The Extinction of My Volunteer Elitism

Orphanage in Honduras

I have a confession to make that I am not very proud of.

You see, there was a time when I believed that volunteering my time and services to others in need ONLY extended within the United States and even then, there were stipulations of WHO should receive my help.

In short, I was a ‘volunteer elitist.’

Several years ago, I held tight to a mentality of ‘them over there vs. them over here,’ which developed over the course of time, sparked by debates with others on various subjects. One hot topic I remember discussing amongst my peers was Americans adopting children from other countries when there were children here in the United States who needed a home, too. ‘You shouldn’t take from one child and give to the other’ was a common retort that kind of shut others up who believed it was absolutely okay for those who decide to adopt to do so in other countries. I must admit, noticing this comment receive nods and ‘umm hums’ from the majority caused me to dismiss how I truly felt and I ended up believing the ‘shut em up’ group had it all right and I had it all wrong. Nevertheless, my mind still pondered ‘umm, isn’t this decision that of the those who adopted and them only?’

Fast forward to a few years later.

I got older (inevitably) and started to TRUST my own beliefs, opinions and instincts. I realized and accepted that my total allegiance in assisting others is NOT solely within the confines of the U.S. If time, money and effort exist in my life, I can donate it to whoever is in need or want, no futile debates necessary, no explanations to anyone on my part. Who cares if I am separated from others via miles of oceans, seas, jungles, mountains when I can hop on/in trains, planes, boats and automobiles to arrive at my destination! Despite there being several layers of cultural, race, religious and language differences, it has never discouraged me from giving/receiving and vice versa.

Thankfully, this mentality guided me to volunteer at the Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro Belize and later at Sandy Bay Lighthouse ministries and Clinica Esperanza in Roatan, Honduras. I meet several AWESOME people during these times, ranging from children to adults. Now, whenever I plan a voyage, I make SURE my itinerary includes volunteer work before I enter into a country. I try my best to lend my skills, time, experience and generosity to others who share my same geographic location and to those who don’t.

A beautiful, meaningful song (circa 1985, not the recent auto tuned remake, but I digress :) ) comes to my mind when I think about the impact, small or great, we ALL have the ability to make GLOBALLY:

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4 thoughts on “The Extinction of My Volunteer Elitism

  1. Such a great point – the whole “us” vs. “them” debate. I also volunteer frequently abroad, and I think it’s sad when people try to discourage that by pointing out that the U.S. has problems and that people here are lacking basics. And while I also volunteer locally, that mentality just baffles me. The fact is that people are people and it really shouldn’t matter where we decide to volunteer. My thought is that when you see people hurting and in need, regardless of where you are, you should help them (responsibly of course). We are all members of the HUMAN family!

    1. You said an operative phrase: ‘Where WE decide to volunteer.’ It’s your choice, my choice, their choice, etc to do what they want to do with their time. I want to ask some of these people who have a problem with who/where I give my time to, ‘what’s the max volunteer hours that you need from me before you’ll give the ‘go ahead’ for me to donate my time and services elsewhere? LOL!

  2. I found your blog by way of youtube a few weeks ago and I SOOO glad that I did. I have never thought of volunteering while on vacay. That is so awesome and I think I will add that to my itinerary as well :-)

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