Last year, I wrote a blog comparing my first experience in South Africa with African Impact with my second visit. I’m prepared to answer the question of which trip I enjoyed the most, by summing up what I got out of each trip.
My first trip, I gained perspective. I saw how other people lived and where my place was in the world and I discovered what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to be. I wanted to be independent and I discovered that those who do not have the courage to follow their own dreams will always try to belittle the dreams of others.
My second trip, I learned to be skeptical of what I see, and really discovered the ups and downs of development work. It was this trip that I truly decided that I wanted to continue my education in African development, and I really matured through this trip as I took on a more leadership role, which I enjoyed.
This last trip, I learned to have fun. Sometimes I can be too uptight and a bit of a workaholic, so I learned to let loose and soften the walls I so often hide behind. This trip was full of the most ups and downs, with the death of one of our home-based care patients, and some of the most gruesome home-based care visits I’ve seen. At one point we were popping two abscesses at the side of the road before tending to a lady’s finger that had been bitten by her neighbour, the bone of her middle finger exposed to the elements.
I learned to have emotions as a response to the patients that I saw, and I learned that I can only laugh off so many instances before it’s going to hurt my psyche. Sometimes it’s good to be able to shut down when a situation warrants it, but this group of volunteers taught me that it’s important to debrief and even feel.
I don’t regret changing my plans. Europe would have been nice, and I still got to see some of it. But volunteering has become the place where I can put all my emotions back in their proper place before continuing with another year. It’s exactly what I needed.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~ Mark Twain