Why volunteer with Cloudforestadventure?
There must be lots of valid reasons for volunteering overseas, and if interested, there is plenty of debate on this subject, for example on www.omprakash.org. I have put down a few thoughts on this subject, in the hope that they may encourage you. They are obviously personal opinions, subject to my own limited life experiences - so, appropriate filters should be in place! Of course, you are welcome to volunteer here in Intag, whether or not you find this text helpful.
With regard to the “is volunteering overseas a worthwhile activity?” debate, I would say that, to spend a small part of our short human lives learning about the lifestyle and attitudes of folks from another part of the planet (and of course, in so doing, allowing those local folks to benefit from your own lifestyle and attitudes) strikes me as a pragmatic, self-loving and intelligent activity.
It seems to me that volunteering overseas is actually a good example of healthy selfishness and a poor example of misguided altruism, and I'll try to explain why this is so. Done well, it can help the individual to get into the good habits of happiness and fulfilment; and coincidentally a happy, fulfilled person gives effortlessly back to other human beings (anywhere on the planet, including back home) , just by being. It really is that simple - while volunteering, you are testing out your own ideas, and the ideas of your own culture, in an unfamiliar environment - and the unfamiliar people that you live and work with are testing out (on you) their own ideas and their culture - fertile ground for improvement and personal progress, on both sides!
Put another way, can you imagine anything less rational or "profitable" (even in the limited economic sense of the word on which some critics of overseas volunteering focus) than going through our few precious years of life, simply taking on trust all that our own culture and society would have us believe? This seems to me to be somewhat careless and credulous! To limit one’s first-hand experiences and knowledge so much makes little sense, pretty much however you look at it – emotionally, physically, spiritually, economically. Our challenge and joy as human beings is to experience our short lives as fully as we can. This we achieve through self-knowledge, choosing our priorities wisely, and growth though experience ; and a time spent volunteering overseas is fertile ground for all these things, provided we choose a project that matches well with our expectations, and does not simply re-construct all the familiar pre-conceptions of "civilized society", in an overseas environment.
I have little to say about the immediate contributions to human well-being that volunteers often bring to other human beings through their efforts while overseas. These contributions are sometimes spectacular, sometimes more subtle in their benefits, and sometimes apparently a failure. Choose your program wisely, think about your own expectations and preferences, and try to be open to what you are experiencing in a foreign environment rather than just "huddling" together at all times with others of the same background and culture. (This of course does not mean restricting friendships and activities with fellow volunteers, which can be wonderful.)
This testing and honing of what each individual volunteer worker considers good in our received cultures, and what each one of us considers questionable, or superfluous, or even harmful – seems to me to be one of the most under-valued and unrecognised aspects of volunteering. It is an acceleration of the essential process in each one of us, of deciding what matters in life, and what is largely a waste of time. For example, wise men and women all down the centuries have suggested to us, and shown us by example, that great human happiness requires so very little in material terms. Those of us who come from priveleged, "developed" countries may, through no fault of our own, have much to learn on this subject. Host families of volunteers can also benefit greatly, learning perhaps to appreciate more their natural surroundings, or advancing in terms of social justice or gender equality, or perhaps just having a great time in the company of someone who thinks a bit differently from them.It doesn't matter whether or not you find these thoughts helpful - we very much look forward to working with you, and hope you love Intag!