Volunteer Story: Emily Crocker
Some of the greatest wisdom I’ve ever learned was in high school from my softball coach, Tony Wolfe, one of the wisest men I’ve had the honor of knowing. One particular afternoon, Coach Wolfe spoke about the importance of being in the world and not of the world.
It is so easy to forget this because it is human nature to conform to the world. We must also understand that being in the world, but not of it, is necessary if we are to be a light to those who are in darkness. We’re called to be a light to the people around us, and that’s only possible if we take time to interact with people and cultivate relationships. While I believed it, I didn’t fully grasp this concept until a pivotal experience while serving abroad.
Malawi: the “Warm Heart of Africa”
I had the opportunity to travel to Malawi during my undergraduate career. Malawi is a small country in southeastern African landlocked by Zambia and Mozambique. According to the World Atlas, Malawi is the poorest country in the world as of 2016. 60% of Malawians live in abject poverty (living on about $2 a day). However, Malawi is nicknamed the “Warm Heart of Africa” for the nature of its welcoming and kind people. Despite any tribulations they may be going through, they generally always have a smile on their face. They seek happiness in what they do have and are quite content with that.
Many countries and organizations provide foreign aid to Malawi and its neighboring countries. Over 200 organizations gave aid to Malawi in 2017. However, I experienced firsthand how foreign aid is not helping Malawi as much as it could. While giving money can feed the hungry and help the sick, it does not free people from the institutions that make them hungry and sick in the first place. It doesn’t free them from the system, which saps their opportunities and incentives.
Be IN the World
At the school where I worked, Namasimba Primary School, one foreign aid organization offered to provide clean drinking water by sending sinks to be installed at schools in the area. They sent the sinks, but there was no way of getting the water from the ground or filtering it. This is just one example of how aid can be less helpful to communities than intended. Plus, it’s an example of why it is important to be in the world. It is important for those who provide support to be immersed in the community, learn the needs and wants of the people there, advocate for those needs, and allocate time and energy toward truly impacting that community in ways that will benefit them for many years.
Everywhere I Went, I Found People Like Me
Everywhere I go, I’m always struck by the reality that we have so much in common with others, regardless of where we’re born, our race, or our religious beliefs. We’re all striving for the best for our communities and for our families. That’s why traveling or studying abroad and taking part in community service is so important, in my opinion. The more people who get the opportunity to travel, experience other cultures, and learn new languages, the more they will begin to understand our shared ideals that keep moving us forward.
“I sit in a church in Malawi and it feels as though I am sitting at my church at home. I sit in a primary school in Malawi and it feels as though I am sitting in my mom’s elementary school classroom. I sit in my tour guide’s living room talking with his family and it feels as though I am at home having a conversation with my family.”
How My Perspective Changed
I’ve realized that much of what I believed to be unique in my home country is often universal. Much of what I thought was universal is often specific to my home country. I’ve realized that humans are by and large the same, with the same needs, the same desires. No matter how much I’ve seen or how much I’ve learned about the world, there’s always more.
With every new destination I discover, I become aware of dozens of others. With every new piece of knowledge I obtain, I become more aware of how much I don’t know. I am thankful to live in a place that can offer so much. I’m blessed to have clothes on my body and food on my plate. I’ve realized the endless possibilities of how I can make a difference in someone else’s life. And my life is changed in the process.
Visit www.activategood.org/opportunity to find ways you can make a difference.