all of us, all of the future volunteers out there, were to know how important it is to remove the self out of volunteering, I feel like we could be that much closer to finding solutions. I do think that this (at times) subconscious mentality of potentially gaining something out of helping is poisonous to the very goal that we are trying to reach. Maybe this is the biggest obstacle that we have to face before we can get anywhere.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Expectations for my summer in Trichy, India

Upon finding out that I would be placed this summer in India, I was beyond excited. Not only is India a "hot topic" to study in the development field, but I have also always been fascinated by Indian culture. I love everything that I have been acquainted with through my Indian-American friends: the spicy curry and naan, the Bollywood movies, the vibrant colored Saris, the power of religion, and the traditions. Of course, I understand that this is just a small glimpse into real Indian culture and its many diverse components. This summer, I look forward to immersing myself in the culture of Southern India in Trichy, which is located in the Tamil Nadu province.

A lot of the expectations regarding my work with Nest are influenced by coursework that I am taking for my Global Poverty and Practice minor. Currently, I am taking a class called, "The Ethics, Methods, and Pragmatics of Global Practice" that is being taught by Khalid. The 40 or so other students who are taking the class are all embarking on summer internships in the development sector like me. The class serves as a forum for all of us to discuss our qualms, thoughts, and expectations for our upcoming summer experiences. In addition, we have learned a variety of research methods like surveys, interviewing, observations, and visual documentation. We have all been able to practice these methods locally, and reflected upon our experiences with the class. While practicing these techniques, we all met difficulties, whether they be logistical or ethical. Throughout these "method workshops", I think about my summer in India and whether or not I will meet similar challenges. If there is one thing I have learned so far in the class, it is that development field work done right is not easy. Therefore, I expect for this summer to be challenging in regards to the work I will be doing with Nest.

 I don't know too much about my specific duties this summer in India. I know that I will be involved in implementing Nest's micro-barter model by teaching the loan recipients and evaluating the impact of the loans. The other part of my work will be in marketing and awareness raising, which will be done through avenues like this blog. Nest does a very good job of outlining the job responsibilities for the summer fellows on the application, but for now these are just words and sentences to me. Maybe as the time for departure comes closer, they will become more and more real. I also think that I am feeling this way about the work I will be doing this summer because I have never done anything like this before. I am apprehensive because I hope that I can fulfill my duties to the best of my abilities. I will definitely give it my all this summer, and I can only hope that this will be enough.

I'm not really sure how strong the language barrier will be. I heard that English is a very commonly spoken language in India. However, I have also heard that there are many local languages and dialects. I am not sure which will be the case in Trichy, although I am hoping for the former. Whatever the case is, I am excited to learn from the women- language and all.

Reading through the Nest info packet made me feel apprehensive- excited, but scared at the same time.  I am scared mainly for physical reasons. I cannot even remember the last time I had gotten a shot, and looking at that long list of vaccinations that I have to take before the summer made my stomach queasy. I have also heard that the summer in Southern India is not what you would say, "a walk in the park." I am concerned about the weather because I have a very low tolerance for heat. Even though I was born and raised in Southern California, I love feeling cool and would rather feel cold than hot. I have talked to friends who have lived or been to India in the summer, and they have advised me to buy linen pants as soon as I get there. Shorts would not be a good idea because of the risk of mosquito bites and also for cultural reasons. Nevertheless, I have decided that no matter how bad the weather is,  I refuse to let it get the best of me. I'm sure I will adapt just fine! :O)

These are some of the thoughts that have been going through my mind lately :)  I will update again as the time for departure gets closer!