Consider these two ways to tell a story upon returning home from an alternative break:
- We served meals at a food bank for the week. I couldn’t believe how many people needed help feeding themselves and their families.The lack of grocery stores or markets in that area makes it impossible for individuals to eat healthily and live a holistically-well life. We saw a lot of malnutrition and obesity. Witnessing it inspired me. There are so many people in the world who live a less fortunate life than mine, so it’s important for me to keep giving back.
- We served meals at a food bank for the week. I loved getting to know the staff and community members around us. I always thought that people who needed food assistance were those experiencing homelessness, but I was surprised that so many people can barely get by with the rising costs of living. The neighborhood in that city has few grocery stores, but the food bank is one of the many initiatives the community is taking to support each other in making healthy, affordable food accessible. So much good work is happening there, and I’m excited to bring some of these ideas back home with me.
Ethical volunteerism is essential to consider while preparing for the trip, while on the trip, and even after it’s over. Breakers carry a responsibility to ethically explain their experiences - ensuring we’re not sharing stories of individuals for personal credibility or gain, or perpetuating narratives that focus on the deficits of communities that once welcomed us in.
We all have preconceived notions of other people; these can be broken when we hear a disruptive narrative or learn an interfering fact. There’s power in storytelling, and as breakers, we must be thoughtful of the pictures we’re painting of the communities we’re working with. There’s beauty in being able to vulnerably admit personal moments of misconception and growth. Ultimately, the best result is to internalize the lessons learned and values gained - and act accordingly.