Written by – Ludovica and Maria Vittoria Ceschi

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9.07.2013, we, twelve students at Bocconi University, set off with destination Nyandiwa (LINK) to take part in the Harambee Project as volunteers for the local community. Once we had reached our destination, uneasiness and discomforts have pervaded our first days at IKSDP (Italian Kenyan Scout Development Project) center. This happened because our imaginary about local community’s anthropological features could not find a full correspondence with the reality in which we immersed ourselves. Even if we left Italy aware of the possibility that cultural differences could have caused a sense of hardships, we could not avoid initial difficulties in the relationship with the new. These difficulties give evidence to the fact that an indirect approach or a formal study cannot substitute the value and the knowledge acquired through an experience on the field.

 

Consequentially, we could not fully interiorize also our work and role as volunteers: how could we dialogue with a community that we still had not understood? And so, how could we contribute to a project that lives and works with and for the community?

In order to overcome these difficulties, we have interacted directly with the new, through a transparent dialogue and confront with people more involved in center’s activities at first, and with the whole community of Nyandiwa later on.

The occidental forma mentis confronted and finally intertwined itself with a different way of observing and analyzing the reality. The two parts involved in the encounter developed a broader mental openness, that set up a sincere friendship and cooperation. Thanks to the understanding of each other, a relationship based on faith had been established. This faithful relationship asked to us and to the others to assume the obligations deriving from the same relationship: every action expects a common work and a common commitment because every project was conceived and implemented together. This attitude was the key that enabled us to understand the meaning of the volunteer’s work.

This aspect should be the base of every volunteering project. But usually, the so called “humanitarian” action follows some logics of assistancialism and propaganda. These actions have at the same time, a strong impact both upon the realities on which it intervenes and upon the occidental one in which they are ideated. In any case, they remain the end to themselves because they do not come from a relationship that wants to understand and solve the real community’s problems, which are in this way perpetuated. Solutions are effective just in the short run during which they are coordinated and administered by the occidental subject. So, final results cannot be defined as humanitarian, because they do not useful and good for the human being, therefore their mere performativity satisfies only the appearance.

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Harambee -to work together- distinguishes itself for its particular modus operandi: direct interaction and following  cooperation within the local community through the realization of projects that use existing resources and people building the basis for the future planning of self-sustainable and self-financed objectives. Therefore our volunteering work seems to be irrelevant and lacking in effects, and this is the reason why it is hard to testify it. Actually here resides its value: once we get the meaning of working together with the local community, benefits will appear clearly in a longer term period and harmoniously with the inhabitants. They, being direct participants of the project’s objectives, will acquire their own autonomy and awareness, final and main aims of every volunteering project that can be defined in this way.

 

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