Unfortunately, I have never been on an international volunteer trip, but I definitely want to go. My frame of reference for this falls in the many mission trips that my friends have taken and their recounting of what they did. A lot of what they would tell me relates to what we saw in the videos, and I know that my inexperience with this issue may negate what I think about it, but it seems that their trips were more of a vacation under the guise of a fundraised, selfless endeavor to help in-need countries. Most of their pictures and stories revealed relaxing trips to nearby beaches, site seeing, shopping, and light interactions with local children. Of course, I know they had good intentions and that because they were all wonderful people to begin with, their happy and naïve presences probably made many people happy (likely the younger ones who received the majority of the volunteers’ attention). But the videos we watched in class, as well as our discussions, made me more skeptical of the efficiency and true benefit of these types of volunteer trips, whether or not they’re of a religious motivation. I fully agree that volunteers should first be intensely educated about where they’re going so that they can better serve the country without creating a noticeable disturbance in their wake (the man in the video mentioned that the children felt abandoned after they’d been tended to for weeks by the volunteers and then were suddenly alone again without explanation).
With that said, I am definitely interested in doing international service in the future. I hope that with any trip I take, even if I’m taking classes in the country, I can find a way to volunteer my time and get to know the culture and the people more intimately. Though I can only verbalize this now, I plan to do as much research about where I’ll be going so that I can adapt well into school and also so that I may be as helpful as possible. I’ll look into what issues are most pressing (education, clean water, living conditions in poorer populations, etc.) and try to target my efforts towards those things by either finding a group or program to work for, or thinking of some ideas myself. Overall, I’m truly excited with the idea of international service, and I hope that when I am able to do it, I make a positive impact and a real stride towards a better future for the people I help.