In our discussion today, many people mentioned that they had received negative reactions to our trip. They were called un-American or traitors, and chided for not volunteering at home, or treated as stupid for “wasting money” to volunteer abroad. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter:
- Our trip is service-learning, and for credit. It actually costs less than a regular summer semester at NU would, if you include housing, food and such. I would also be taking classes regardless of whether I traveled this summer, so the argument that my program fees are better spent on aid/charity doesn’t quite work here.
- Many of the people who say things like, “why aren’t you doing something about all the poverty at home?!” aren’t actually doing anything about it either
- Service doesn’t have to be either/or. Volunteering at home and abroad is not mutually exclusive
- Experiences abroad can make us better volunteers/employees back home
- Things will never be perfect at home, so by that logic we (as people, a community and a nation) should never help any other country, state, neighborhood or even family. That sort of logic doesn’t help make the world a better place, and if you start applying it to the prioritization of issues it is a virtual spiral into inaction
- It is no one else’s decision but my own to determine my priorities and my path in life. In other words, buzz off! This is my money, my credits, my scholarships, and my time. I’ll put it where I think it can benefit me and others the most.
What do you think? Are we wasting our time and our money by going abroad? Should we be focusing on Roxbury, the Reading food pantry and other such local isssues? Is it better to do something like go work on Katrina relief effort, or is that not okay until we’re done fixing Massachusetts? Would my tuition money be better spent at some charity or relief organization while I stay at home? Should we, as an imperialist nation (and human beings) feel obligated to help? Is helping foreigners un-American?