The history of the relationship between Asia and North America is impossibly complicated and rife with ideological conflict. With the fastest growing economy in the world, China is a major global superpower and yet, the perception of America in China isn’t what it could be. I recently heard a fantastic piece on This American Life called “Americans in China.” It explored the complex relationship between American ex-pats and their Chinese neighbors. How Chinese can an American become? What products and emblems affect our cultural perceptions (Anime, G.I. Joe, Hello Kitty, MacDonalds, etc.)? What barriers are there between the two cultures? How is the American democracy perceived by Chinese citizens? Clearly, these two cultures are going to become more and more intertwined as each relies more heavily on the other. All of Asia is part of this globalizing equation—the tightening of our ties and the cultural interplay that must inevitably follow.
In a poll conducted by Condé Nast Traveler and MSNBC, 14% of Americans have taken a volunteer vacation, but 55% indicated they would like to participate. Of those who have gone on volunteer trips, 95% reported that they are likely to do it again. That’s quite a return! But I wonder about that 55%. Who are they? Are they busy working people or high school kids? Are they grandparents, afraid of the rigors of volunteering? As a voluntour organization, how can you motivate that 55% to take the plunge—to reach that decision-making moment when an ephemeral dream becomes a solid reality?
There are some things in this world that simply boggle the mind—things that are so terrible, so obviously wrong they seem almost unreal. How anyone can look into the eyes of another human being, then sell that human being like a piece of meat… I don’t have the words. I know desperation makes people do awful things. I absolutely have empathy for those who break the law to feed their families, for example. People who break the law to protect their loved ones are not the problem, they are victims of the problem. The traffickers, however, the people who prey on desperation… I don’t have a shred of empathy for them. What they do is horrific, criminal, and unforgivable. Catalyst Foundation recognizes the multifaceted problem of human trafficking, and they are working with communities to make 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?