Do my actions help make a considerable change? It’s easy to underestimate the power we have to make a difference. When we say we want to change the world, we tend to imagine that perfect moment, the right opportunity, or dropping everything and creating something spectacular. Yet what’s the biggest lesson I take from being a Global Volunteer? It’s that every action matters, what’s important, is that you took action.
2 schools. 30 classes. 500 students. 6 weeks. 1 volunteer. Me!
I had always dreamt of making a difference on this planet, I just wasn’t sure how. When I came upon AIESEC, I knew that volunteering abroad and working towards the Sustainable Development Goals was my first step. I arrived in Indonesia ready to teach English & share cultural lessons. My challenge? Contribute to SDG #4, Quality Education.
What did I learn? Every interaction with a student is an investment in their future. Each lesson a building block on their knowledge. Each face-to-face moment providing them courage, building confidence within. Teachers are nothing more but superheroes without capes. I realize, it’s the most important job around, for it has the power to shape tomorrow.
On my spare time, I also volunteered at an NGO called Rubbik, an after-school shelter that takes in youth who are otherwise forced to beg on the streets. All ran by two mothers dedicating their own time to bettering the lives of youth to ensure they can create better futures for themselves. Purely ran on fundraising, they teach lifelong lessons to equip youth with skills otherwise missed in their schooling: proper dental hygiene, sexual education and how to assert themselves, for example. Simple things we may take for granted, but unfortunately aren’t accessible to everyone. Rubbik taught me that: Education is the single most important thing that can change someone’s life.
Inspired by these women, they also taught me that it’s all about the small actions. And if you have the power to give, it’s your responsibility to give. Your time, your energy, your efforts. Alongside another volunteer, we knew we didn’t have the money to fuel Rubbik for the long term, but we had some business-savvy skills and the hands to create a product: hand-sewn pencil cases painted by the children, that could be sold to raise money. Something they can continue long after we left. Your actions don’t need to be grand, they simply needs to come from the heart.
Because…no, you can’t do it all. It’s a big feat. Expecting to tackle SDG #4 in 6 weeks. But something resonated in my mind from day one. The headmaster, she said “you’re here to teach, but more importantly, you’re here to inspire”.
You see, it was never really about being the English teacher who taught perfect grammar. But it was about being someone who could provide them the ambition to learn. To be more global, to spark new ideas and make way for bigger dreams. To give hope that they can build the best possible lives that they deserve.
The only thing is, I am not enough.
I am one volunteer. And everyday on my way to school, I passed by dozens of schools with children just the same, and also children roaming the streets to make money to eat. Then I think of how many young people there are in the world. Those in schools like where I taught, and also those who don’t have access to any education. How is that fair?
Volunteering showed me that this world needs more of us, and all the kids out there, simply can’t wait. Every action matters. What are you going to do about it?2