Tourist Volunteerism?

Xi Xi '13 is spending spring break with 13 other Peddie students and three faculty members touring South India and studying the positives and negatives of globalization and economic development. Below, Xi Xi reflects on a morning spent at the Parikrama Foundation school for orphaned and abandoned children in Bangalore.

For the first time, I went to a charity school, not as a volunteer but as a “tourist.” Honestly I was nervous about interacting with the students because I’m so used to building long-term relationship with kids. I also felt guilty walking into their lives without making a different contribution. I mean, who do we think we are? Why do we have the right to look at the kids as if they are animals in a zoo, feel bad for them, and then just leave? But I was wrong! The time isn’t the only thing that makes a difference. What we do plays a big role, too. I thought about my own life and figured that my experience and knowledge in different cultures have a significant impact on how I think and what I do. So, I thought maybe sharing my culture and experience with the kids would be the best thing I could do. After we arrived, we were split into groups and I was able to learn about some of their preferred dances and songs, and school lives. Seemingly trivial details brought us closer. I know I learned something new, and I hope they did too.