By Rachel Bourke
Every time I volunteer overseas, I come home inspired and motivated by people I have met in country. My placements in Mozambique introduced me to the inimitable Vernam Timbini who shared so much positive energy and generosity, and taught me to always look for the things I should be grateful for. Then there was Lindsay Cleary who inspired me to become more independent in thought and action. For me this year, I have been inspired by so many people. Firstly, there’s Fritz Hanrath-this year’s German volunteer, who’s “excellent education” (his words) inspires me to try to maintain a greater awareness of what is happening in the world around me on a daily basis. Then another fellow volunteer, Rachel Lynch, who speaks and acts with such passion for the environment and animals. Rachel says that she, along with several other volunteers in the Philippines two years ago, were swayed by the enthusiasm of their fellow volunteer, and that a huge number of them decided to become vegetarians or vegans as a result of his passionate reasoning. I can’t help but think that a huge part of development education while in country comes from the amazingly diverse people that you get to know on a very intimate, personal level over the course of one month.
One of the most remarkable people I have met this year would have to be Hien who works for our partner in Vietnam-CSDS (Centre for Sustainable Development Studies). Hien is determined to have a positive impact on all things that surround her. She is endlessly kind and her every action is considerate of others. When speaking about her work in hospital programmes and centres for disadvantaged children, she focuses on “moments”. Rather than generalising the situation or the circumstances of the children and the terrible tragedies many of them have gone through, she describes “moments” of sheer joy and playfulness and divilment with the children.
In a country described as part of the “developing world”, Hien is very environmentally conscious which is often quite radical in parts of Vietnam. She says that people, particularly in rural areas, are so focused on basic survival and money that they don’t care as much about nature and the long term impact of their actions. Small actions go a very long way, and for Hien, that involved trying to convince her mother, who is a shop keeper, to stop using so much plastic, reducing and reusing where possible. A small local action with a small global impact.
Fellow volunteers have provided me with so many new perspectives and outlooks on the world around me. They have inspired me to work harder to be a global citizen in small but meaningful ways.