During my time in Paris, I’ve stayed in an international house run by Franciscan nuns. These nuns have access to multiple volunteer organizations in the community I currently reside in. With the help of the nuns, I was able to access an organization known as “Donne Lui Amour” or DLA which translates to “Give them Love”. DLA is a organization that mentors, tutors and organizes for underprivileged children in the community. At first, when I read about DLA and all it had to offer I was confused. Because many of my teachers have made it known that the community I live in, is known for its wealth. I was confused, and I started to believe that these children were in fact underprivileged in relation to the very wealthy children that they went to school with.
Nevertheless, I had committed to volunteering here, for it would be good for practicing my French and I love children. On Wednesdays, Children in France are let out of school early to engage in other activities, parents with the resources often put their children in classes such as Piano, Dance and Sport. But for those parents who can’t, they are given the option of enrolling their children in a free afterschool program known as Donne Lui Amour. Not many parents do this, but for the few who do, it seems as though the children truly appreciate it. On Wednesday, March 30th, I was instructed to come to one of the primary schools and to pick up three children. The three girls were well dressed, spoke better French than I did, and were incredibly polite. I helped them with their English homework, we played a few games at the school and I took them to their dance class at their primary school. When snack time came around, I listened to their stories and all of a sudden I realized why it is the organization was called Give Them Love. One of the little girls asked me if I knew my parents and what it felt like, because she didn’t know hers. Another told me that she’s lucky to have her mother, but they have no home. I spoke with one of the directors of the program and they confirmed their stories, saying that often they have to walk one back to the station where her mother begs for food and clothing.
This made me realize how vital volunteering is. Volunteering delivers critical services to those who may not necessarily be able to afford it. It allows for the teaching, mentoring and tutoring of younger members of society who may not receive these lessons at home. Moreover, volunteering abroad helps to expose individuals, such as myself, to the different facets of society that we may not see everyday. More importantly, it allows you to interact and reflect with others. One important thing that I took from my volunteering abroad was the fact that just because I was the one who was ‘giving back’ didn’t necessarily mean that I had nothing to receive. It is also important to engage, and learn things that you may not have known. And lastly, it is important to remain open minded and slow to judgement as you never know someone’s struggle based on their appearance
I often think the grass is greener on the other side. I thought that anyone who did not live in Jamaica, was in a better situation than myself. When in fact, poverty is universal. There are underprivileged individuals in every country and so we should all ensure that those in our backyard are delivered those critical services before we take it to an international scale. As much as we are global citizens, we have a duty to our country as well.