Before I left on our trip I saw a few people share an article about short service trips like this one and why they “don’t matter”. After reading it, I was a bit disheartened and started to question what impact I could really make and if my expectations for the trip were simply too high. I went into my experience with all of this in mind and decided I would have to see for myself what value this trip really did serve. This is what I found:
- Fulfillment can be powerful tool, not a just self-focused feeling. A lot of people get criticized for going on trips like this for their own fulfillment rather than who they’re helping. Although some people may get too caught up in it, when balanced right this fulfillment is what empowers people to do more. It makes them look at problems and find solutions, it makes them want to come back every year or as much as they can, it makes them influence other people to come, and it makes classes like this fill up every semester and able to happen. Most importantly it fuels passion which fuels progress and helps the people who need it most.
- Each person is one piece of the larger puzzle. What one person in one week can’t do, 30 people one week twice a year can. I asked myself “what impact could I make in just one week?” and what I realized is that it wasn’t so much about my one week but the fact that I was contributing to a continuous cycle of groups coming down every year. Where one group leaves off, the next picks up. This what makes it sustainable. Twice a year a similar group comes back to the same place and makes their contribution to a bigger long -term plan. Batey 50 was once filled with houses made of scraps of metal, years later the whole village has almost all newly built houses. I couldn’t do this all in a week but I and everyone who has gone on this trip has added their piece to a very large puzzle.
- The little things do make a difference. Over the years there have been multiple concrete and sustainable solutions implemented in Batey 50. From the houses built to a garden with a solar powered irrigation system, I thought these were the only real solutions the problems that exist. At first I wondered what taking a few pictures with kids wearing your cheap pair of sunglasses, spending a few days playing with kids, or talking to parents could contribute and how any of this was sustainable at all. What I realized is that although these things don’t provide food or shelter, they do provide hope, they build a relationship, and they let them know that someone cares. It restores spirit.The human spirit is powerful and when it is strong, it can find a way to work through even the biggest problems.
These are just a few of the conclusions I came to during my experience. The reasons this trip specifically is successful is because of the way in which it’s run. The points I highlighted each contribute to the long-term sustainable help this trip makes and are why this trip does very much matter.