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It’s amazing how time flies. I’ve already been here in Tanzania for two and a half week, and I still feel like I’ve just arrived. It’s also funny how when I came here, instead of comparing Tanzania to Denmark, I’ve mostly been comparing it to the Philippines as I came straight from there. It’s been fun to compare, as there are things that are very similar and things that are very different.
I arrived at my host family on Tuesday 27th of October in the afternoon. Someone called Seleman picked me up at the airport. I had to wait for him for 15-20 minutes, as he was late because of traffic because I arrived in the middle of the election here in Tanzania. I was taken to my host family straight away to be shown to my room and introduced to my host mother, Mama George. She welcomed me and told that this was my home for the next eight weeks and that this would be my Tanzanian family. She showed me the house and introduced me to the maid. I had dinner around 6pm (that’s an early dinner here) and sat and talked to Mama George for the rest of the evening.
The house is very nice, a lot nicer than I expected, and I can understand that my house is really nice in comparison to many others! We have running water (not drinkable though), a shower, a western-style toilet that can flush (although it clogs VERY easily), and I have a nice ceiling fan to keep from overheating in the night. For some time we've had to take a bucket shower though, as the water has to be pumped from outside which means it takes some time before there's any pressure on the water again. i don't mind, though, as I actually felt more clean after a bucket shower than a regular shower with very weak water pressure. We have electricity, but there are very common power blackouts where the power will disappear for anywhere from a couple of minutes to practically the entire day. It's mostly during the day, but once or twice it's been during the night (ceiling fan stops - damnit!) and sometimes early morning. Once we didn't have power for the entire day but found out that was apparently because our host mother had to go and pay for the electricity, so when she came home again in the evening she had a bill with her with a code on it that needed to be typed in to a machine before the power came back.
No power at dinner time means a romantic candlelight dinner instead.
The next day, Godwin, a Projects Abroad staff member, picked me up around 9. He took me to the office where I paid 250 USD for my CTA permit (allowing me to work as a volunteer in Tanzania) and got a t-shirt, a medical coat and some scrubs. Then he took me to the hospital to meet Dr. Wandi, who is supposed to be my supervisor at the hospital. He’s supposed to give every volunteer a schedule and a logbook and then they’re supposed to follow the schedule. The case is, however, that he is very busy, and although I did get to meet him on my first day, I haven’t yet got my schedule. I’ve seen him once or twice since and said hi, but whether I’ll ever get the schedule, I don’t know. I have also heard from other volunteers that nobody really follows the schedule and really just go to the departments where they like to be. I’ve decided to do the same, and as such I’ve spent most of my time in either the Minor Theatre (where every kind of less complicated things shows up + a few more serious things) and general surgery/surgical ward (pre- and post surgery) which are two of the places where there is a good chance to actually be allowed to do some work as a pre-med (not yet studying medicine). It is mostly nursing work, however the nurses and doctors will still tell you some of the facts about the cases, including how they diagnose and what they do when they don’t yet have a certain diagnosis. I don’t mind doing nursing work when I’m here either, as it is very much hands-on and easy to learn and understand without having studied already. Yet you still get to learn a lot. A very important thing, however, is that the cases are generally very different from what you would see in a western country and as such, it only provides experience and knowledge that can be helpful in a broad perspective, but generally not with specific cases when I return to Denmark.
The most common diseases in the 'general surgery' ward (pre- and post-op) - nothing like the Danish cases
I’m hoping to go to the major theatre (the major surgeries) next week to observe a surgery or two as I think it might be interesting to see how they handle surgeries, sterility, etc. here. The case is that sterility practically doesn’t exist here. Now I’ve never learned how to practice complete sterility myself, but I do know that when you put on sterile gloves and immediately touch the fingers of the glove with your hands to pull the glove on, it is no longer sterile. Or when you put sterile gloves on and proceeds to grab a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, iodine, saline solution or whatever they need as those things are definitely not sterile. I find it to be a huge waste, as the sterile gloves are a lot more expensive than regular gloves, and they use a lot of them without knowing how to practice sterility anyway. They also use sterile gloves for regular wound cleaning which we wouldn’t even do in Denmark – however, to be fair, everything gets so easily infected here that I suppose every attempt they make to be just a little more sterile is a positive thing.
Snuck this picture in the minor theatre of how the trays are cleaned. They're dipped in those three buckets (not sure what's in each) and sometimes even scrubbed with a cloth (the same ones used to clean the examination beds - the same clothes everytime, also lying in some sort of water). Then they leave the trays to dry before using them to place 'sterile' gause, cotton, etc. in from an incubator.
So that was a bit about the hospital. Let’s talk a bit about my free time. Our work days are very short, from 9am to 1pm but even then, if there’s nothing to do at the hospital or you just get hungry, you can just go home earlier, as you eat lunch at home and in my case, going home with the Dala-Dala (bus) takes almost an hour as I have to walk 10-20 minutes before and after the Dala-Dala each way. It is also very hot, which make you tired and hungry, especially because many of the host families just serve white bread with some butter/margarine and/or jam for breakfast. Dinner is the main meal here in Tanzania, and as such, they rarely make anything special for breakfast or lunch. However, I’ve bought some eggs, vegetables and some brown bread so I can make myself a decent breakfast in the morning.
So we’re off very early which means that very often the volunteers will do something together in the afternoon such as going to a market, eating out, going to the beach, etc. That means that I have gotten lazy! Or at least it means that I’ve changed my priorities a bit, as in the Philippines I went to a gym around 3 times per week. With all the activities here I’d like to socialize and as such I have only been to a gym two times in my first two weeks when we were at a hotel (we go to a hotel with a beach and pool in the afternoon sometimes) that has a gym and then just paid to use the gym facilities there. I hope to get to go at least twice per week in the future though, as I must admit I miss working out!
The weekends admittedly aren’t nearly as exciting as they were in the Philippines. In the Philippines we’d all go somewhere every weekend, to experience something new. Here it’s more staying at different beaches or going to markets, which is fun sometimes, but I must admit that just lying on the beach and going to the same markets gets boring eventually, although I do enjoy the markets. I don’t like spending day after day on the beach, though. Next week we’re going 6 people on a 4-day safari in Arusha though – we’ll take a plane early Thursday morning and another one back to Dar Es Salaam late Sunday evening. I’m so excited and hope to have an amazing experience on the safari.
The entrance to Kunduchi, one of the hotels we go to and enjoy the beach, sun, pool, and in my case also the gym.
The weekend after I might go to Zanzibar, as I would like to go there twice. I’m not sure though as I have to be a little careful with the budget too and I don’t know if I’ll be able to share room expenses with anyone. Tanzania seems to generally be more expensive than the Philippines, especially Zanzibar is quite expensive, and I don’t want to spend all my money while I’m here. We’ll see though, I really hope to be able to go twice. If not, I might go for a full week instead by the end of my project to save on transport.
By now I must admit that I am sometimes starting to miss home. I admit that it is some extra stress when you go from one country/culture to another, and you need at least a week to adjust to the new environment. It wasn’t too hard, but sometimes I have to remind myself that I am no longer in the Philippines, and Tanzania is very different in certain aspects that you have to be aware of, such as clothing and generally the way you approach other people. In the Philippines they were quite westernized, whereas they are not in Tanzania, and some of the things we’ll usually do or say they’ll take quite personal I’ve found. You have to learn to respect their culture and whenever the cultural difference makes for complications it’s important to ensure them that you meant no disrespect, as you didn’t know their culture was so different in that aspect. Luckily, Tanzanians also seem to be forgiving and kindhearted which means that even when you do offend them, they’ll forgive you, as they know you’re from another culture and are trying your best to adjust.
I look forward to seeing my family at Christmas though, and hopefully some friends before and after new year’s eve, even if I might go to Brazil already in January or February for a few months. I’m not sure if that’s happening yet, as I could also try to find a study relevant job. But then again, I could always take another year off to work if necessary. I don’t feel like I’m really in a hurry to start studying but I also don’t want to wait too long. Right now I’m enjoying life though, and I don’t feel like I need the stress of studying just yet. I’ll see what happens, though.
I hope you’re all enjoying life at home and slowly warming up for Christmas. Even with the tragedy in Paris, France, I hope you all keep your heads high – don’t let the terrorists break you, stay happy and stay strong. It’s a shame to see such bloodshed, but seeing the life standards of people in the Philippines and Tanzania I find some sort of comfort in the fact that the people who died in the attack likely was blessed with good lives with little to no troubles before, and that any wounded people will receive good quality health care. Seeing people coming in to the hospital here beat up and with open wounds that practically can’t heal here due to lack of good quality treatment. They pour saline solution, hydrogen peroxide and iodine into open wounds here. They risk giving every patient blood poisoning, but they still do it because it’s better than doing nothing and letting the wounds untreated which will eventually kill the patient. They simply don’t have the resources to do better.
I don’t think I’ll ever complain about the Danish hospitals and healthcare again, no matter how long I have to wait or no matter how grumpy the nurses are. Here some of the staff will laugh at the patients in front of them, because what can they do? They need the treatment. Of course not all the nurses and doctors do that, most of them are really nice and seem to actually care that the patient receives good treatment, but unfortunately there are those that don’t.
It’s a hard world and it’s especially hard to see the standard here in Tanzania, and I really wish I could do more than I can. I’ll just have to make the best of it and help wherever I can, while learning as much as I possibly can.
P.s. one of the local supermarkets is selling Lurpak - can't find a more Danish product than that!
To whomever is reading,
So, I have been accepted by Projects Abroad to travel to Ghana and help children and youth in need. I should be excited but I am nervous becuase now it is all becoming real. I have to raise around $8000 to make this trip possible. This trip is more than just completing my intership hours for school, this trip is the beginning of dreams and hopes becoming reality. My hopes and dreams are to help and care for children and youth. I'm hoping that money will not hinder me from doing good. Im going to work as hard as a I can to make this possible and trust that God will see me through this trip.
So, this the beginning; should be excited but nervous. Hoping and praying that I will be able to share God's love with my people in Ghana.
The beginning of the New Year, means that we get to start afresh and tackle the challenges that we would like take on. One of the care projects goals is to see a full implementation of our Care Management plan at all our placements.
This year our care volunteers will be focusing on 6 year old children, who will enter into primary school the following year. By doing this our project can have a more structured programme that will allow us to keep up with the progress being made. We will now be able to make sure that the development of the children is on the same level as their peers, making them eligible to start with their Grade 1 education.
Through a volunteer task list, the volunteers at the care placements are given goals in different areas such as literacy, numeracy and stimulation. Our volunteers play a vital role in assisting the teachers to keep record of the children’s development. Teachers and volunteers work hand-in-hand in creating visual aids, activities and planning of weekly lessons that will also focus on the four key areas of early childhood development (Physical, Social, Emotional, and Learning).
Click here to read the Care Management Plan in full.
To learn more about medicine in developing countries and to expand her medical knowledge is what made Jenna Cosentino, 20 years old from the USA, to volunteer in the Philippines through Projects Abroad.
She was a medical volunteer in the Cebu Provincial Hospital-Bogo City. Like any other volunteers, she also assisted the doctors and nurses and worked with volunteers in the hospital. In the morning, they made rounds, taking patients vital signs: blood pressure and temperature. Projects Abroad volunteers increase the productivity in the hospital as the volunteers are able to do some tasks while the doctors and nurses are still busy attending to the patients. She noticed that Projects Abroad helped in fixing the hospital to make it more appealing and clean. “While I was there Projects Abroad was working in the Pedia-ward and they re-painted some walls and ceiling and also replaced the doors of the comfort rooms. Many volunteers also donated supplies to the hospital. Two of my fellow volunteers and myself bought and donated 4 fans to the OB ward as there were no fans in there prior to that day , with the new babies and suffering from heat”, she said.
Jenna worked at the hospital starting from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon. Upon arriving in the morning, she accompanied a nurse or a fellow volunteer and took all of the patients’ vital signs. They checked if the patients’ blood pressure and temperature have change much from the day before and try to advise them what to do to try to make them better. She was able to assist in many departments at the hospital too. She enjoyed being in the delivery room as she was able to witness many deliveries, and also liked to be in the emergency room as it was always a surprise what she should see.
For her, she learned an immense amount of information during her short stay in the Philippines. From the way things were run in the hospital, to the way that the locals lived, to the stories shared over dinner with her host family. “From my first day in the Philippines, my host family made me feel right at home and as if I was a part of their family. My host brothers and sisters always made sure that I had everything that I needed and if there was anything that I needed they would accompany me into town and show me where to go to get what I needed”, Jenna said.
“One of my most memorable experiences in the Philippines was watching a mother gave birth and assisting the doctor and nurse in this process. I stood with the nurse while the baby was born and after the baby was born, I remember being the first to tell the woman that it was a little boy and the smile on her face was priceless. I was then able to assist in cleaning the baby and giving him his vaccinations and then carried him over to his mother. Seeing her face light up when she saw her son for the first time was priceless and a moment that I will never forget”, she added. Another one of her favourite moments was donating the fans to the OB ward with two fellow volunteers and seeing how happy the mothers were by being given by simple little fan was amazing and they knew right then how happy they had made them. Jenna loved how every single member of Bogo City community was so kind and welcoming and they all helped her to make Bogo feel like home to her. “I will forever miss the heart-warming smiles that I saw every day on the streets of Bogo and from my host family. For any other volunteers I would advise them to make most of their time, try new things and always keep an open mind! Your time in Bogo will fly but the memories will last forever”!
Jenna Cosentino (USA)
It has been a pleasure to see foreign people come to the Philippines to help those who were affected by super typhoon Yolanda. To date, it was last November 8, 2013 when it hit the Philippines. The massive destruction it brought made most of the people living in northern Cebu and neighbouring provinces, homeless. Until now, several people are still in the recovery process. Projects Abroad with the help of its volunteers has been extending help to rehabilitate schools and build houses.
Among of the volunteers who came and helped at the building project was Emmanuel Clerc, 31 years old from France. He came to the volunteer for he wanted to make a difference for the people affected by the typhoon and therefore was a disaster relief volunteer. He was assigned in Maño, San Remigio, Cebu, a 20-minute ride from Bogo City at the relocation site of the typhoon Yolanda survivors living in San Remigio. A total of 300 houses to be built at the site and it really needs help from the volunteers to reach the target.
At the site, Emmanuel was given enough work along with his fellow volunteers from other countries; also local tradesmen and each of them have assigned tasks to do. He have experienced putting roofs on, mixing cement and making window and door jambs. Aside from that, he also helped setting floor foundation.
It was a fabulous experience for Emmanuel being able to help the local community in the Philippines. He also enjoyed his stay with his host family. “My host family is very nice and kind. In the evening I played with a lot of children and experienced their way of living. In disaster relief, I got to know very nice locals, Amid, Dante and Gabriel. Life in Philippines is somehow not easy especially for those who don’t have much but what I admired is that they are always smiling and they enjoy and take the time to have a good time. In my country everybody are always busy, and most of people keeps on complaining. It was a really good human experience for me to be in the Philippines. ”, Emmanuel said.
“My advice to the other volunteers is to enjoy all the time they will spend with their family. Sometimes I was tired after the work, but I played for 4 hours with the children and it was very fun. For the disaster relief, my advice is to work a lot towards helping the local people. Sometimes the weather is very warm and sometimes rainy but it was not a problem for me. The most important is to enjoy and find a personal satisfaction”, he added.
Emmanuel Clerc (France)
Disaster Relief Volunteer
Ces 3 mois ont été remplis de belles rencontres et de découvertes enrichissantes. Les Philippines sont un pays qui mérite le détour non seulement pour ses magnifiques paysages mais surtout pour ses habitants qui sont extraordinairement accueillants et gentils. Ils méritent qu'on vienne les aider car ils ne cessent d'être touchés par des catastrophes naturelles. Et malgré cela, j'ai rencontré des gens contents de ce qu'ils ont, vivant simplement, et ayant une énorme reconnaissance pour notre soutien.
Ce voyage était attendu depuis longtemps et il était excitant d'arriver enfin à destination. En même temps, c'est un peu l'inconnu qui nous attend. Qu'il est agréable et réconfortant d'être accueillie dès la sortie de l'aéroport par un large sourire ! Puis l'organisation veille à tout ce qu'il faut pour un bon départ : des explications sur le mode de vie, un petit tour de ville pour situer les principaux endroits utiles, l'accompagnement pour l'achat d'un moyen de communication, l'utilisation du moyen de transport de la ville, le tricycle, comment revenir à l'office, etc.
Suivi des instructions pour le lieu de travail choisi. On peut poser toutes les questions qui nous tracassent et nous voilà rassurés, prêts pour le séjour. C'était très utile et très sympa. Leur soutien a été constant durant toute la durée du séjour.
J'ai eu l'immense plaisir de pouvoir aider Ma'am Cheryl dans sa classe de kindergarden. La journée commence à 8h avec l'équipe du matin. Après la prière et quelques chants, les enfants commencent leurs exercices de syllabation. J'adore les entendre répéter les sons tous ensemble. Pendant ce temps, je corrige leurs devoirs et note celui du lendemain. Les enfants alternent les moments collectifs oraux avec les moments où ils doivent écrire dans leur cahier. C'est ainsi que je peux intervenir pour aider ceux qui en ont besoin ou pour corriger leur travail. Parfois, je prépare quelques tableaux nécessaires à la suite du programme. J'ai pu proposer quelques activités que l'enseignante a acceptées avec plaisir. Etant aussi enseignante, Plusieurs points m'ont surpris, comme le fait de manger plein de sucreries à la récréation, et il était très intéressant de pouvoir échanger sur nos différences. J'ai également pu aller quelques jours dans la classe de Ma'am Doren dont j'admire la pédagogie et la patience qu'elle déploie afin que ses enfants intègrent les notions de base.
J'ai également pu aller enseigner à la classe de grade 4, qui correspond à l'âge de mes élèves. 46 élèves dans une seule classe et des enfants tellement attachants que c'était un vrai bonheur de pouvoir partager un peu de mon pays, un chant et des bricolages avec eux.
Mon passage dans cette école a été un vrai bonheur car les enfants ont de très beaux sourires et vous accueillent avec un 'hi'. Ils viennent pour vous prendre la main pour la porter à leur front ce qui est un signe de respect. Ce geste me touche à chaque fois. Je l'introduirais bien chez nous !
Mon séjour dans ma famille d'accueil était exceptionnel. Je suis leur première volontaire et Michelle, la maman s'est pliée en quatre pour me faire plaisir. Elle est d'une très grande modestie, d'une timidité et d'une gentillesse extrême. Autant dire qu'elle m'a chouchoutée. Comme j'avais rempli ma valise de divers jeux, il était important d'avoir des enfants pour jouer. Ce qui s'est passé a dépassé mes espérances car je n'ai pas joué seulement avec ses filles, mais petit à petit tous les enfants du quartier passaient après l'école à la maison. Quand j'arrivais un peu plus tard, ils m'attendaient et m'accueillaient avec un "Hi Miss Jacquie" et couraient vers moi. Ensuite, nous enchaînions les parties de uno, de triomino, d'élastiques, de badminton. Finalement, nous avons rétabli le terrain de volley en achetant un nouveau filet et une lampe afin de pouvoir jouer après la tombée de la nuit. Ces soirées restent des moments inoubliables pour moi.
J'ai aussi pu passer quelques jours sur le chantier de construction. C'est une nouvelle expérience pour moi et j'ai adoré l'endroit qui était magique, ainsi que le travail. Il était très intéressant de voir comment on peut construire une maison en ayant de simples outils. Quel courage !
Les weekends, j'ai pu profiter de visiter les îles alentours avec les autres volontaires. J'adore ces paysages, ces champs de cannes à sucre, ces champs de riz, les cocotiers, les plages de sable blancs, les chutes d'eau et les magnifiques couchers de soleil. J'ai pu faire de très chouettes connaissances parmi les autres volontaires et c'était très sympa de côtoyer tous ces jeunes venant de pays différents. Il n'était parfois pas facile de suivre leur conversation car les anglophones parlaient vite et oubliaient qu'on puisse ne pas tout comprendre. Néanmoins, il y avait un tout petit groupe de Canadiens et de Français qui me permettaient de m'exprimer avec mes propres expressions. J'ai eu la chance de cohabiter avec deux super volontaires avec lesquels je vais garder contact.
Ces 3 mois dans cette petite ville de Bogo resteront inoubliables. Je garde dans mon cœur tous ces gens, ces enfants avec qui j'ai partagé un sourire, un repas, un jeu, une discussion, un anniversaire, un voyage,... C'est grâce à ces Philippins si gentils, si reconnaissants, si chaleureux et si attachants que mon séjour restera extraordinaire.
Merci pour tout ! Vous êtes fantastiques !
Jacquey Matthey (Switzerland)
54 year-old Lisbet Keis is a nutritionist from Denmark. She came to the Philippines and joined the public health project of Projects Abroad because she wanted to do something that works with health and care since she have worked her whole life dealing with food.
On the first two days as a public health volunteer, she was assigned to a clinic in the city’s health office and worked with TB patients. She wanted to do more than being in the clinic and assisting the local staff so she talked to Maam Billie, the nurse in the city health office if she could do a demonstration on nutrition instead. She have also seen and read the books from the government office that Philippines have a lot of nutritious food but many does not know how to make them. She met the mothers from few of the barangays in Bogo and decided to make a campaign on nutrition through demonstration together with Jasmine, another volunteer from Germany who is a nurse.
According to Lisbet, Projects Abroad could be a big part of the Bogo and the whole Philippines in making a huge difference through nutrition project as it is facing a big problem with diabetes and high blood pressure since most of the people here eat white rice during breakfast, lunch, dinner and eat only few vegetables. She also suggested to Projects Abroad to start a big nutrition project so people may learn the importance of nutrition and to lessen diabetes. As she started and made the campaign on nutrition in a small way, she felt that the mother’s; especially young moms, listened to them and are happy with what they have done as they also tasted the final product on her menu on that day.
Aside from the nutrition project, she also suggested to have a sports project so people will be inclined to having regular exercise and will have a better understanding of the health benefit it brings. “The difference we have made is not a different now. It is a very big surprise for the mommies I have spoken with, which are more than 500 mommies. All the mommies started to taste carrots very little and after how many hours, they ate our salads, raw carrots, moringa and our healthy doughnuts. I have learned that here, money is not the most important thing. I have seen that the mommies take care of their children and I haven’t heard children asked for money to buy something.” “I will never forget all the mommies that I have spoken with as well as Maam Billie for such great help while I’m here. We have a great time!” she said.
While in the Philippines, Lisbet learned that there are so many trikes and laughed about it on her first three days. She felt safe and going out in the evening is not a problem. She admired what Projects Abroad did after typhoon Yolanda. In as much as she would want to visit all the schools repaired through Projects Abroad volunteers she wasn’t able to make it for she lacked of time.
Her advice to the future volunteers is to come to the Philippines with a very open mind and look for what they can do while showing respect for the people around them.
Lisbet Keis (Denmark)
Public Health Volunteer
One suitcase does not warrant much space when packing for such a grand adventure! Coming to Tanzania and volunteering makes one wonder what they need in order to be both appropriate and comfortable. In general a good rule to follow is to make sure that your knees and shoulders are always covered!
Of course, the clothing you pack does depends slightly on your placement and whether you will be in Dar Es Salaam or Arusha. Here we help you clarify what you should pack to make the most of your experience.
Care and Teaching: You will want long skirts or pants and shirts that are generally covered up. It is ok to wear short sleeved shirts especially in Dar Es Salaam where it can get very hot. In terms of shoes you will want something comfortable that can get dirty, you will often be outside with the children, where mud is a common occurrence. In general think about looking covered and respectable, but also don’t bring anything that you are too attached too!
Micro-Finance, Journalism, and Human Rights: You will want to dress on the professional side for these projects. Dark slacks and fitted tops for a more business like setting will be best suited for these projects.
Building and Sports Projects: You will be getting dirty and you should think more about your comfort level. Shorts and t-shirts that you don’t mind getting incredibly messy, and most likely even discarding of when you are done, is what you want to add to your suitcase.
Medical: You will be given a medical jacket from Projects Abroad that you will wear when you are volunteering. Underneath your coat you will be most comfortable in slacks or jeans and a loose breathing t-shirt. Shoes need to be plastic and closed toes. In addition volunteers will need to bring their own scrubs if they wish to observe in Theater.
Dar Es Salaam: You will want to pack clothes for hotter weather as Dar is on the coast and at a lower altitude. You will also most likely want to bring lighter clothing for your off time such as shorts and t-shirts and possibly swimwear as the beach (and Zanzibar) are very close by!
Arusha: Weather in Arusha can vary dramatically in a single day. You will want to prepare for days that are hot and nights that warrant a light sweater and longer pants. Think layers and you will be fine!
In addition you will be given a volunteer shirt from Projects Abroad when you arrive. This can be worn whenever it is seen fit!
The holiday season is upon us, a time when our attention shifts to connection. Connection fueled by generosity. A time when our focus shifts to some of humanity’s most innate core values.
Knowing the importance of both connection and generosity it is hard not to wonder why this is a once a year event? Why only once a year must we once again become cognizant of some of life’s most essential ingredients? Surely these are things that we should be practicing at all times! Clearly these are values that should guide us not just come December.
We are designed to crave connection; feeling seen, understanding and listening with empathetic ears, creating a dialogue that is genuine and beneficial to all involved is one of our most basic human needs.
The holiday’s are a wonderful opportunity to return to this realization, but how can we remember to connect on a more daily basis? Volunteering can help us take these values and once again infuse them into our daily lives. Instead of separating them and placing them into a category marked by holiday cheer and presents, we can embrace the ways in which mutual connection can actually fuel our souls.
Every time we listen to someone else’s story, every time we help a child understand a new concept, every time we give a family the correct medication for their children, every time we lay a new block for the construction of a school we are employing the power of connection. We are generous not because it is Christmas but because it fills us up to the tippy top with happiness. We reach out to others not to deliver presents but to create connection.
As volunteers we take the cheer of the holidays and employ it in our daily lives, practicing both generosity and connection until we understand the true gifts that we receive.
And ultimately when we leave our respective placements we take the lessons that we have learned and we bring them home. We act as though it is always December, because we realize how good December feels. We lose the tradition of gift giving, we lose the decorations, and the excessive music and we simply bask in the natural gifts that are the foundation for the holidays. We are more generous, we reach out without expectation, we listen with patience and understanding. Regardless of the date we act with generosity and we strive for genuine connection, because we understand how detrimental to humanity it is if we forget to.