Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Philosophy, Politics and Historical Problems of Volunteering
This is a general and quick post in response to Frequently Asked Questions about the problems of choosing where to invest one’s time and labour when volunteering in foreign places with good intent. It started as a reply to a comment – part of a long thread about a conservation project in the Amazon – then expanded slightly to become this first draft of a short reply to questions concerning volunteering.
Where and what is good agency put into which structures? It is an endless journey through the soul and the corridors of political thinking, philosophical reflection, historical recognition and ethical considerations – and it is also that first single step of your journey. It begins in the mind, unfolds in the imagination and will have a material impact on the place you go to.
Over the years we have spend a lot of time and energy helping people finding their ways in Ecuador and Peru, we have spend a lot of time suggesting projects, providing contacts and so on. However, in the end, people mostly go and do their own thing anyway. However, if you have only 4-6 months time and want to connect sooner, and should you really want to do something in or around Tena, Napo, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, or in San Francisco in Peru, and if working on a small scale and community level with people outside of NGO structures, doing down-to-the-ground, bottom-up work, with lovely families, if that is your thing, then do get in touch.
WordPress offers statistics about who visits your blog – and I just checked an incoming link which someone followed from that anti-social networking commerce site called Fakebook. The latest two postings in the Fakebook group featuring the link to the colonos blog suggest that our commentary on Jatun Sacha’s involvement with Big Pharma (which is no big secret, just google for a while and you will see for yourself) is “interesting read at any rate“, although, “I’m not saying you have to believe it but i recommend having a look” – good job that criticism is taken, sort of, seriously:
So should you find yourself in the lucky position that you can make it to Ecuador (or Peru) for the purpose of volunteering, then do yourself and the world a favour: do your research well: who is who – and what do they (really!) do?
Can you not find the right kind of thing – that fits your social, cultural and political principles, then get in touch.
Colonos has worked and continues to work with people in the Napo-Ucayali corridor on a grassroots level. For instance we have sown the seeds for a network of community based botanical gardens in the region – and idea that emerged in the Napo (Ecuador) and Pucallpa (Peru) regions independently (thousands of kilometers apart) and the practitioners of which we are merely bringing together and helping them do what they want to do.
The work includes working with Kichwa and Shipibo people and offers great opportunities to get soil under your nails, doing research and analytical work (ecological, political, cultural etc.), talking to plants and animals, drinking ayahuasca and work with shamans and other traditional healers, such as midwives. Whatever tickles your fancy! The work is coordinated from England and by the “Grupo Sabio”, which meets regularly in Tena, Napo, Ecuador.
One of the people we work with used to work for Jatun Sacha (who consistently “forgot” to pay him) until he realised what was going on and what the Peace Corps, whose army of volunteers occupy large parts of the socalled developing world, has become (that is: a Pentagon outfit; see below for more) and what it always was: a forefront of capitalism and Euro-American developmentalism, culturally imposing itself through the manual labour of unwitting volunteers in good faith that they are making a difference for the better, not worse.
Make up your own mind – but do your home work!
More on Pentagon Peace Corps (..talk about an oxymoron..):