Is it okay to be giving service to an organization that is really just a group of women making money? Yes, they’re not as well off as those in the US, or as our translator. But they have clothes and food and look pretty healthy and happy.
I’m not going into a poor orphanage and helping them deal with an overwhelming amount of children. I’m going to a small corporation and trying to tell them how to make more money. In the US, I would call that consulting. Does not getting paid for something automatically make it service? Yes, it’s voluntary, but is it community service? I came here to learn more about the non-profit world, and specifically to see the hands-on nitty-gritty of micro-finance in the field. My first lesson? Micro-credit hasn’t failed, it’s just been hijacked. This is a micro-enterprise, a small, locally-owned (what isn’t in Benin?) business. This is not a lending organization; it’s not even one of their beneficiaries, since they don’t receive loans.
Is it still volunteer work if you’re getting something in return? If you’re getting a grant, soft power, induction to an honor society, brownie points for your sorority or college credits, it seems you are being paid–just not in cash. Of course, reductum ad absurdum, and I’m reminded of that Friends episode when Joey tells Phoebe there’s no such thing as a truly selfless act—you always get recognition, gratitude, or at the very least a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside.
But who says service has to be special, sacred and selfless? What’s so wrong with being selfish? How come everyone else can be selfish in their career path, but not lawyers and aid workers? Just because your life is about improving the world and helping others doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr to do it. And if you do a good deed, does it really matter what your motives were? If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, can’t the road to heaven be paved with bad ones? It doesn’t matter why you helped a little boy learn to read, in the end he’s still farther along in his education for your help.