I’ve just spent some time independently volunteering abroad – 18 months in India and 12 months in Sri Lanka. I constantly wrestled with questions such as
- am I doing more harm than good?
- am I encouraging unhealthy dependency?
- am I taking away someone else’s employment?
- am I adding anything of value?
- could someone local do this better?
- who am I doing this for?
- how much of this is selfishness?
- am I a liability?
- could I be doing this more effectively? Like staying at home, working and sending money?
- am I just doing this to escape? What from?
- are there hidden agendas with these organisations?
- do I have a hidden agenda?
- who do I trust?
- what about the environmental impact of flights?
- why do I feel I have to come here when there are problems enough at home?
I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I’m not sure I have any.
I certainly didn’t do it in for the glamour, for my CV, proselytising (religious or otherwise) or to travel. My simple motivation was to ‘do good,’ but it’s never quite that simple, nor is it enough.