Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Volunteering: Abroad

Many people have different opinions on high school students volunteering. One opinion is that "service will teach children to look beyond themselves" and learn about the role they play in the community and country. On the other hand some believe that high schoolers volunteer because the want to build their college résumé. Many argue wether it matters why one is volunteering; it just matters that they are volunteering. I have done various types of volunteer work. From traveling to abroad to staying in my community, I have felt the joys of volunteering. Yes it does help my college résumé, but that doesn't mean anything to me. I want to volunteer because I enjoy it so much.

In this post I am going to focus on volunteering abroad because I have such a close connection to it.
Over the past two summers I have gone on volunteer trips to Costa Rica and Ecuador. I believe that this was so beneficial because it gave me a chance to see how the rest of the world lives. From going on this trips I have realized how fortunate I am to live in America in such great conditions. On these trips I didn't just spend my time thinking about the differences between home and where I was. I spent my time playing with children in daycares. I spent my time making the daycares cleaner and happier than they were before. Going on these trips has been a life changing experience for me.

Opposers to volunteering abroad believe that it is a way for students to use money they have to make their résumé stand out from others. Barmak Nassirian is the associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and he said "We're not idiots. We know the price of an air-conditioned hotel and a plane. It's an act of affluent tourism masquerading as community service." I think he is looking at this type of volunteering from to narrow a lens. By using the word "affluent" he is making it seem as though we are spending our money to go to the nicest area of these countries and eat gourmet meals and we throw a little community service in there to make us seem like we aren't being selfish tourists. He isn't giving us enough credit. We work hard during the day and we don't stay in the nicest part of town. I don't think it is right for someone to discredit the work that another person does. This is still a legitimate way of volunteering. Mark Segal is the director of Westcoast Connection, which has similar programs to one I went on, and he said by volunteering abroad "you're opening the doors for relationships and learning in a way that's very different than being a traveler." When volunteering abroad we aren't just on vacation, we are trying to make a difference.

Here are some personal experiences from my summers abroad that prove these are not superficial trips. To the left is a picture from my first summer in Costa Rica. The first two weeks I spent there I cleaned and painted the daycare. The third week is when the children came back from winter break and I finally got to play with them. They were the sweetest kids I had ever met. I made a very strong connection with the little girl in the picture, Daniella. Even though there was a language barrier I was able to communicate with her enough to play games with her. To the right is a picture of a little boy I met in Ecuador, Benjamin. My favorite part of the two weeks I spent in volunteering at his daycare is when as soon as we walked in he would run up to me with his hands out just like that asking me to pick him up. These two children made me feel like I made an impact on them, which made the whole experience even more fulfilling.


  1. Ariana -- this is such a great idea for a post, mixing the personal with the broader issues. I think it really speaks to our school's peculiar makeup, as well. However, you might start with Nassirian's quote in order to make this a bit more generative for your readers.

  2. Fine job blogging in general this term, though your total number of posts is a little thin, isn't it. I'm with Mr. B. on this post: the personal story here serves nicely as an entree into larger issues, but leading with the quote -- and for me, engaging with that quote more purposefully -- will allow you to enter into an ongoing conversation and to extend it even further.