Many people spend the holidays or otherwise part of their time to voluntary work. They see some need and they are ready and willing to put effort into it to alleviate that need. It can be the needs of the elderly or of handicapped people, who never have a holiday and the voluntary commitment of “volunteers” helps to solve the problem. Some people spend a year of service or even longer in developing countries. Many students help supporting in development projects.
Sometimes the volunteers receive some training in return, or better, in preparation of their future tasks. Seldom the question is asked what they get in return and how they may grow from their commitment and effort themselves. Yes, of course, they get a sense of meaningfulness. That is quite something.
Just putting in some labor, although important, is not enough. Helping to build a fence or house in a developing country may be a good experience, but only thanks to the people met on the spot. They make it valuable. In itself it usually isn’t very efficient. True service should also require the professionalism of the volunteers involved. That is what the projects referred to on this website require. In return professionals learn how to fine-tune their professional knowledge to the needs and context of the receiving country. Planetary service should require and build expertise for development on both sides. The capacities of the people involved make all the difference.
Planetary service, rightly understood, should therefore not only contribute to the solution of concrete problems, but also build capacity on both sides. Capacity means: creating a bigger repertoire of behavior, cooperation, individual judgment, meeting uncertainty, bonding, all the variety of human values and attitudes we incorporate in our social life. It means: learning to speak and listen, everything on the right moment.
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