Humanist Service Corps News

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When I arrived in Quito I was jet lagged and exhausted from two days of flights filled with lengthy and agonizing layovers. I was also suffering from altitude sickness coming from Ghana where the altitude is around 880 meters (compared to Quito’s 2,850 meters). However, I was excited to be in Ecuador and really looking forward to meeting and working with three non-profit groups, which we identified as working in program fields similar to the Humanist Service Corp in Ghana.

The purpose of my trip was to learn and exchange knowledge with these groups. I was hoping to exchange stories and methods about projects and partnerships that I could take back to Ghana and the HSC.

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The first organization I met— Idea Dignidadis a non profit whose mission is to promote human rights, eradicate inequalities and promote a life of dignity free from violence for all. Idea’s biggest focus point and longest running project is protecting women who have suffered physical abuse by creating support groups and providing advice, legal help, and psycho-social help. They have helped hundreds of women grow hope and strength, legally discipline and gain freedom from and their abusers, and rebuild an abuse-free life for themselves and their children. Idea is planning to start a livelihood training and support project for these women so they can become financially independent and provide their children's' basic needs.

Idea’s Protection project holds some similarities to our work in the alleged witch camps in Northern Ghana; both projects help and empower women who have suffered gross human rights abuses to rebuild a self-sustaining life of dignity free from abuse.

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I was privileged not only to learn about Idea’s methods for helping the women beneficiaries of their protection project, but also to witness how they build and sustain partnerships with other organizations. One such partnership happens through their education program. Like HSC’s partnerships with local nonprofits in Ghana, Idea Dignidad provides advice and training for organizations to help improve and increase their performance. It was enlightening to see the process and the level of collaboration between the two organizations, which was based on mutual respect and a genuine commitment to help the marginalized and needy in Ecuador.

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It was an honor to witness the dedication and drive of Idea Dignidad’s staff and volunteers; to witness the vision and leadership of Idea’s founding CO and President Myriam Perez; the dedication and hard work of lawyer Mirella Tonato and volunteer Marisol; and all the lawyers who volunteer their time and skills. I am certain that this is only the start of a long and fruitful relationship between HSC and Idea Dignidad.

Learn more about this organization at https://www.ideadignidad.org.

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Next: learning from Tandana, providing Healthcare and scholarships for students in the Indigenous community.

By Yvonne Selase Nyahe, Coordinator of the Humanist Service Corps program in Ghana

There is a cautionary tale that frequently surfaces in discussions about international aid. Women from a particular village walk miles to the river to do laundry despite the donation of a laundry trough circling the village’s water tank. The organization that donated the washing station failed to realize that laundry time serves another function: women-only social time. The laundry trough in the village didn’t offer the women the same respite from men, and the women couldn’t chat with each other around the tank as easily as they could at the river.

 

I believe that a Humanist Service Corps volunteer could have helped the international aid organization tell a success story instead of a cautionary tale. By observing the women, doing laundry with them, learning from them about their needs, and including them as essential, leading members of the problem-solving team, the HSC volunteer could have helped the locals and the international aid organization co-design a sustainable solution. In a nutshell, this is the kind of work that the HSC does, and this is the kind of engagement HSC asks of its volunteers.

What makes this kind of volunteering rare, and why is it so important?

Sustainable, effective, culturally-responsible volunteering is rare because it’s difficult and time-consuming to build the necessary relationships. Many international volunteering programs don’t see the cross-cultural relationships as an essential part of the mission. The relationships may benefit the volunteers, sure, but the volunteers are already guaranteed to benefit from the experience and cross-cultural relationships aren’t part of the benefit promised to the locals.

It is understandable that volunteers would be concerned about maximizing their impact and might even feel a little guilty hanging out with the locals. After all, international volunteering opportunities often exist only because of global inequalities created by the very countries volunteers are from. When volunteers spend time building relationships, aren’t they selfishly wasting time that they should be spending on improving lives?

No. Emphatically no. Volunteers only perpetuate oppression when they focus on their personal impact to the exclusion of all else. One of the tragically ironic consequences of imperialism is that the exploited are seen as having nothing to offer, even as they are still being plundered. It is a revolutionary act for a volunteer to acknowledge and embrace the benefits they receive when they adapt to another culture. Moreover, when volunteers are focused primarily on changing the environment, they often miss the opportunity to be changed by it. That missed growth is a profound loss, because learning and adapting to the local environment by building real, reciprocal relationships is the key to implementing sustainable solutions as well as the most rewarding aspect of the volunteering experience.

There is a strong positive correlation, not a zero-sum relationship, between the benefits that a volunteer receives and gives. The kind of volunteer work that is most rewarding for volunteers - cross-cultural learning and relationship-building - is also the kind of volunteer work that leads to sustainable solutions. Thus, the only way to serve responsibly and effectively is to embrace the selfishness inherent in service. When we see every interaction not as an opportunity to teach or to give but rather as a chance to learn and receive, only then do we come to understand what strategies are appropriate for the cultural context. If you can see the beauty in that paradox, then I invite you to apply for the 2019 Humanist Service Corps.

 

To apply fill out the application form and attach a cover letter and your resume. Your cover letter should include why you are interested in volunteering with HSC, a summary of your service, and a summary of your international experience. Your cover letter should be no more than one (1) page, single-space, 11 point font. 

Applications must be submitted by January 15th, 2019. All applicants must be 18 or older and available from July 2019 to July 2020.

Learn more here.

 

By Conor Robinson

Are you ready to deepen your humanism through international service? The Humanist Service Corps (HSC) is now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 volunteering commitment. 2019-2020 volunteers will be the first HSC group to support grassroots human rights organizations working in the Central Region as well as keep supporting our partner organizations in the Northern Region of Ghana to increase access to education, healthcare, and jobs.

(more…)

By FBB

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