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.