Calling BULL on "Calling Bull on Service Trips"
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Politics and Activism

Calling BULL on "Calling Bull on Service Trips"

Here's a million reasons why your 7 reasons are wrong

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Calling BULL on "Calling Bull on Service Trips"

I usually am not one to call people out for their own opinions, despite how much I might disagree with them, because generally everyone probably has a good reason, with experiences and circumstances that give reason to whatever it is they believe in. But this past week I read an article that had be actually so angry that I had to stop reading it and put my phone away. And honestly, I have never read something so wrong and so ignorant in my life.

Two weeks ago, I got back from a trip with a wonderful organization that I learned about through Marquette. It is called Global Brigades, and it was actually originated here at Marquette 14 years ago. I got the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with this amazing organization, and with an even more amazing group of people on a week long Public Health brigade. I have been at a loss of words when trying to put into thoughts and memories and favorite moments when retelling this trip to all of my family and friends. Between the people there with hearts bigger than anyone could ever imagine, the friends I got closer within a week than some people I have known for years, the relationships I made and treasure with the staff, the people of Nicaragua, the students who went with me, and the steps out of my comfort zone that gave me a chance to see things from whole new, connected, solidified experience—I mean it when I tell you this was the best experience of my life, and anyone who has the chance to do a trip to work WITH and not FOR a group of people who can show them new spots of their heart, and new talents and hard working capacities they hold, and new ways to laugh and appreciate life, and new ways to grow—you should freaking go.

The day I landed back in Milwaukee, I read an article. An article titled, “7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip to Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on “Service Trips.” Well first off, what the heck, there is so much ignorance in just the title I should have just stopped there. As I continued reading, though, I could actually feel my face get red. Between rude assumptions and stereotypes, the article went on to say that service trips don’t matter and why should we even bother going on them, right?

"Service trips do more harm than good.” More harm than good to who? The people who get to be reminded every week, by every new group of volunteers that America and everywhere else that sends people to help them grow, is actually not an ignorant and selfish country solely concerned about themselves and not willing to remind those struggling that whether the help we offer is a smile, a hand, or a day of shoveling, that we are in this together? That there are people who care about them? That whether we build six sanitation stations or two, people are fighting WITH them and want them to have access to a healthy life and want them to feel loved? Or does it do more harm to the volunteers? The ones who get to be reminded of how selfless and loving people can be by seeing the welcoming and undefinable amazing people around the world? How maybe being an exclusive and unwelcoming country isn’t something to be all that proud of after all, and how simplistic joy can be. Seriously those trips man, they are just such a harmful experience—hard to believe I made it through okay, wow.

These service trips are “entirely focused on the volunteers.” Now, this just freaking frustrating because the entire trip, every morning, every night at reflections, we were constantly pouring our hearts out and reflecting on how special of an experience it was to get to work in solidarity, hand in hand, learning with the families we met each day. Not for them, not for us, but together. I learned a whole new definition of hard work, I dug, and built, and saw more concrete in those six days than I have in my whole life. I saw more smiles and heard more courageous and genuine laughter than I hear in a week sometimes back home. I saw more dedication and passion for a country than I knew even existed. I learned and grew so much from the life and hearts and welcoming arms of these people—and does that mean the trip is focused on me? The fact that these people taught me and helped me see a new light makes the trip self-focused? Huh, who would’ve thought maybe it was a special experience that has reciprocated reminders of life joy and love. I forgot I was just hoping to come back happy and fulfilled from quick little emotion-free weekend. No one was sad to leave, no one felt for the people just focused on a quick little vacay, duh.

It said the lasting impact of short-term voluntarism trips is “negligible.” In six days, we built four sanitation stations (a clothing wash, a toilet, and a shower) for four different families, we built four septic tanks for the waste to dispose to, and put in three concrete floors. We learned how to truly work freaking hard. We learned how to work hard and not complain about it because they didn’t once. We left families with resources to SHOWER and be clean and walk in their house without worrying of fungal diseases or bacteria or infections—by shoot I forgot concrete floors melt two days after they’re built and septic tanks fall down in two hours, shoot, how negligible. We also dug the final step of a water system that delivers fresh water from a mountain to FIVE DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES, five. But shoot, that isn’t going to affect anyone’s life long term or anything, how negligible. And it's not like we talked with the families, or the masons, or the people we met to remind them of our love for them, or to remind them our admiration for their hard work, or to remind them we would be back. The goal was to go and neglect, not to come back and spread the experience and keep the tradition of these trips that allows all of these things to be accomplished going or anything.

“They promote a cycle of dependence.” And is this them talking? Did they tell you that that would rather continue thinking we don’t care and never see helping hands and continue to be left with no resources or helping minds and hands and hearts that give them access to a path up? A path up from a stuck place where they feel alone, or like there is no means to be healthy. Obviously, we should just not go. OBVIOUSLY, we just shouldn’t help them, because we wouldn’t want them to get help or feel cared for or loved or equal to us right? We might as well blow it off and let them handle it, wouldn’t want them feeling too dependent or anything. No no, I shouldn’t go.

And honestly, these are just a few points of the millions of hurtful and IGNORANT words and opinions that filled this article. In what good world would this be a better alternative? It is these trips across the world, they continuously go in cycles that allow growth and allow people to feel love and give love back. It is such a powerful and important thing to work in solidarity with people and to see the power their insights and perspectives can have on you, and it's so important for them to feel like a person and see you caring too. I really hope these feelings aren’t convincing, I really hope this isn’t a majority, because I promise you, you are missing out on a life-changing, a mutually life-changing, experience that advocates for SO much more than service—it advocates for love, for unity, for growth, for care, for there being more to this world than a self-centered perspective.

Don’t be ignorant and don’t let articles like that load of bogus fool you and block your heart from opening up to the world. Global brigades in itself is an organization offering trips for all areas of the community to grow—between the medical brigades that help to treat ad give assessments and care to those who have been searching for where to go and what to do for so long, and public health brigades that offer preventive care and showers and concrete floors and new utilities for so many families, and the water brigades that work over and over again to deliver communities fresh water, and the business brigades that work to build things back up—it’s the cycle of going, and growing, and inspiring others to go and grow too that keeps this cycle moving upwards, not back downwards. I can only imagine all of the other amazing and powerful organizations that exist out there too. Keep going, keep spreading your heart, and keep letting the world fill yours back up too. So this is me CALLING BULL on the girl who thinks calling bull on service trips is anything close to accurate. Whether you lend your heart from a million miles away, or you go to the countries and help hands on, it’s all important and it all makes an impact. Don’t be ignorant, don’t be selfish, spread your freaking heart.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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