Volunteering: The Cons

I have the best job in the world. I have no doubt about that at all.
To wake up every morning and know that you are making a difference and know that you are doing exactly what YOU want to do is the best feeling in the world and I wish all my friends could experience this. A great deal of it comes from a positive attitude but also creating a positive environment for oneself as well as taking the opportunities that come your way rather than waiting for next time.
But it isn’t all smiling children and curing patients. There is always bad with the good. At times things can become very trying, and people don’t really understand.

Treating a boy with constipation on the floor of a school due to lack of tables.
Treating a boy with constipation on the floor of a school due to lack of tables.

Prior to my departure from Australia, I went to catch up with some friends, Vee and Simon, who have done a bit of work with an NGO  in Borneo. Educating villages around awareness of deforestation and the impact on Orangutan habitats.
It is encouraging to hear stories about other peoples experiences and the positive impacts individuals are making around the world. It gives me faith in humanity particularly when we live in a world where the media feeds on the depravity, despair, and dishonesty.
Simon asked me where I got my “sense of social conscience”. Was it something I was born with or something which I had developed.
I was stumped.
We each discussed our backgrounds and how we had come be volunteers.
There is no doubt my upbringing had a great deal of influence on me but to what extent I am unsure. I was always a “sensitive” child.
Vee concluded she had developed it throughout her life, and Simon admitted that he had never really taken much notice until he had met Vee. I had nothing, and still have nothing. I want to say both, but I want to say neither.
This is a question that I still think about a lot.
Why am I in India working for an organisation based on sustainability, when I could be in the first world earning “real” money and setting myself up for my future.

Using a villages bed to treat a patient.
Using a villages bed to treat a patient.

Although I have the full support of my family and friends, their commitment to my cause can only go so far.
It has been said to me many times “What the hell are you doing?”, “Wouldn’t it be better if you just stay here and get yourself set up?”, “Shouldn’t you be thinking about settling down?”. These are questions which can become quite disheartening at times.
If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. This a very harsh statement but it holds some truth. To ignore an issue because it is “too hard” is not the way to deal with it. You just have to chip away bit by bit until it becomes manageable and less daunting.
Then there is the “We have problems in our own country, why don’t you fix this country before you fix someone else?”… I refer you to the above statement.
New Zealand isn’t a country without its problems but they are manageable. Considering that New Zealand is 5th on the Good Country Index for the best country to live in based on Science and Technology, Environment, Peace and Security, World Order, Prosperity and Equality, and Health and Wellbeing.
Not doing too bad there.
India is rated 81st. Could do with a bit of work.
And I intend to do what I can of that work, and there are plenty more like me here.

Training locals in massage can be difficult with only one physio table.
Training locals in massage can be difficult with only one physio table.

Being a volunteer is extremely rewarding, but also incredibly challenging.
I have gone from complete and utter independence, to living in a country where I don’t know the language, I know only a few people, I can’t go out by myself, I have to keep covered up even when it is 40 degrees out, sleep is not a priority in Indian culture, I often have no power, I have no transport, no one as any idea what I do except other volunteers, I have become EFA deficient and actually crave meat (I’ve been vegetarian for 15 years), where nights can become quite lonely, and where I have to watch the food that I eat as the next meal I take could lead to a night of cold sweats and diarrhea.
We often run out of supplies during health camps and have to make do with what we have around us, there have been many times which I have used the floor, steps, benches, even car bonnets to treat patients due to lack of tables or beds. I can certainly tell you, if you though us New Zealander’s where ingenuitive, we have nothing on the Indians.
My point is that there are up’s and down’s to all aspects of life here in India, and trying to make a positive impact in a society where change is often resisted and centuries and centuries of tradition dictate all aspect of Indian life, can be a challenge.
I am doing what I can, the best way I know how. I love it and I hate it, but this is a reality for any volunteer anywhere in the world.


You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.- Mahatma Gandhi

Aly Curd


One Comment Add yours

  1. Shannon says:

    Such an awesome website. Really well written and informed posts. Thanks for sharing your journey and experience.


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