When we tell friends about our choice to go work in India in international development, one question returns often:
Why help abroad? Why not at home?
There’s no denying there’s plenty to do back here in Canada. We may have a good standard of living as a whole, but there are still tons of areas for improvement, whether it’s with the uncomfortable problem of homelessness, or with the Innu living in precarious conditions.
That being said, one of the gifts that travel has given me is a larger sense of empathy for my fellow human being. (Or, perhaps more accurately, it was always there and travel has helped me bring it to the front of my values.)
In other words, I do not distinguish along national lines when I react to human suffering. I feel a closer kinship to my friends and immediate family, but beyond that bond of closeness, I feel as strongly about others regardless of where they’re from.
Every human suffering beckons me to help.
When you consider, say, India and Canada on an equal footing in terms of the validity of the people requiring help, it certainly appears that there is more work to be done in India than back home. But I’m under no illusion that the amount of help I can bring would be greater in India than in Canada. That is to say, there might be more work to be done globally in India, but my own contribution to the overall sum of human dignity and well-being is probably equal if I apply it in North America or elsewhere.
Why, then, have I decided to move to India to help out?
Down to it, the decision to help abroad is selfish.
Travel is a huge personal value for Helene and I. We love traveling, encountering other cultures, and then learning and adapting to them. We love the energy and movement we feel in places like India, and we find life in Canada to be too tranquil and predictable in comparison.
We feel as strongly about working with rural communities in India as we would with lending a hand to the marginalized and disenfranchised in Canada. If we ever get tired of traveling, we might feel compelled to help back home; but for the time being, travel makes us happy, and we’re glad we can go to Orissa to work there.
As my friend, writer and activist Minister Faust, once told me:
Helping others requires joy in your own life.
Travel makes us happy. Hence, it’s the best way for us to help humanity as a whole, in our own small way.
Photo credits: Double room with a view of the giant by Jeremiah John McBride — CC BY-ND 2.0