I have always joked that one day both my kids will whine in unison, “Enough with the developing world, can’t we just go to Disney?” I am pretty sure that will happen. But in the meantime, by traveling together I hope to show them that there are people in need and that we have the power to give a helping hand.
Volunteering has always been a part of my life. From a young age, I dished out food at local soup kitchens and baked and collected for drives and sales. I saw and smelled people living in my own community who didn’t have enough to eat or a place to take a shower. It wasn’t always pretty but, as a kid, I felt good knowing that I could help.
My first international volunteer experience was magical: nine months on the Thai-Lao border, as a newlywed, teaching community college students. What a life changer. It was the first of many trips that left me feeling that I got the better end of the bargain: a rich, meaningful experience, an opportunity to learn about a new place, people, and most of all, myself.
This is one of things that I want to share with my kids about volunteering: you give but you get even more. Sure you might find yourself in uncomfortable physical circumstances, but you get to experience a new place in a unique way and make human connections that will change you forever.
I am also ingraining in them the need to be respectful of those you are assisting.
In my work with CleanBirth.org, I face the need to balance my Northern Hemisphere take-over instinct with the knowledge that lasting change must be embraced by local people. We are indeed privileged with access to education and wealth, but we don’t have all the answers. We must keep our eyes and ears open, to really hear what people are saying and then work together to bring about positive change.
Have you volunteered with your kids? Did you feel like your family received just as much as you gave?
This is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Kristyn Zalota, in Guatemala.
Photo credits to the author.