A life changing experience



Posted on 05 July 2011  | 
Why that “life changing experience” changed my life anyways. This trip sure as hell changed my life forever. Before and throughout my first weeks in Madagascar I thought that making a difference is like pouring water on a world on fire with just your hands to cup it. I just kept on going because I felt obliged to at least try, out of that good old eternal inferiority complex of the privileged child.

Glad I have that, now. Glad to be a cliché, glad to have been guilted into coming to Madagascar by the sheer benevolence life has had towards me. Because I overcame my negativity and I’m profoundly hopeful now that things actually can change, and it’s not even that difficult. We say that you can only fall deep, if you went up high. Same goes for the opposite: if a doctor doesn’t have anything to work with, every dollar he gets might spare a life that otherwise might have been lost. If there’s only one tree left, every planted tree means a doubling of the forestation of the area. If there are only a few turtles left, every single one that doesn’t land in someone’s pot is a huge chance for the population to recover. And how much is a dollar to western society? And how much of an effort is it to plant a tree? And how hard is it to just leave that poor turtle alone? Compared to the effect of not doing the right thing? You get my point. The glass is half full, verdammt noch mal, if you’re determined to pour some more water in it and not just drink it.

So, what did the world get out of this?

But how about the impact, the “change” in Making a Change, the “difference” in Making a Difference? I’m not saying that I didn’t have any impact. I did and I wouldn’t have without the guidance by the WWF. Lots of volunteers before me reported on the very helpful projects they’ve been working on. I won’t at this point, this is already getting way too long. But I enthusiastically did my work for the WWF. It was very gratifying. I can’t and never will be able to estimate the impact I had and will have in the future. But I can’t rid myself of the thought that with the money that the WWF and I spent on going through with this program, the region might have profited more from a different investing?

I had my share of the concept “volunteering” and this is my conclusion: It’s a good idea to travel to developing countries. It can only help to spend some money there. It’s good to stay in one place for longer and really get a thorough picture of it. It’s great to lend a hand whenever it’s needed while you’re there. It’s splendid, if you meet people that you want to keep in touch with. And it’s over the top if you’re so touched by something that you want to get involved and keep on helping someone until you’ve really made a change together. All this can happen when doing volunteer work. But you can’t expect it to happen automatically and even if you do everything right, it might still just not. What it certainly doesn’t depend on is the organization you’re traveling with.

Funny thing is: I’m lucky, it happened exactly like this for me. I got involved with a local hospital which led to a probably life long involvement in humanitarian aid for that hospital. Working on that I learnt what helping really means. It means that you make people a part of your life for way more than just a few months. It means well distributed sacrifice- you can’t do too little, because you feel too strongly for the project, but you also can’t do too much, because you won’t keep on going, if frustrations are piling up and you can’t sleep anymore.

I had to pinch myself again and again when I started traveling, to see if I’m not dreaming. By the end of the program, I’ve proceeded to slapping myself in the face from time to time. Not because there was any doubt about everything being reality. But to remind myself to keep on being grateful for each moment, to not get too used to it and to take it all in and store it for less fulfilling days of my life.

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