How traveling the right way can be more than charity
When traveling with my red Norwegian passport, I almost never face any problems at airports. I often travel with international friends, and it is crazy to see the difference the color of your passport makes. I feel privileged to be able to travel almost whenever and wherever in the world I want. However, I feel that with this privilege, also comes a great responsibility.
We have a responsibility not only to leave good footprints wherever we go, but we also have a responsibility to give people a real impression about how “our people” are. Because this is a fact, the minute we travel outside our own country we take on a hat of being “the others”. What happens then is that we without maybe knowing it builds up a distance between “us” and “them”. Often, maybe we look at ourselves as the superiors, while the truth is that we are all the same. Who am I to think that I am better than someone else? Or who am I to tell you what you need in your life?
The world of charity is often about what we believe the other person needs, and how "we" can help them get a better life. But is this really what is best for the person, or do we not see the whole picture?
Together with a few others, I run a charity organization in Zimbabwe. As many others we started out focusing on what we could do to help them. I think this is a natural thing when being thrown into a situation which is out of your control. With our very own eyes, suddenly we were standing face to face with people who were really struggling to get the ends to meet. We felt bad because we have so much, and they had so little, and suddenly we were facing a situation where we looked at them as someone who needed our help.
However, the more we got to know the people, and not only their face and name, the more we changed along the way. We started getting to know the people behind the struggle, and more importantly, we learned how they are working everyday towards the same goals as myself and "us". All they really want is to have a happy and pleasant life for themselves and their families. The only difference between us suddenly turned out to be that I was privileged enough to be born in a country which gives me endless opportunities, while they were born in a country where they have to fight for just the same rights.
When meeting new people we always meet them with our own personal luggage. We meet them and prejudge them based on our own values, our own culture and our own beliefs. When getting to know a person, we need to put aside our own ego to better understand the person. Only this way we can truly get to know the people and their struggles. As a perfect example to how we often see each other based on our own beliefs, I want to share a story with you from my time as a volunteer. We visited a boys' orphanage, and one of the girls noticed they didn’t have a toilet seat in the toilet. She immediately went out to buy one for them, and came back. The leaders of the orphanage thanked the girl for the donation. After she left we got to know that the toilet at the orphanage didn’t work.
This is just the perfect example on how what you see is not always what is right, and you need to read the whole book to actually know what will happen.
This article is a part of the #StartingWithTheSelf campaign: A collection of inspiring stories designed to motivate you in your quest to make positive changes for an inclusive world.