Volunteers are often asked what their goals are. That is a better question in our Western world than when we go overseas, because having high expectations may get in the way of the actuality. On a short-term project we may be tempted to think “Oh yes, if we work hard, we’ll be able to finish that project in our two weeks.” But that’s a Western attitude that rarely applies when we’re in an African or Asian or South American setting. Rather, I think a personal goal should be to become sensitive enough and adaptable enough to settle into the pace of the people with whom we’re working. If you’re disappointed in the lack of progress, you’ll be disappointed in your entire experience. But if you can tune in to the people you’re working with, you may have a different and richer experience than as if you finished your project in the allotted time.
WorldTeach says: “Expectations are not right or wrong. They just are. But unless we are aware of them, they more often hinder than help us. They can keep us from seeing possibilities that are challenging and different. They can even prevent us from enjoying the surprises of life.”
Let’s stay open and flexible and ready to enjoy surprises wherever we happen to be volunteering.
– China and Tanzania volunteer Dorothy Conlon
http://www.dorothyconlon.com/, Author of “At Home in the World: Memoirs of a Traveling Woman”