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Follow Up to Monday! Guest Post by “The Comfortable Disease”

July 26, 2012
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Check out a blog post our friend Stephen wrote in response to Monday’s post, “Only WEIRD People Volunteer Abroad”. In his blog, The Comfortable Disease, he both compliments and counters my post with a discussion on privilege, minority experience, and cognitive bias. Thanks Stephen!

I also want to take this point to say that I am not against volunteering abroad. Obviously I have done it myself. However, I feel volunteering without critical thinking and learning is dangerous. I still don’t know what the perfect way to create a sustainable and respectful volunteer experience. However, I hope to continue to learn and share my findings with you, so that we may move forward together!

Tomorrow we will start our first photo of the week with Quinn, so stay tuned!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2012 4:41 pm

    I’m glad we’re already starting a dialogue on this! Maddy’s post and Stephen’s response get at the heart of one of the concerns we have that we are still actively trying to solve. Obviously we both love travel, and we don’t want to stop any time soon. But it is also important for us to make a positive impact on the world. I think we are both confident that the two do not have to be mutually exclusive, but striking a balance is turning out to be harder than it looks.
    For now, the best advice we have to offer is this: by all means, volunteer! But attitude is critical. Don’t think of it in terms of what you are doing by being there, but what being there is doing for you. Coming in with from that angle will help you stay engaged with an open mind, and that is one of the biggest steps in an effort to broaden your perspective.
    Eventually we want to get more specific and look critically at what particular types of programs and volunteer opportunities are beneficial or detrimental and it what ways.

  2. July 30, 2012 8:57 pm

    Definitely! I would also add that a lot of people seem to think of international opportunities first when they consider volunteering. (This might be selection bias on my part, not many people from BHS who volunteered abroad mentioned volunteering at home, but they sure mentioned that experience.) This doubles the problem; first, the WEIRDness can distort international volunteerism, and it also gives the impression that Americans don’t need help (except after natural disasters). That’s still at least WEIR doing its thing, I’m pretty sure.

    And of course, volunteering locally is the best thing to do in preparation for volunteering abroad! I think you two are fine examples of that, actually.

    • July 30, 2012 9:28 pm

      Exactly, you have to wonder how our perspectives of other cultures are shaped when much of our interaction with other countries is through volunteering and service. If our relationship is always one of the helper and the helpless, at least through our eyes, makes it hard to accomplish one of the UN Millennium Goals, creating a partnership between countries. It’s not a partnership if we do not view them as equals.

      That’s why I love service learning which will certainly be a future post of mine!

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