Saturday, November 21, 2009

How do those we are "serving" feel???

I am a veracious reader, and love to read books about Africa, both fiction and non-fiction.  I have read 4 of the books of the series by Alexander McCall Smith called The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.  These are quick and easy books to read, but will give the reader a real feeling about the culture and feelings of people in Africa in general.  Although the books are written about a woman, Mma Precious Ramotswe who lives in Botswana, and loves her country very much, I believe the insight one gets from these books can be applied to most rural African countries.  In "The Tears of a Giraffe" Mma Ramotswe thinks this about people who come to Africa with the intention of "helping" the people there......"there is nothing wrong with these people-they were kind people usually, and treated the Batswana with respect.  Yet somehow it could be tiring to be given advice.  There was always some eager foreign organization ready to say to Africans: "this is what you should do", or "this is how you should do things".  The advice may be good, and it might work elsewhere, but Africa needed to find its own solutions."

I can't say that this is how all Africans feel about "western" help, but it certainly gives me something to think about in terms of serving the beautiful and gracious people I have come to know and love in Swaziland.  It reinforces the work we are doing with the Sheselweni Home Based Care group, a group of over 700 volunteers who are already serving their neighbors in southern Swaziland. (


Friday, November 13, 2009

How should serving feel?

I’ve been working in some sort of volunteer management for the past 10 years. For most of these years my mantra has been about the need for leaders to invest in and equip those who serve on their teams, and that failing to do so is really nothing more than using people.

I still feel this way, but I’ve lately become troubled by another leader perspective which I’ve noticed, something on the other end of the spectrum; working hard to see that volunteers “feel really good” as a result of their experience. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people will feel great after serving, and should. When someone they’ve been ministering to finally decides to follow Jesus; when team efforts result in a goal reached. These things feel great, but there are other feelings that a volunteer should be experiencing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Are we making a difference?

About a week ago it was “Make a Difference Day” around the U.S, the national day of service. People are encouraged to join together; invest time and talent in their communities. This is a great idea. People are encouraged to engage, to step outside of themselves, link arms with others and spend a few hours “making a difference” in their community. This day has the potential to foster new friendships and partnerships for ongoing volunteer engagement. It has the potential to really “make a difference” in the lives of both the one served and the one being served. But I’m wondering, after observing activities in my community, exactly how is that potential realized?