Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Where There's a Demand

I like airports a lot.

I find it interesting that you can have all the amenities you could need within one giant complex. I figure it’s similar to being on a giant cruise ship on the Pacific, with the exception that if you balk there is zero chance of you being thrown overboard.

 One neat thing about the London Heathrow Airport is they have a piano at the departure gates, just past gate 25, that has written on in “play me” in a dozen languages.  I was tempted to dapple out a few notes but there was a twelve year-old kid enjoying himself, and I didn't feel like fighting for playing time.As well, I was rushing to catch my next flight to Addis Ababa. My memory of Addis seems to be wrapped up in the smell of the country, because as soon as I breathe it in all the memories come flooding back.

The last time I've traveled to Ethiopia was over three years ago. I always seem to travel for the same purpose but the reasoning behind it changes. Whenever someone asks are you travelling for “business or pleasure” I’m unsure on how to reply. Volunteering is not always a pleasure, and it seems to have turned into a business. Young adults everywhere are travelling to help others. As with most things if there is a demand then the supply will increase.

It’s common to judge others for if there travelling for the “right reasons” especially if you have ever been in a developmental class. In fact being in a developmental class at University turns you right off from helping others, I wouldn't recommend it. The best you can do is find out what’s behind your motivation in going, and then continue forward as if the world doesn't exist.   

Of course you should always find a valid organization to go with, one that knows what it’s doing, and has a good track record but many will do. So what’s the key clincher? I think many fall into a group before analyzing what it is they are actually doing, It’s only after being involved for a while that one may lift up their head and ask questions. To determine whether an organization is worth being involved in I think there are a few steps you could take.

1.      Check out past history- what have they been involved in? What sort of projects have they finished and what was the timeline for it.

2.      Size- A bigger organization, though better established, might have more overhead cost. So it’s always good to know where they’re headquartered and where they operate.

3.      Money Management- A legitimate organization should be open about costs and what percentage of it is used for where. It’s rare that a 100% of money donated goes directly to the source unless they have some type of benefactor or government assistance.

4.      Sustainable Projects- It’s always good to be a little bit critical at first, ask what is it they are doing and are they filling a need or creating one. One of the saddest effects is when harm is actually done through thoughtless or a misunderstanding of what is needed.

5.      Culture Sensitivity- This is a huge factor me. Is the organization all foreign operated?  In what way are the local people playing a part and is their room for improvement. Completely passing a project to others isn’t always the best idea. As in any country there are good and bad people and where money is involved there is always the temptation to use money for personal gain. What I think is important is that local people are in positions of responsibilities that are recognized and have authority. The language barrier can be hard at first but once that is passed and you’re able to find others with the same goal as yours then the ability to benefit others is increased tenfold.

Now these are not the 5 Laws of choosing the perfect organization, they are what first come to my mind in determining whether to involve myself in a group. I also think much can be said to organizations that combine with others. Charities should not turn into a hierarchy, or pit themselves against others. I think it’s a good thing that we’re not all passionate about the same thing, that way every aspect will get covered because for one person, or group, dealing with all the ills of society at one time is a terrible feat. By everyone doing their own part and joining together, we can create a greater impact.

I have to say that though the reasoning behind why I volunteer seems to evolve and change, the focus is always the same which is at its core people helping people. In what form that takes, or in what country is completely up to you.     

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