Friday, September 18, 2009

Great examples of volunteerism

Too many times people who get into volunteering are looking for what they can get out of it, instead of what they can put into it. We found a couple of great examples of volunteerism in a story from Mississippi's Clarion Ledger.

The story profiles a trio of college students who went overseas to help. Some of the duties they did over the summer were just simple chores, or long walks to village to village.

We will focus on two of the students for our snippet. Writer Galen Holley introduces us to Ben Long, and Sally McDonnell.

"It was probably the most challenging and most rewarding experience of my life," said Ben Long, a sophomore in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi.

What started as a language immersion trip for college credit turned into a life-changing experience for the Corinth native.

Long spent a month learning Spanish with friends in Costa Rica but when his time was up he felt restless. Since nothing back home demanded his immediate attention he hoped a plane to Guatemala. Despite being pretty much alone, Long threw himself headlong into helping at hospitals and orphanages.

"I didn't really have a plan," he said, recalling how his shaky Spanish and willingness to do whatever was needed helped him navigate the native culture for almost two months.

"I just trusted God was leading me in the right direction," he said.

Maria Presley of Shannon started the summer in Mozambique working with AIDS patients. A grant from Emory University, where she's enrolled in divinity school, allowed her to help destitute women and to study ethnic and religious conflicts. After a month of working with native people, Presley set out alone across western Africa.

"I just tried to engage in as many conversations as I could and to learn as much as I could about how people talk about conflict and how they deal with it," she said.

Presley's motivation stemmed from her belief that everyone is "called to place ourselves outside ourselves and to push beyond what makes us comfortable."

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