Thursday, April 7, 2011

Whose Volunteer Experience is this Anyway?

       Reading Crystal Hayling's article in Center for Effective Philanthropy titled "Whose Volunteer Experience is this Anyway?" made me reflect on how to effectively engage in a volunteer experience, in my case the Nest Summer Fellowship, and striking the right balance between my personal goals and the overall ambitions of Nest loan recipients and the Nest process.
    Personally, while I do have selfish reasons for deciding to be a Nest Summer Fellow,  I will not allow those desires to eclipse my awareness of my role and purpose.  While I am participating because I want to have experience doing development fieldwork and because it is a part of my personal journey; I also understand the seriousness and scope of Nest's work.  This past semester in my global poverty practice and methods class we attempted to understand the delicacies and sensitivities of aid work in foreign countries.  I was taught the importance of critically examining my role in my practice experience so as to act in a way that always attempts to benefit aid recipients, and not just the donors. While incentives matter, effects matter more, and it is important to never harm recipients' prospects for progress in favor of our own goals. 
    But it must also be taken into consideration that without incentives, the free market does not cater to the world’s poorest people; instead they are the first to be left behind.  There needs to be some form of incentive in order for productive and positive development to take place. Whether it be for political and economic stability, capital accumulation, self-actualization, social work, etc, incentives are very important in the world of development.  Yet it must be understood that there are other goals and purposes in development endeavors that are equally laudable, but do not directly benefit the donor/volunteer. In my opinion, the ultimate goal of development, should be to give those in poverty and underdeveloped countries all necessary resources, structures, and skills,  so that they are no longer dependent on aid unless in times of emergency or disaster; ultimately making western aid and presence a little more obsolete.  It is important for Nest loan recipients to lead dignified and self-sufficient lives without the burden and stigma of dependence.