My name is Agustina Bastías Solis, I am 28 years old and I am from Chile. I am currently at CICD waiting to restart my program that was interrupted in Botswana due to Covid 19, although my trip started much earlier.
Before coming to CICD in July 2019, I was working in my country as a psychologist in programs related to the protection and the restitution of the rights of children with difficult backgrounds. At that time, my motivation for volunteering was related to acquiring new work experiences and growing personally by leaving my comfort zone. However, those motivations changed when I arrived here, I realized that I was still very attached to my plans after this experience ended and this wasn’t allowing me to enjoy it to the fullest. I confess that it was not an easy discovery but an emotional shock that fortunately led me to open up to the present and connect with my emotional injuries. I also believe that the people with whom I met in this place contributed a lot (and continue to do so) to my process, giving each other the opportunity to discover and co-build ourselves without losing our personal essence.
As I mentioned at the beginning, due to Covid 19 my work period in Africa was only one month, as I had to return to Chile due to the closure of borders and the imminent risk of contagion. I remember that I felt a lot of anguish when I received the news, however, everything would become an opportunity to continue challenging my structure and let myself flow of whatever came, also this time I was carrying a backpack of new experiences, incredible moments, unique people and, of course a lot of heat from Zambia and Botswana on my body, to share with my family and friends at home.
In addition to human warmth, Africa taught me a series of lessons. Mainly it made me reflect on two topics. First of all, I was surprised by the calm with which that people carry out any type of activity. In my culture we understand efficiency as the ability to do many activities in a short time, regardless of whether they are done well or not. Instead, Zambia showed me how important it is to take the time to do each activity of the day, not necessarily to be efficient, rather, to enjoy what you are doing as if there were nothing afterwards.
Secondly, I was faced with a reality that initially displeased me and that is related to the image that the local people have of the volunteers referring to the stereotype of "a hero" that must be followed without questioning what they do or say just because of their skin color or their foreign origin. In this sense, I asked myself several questions that I think I have not yet fully resolved and that I think every Development Instructor should think about before and during their stay in Africa:
What does it mean to be a volunteer? Do we facilitate or assist? Do we support or help?
This with the purpose of questioning our position as a privileged person, in a society that seems to have less, but surprisingly seems to give more to the volunteers than they leave behind.
Fortunately, I believe that there are spaces where we can discuss these questions and rethink as volunteers and as participants of the world our position of privilege and our privileges. One of them is the training time we had at CICD, where through classes and exhibitions our eyes were opened to realities that I had always had in front of me, but had not taken the time to understand and analyze. In addition, these spaces allowed me to see volunteering through the eyes of the teachers and the students. Every time I saw a presentation about Africa I was surprised by the passion with which they talked about their experiences, how Africa left an imprint in their eyes; in the way they looked at the world and the way they looked back at themselves. It took the weight off what I was doing, not so much because of what I would do for others but because of what I was getting involved in. I was afraid of failing and making mistakes, until I understood that that was what it was about ... to look at my wounds, to allow myself to meet my emotions, to show myself vulnerable to embrace me honestly, in order to be able to accompany others in their personal processes.
With all these experiences, perhaps I can provide the future Development Instructors with some practical advice.
The key is to let yourself flow and be carried away by the experience, to take advantage of the magical rural place where the school is located in England in order to change unhealthy habits and rethink your position in the world through the self-knowledge and the co-construction with the other volunteers, with which you will probably agree on in various reflections and existential questions.
And, of course, take the opportunity to travel! Not as a tourist, but as a Citizen of the World.
With all of this, you can guess that my current motivations for restarting the program are somewhat different from those that initially brought me to CICD. In my process as a Development Instructor at the school, considering the research trips and the short period of work in Africa, my perspective about all that surrounded me had been transformed in many ways.
Mainly it made me confirm something that I had been thinking about for some time; We need to make our daily practices more political, so they are oriented towards personal and collective freedom, minimizing the possibility of becoming slaves of a system that wants us to be quiet and content.
Any small action can be the beginning of something greater, even more so if it’s the expression of something which we actively fight to change or improve in ourselves and in the world. This is perhaps the only tool that we all have, but that not all of us are using. Personally, I feel that it is no longer fair to have grown up with emotional and material privileges when in many parts of the world children do not have an adult to comfort them when they fall, or when in most countries the richest continue to enrich themselves at the cost of the tireless work of the working class.
And so, perhaps it’s fair to drink tap water just because I will not get intoxicated if I do, or to take care of my body because I have a diet rich in vitamins and minerals within my reach. Perhaps it’s fair to listen and allow myself to feel a variety of emotions because I have a circle of people who surely hug me and contain me. Perhaps it‘s fair to live with what I need without filling myself with unnecessary goods and enjoy my present with those who contribute in my path while I contribute to theirs.