One month after I finished my undergraduate degree I was in a plane on my way to Kenya. The initial idea was to volunteer for couple of months in a Primary School for Blind students located in the rural area and then spend some time traveling around East Africa.
Working at an advertising agency wasn’t something meaningful for me, and that’s why I started looking for volunteer opportunities. I felt like I had too much energy that could be used in a more positive way rather than waste it in front of a computer. As someone who had never been involved in anything related to the social sector before, this was my thought: “I want use my energy to do something that can contribute to someone’s wellbeing”. Basically this was going to be my first “social experience” as I used to call it.
Besides, I wanted to take some time to travel on my own and explore this amazing world. Just because I’m curious.
First question: Is it wrong to take this sort of decision?
Plans changed and I ended up staying for about a year in the school. I felt that if I wanted to create a bigger impact in that community, a couple of months were not enough. Extending my volunteer meant strengthening bonds with the students, knowing them better, and deepen my understanding of the culture and the most urgent needs of the kids.
Before ending my volunteership, I fundraised over $20,000 and installed solar water pumps to bring water in a sustainable way to the school, rebuilt all the toilets to improve the sanitation conditions of the students and sponsored over 19 needy students.
Today, after almost 4 years from that first experience I’m still sponsoring all those students. Some of them had already finished primary and one will finish secondary school in 2018. Moreover I’m thinking about doing further improvements to the institution’s facilities.
Oh, I didn’t mention and that in the middle of my volunteership I traveled around Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda.
Is it too bad to volunteer and also take some time to travel?
I’m still trying to find a unanimous definition about what is good and what is bad, which I don’t think I’ll ever find it.
In addition, really don’t think I would have been an Atlas Corps Fellow if I didn’t have that first experience in Kenya. That volunteership opened my eyes to a whole new world which then I kept on digging through a studies, internships and other volunteerships and projects including my own social venture to raise awareness on blind’s people potential, etc.
I don’t think that it really matters how we are first involved in the social sector as long as we are consistent in our fight. And even if we are not consistent, it’s just another experience in our journey of life. Who can blame it?
The real question is:
Are the HR managers professional enough to identify real changemakers or they just buy any story of guys who had spent one month in Africa taking selfies with black kids and sharing them on Facebook saying that they are changing the world?