Let’s suppose you took a trip to some country, any country, and visited an orphanage there, spending roughly a week and a half, two weeks at most, doing your all to give the most to the children there. After your time is up, you feel like you’ve changed the world, changed a few hearts and you feel excellent about yourself. You’ve done your part and now you’re done.
Many times, mission trips may render both beneficial and adverse consequences on both parties: the volunteer and the child at the orphanage. While one might feel as if they are closer to bringing children out of poverty, this illusion is dangerous to our psyche.
Firstly, the poverty that most orphanages face is incredibly complex. More than just the physical commodities they require, the lack of opportunity and the underlying governmental systems surrounding them only some issues they encounter. Others can include climate change, lack of infrastructure, and an inability to promote speedy change.
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs states that poverty “include[s] hunger and malnutrition”, but also “limits access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.” Unfortunately, there is not a one-way fits all method to the finish line. The reality is, volunteers are unable to make large amounts of significant and long-lasting change.
Next is the superiority complex. When we choose to go to a country to aid children in need, our subconscious places those children beneath us. Most treat these children as helpless, and understandably so, as we naturally feel guilty and apologetic. Yet, the concealed truth behind this mentality is that it builds a dependency rather than a feeling of freedom and liberation that is necessary for their futures. Despite the positive intentions we might possess, the harmful impacts are necessary to recognize before choosing to go on a trip.
However, this is not to say that going on mission trips are an awful and unworthy experience. It is natural to feel accomplished and to have a sense of pride after the trip. It is simply a matter of acknowledging what we can genuinely do and how we can truly assist children in need.
To take both sides into account, these trips can indeed change one’s life; they can bring in reason and passion or endless amounts of adoration for children in need. They can inspire and alter the way we choose to talk to people or how much value we put into our materialistic desires. They can guide our comprehension of language or perhaps allow us to discover our ambitions as we get older. But most importantly, they can foster lifelong friendships with children around the world and give us a reality check on how privileged we are to have the very basic necessities.
The most rewarding part of these trips is the experience it brings to you. While, we may be going to help those in need, we may actually be doing ourselves a favor instead. Frankly, it is a choice of why we choose to go and what kind of change we hope to foster.
Allison Moon, Grade 10
Winston Churchill High School