I’m bald, but don’t worry
The first time I met Inna she introduced herself by ‘ Hi, I’m Inna, and I’m not sick or anything, I’m just bald. I donated my hair to children with cancer… but I’m not sick myself, so don’t worry’. This introduction really made me laugh, it sounded almost like an apology. And you don’t need to apologize for your bald head if you donated your hair to sick children, right! Later Inna explained that she introduced herself like that because the same week some friends thought she had cancer herself. I was impressed, and I was wondering if I would dare to donate my hair.
While I’m volunteering for WorldActivity Philippines (WAP) I talk with Inna a lot. She’s the volunteer coordinator, and we work in the same office every day. Getting to know other people is one of the things I really like about volunteering. Normally when I travel I don’t spend that much time in one place, so yes, I meet a lot of people, but not ‘really’ get to know them.
Inna is a young photographer who is now working at WAP. As a volunteer coordinator she assists the volunteers; trains them before they go to the different projects, keeps in contact with them and helps them in case there are any problems. Next to this Inna works for Smokey Tours.
We talk about volunteering a lot in the office. Inna asked me if I ever went abroad to volunteer, and I told her about what I did as a volunteer in India and Sri Lanka. According to Inna she does not do a lot of volunteering herself. I don’t agree with this statement, because the more I get to know her, the more I think she does a lot!
She organized a concert for typhoon victims in her mother’s café, she photographed for free on special events and she helped packing relief products for different parts of the country. At the moment she helps one of the partner organizations of WAP to organize a Fair Food Event.
‘Everyone’s birthday’ party
Inna’s mother is always helping people in need. Inna tells me that she does feeding programs in the poor areas of Manila, because kids here are most of the time malnourished. Her mother inspired Inna to organize a special event for her 21st birthday. Inna asked all her friends not to buy her a present, but to give her food or money. This she used to throw a big ‘everyone’s birthday party’, for which she invited many unfortunate kids. I personally think it’s a great idea! I know people in Holland who ask money for a good cause for their 25th wedding anniversary, but someone who does this when she turns 21, wow!
Her story reminds me of the beach event I once organized in India. I was volunteering with a group of international student in a children’s home for kids from low castes. As a farewell party we took all of them in a big truck to the sea. It was fantastic to see how happy the kids were. They were playing for hours and hours just with the sea, the sand and each other, never asking for more, just being happy. A very nice memory, and one of the reasons I love volunteering!
Are we World Citizens?
Inna also has a lot of good memories, she shows me the photo blog she made about her party. In my opinion Inna is already a Worldsupporter! When we talk about World Citizenship it turns out to be a term Inna never heard before. We discuss about the meaning; when are you a World Citizen, and are you only a World Citizen when you feel like one? I think Inna did never feel like one before I mentioned the term to her, but according to me she always was one. And do you have to travel the world to be one? This would mean a poor person can never be a World Citizen…Difficult term… What do you think, when are you a World Citizen? And are you one, and why?
Do we want money or appreciation?
The more we talk about the subject the more Inna realizes she is a volunteer herself. When I ask her about her role model she tells it’s her mother (and Steve Irwin… she is laughing when explaining this; ‘He’s so brave, and rescues all the animals, and he does what he loves, he even died doing what he loves, I think that’s why I think of him as one of my hero’s’). Her mom showed her how nice it is to help others without asking money in return. Inna’s dream has always been to set up her own creative company, and when she has earned enough money she was planning to work for an NGO. After she finished university Inna started in a big photographic company. She was earning money, but did not receive any appreciation from her boss. Inna decided to stop and then she was approached by WAP. ‘When Juliette asked me to work for WorldActivity and Smokey Tours, I thought, why not postpone my NGO dream!’
I agree with Inna! I rather work for a nice NGO, where I feel appreciated than earn a lot of money with something I don’t support or like. Sometimes people ask me why I volunteer, because I have a university degree… Of course I also realize that volunteering is not an option for everyone. Some people are forced to take a job for the money, they have no choice. They have to do any job they can find to survive.
A few weekends ago Inna and I went to help with taking care of a stranded and injured dolphin. In the beginning I was really surprised that almost nobody responded on the Facebook call for volunteers. Who doesn’t want to help an injured dolphin?! In my previous blog I already explained that for many Filipino’s the transportation costs are too high to volunteer. Inna agrees. She was enthusiastic to help immediately, but she admits that most of the times transportation and food are taken care of when volunteering. Another problem with volunteering is the visibility. Inna thinks that a lot of NGO’s don’t spread their question for volunteers very well. And it has to be profiled as fun! Inna spoke to several people in her group of friends who were interested in volunteering with the dolphin, but didn’t know about it.
Are we tired of giving and helping?
Inna admits that she’s most of the time the one who takes the initiative. ‘In the Philippines many people talk about taking action, but nobody does’. But if you have a good idea it’s easy to convince your friends and family to join you. ‘Family ties are very close in the Philippines, so we spend a lot of time together’. Most easy it is to find people who like to help after a typhoon hit the country. In this situation a lot of people are willing to offer their time. I remember the news items in Holland when Haiyan hit, images of many Filipino’s who cooperated to help ‘their’ fellow countrymen. I was impressed and was not sure if the same would happen if Holland was hit by a natural disaster.
But not everyone is always helping ‘people have good intentions, but you can’t keep it up. We have typhoons every year, sometimes you get tired of giving and helping’ Inna tells me. During my studies I remember we discussed this issue. How can it be that people seem to get indifferent for some disasters. Maybe because it seems that there is a disaster somewhere in the world every day? You donate, but the next day duty calls and you’re busy with your job, your house and your friends again.
Who is your inspiring person?
For me the conversations with Inna were very valuable. We talked about so many subjects, and I found out that we have a lot in common. Volunteering seems like a western concept, and of course some people in developing counties don’t have the opportunity to volunteer because they are busy to survive. But Inna’s story makes me realize there are a lot of people active as volunteers in non-western countries as well. Most of them maybe don’t even realize that we in the west call this activities volunteering, think about helping the sick and elderly or organizing an event in church. We can learn from these volunteers!
So my question is; Who inspires you? did you already meet an inspiring person like Inna during your trip, I like to hear more about this person! Let’s inspire each other!