If you get your news from the alternative presses online, you may have been reading about volunteering for years. But for those of us who read the mainstream rags, it may seem strange that they haven’t picked up on the volunteering trend. The benefits of volunteering are so obvious—both for the volunteers themselves and for the people they are helping overseas. But, as with any trend, a critical mass is often necessary before the mainstream media will take a real, sustained notice. That’s why it has been so exciting for us here at Journeys for Good to see so many mainstream media outlets covering volunteering over the past few weeks. Most of the recent articles I’ve found have covered volunteering from the perspective of the volunteer—illustrating the opportunities that are out there for exploration, and encouraging people of all walks of life to consider traveling to help those in need all over the world. I hope, as the movement continues to build momentum, that the mainstream media will begin to cover specific projects—to explore the many ways in which those projects have benefited local communities and to explore the role of international volunteers in changing lives and making a difference.
When I try to imagine all of the needy people in this world—the poor, the hungry, the abused, victims of natural disasters, casualties of war—I always circle back around to the children. Children need. It’s the biological way of our species. Babies are born entirely helpless, relying on the love and protection of their parents. But what about children who don’t have parents? How do those innocent, defenseless creatures survive?
I’m feeling philosophical today. It happens every so often. I wake up, go to brush my teeth and think, “Wow, there are so many brands of toothpaste, what a strange free market where we go berserk on a niche rather than simply meeting a need. How much waste could we avoid if we just had a single brand of toothpaste?” Then I think about the implications of that thought. “Americans need choices. What about people who have sensitive teeth, or who want whitening power? What about those poor souls?” Then I sit there over breakfast contemplating the world economy: needs vs. wants, the privilege of choice, the wastefulness of the free market, and my navel. I’ve brought this philosophical day right around to today’s blog post with the following question: is volunteering reward enough without the recognition, without the cultural A+ that we get for helping others?