I would like to say that everything is okay – but it really isn’t. Lately – for about the past few weeks – I’ve had this nervous feeling at the pit of my stomach. Am I doing the right thing? Is this project – at least the part of it that is online – making a difference?
I guess this feeling first started to creep in after I was able to meet Mikey Leung. Mikey is another fellow Canadian blogger trying to make a difference in Bangladesh. But, instead of coming here by himself, he joined with the Volunteer Service Organization. I actually had a chance to meet up with Mikey in person a few weeks ago and meet some of his fellow friends from the VSO.
How would be the best way to describe my feeling when I met these people? Have you ever run around – when you were really young – with a blanket tied to your neck pretending to be Superman? Now, imagine yourself meeting the real Superman. That’s kind of how I felt. There was no doubt in my mind who the real heroes were. In comparison to them, I felt like a fraud.
While I am walking around with one of my various Notre Dame t-shirts, these guys are wearing t-shirts they designed themselves promoting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. That’s how hardcore they are. They also have none of the advantages I do. They don’t have family here or relatives here to lend support. They don’t have knowledge of the language before arriving. And, if they get sick (as many of them have), they just keep toughing it out and don’t stop working.
To put things into perspective, these are highly educated people who could have had successful high paying jobs anywhere in the world they wished. I met one of Mikey’s friends who happens to be educated from one of Britain’s best schools (and has a Masters degree), but is working here (like all other volunteers) for 9,000 taka a month. Let me put that into perspective: that’s about $130 dollars US a month. All of them work full time so that averages to about 50 cents an hour.
I wasn’t the only one at Notre Dame inspired by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. On the Notre Dame facebook, I’ve found tons of people that have since gone off to Africa and other parts of the world to build schools, provide clean water, and make a difference. In fact, Notre Dame recently made a TV commercial featuring Tyler Stavinoha’s work with people in Haiti. You can watch that amazingly inspiring video on youtube at this link.
This isn’t the first time I’ve doubted myself or this project. I also know that this project is a lot about making a difference in just a few lives – and I have been able to do that thankfully. But, I can’t help but wonder how much more I could have done if I wasn’t trying to blog or make youtube videos while I’m here. There are tons of volunteers like Mikey – but very few of them blog. There is a very simple reason for that – when you are working to make a genuine difference, it’s actually very difficult to do much else (like blog or video blog).
As true as that is, that’s one of the reasons I want to be blogging and making youtube videos while I am on this project. Although there are already so many people trying to make the world a better place, there are even more that would love to be able to do so but can’t. Blogging and video blogging can be a way to share this experience. There are also those out there who might be the kind of person who would want to make a difference – but have not yet been inspired or informed on how to do so. If I can inspire others like Dr. Sachs inspired me – all the better.
In many ways, I guess meeting up with some real heroes has made me question my own project because their work is so unambiguous. You can’t question the humility, dedication, and purpose of someone who works for next to nothing (in a country he or she doesn’t know) all while doing it all in relative obscurity. They can also take pride in their work in a way I can’t. My project is a bit more ambiguous. I am trying to make a difference on the ground while trying to make a difference to others online. But, when it comes to the internet, it’s hard to tell whether you are making an impact or just talking to yourself in the dark.