More Thoughts on Voluntary Work

A while ago, I wrote about the particularities of working for and with a volunteer-organization. This post however, is about a different kind of volunteering.

If we are to listen to recruiters, volunteering abroad is pretty much the only way to break into international development. Ironically, it is also one of the more contested programs out there and while employers obviously want the skills and experience young people gain abroad, they also know that sending volunteers abroad perpetuates the very things that are critized about the aid industry. Throughout the blogosphere, the debate about the pros and cons of the different types of volunteer-programs in developing countries keeps flaring up. Being a weltwärts-volunteer myself, I figuered it’s time I put my two cents in as well. Continue reading

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Thoughts on Voluntary Work

The universe of voluntary work is a funny animal. It can be the most rewarding place, but it also creates pressures unknown to those in professional work. 

volunteers at the Youth Future Conference

Most volunteers are intrinsically motivated. They work for a cause, social, environmental or otherwise, because they believe that the status quo is unacceptable. Oftentimes, these causes are global in reach and universal in their necessity. For example: climate change affects people everywhere and if we don’t mitigate it, our lifestyles will change drastically. With stakes that high, wouldn’t you want the most capable, highly trained people to do the job? Continue reading

The Next Generation of Sustainability

A kaleidoscope of change

A kaleidoscope of change?

Last week, the Youth Future Conference took place in Bonn, Germany. 100 young people came together to take on their global responsibility. And after one week of camera exposure, it’s time to go back to the written word – typically my medium of choice. Yet, how to put into writing the indescribable? How to find phrases that capture the spirit of the last week without stiffling it with every word? What developed during the Youth Future Conference in Bonn became a kaleidoscope of insights and experiences for young people from all over the world. Every new piece of information changed the picture, every new encounter with a like-minded soul changed the shape and the colour of the image.

Continue reading

Edel sei der Mensch, hilfreich und gut*

Wir halten uns für so aufgeklärt, glauben wir stünden über dem unfairen, im Zorn gesagten Wort mit dem wir auf die Schwäche unseres Gegenübers abzielen. Einer Schwäche, die nicht nur irrelevant ist für das eigentliche Argument, sondern von der wir auch nur deshalb wissen, weil uns das Vertrauen geschenkt wurde, sie zu respektieren.
Das Wissen um die Schwäche unserer Mitmenschen beinhaltet die Verantwortung, sie nicht auszunutzen, schon gar nicht, um das eigene Ego zu befriedigen. Und doch tun wir genau das immer wieder. Im Streit sind wir nicht besser, als jene, über denen wir zu stehen glauben, wenn wir uns zum Moralapostel erheben und die beständige Kleinhaltung des eigenen Egos predigen. Sind da nicht eigentlich diejenigen aufrichtiger, die sich dieser Scheinheiligkeit nicht bewusst sind und beinahe instinktiv, aus dem eigenen Schmerz heraus, die Schwäche des Gegenübers ausnutzen?
Nicht zu wissen, was man tut, mag unter Umständen das Getane entschuldigen. Doch zu wissen, dass die eigene Handlung gerade jenes Ideal verletzt, das man sich einzuhalten einbildete, sich aber trotzdem nicht davon abhalten zu können, das ist doppelt ernüchternd.

*JWvG “Das Göttliche”

The Dramaturgy of International Conferences

Yes, I know, all generalizations are bad. But some stereotypes appear so frequently in this microcosm of panel debates, round-tables and consultations, they can be considered archetypes of all-too-human behavior: the overly self-confident fifty-something who boasts that “he’s the man behind resolution A/RES/42/39 [B]” when quietly asked about his work. The young, ambitious MFA employee who hands out his business-cards to everyone who could potentially be important to his career, while being blissfully unaware that anybody who really wanted something from him could find his contact details within two minutes of internet-search. Or the desperate ph.D.-student who anxiously tries to convince senior researchers and practitioners alike of the relevance of her thesis. Continue reading

“We have to hold ourselves accountable…”

A week ago, Right Livelihood laureate Alyn Ware opened the Basel Peace Office. Speaking on behalf of the Youth Future Project, we took a closer look at the kind of impact our lives can have in this world.

“Iran not cooperating on nuclear Weapons Probe”

“Inside Israel’s nuclear wargames”

“Pakistan rapidly expanding nuclear weapons arsenal”

“North Korea ready to conduct nuclear missile tests”

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These are newspaper headlines from the past months.

Does this sound like the kind of world you want to live in? Does this sound like a world in which you can feel safe? In which people can pursue their own happiness, and become the kind of person they want to be? To me, it really doesn’t. To me, it describes a world, in which people are afraid. Afraid of each other. Afraid of the unknown. Continue reading