Helpful and Hurtful
-It’s not a binary, but a mindframe.
Author Lindsey at the Amahoro Community School, June 2018
When people think about service or mission trips, they usually think about a group of people or a particular organization. Inherently, mission or service trips should be about the people the organization is designed to serve, not about the people offering services or resources. To align the intention to serve with the appropriate actions, I want to challenge you to think about your actions, intentions, and motives from a unique lens, not the binary good or bad, but rather from a mindframe of helpful and hurtful.
It takes an open mind and a willing heart to step out of one’s comfort zone and serve others, and this process is not easy for most people, and it isn’t supposed to be. Serving others can be a life-changing experience with gratifying emotions and joy-filled relationships! All good things! The challenge for those involved with volunteer projects is to reflect on the words that are said and the actions that are shown, to ensure that they are helpful to the cause and not harmful to the individuals being served.
Here are a few examples of topics to view from the mindframe of helpful and hurtful:
- Here is a familiar phrase that I’ve heard while on a service trip: “It takes a lot of money to come all of the way to your beautiful country, I hope I can come back one day!”
- At a glance, this may seem harmless or even a warm message showing that they want the relationship to last and they hope to visit again. Pause. Consider the audience – what does the community that you’re serving look like? Do they have enough money to provide for themselves or their families? Do they regularly eat meals? Do they have the same privilege to even consider travelling abroad or to other communities to help serve others, let alone provide for themselves? Are those words helpful or hurtful to the people being served? How could they be changed to send a more helpful message? Perhaps these words are more helpful, “Thank you for welcoming me into your lives and beautiful country. I hope I can come back one day!”
- I have also heard statements like, “Let me know if there’s ever a time to donate towards this wonderful organization, I have lots of old clothes and toys that I can donate.”
- From those individuals, thank you. Thank you for taking a moment to consider others, but let’s go deeper…Think about the needs of those being served, and if you really don’t know – it is okay to ask the people already involved in the organization who are knowledgeable! Communication is key to relationships, and carrying your own assumptions into conversations can turn out to hurtful. Maybe the greatest need is guidance for how to manage money or land, or work towards food security. Our hand-me downs more often than not may be somewhat helpful, but not the most helpful. We can do more! These words get to the root of offering resources, “What is the greatest need of the community, and what can I do to help?”
Thinking through the mindframe of helpful and hurtful can be exhausting, but it is so worth it to see every conversation as a learning opportunity. Everyone on this earth has something to offer.
Take the time to be open to others and approach service with a heart of gratitude and consideration. Be willing to learn something new, and let me know if it turns out to be a helpful or experience along the way.
From right to left, Nurse Zurah, Lindsey, and John setting up the pharmacy June 2018
Helpful and Hurtful
-It’s not a binary, but a mindframe.
So what is helpful?
Human relationships thrive on mutual interests and shared experiences. When engaging in conversations with those who you serve, it is important to make them feel valued and significant. One’s worth should not be based on material things or status in society, but rather their interests, goals and aspirations for the future. Here are some helpful ways that I have gotten to know those that I serve through ACCT in Uganda:
- Speaking with the children of the Amahoro Homes is usually an easy thing to do, as they often have open hearts and welcoming smiles. Regardless of if the children have a particular question for me or not, just like the children I work with in the US, every child has a favorite activity, sport or dream that they are usually willing to share with you if you show interest in their life. Ask! You will never know what bring someone joy until you engage and allow them to share!
- Ask about what hobbies they have and if they like music. Be prepared to sing a few songs, and even dance and drum along! And of course, be prepared to learn about excellent East African artists. Keep your ears and your heart open!
- Take it a step further if you have the means – friendship means looking out for one another and helping in times of need. When you meet a child who shares their interests and aspirations with you, do your best to support them in their growth in whatever capacity you can
- Remind yourself to listen–or to sit in silence. You can show a lot of support and human kindness by listening to what children and youth of the Amahoro Homes have to say, or by just being their friend and being with them until they are comfortable to talk. These actions of support can speak louder than any words!
Since contributing to the ACCT Uganda Service trip in June 2018, Lindsey has been teaching Kindergarten in a school in Chesterfield Virginia.
Though self examination can be uncomfortable, it ultimately will make us better people. If you have any questions about the mindset of helpful vs. hurtful or how to make the best positive impact please don’t hesitate to ask. The Amahoro Children & Community Team exists to support our team members in self examination so that we can continue to better serve the global community. Our service trips bring people of diverse backgrounds and culture closer together, challenging assumptions and beliefs for all who join us.