confused motivations.

Less than a month away from my trip to Cambodia.

I am more than excited to get to work again. To have the opportunity to contribute to something greater than myself. To spend my energy working on something with merit.

But herein lies the bigger question.

What are my true intentions? It just so happened that the first opportunity for me to put education into action coincided with the media heavy story of Invisible Children, it’s Kony campaign and all the misaligned and unclear results of Western youth responding to an emotional plea to “do something”.

I’ve spent alot of time thinking about the conundrum of Western aid. It’s not a new subject for me. I can think back to a time a few years ago, when I was in grad school and I’d bring my reading material to work with me (at the time I worked in a high end retail store, a job that was a lot of fun). But I soon faced a sort of moral dilemma when I’d be reading essays on the developing world during my lunchbreak, and then go back to convincing shoppers to buy a $200 pair of jeans. At the time my thoughts were naive. I understand the ways that capitalist economies work and clearly it was a long shot for me to think that I was doing any harm by selling expensive jeans to customers who were willing to pay, but it was still a complicated mix of emotions when I’d just read how far $200 could go in a developing country.

Now that I’m a bit more knowledgeable on the way aid programs work, I feel strained in a completely different way.

I want to take action. I know that I have been blessed with a life that gives me opportunity, and health, and freedom, and potential. And I decided to invest in this passion. I went to school for it, I took out student loans for it, and I worked to get a post-graduate degree that at the time I hoped would help prepare me for dedicating my life to changing things that I felt needed attention.

But how do I know that I’m helping in the right way? How do I achieve something substantial without it being self-serving?

I’m uncertain of the effect my efforts in Cambodia will have. I am certain that Cambodia, it’s complicated history, it’s uncertain future and it’s mysterious people have a personal impact on me. I only hope that during the next three months, by spending time there, by learning, by contributing, that I can produce a positive outcome.

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6 thoughts on “confused motivations.

  1. How exciting! It sounds like your heart is right and just the fact that you are willing to go can’t be wrong. I have a really good friend named Laura Fok, she is a local Hawaii woman of Japanese decent (Fok is her married name, although her husband passed over 15 years ago). She is a scientist and teacher and felt called to Cambodia years ago. Today she lives there, teaches and volunteers through an organization called Kone Kmeng, reaching out to impoverished and at risk families in Cambodia. She is one of the most humble women I have ever met and the people of Cambodia have fallen in love with her…she has become like an “aunty” to many of them. You can google her name and you will find, especially through the University of Hawaii publications, information on Laura and what she does there. I know if you are by any chance anywhere near her, she would love to meet you and be your “aunty” too =)! Here is one link about her work in Cambodia

    http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/uhtoday/spring2008/J402/MANUEL/KhemarasCenterMembers.html

    I can’t wait to hear about your journey!

    Aloha, Connie

  2. I understand Candace. It’s easier for me now to justify not doing as much as I can (especially monetarily) because I am a student and barely get by from month to month, but I still often feel guilty for being so fortunate to be able to have a healthy lifestyle, and I NEVER go without. I have everything I need and so many in the world don’t; I don’t deserve it any more than they do. It makes me angry when people who have so much do so little (again, especially monetarily), but when I think about my goals for my life, I can’t help but be hopeful about someday having an above average lifestyle. I have to stay grounded, because I think that is shallow and feel called to give in a much deeper way. I’m so proud of you for stepping out of your comfort zone and going to Cambodia while Don is away! I hope you learn a lot and I’ll be supporting you in spirit. I look forward to your updates once you get there!

  3. Hi Candace
    Many people volunteer just to volunteer, not realizing the negative impact it can have. The questions you are asking will guide you to make a difference when you are in Cambodia.
    I worked with a large multi- initiative collaboration to enhance civil society for poverty reduction and have learned a lot about Western aid that way and the sensitivities involved. Often, the students I counseled felt that they were not making enough of a difference and that the pace of things was too slow due to their limited time.
    Like Connie said, your heart is in the right place and you`re a smart scholar so good will come of it, personally and in Cambodia!

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