Pathfinders Diary – In the Home StretchBy Administrator
The end is in sight for the Pathfinders as they have arrived at the final stop of their multinational service project. They are currently in Guatemala, where they are working on education and enrichment for underprivileged children with organizations Safe Passage and Avivaria. With the Project almost complete, it’s worth reflecting on what it has accomplished. Michelle, Conor, Wendy, and Ben have installed wells and taught English in Cambodia, taught at humanist schools in Uganda, helped the Alliance for African Women Initiative and learned the stories of alleged witches in Ghana, constructed latrines in Haiti, built a water center in Ecuador, and promoted sustainable, ecologically conscious development in Columbia.
So what’s been the impact of these projects, and what are the takeaway lessons thus far? The most valuable has been how to effect sustainable change by enabling people to solve their community’s problems. In his response to criticisms of international volunteering, Pathfinders’ leader Conor Robinson notes that privileged volunteers sometimes “fail to comprehend that sustainable change does not mean taking the lead, but empowering locals to do so”. The focus of Pathfinder’s Project is service, helping people to help themselves, and learning from others.
For example, the residents of La Fond-Jeanette weren’t lacking latrines because they didn’t know how to build them; they lacked latrines because transporting materials to the small town is a gargantuan task of several hours and hundreds of dollars. Pathfinders helped with the acquisition of materials, and in return learned how to build latrines. Not only does this exchange of knowledge help equalize all participants, as everyone is giving and gaining, it aids communication. Indeed, Conor notes that this willingness to learn is central to the whole idea of Pathfinders, and that “these projects enable us to communicate far more than we could express verbally,” overcoming linguistic barriers and cultural differences to convey goodwill and reach a mutual understanding.
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