What You Can Learn From Volunteering Abroad

adrianaBY ADRIANA DE NOBLE

Complacency is blissful ignorance. Feeling comfortable while the world continues around you, is a blessing to many people: being complacent means that you can afford it. Unfortunately, even though complacency is too expensive for many people, that does not mean you have a civic duty to do anything about it.
I learned how complacent I was two summers ago. I had signed up to go on a mission trip through my local trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti (that my parents funded) and in that time I was unaware how little my life was in comparison to the rest of the world. This phenomena happens to a lot of people, Americans in particular: the illusion of being comparable in size and importance as the rest of the world. 
When I arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport, I was incredibly unprepared for what I saw. The poverty and desperation for hope the people of Haiti have is something that does not exist where I grew up. I was taken in a truck to the compound where I would stay for the next week, and in the moments that passed, while I was seeing Haiti up-close for the first time, I realized how miniscule I was compared to everything else. I realized that all of my priorities, my motives, my convictions, had very little weight to them. 
One of the first people I met there was a boy, my same age, named Michael. He was a local, his living situations were similar to the rest of the Haitian population, but he had a joy and passion that I have not seen in many people since. We were alike in more ways than we were different; we liked the same music, we liked reading, we liked soccer, we both wanted to be doctors in the future. The difference though (the difference that still haunts me) is that eventually, I would be a doctor, and he wouldn’t. I would return to the U.S., I would get financial aid to get a degree, and I would go to medical school, and he wouldn’t. This boy, my same age, same level of intelligence and capability, would not be guaranteed the same opportunity: his circumstances and country would not be able to accommodate it. 
As Americans, we feel as though the well-being of others is not our responsibility, and it isn’t. We are not responsible for the futures of others- but, when look at each other without the marks of society, without our possessions, with what is consistent in all of us as opposed to what is different, we want to do something. When we see people as united as opposed to divided, when we see pieces of ourselves in other people, that “responsibility” turns into desire. When we take ourselves off of our pedestal and put ourselves next to each other, being an advocate for others becomes a passion instead of a burden.
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