Shalen Curle travelled with a Team of Developing World Connections volunteers to Kazo, Rwanda in September 2009. She has previously traveled to Cambodia with Developing World Connections is 2008, and will be a DWC Team Leader leading a group going to Peru in 2010.
It’s hard to explain this type of experience to you. It’s something that is really difficult to put words to. Imagine throwing your favorite colours on a blank canvas to which you turn your head for one split second and when you look back your favorite colours are no longer the same colours anymore.
In our lives we see through a paradigm, a personal reality that has been created by the things we have done, learnt and seen in our lifetime. Throwing yourself into this environment will challenge what you thought you knew and expand your paradigm or perhaps shift it to include more. And although the learning may take place through challenge, sweat, anger and tears; it is for the greater good. And this good is not what I can do for others but the good is truly how I can help myself. Because only through an understanding of oneself can anyone ever attempt to understand one another. And only through a mutual understanding of one another will we ever reach a point where we truly can make a difference in the world.
Now, my belief is that this understanding; which will enable me to truly help others, is gained first through an understanding of oneself. So, challenge yourself to be the best person you can be. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and take the time to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Because these uncomfortable moments are the times when we stretch and grow as human beings.
Now, I have never washed my hair out of a grungy plastic tub, or had a sponge bath, or prayed for the chilly water to “be on” when I arrived home… I have never witnessed hundreds of pairs of dark eyes staring at me in interest… I have never seen a soccer ball blown up with a condom… I have never travelled so tightly in a mini van … I have never witnessed crops being cultivated on mountain sides… I have never been asked to “come to school” and be more excited about the unknown… I have never imagined that a third world country could be so clean… I have never seen a community who volunteers to help each other every third Saturday of each month… I have never yearned for a chocolate bar more… I have never been asked to carry a tree trunk on my shoulders or seen how useful a banana leaf can be... I have never seen a child share a crumb of bread with her two younger siblings… I have never seen the best and the worst in myself and others come out all at the same time… I have never appreciated my close friends more…
Now I have… Now I do… Now I will…
See the colours on my canvas didn’t change… my paradigm changed… I changed.