How everything started...
It was a beautiful Sunny fall morning in october, I was laying in my bed looking at the world awakening, when I suddenly was sure. I would just go and realize the project that had been crossing my mind for so many times these months. The only thing I knew was that I didn’t know what I was starting. I found that a good start and a motivating thought.
I was a fifth year medical student with an English-Spanish-Portuguese language-mix in her head, a love for music, sports, reading and writing in her heart and an unlimited sympathy for children and elderly. Enchanted by the mystic of the unknown and equipped with a collection of recessive worrying-genes; there were many ways for me to make the world a little bit better. I wanted to volunteer in different countries, and write stories that would make others curious, enthusiast, more content and inspired. Not a humble aim, but I knew that: “the ones who are crazy enough to believe that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” First thing to do right now though: taking a shower and looking for something to have for breakfast. My organizational skills should still be refined.
Great, a world map, but where should I start now I’m actually making a real plan? There were projects everywhere that could use some help. After one hour of brainstorming my list counted about thirty places in six continents. Hmmm. Maybe I should gather some advice at the main travel forums. “Practically doable” seemed to be a reasonable criterion to may. Iceland was too far out of the way, Australia was too expensive. Canada was both. “Safe” would be a useful next step, eventhough it’s only relative and a lot of it depends on your own behaviour. I wouldn’t go to Colombia or Ethiopia. Too much terror-paranoia in America. After five criteria there were only ten countries left: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentine, Brazil, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Uganda and Senegal. Practically doable and relatively safe for a woman alone with a bit of common sense (besides my breakfast-gathering skills :P).
Now I knew where I wanted to go, I could go and look for projects on the internet. That couldn’t be hard: a pair of extra hands is always welcome, and there are many good things to do. And indeed, there was a huge number of projects announced on the web. Come volunteer with us! We have a orphanage, a hospital and a school. We pick you up at the airport and you’ll get 24-hour guidance by someone who speaks your language. We go for paragliding and rafting trips in weekends. We only charge €1700,- per month. Hmm. Let’s check the opinion of other experienced travellers and volunteers on this again.
It shocked me. I found articles about the business of volunteering organisations and about the negative effects that projects can have, even if the intentions are good. How orphanages are sometimes full of children who still have one or two parents, how organizations (or should I say "companies"?) make money that way, how harrowing it is when nothing really changes because the local communities aren’t involved and how volunteers act like docters, teachers and constructors while they have no idea at all what they’re doing, in places where people just don’t have anything better to go with; “new colonialism”. Autsj. With a new set of criteria I started a new search: sustainable projects in collaberation with the locals, a selection of the volunteers who’d have to stay more than three months for the continuity, and only a reasonable amount of money asked to cover for the food and accomodation. That way I found a few initiatives concerning counseling, assistance in health care, social projects as a part of a team led by professionals, educational projects and a TEFL-course that would qualify me to teach English.
I can’t really arrange with the organizations yet when I’ll be there: I’ll be on my way for too long and I’ll mostly go to developing countries where “organisation” means something else than it does right here. But my list with possibilities is extended enough to be quite sure that I can find a place in a project almost everywhere, a project that only excist to make itself redundant in the end. Now I should only get my Insurance, my last vaccins and my first flight-ticket!
But the volunteering is only half of the project: with the stories that I’ll write I’d like to tell others in an amusing way about people, places and situations that they normally may not get in touch with easily. I think that makes it easier for us to see ourselves as a part of the world that we personify all together, and I hope I can inspire people this way to contribute something to that world. Of course a website’s needed to do that. Blood, sweat and tears (I’m not an IT-person at all: my phone still has buttons!), but I’m very proud of the result: check projectimagine.nl for more info about the project, and click on “blog” for news and stories… Or find Project Imagine all the people on facebook with a like-button for followers and supporters!
I’m Nelleke Reckers (Nelly), 27 years old and on a beautiful Sunny fall morning I suddenly was sure: Project Imagine all the people would be realized. But the first thing now is to go and look for something to eat for breakfast! :)