One of the classes I’m taking while in Ecuador is called “Service Learning”. Half of the class is about serving as a volunteer in an organization in the community, while the other half is a discussion on what doing volunteer work abroad is and should be about.
The organization I chose to do my volunteer work with is PAE (Protección Animal Ecuador). It’s an animal adoption center as well as a clinic. There are a lot of puppies, which is a little sad, but I also love seeing them.
However, what I spend most of my time doing is cutting and folding gauze to be the right size so that they can use it in the clinic. To be honest, that’s not exactly what I expected to be doing when I volunteered at an animal clinic, but it’s definitely given me time to reflect on the experience (folding gauze isn’t the most thought-intensive task).
One of the things we’ve focused on in the class is how to make sure that we are doing service for the good of others, instead of for the good of ourselves. We talk a lot about the fact that people often go to “developing” nations to volunteer, but do it mainly for résumé reasons and focus more on what they want to give rather than what the community needs. My experience has really made me think about that. Folding gauze isn’t the most exciting task, and probably isn’t what I would choose to do with my free time. However, that’s what the clinic needs and so that’s the best way I can help them help their animals.