By Bo Jackman
The first house was the hardest to build.
Standing with the rest of my high school friends, we looked down at this hole in the ground. “This will be the foundation for what you will build,” our guide, Thomas, told us as he directed us towards the concrete. We pulled up our sleeves and got to work.
Weeks before, me and a group of my wokest peers were watching the news when we discovered that the world has some serious problems, and we had to do something about it. We all came together, guilted our parents into giving us $3,000 each, made a bunch of T-shirts that said “Let’s save the planet!” and we set out to the last Third World Country that we saw in a commercial, starring Jennifer Lawrence. And the work that we did for the children there—and especially that sweet all-inclusive vacation resort we went to afterwards—really helped me find myself as a person.
For years, high school and post-secondary students from Canada and the U.S. have been heading over to Third World Countries for some good old volunteering. According to the popular voluntourism website “You’re a Good Person”, 10,000 students and 1,000 hesitant teachers traveled across the world to participate in over seven humanitarian projects. Volunteers can deliver clean water, dig outhouses, and pull their friends out of the outhouses when they dig too deep.
“It’s what I was born to do,” said Becky Whitman, a 21-year-old volunteer veteran on the trip with me. “There’s nothing that helps a person find who they really are more than being around people born in a different socioeconomic class than their own, and then immediately leaving.” Whitman has been on three volunteer missions so far, and is planning a fourth once her parents pawn off their wedding rings to pay the travel costs. “My parents just don’t understand what giving really looks like, they haven’t experienced what I’ve been through.”
Back at the site, a grueling 45 minutes of hard labour went by before our supervisor stopped us for a humble lunch of beet burgers and kettle chips. Behind us, our guide and the rest of the locals took our lunch break as an opportunity to fix our crumbling foundation as well as the crooked walls we put up for this library. I wonder if it had something to do with putting untrained teenagers in charge of construction instead of paying trained local professionals. But then I spilled beet juice on my custom T-shirt, and started thinking about water slides.
I learned a lot about myself, but I really found myself during the all-inclusive resort for the rest of our vacation
That was our first, and last, day in the village. I said goodbye to all the children, and told them I hoped they liked the 10 per cent of a library we made for them. “Don’t worry about them, another group of midwestern teenagers are coming in 20 minutes to pick up where you left off,” Thomas said. And just like that, we were back on our stretch hummer.
Tom Felton, former star of the Harry Potter series and CEO of You’re a Good Person, said that regular volunteering is hard and demanding, and people weren’t coming back for a second trip. But then he introduced deluxe volunteering and premium deluxe volunteering packages to get people interested. “Some think I’m a bad dude because I played Malfoy, but just like how he turned out to be the good guy all along, I’m making volunteering fun and attractive to the public once again. All I had to do was add a few benefits,” he said.
I’d like to say that I learned a lot about myself during that day, but I really found myself during the week we spent at the local, all-you-can-eat all-inclusive resort for the rest of our vacation. I mean, volunteer trip. Right. That’s what it was.
While waiting in line for the badminton court, I learned that patience is everything. I woke up early that morning to make sure I would have a spot to play with the butler, but they were all full. I had to spend the day by the pool instead, crafting the perfect Facebook post about how much work I had done and how much it humbled me. It’s going to get so many likes.
But when I got home, I couldn’t bear to be around my classmates. As I saw them helping the elderly cross the street, tutoring their friend’s siblings for free and donating their kidneys to those in need, I felt pity for them. They never volunteered.
According to psychologists at Ryerson University, this is a common symptom of post-volunteer superiority complex. During the first few days after someone has returned from a voluntourism trip, they experience a larger-than-life feeling of having contributed more than those around them because they did it on a global scale.
I’m currently seeking treatment for PVSC, which includes giving powerpoint presentations about leadership and organizing fund drives, but I can’t shake the great feeling of finally having found myself. So my advice to all those who haven’t tried volunteering, do it. The buffets are delicious.