So yesterday, I posted this status message on my Facebook that a couple of my friends who have been volunteers like me especially after the typoon Haiyan hit most parts of the Visayas region in the Philippines, have reacted to what I have posted.
The past few years, voluntourism has started to raise more awareness around the world. People travel to other places to be a volunteer for a period of time. As these voluntourists are away from their own families and friends, posting photos has been their way to share a snippet of their lives to the people who matter to them. In a way, they are also encouraging their family and friends to do the same. There are also some people who have been inspired to be a volunteer by the photos they have seen from their volunteer-friends and have reached out to volunteer groups. But there’s more in being a volunteer than what our photos are showing.
Yes, it is important to take documentation of the action we have taken because there’s always a purpose and a story we want to share behind the photos we take while we are volunteering for a cause. Documentation is necessary so stakeholders know where the money has gone and what actions have been done, meeting the objectives and plan of action presented before and during the activity being organized.
Technology has been a big part of most volunteer activities across the globe these days, from organizing, gathering funds to recruitment of volunteers. It is also good to inspire more people that there is something they can also do to contribute in the advocacy they believe in — fighting hunger, environmental actions, disaster relief, etc. From the photos we take, we want to send them a message that there is no small or big acts of kindness because if we act together, we can make a bigger impact and difference in our community.
And there’s always that time a person we don’t know can touch our lives in one way or another that we want to capture that moment. However, let’s be reminded that these beneficiaries are like us. As much as they need a little help from you, they also want to show how thankful they are. Take a little step further and make a connection with your beneficiaries because your presence and your act of kindness mean so much to them. If you show them that you are more than a volunteer, that you are also a friend, it would mark a special part in their lives. Introduce yourself, ask them their names, listen to their stories and share your own to inspire them that they can also help their own family and community in any good way they know. Encourage them to pay it forward. As much as we want to change the world, it will only start to resonate if the people who receive help will also help themselves and the people around them.
And no, there’s nothing wrong if you take a selfie shot of yourself with a bunch of children, but there’s also a better way to do it.