Three-time volunteer Jim Gorski writes that purposeful travel unites communities and travelers in meaningful learning opportunities, and such connections form the foundation of humanity’s well-being. In these difficult times, Jim says, social connection is what we need most. Here, he shares his hopes for what purposeful travel will bring in the future.
By Jim Gorski, Global Volunteers Alumnus and Board of Directors Member
The pandemic has brought most travel to a halt. For Global Volunteers, local staff continue to work around the world as best they can. But volunteers no longer join them to pitch in and make their contribution.
During this time, the term “social distancing” has become the catch phrase. I have never liked the phrase and would like to see it fall into disuse. The contagion of the coronavirus makes it necessary to maintain a certain amount of physical distancing. However, we need all the social connection that we can get. We need to get to know and understand each other and work together and learn about each other.
Being a resident of the Twin Cities of Minnesota, I have been in the midst of the righteous outrage that has turned parts of the cities into a war zone. This has been the result of systemic racism, our inability to understand those who are different from us and to treat them with decency and respect. There is much work to be done, a re-ordering of our society, in order to fulfill the vision of a just and peaceful nation and world. A just and peaceful world has been the goal of Global Volunteers work since its founding.
I am sure many people are considering whether they will continue to travel after the COVID-19 crisis is over. Others are eager to get out into the world again. We will each make the choices we are comfortable with, but here is my perspective on travel: If we’re going to travel, let’s make it count.
“If we’re going to travel, let’s make it count.”– Jim Gorski
Traveling in order to truly engage with local people and to make a difference in the lives of others is crucial to the well-being of humanity. Global Volunteers goes where we are invited and works in partnership with communities, offering ourselves as servants, not saviors.
The best travel contains the element of surprise. And what is surprise but a great opportunity for learning? To see what you haven’t seen before and hear what you haven’t heard before and do what you haven’t done before is necessary to learning and appreciating the beautiful diversity of other people and cultures. We need more learners and more citizens of the world, more people who understand how we are all connected.
Through Global Volunteers, my wife and I were fortunate to return to Vietnam to be of service, decades after I had been there during the destruction wrought by war. I saw how Vietnam had healed, and connecting with the students at Foreign Trade University was healing for me. We were privileged to be part of the important work that is going on in Tanzania, helping the people of the Ukwega Ward to build a brighter, healthier future for their children. We traveled to Crete, to help in the English language schools, where the enthusiasm and energy of the children was inspiring. The people of the community on Crete treated us as friends right from the beginning.
“But it is my hope, my wish, that the pandemic will soon abate enough so we can once again travel and be with people in other places and other cultures, learning from each other, waging peace, and bringing what we learn back to the people in our own local communities.”– Jim Gorski
We’re being told that this virus may be with us for some time and we will have to learn to live with it. But it is my hope, my wish, that the pandemic will soon abate enough so we can once again travel and be with people in other places and other cultures, learning from each other, waging peace, and bringing what we learn back to the people in our own local communities. As the poet Mary Oliver has said about living well in this world:
Tell about it.”
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