I heard the blogger deliver this as a sermon at church. I think it’s a caution to those of us in the yoga community who would do “seva” abroad abstracted from the context of the people we would seek to serve.
Originally posted on Just Another Tree Hugger:
Imagine you are a parent of school age children here in Andover. The state has a budget crisis and stops paying the teachers. Some stay in exchange for food, but the majority of them are gone. But don’t worry, they tell you, we are going to replace the teachers with 19 and 20 year old college students from Switzerland. Some of them are majoring in education, some of them aren’t, but hey, they’re really enthusiastic. These college students will come for 4-8 weeks at a time, and then leave to be replaced by new college students. Even though these eager volunteers have never been to the US before, know little to nothing about our culture, and have little to no teaching experience, we expect you to be thrilled about this and very grateful for their time. These new temporary teachers will take pictures of your children without your permission and splatter them all over the internet. They will go home and share how the experience of teaching your children changed their lives, but there will be no assessment or follow up or any sustainable means of measuring the effectiveness of this teaching on your child’s education. There will be no conversation on a long term solution that includes trained, experienced, and sustainable educators from within your community. Ask yourself if you would find this acceptable, and then consider that this is what happens all over Africa and in other developing countries.
I’m by no means implying that caring volunteers who are willing and excited to provide services have even an ounce of malicious intent. Quite the opposite actually, but it doesn’t always translate in the way that we imagine it will or intend it to. This phenomenon is what I call do-goodyness. This is our genuine, well intentioned desire to do good things for the world. It stems from our heartfelt sadness and frustration at seeing suffering and violence and poverty, and our senses of justice and fairness and the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all beings. It is, I believe, a personality trait to be proud of. Our do-goodyness motivates us to be generous with our money, our time, and often both – in support of causes we believe will reduce suffering. But belief in doing good, and good intentions do not ensure good results.