Every time we take a team overseas, we are struck by the impact volunteering has on our teams. With nearly half of the world’s population living in poverty, this is exactly where we take our volunteers: into a garbage dump, a slum, or on the streets where the other half live. The living conditions are often harsh. Many have limited running water, their homes are made of plastic and branches, beds are cardboard boxes and a daily meal is a luxury. The impact we can have on these communities is purposeful not only for the communities we work in, but life changing for the volunteers as well. Someone on our team once described volunteering as “I feel like I was living inside a comfortable pod that provided all my needs and kept the world away, then I lifted the lid on the pod and there it was, the rest of the planet, with all its poverty and despair that I had ignored for so long. Volunteering has changed me, as much as it has changed the people I help.” Here is one of those stories.
One of our teams we took with us a couple years ago were primarily made up of a group of entrepreneurs. What do business owners do best when in a foreign country? They support other business owners! With the help of our translators they walked through the slums in search of local greengrocer stalls erected on the side of the road. When they found the fruit sellers, they descended on them and bought every item on their shelves. The local entrepreneurs were thrilled, when by 10:30 am, all of their product had been sold: a total dollar value of about $25 per fruit stand. This is a month’s wage for someone living in a slum and at least one guaranteed meal a day for the next 30 days. The fruit was then distributed to the local children and elderly residents. What a joy to see a child beaming because she was given a fresh banana and to see the beauty of her heart and she carefully divided it with her younger sister, who she was babysitting while her mother slept off her hangover. Or an elderly lady who lifted her arms in sheer joy praising God for the juicy watermelon she was given. It’s in these acts of kindness that you are leaving your footprint in a community desperate for help.
Our team of Canadian entrepreneurs were so impacted by the difference that they are helping to put a few of the local kids through school. To date, they have also built 8 homes and taken their own friends and family in the pursuit of changing another life. Our North American business owners have a new passion and a purpose which is a powerful weapon against poverty.
If you haven’t been on a volunteering vacation, come with us and leave your own footprint! You might just find your purpose the same way our entrepreneurs friends found theirs.