When bad days seem to out number good days, and stress, sadness and tension start to build. After long conversations this weekend, I often forget to appreciate. Sometimes you have to let it all go.
I cant even explain the moment I had while drumming and dancing in a circle with fellow inspiring social workers. I can’t even explain it. All I know is that I need to be more thankful of the privilege that I have been given, the friends that have found their way into my life, both new and old, my beautiful mom and simply the life that constantly surrounds me.
For without them I will never have gotten to where I am and I will never go where I want to go.
Why I Stopped Being A Voluntourist
“I don’t want a little girl in Ghana, or Sri Lanka, or Indonesia to think of me when she wakes up each morning. I don’t want her to thank me for her education or medical care or new clothes. Even if I am providing the funds to get the ball rolling, I want her to think about her teacher, community leader, or mother. I want her to have a hero who she can relate to — who looks like her, is part of her culture, speaks her language, and who she might bump into on the way to school one morning.”
I don’t have a huge interest in the development of other nations, but the development of a culture that is so inherent to our very land- the Aboriginal population. Sure, I have Aboriginal heritage but next to none in culture, teachings or identification, I don’t call my self native. People often look at family photo’s and go “Hey! Your family is Italian, right?” Don’t get me started on the whole “sooo tell me, what are you?!” discussion, that deserves another post. However, I have a huge interest in the research and development of Aboriginal communities, particularly in the northern regions of Canada. Someone who has grown up in white middle-class suburbia surrounded by Eurocentrism, my Western values are innately ingrained, no matter how hard I try to unravel them.
I struggle with the idea that I so badly want to experience, study, immerse myself in Aboriginal culture- but for what purpose? Yes, I want to better understand of the discrimination, economic development, culture, history, the teachings, the sense of community, all which are important, but I predominately want to go and make lives better for other individuals. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well it could be. I cannot get away from my Western lens which shows me what is right and what is wrong. No matter what, I have been educated in Western institutions, lived in predominately Western areas. I pretty much only “know” all things Western.
Working in two Native Friendship Centres in my late teenage years, I was that “Little White Girl”, who thought just because I have taken various community economic courses and have a passion for social policy, particularly within the Aboriginal culture, I thought I knew it all, well most of it to say the least. Within a day or two of actually working, I was wrong. I felt discrimination and quite frequently overheard something along the lines of “she’s one of those white people who think they know it all and want to fix the world”. Yep that was me, and quite frankly that is still me. Yes I do want to help, but I understand the need for me to take a step back.
I promptly turned down the opportunity to research the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people in fear that I might be come a “helicopter researcher”. I have started to remove myself from the ideology that I need to “fix, fix fix” and why not just step back, watch, learn and embrace. There’s a time and place for me and when I am needed I will promptly be there. I want to help the community fix itself, not simply go in, attempt to fix it, then leave.
In my social work practice I often go back to this quote, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. However, this is not one-directional. I hope to learn from the Aboriginal culture just as much as I would help to teach.
Yesterday I met a guy who was more or less hitting on me. While casually doing my thing (showing absolutely no interest in him whatsoever) he began to ask me about my education.
Him-“social work eh?, how much will that roll in, pretty decent, eh?”
Me- “I don’t know, it’s social work, so I won’t be loaded”
Him- “but masters, that oughta bring in lots”
Me- ignoring him slightly, “I don’t know”
Him- no but really…
Me- (sickly snapping) YOU DON’T REALLY GOING INTO THIS PROFESSION FOR THE MONEY!
Him- sorry…uhm, yeah…I know.
It doesn’t help that I was in no condition to even be taking a yoga class and not being able to think properly, but I definitely snapped on him. I am sick and tired of people (especially from this conservative city) asking me about my salary prospects. Going to a quite technical school focused on the “hard sciences” where social science/services or any act of humanitarianism is quite undervalued, I am often asked these questions on a regular basis. It’s bothersome to think that one’s salary seems to paint a picture of your human worth. I am in fact in this profession to help people who are in need, is that too much to ask?
Sometimes I get really sad about humanity, but then I think, fight or flight… I am too involved in this game.
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