Tag Archives: Volunteering

2013: The Value of Time

I could write for days about 2013. In fact I intend to at some point write a book of my adventures…and this blog covers those in detail pretty well. I’m writing the reverse of a new year resolution (depending how you look at it), I’m writing a ‘resolved last year’. I am testing the theory that celebrating what I achieved/how I grew is more motivating than only saying what I have to change to be successful or happy.

I will always see my travels as an invaluable experience…not because I saw the Taj Mahal and Victoria Falls (though they were wicked awesome)…but because of what I couldn’t have learned as clearly anywhere else, at least not in such a short period of time. If I ‘took away’ three things from this year they would be: the value of time, the fortune of good health, and choosing to see the beauty in everything. This is the first of three posts deconstructing my experience and theories about those three ‘learnings’ or ‘take aways’ if you will.

The Value of Time
Time is money. We’ve all heard it, and most likely said it. The expression typically implies that we mustn’t waste our time at work because the more we waste the less cash we make. Have we ever actually thought of it like that in terms of the value of time instead of the value of money? Perhaps we should think of it in terms of our donations to our community or our overall wealth. I would even argue that many of us are more afraid of not having enough money over not having enough time (in days, not in a day).

With volunteer management being part of my role and having upwards of 1000 recorded volunteer hours under my belt, you could say I think volunteers are an integral part of society. My approach to my job is that volunteers are donors and should be treated as such. If Jane gets paid $25/hour at her day job and volunteers with us 3 hours each week we could argue that she makes an annual contribution of nearly $4000 to our foundation. As a young person I have taken this approach to volunteering: I don’t have the money, but I do have the time [to donate]. Without the volunteers to canvas a charity doesn’t reach the people with the money to donate…both play equal parts in the growth and sustainability of the not-for-profit sector.

Second, in regards to wealth…would you rather be the richest person in the world with a week to live or earn an average income and have 50 years…even 20…even 1? Maybe the answer to that is less obvious to some than it is to me, but I see just as much value in the time I have as my bank account. No, I won’t say time is more important, because I do think that you need to earn a living to support a healthy lifestyle…but (especially as a 20-something) I think our concept of wealth is extremely distorted. First, we don’t actually ever know how much we have left. Have you ever stopped and thought of how amazing it is that you are as old as you are…thought of all the things that could have gone wrong, things you’ve overcome, or people you know that haven’t been as fortunate? Do it.

We tend to panic about investing money to RRSP’s and buying houses completely forgetting how much time we have that we won’t get back. (Note: I am investing in that stuff too…but the key is balance) I have seven years before I hit ‘thirty’…in quotes because society has turned it in to a successful life checklist instead of an age. That seems like a terrifyingly close time to be married with kids with a white-picket fenced home in suburbia (not that those are my specific goals)…but then I remember that 7 years ago I hadn’t even applied for university, I was working at Starbucks part time, and wanted to be the next Mia Hamm. In that seven years I have visited over 20 countries, completed my degree, had three other jobs, met 3 times the people I knew then and moved out (among other things). Had I chosen to just work to make money scrapping travel and my 4-year degree my bank account would probably (definitely) be quite a bit prettier, but I would never doubt how much wealthier I am today because I invested my time.

Third and last: relationships. Intimate or friendships, I am standing up for myself and my time. For some reason it is really easy for me to identify one sided relationships my friends are having with their significant others while I am the same person in some of my personal friendships without even realizing it. Many of our friendships will last longer than most of the relationships in our lives so all the more reason to demand respect and chose individuals that will support your success as you do theirs.

Yoga teacher training helped me in removing myself and my bias from situations. That act alone has helped me see how ridiculous some of my friendships were and the toxic effect they had on my life. The good news (which is better than this Debbie downer mumbling) is that it has also helped me see the people in my life that are great. The people that have seen me at my worst…which has been pretty questionable at times… and still balls to the wall support me in anything I do. The cliché ‘people I can count on’…but most of all, the people that make me better (and that I think I’m making better in a non-manipulative way).

How do you make people better? How can you tell if people are making you better? I am convinced (for now) that I have deduced this to 3 points. (I like lists…and odd numbers).
1) Challenging each other. Not to a pokemon duel or a kegstand contest… but do you ask the hard questions? Maybe you answer them. Having the trust to be honest without repercussion. Maybe it’s a little bit of healthy keeping up with the Jones’ to keep you on the bandwagon in the latest diet fad. May I add the disclaimer that good intention is the magic ingredient…competition or comparison are different ball games.
2) Who you are for each other. Not buying flannel and skinny jeans because somebody is totally into hipsters… but does being ‘there’ for this person mean more to you than staying in your comfort zone? By ‘there’, maybe you have to be a better listener, have more compassion, meet new people…not changing who you are fundamentally but strengthening friend/life-skills to be ‘there’.
3) Believing in each other. Both ways. Do you respect that person enough to be their voice of ambition and confidence when they feel like there is no winning? And is that person there to tell you who they know you can be when your head is stuck in a fog? Once again I stress: BOTH WAYS.

I have cut out SO many people from my life. If you are still not convinced on my time vs. money comparison let me put this into more quantifiable terms than ‘being there’. What my life had become after university and working in a youth dominated retail environment was a portfolio with 100 unpredictable stocks. I had to try to tend to all of them because I didn’t know which ones would become valuable or stay in my portfolio, and many of them fooled me because I couldn’t do my research. Now I have 10 well-researched, reliable stocks that I will continue to invest in because I know I will get a good return. Shit does happen, but ultimately I know I can count on them in the long run. And because I feel secure and stable, I have time to do, learn, and live much more.

In one easy summary: My time is valuable and limited, I will not waste it to please others, I will invest it to making myself and those who invest in me better.

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Phnom Penh 3

….I think it’s 3?

Anyway, we’re in our last week of volunteering at the special needs orphanage. We’ve dusted the cobwebs off of our nursery rhymes and mastered all of the Khmer names and eating habits of each child. It’s a bit gutting to know we’re leaving so soon…but I am looking forward to properly travelling again.

We’re gathering our gifts for the orphanage which consist of formula, cereals and diapers…all essentials that the kids end up going without if volunteers and donors don’t provide contributions. In once sense I really don’t agree with how we’re expected to provide these essential commodities when we’re already donating our time (I don’t have spare cash…hence donating my time?), but at the same time if the kids need it 100 bucks is worth heaps more to them than to me, even in the dire circumstance of backpacking.

My legs are led at the moment due to the fact that we’re biking 15km a day as we traded in our turfed tuk tuk for push bikes saving on cash and contributing to the calorie burn….probably good considering I have an empty bag of soft baked dark chocolate cookie purchased tonight by my side…We’ve also been pretty dedicated to doing the workouts at Olympic Stadium, which are 25 cents for an hour of zumba/tae bo, and cater to every and any cambodian of any age, social standing, and/or attire…
our nurs
Otherwise the stadium is great, there’s stairs, track, soccer pitches, tae kwon do, tennis, and impromptu badminton.

We’ve also discovered some sweet restaurants this week including an Indian joint called Taste Budz on street 282, just off of Monivong and Sihanoukville. Pretty good indian….if I hadn’t been to Penang, great Indian. Relatively cheap….but we hear there are cheaper all-you-can eat places by the lake. We went in search the other night to find out it was ‘closed’. Must love Asia and it’s ‘yeah, it was grandpa’s birthday last month and now we got a new cat so I think we’ll take a day off to watch soaps’ holidays…

Friends is also amazing…pricier because it is an NGO cafe, but the food is great. I’m going to interject here and present my beef with Cambodia. Yes, it is very poor; Yes, it has seen complete turmoil I will never understand; and Yes, I might do the same if I were them…but the use and abuse their tragic history. Every cafe is run by street kids or teaches them to cook, every shop has things made by mothers in need, every traveller is a volunteer… So, all these shops charge extra because they cater to empathetic Westerners who are here volunteering their time…when really they are Massive cash cows for their western owners. All of the major NGO cafe/shops are owned and operated by westerners. Hence the English menus, tons of advertising, and all in one heart string teasers to get the biggest bang for the buck out of each visitor. You would honestly be better off buying from the super local cafes where nobody speaks English…betcha they need your cash more than the others. It’s funny, each of these NGO places always has air con, fresh paint, and recent renovations…Wonder if they hired street kids to install it?

I know that they are in fact poor, and that I couldn’t imagine what they’ve been through. However they definitely have taken their past and turned it into a pity story to scam westerners….not even the Khmer people, more sickening…its the westerners that come, use the story, and benefit off of other westerners. I feel a little sick every time I go to one of these places but it seems all my other ‘good hearted volunteer’ friends quite like it. What gives. Perhaps I’m a cynic…I like to think I’m smarter than ‘scambodia’ as I’ve called if from the minute I entered it. Eating local, buying local, and staying in our somewhat bug infested guest house makes me feel better than eating a ‘really good apple crumble’ recipe by nana in Georgia executed by a Khmer kid, whose brother comes to sell me DVDs during my dinner with begging hands…

Somehow in the next 10 days I am trying to get visas for India, Vietnam, and a 60 day for Thailand. Cambodia is the cheapest place in SE Asia to get all of them (moreso I need Vietnam to continue my journey), but the office hours are while I’m at volunteering…time will tell. Either way these three will cost me upwards of 200 combined…yeesh! good thing I found cheap flights to India, from there to Africa, and from cpt to Athens–Skyscanner I love you.

Lunch tomorrow is Tofu, cucumber, and Carrot…made possible by the knife I bought for 80 cents. Arguably my best purchase in Asia so far.

I’m also going to yoga at Yoga! Phnom Penh tomorrow for a ‘sweat and samadhi’ class. Not only do the instructors and classes seem sweet but they are also doing me a massive favor and helping me get my books for yoga training which would have costed upwards of 80 bucks to get shipped, for only 6 bucks each here in PP!

That being said, I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping fit, probably because we have one home and the laundry lady is AMAZING, so any excuse to get a fresh load washed, dried, and folded for a dollar is a gooder.

Phnom Penh 1

…I should have named this PP 4….because this is the land where nothing is in order…or even close to making sense…streets go 114, 124, 141,139…intersecting 220, 219, 229…oyee veyyy 

 

That makes it particularly awesome when arriving at 3 am…but, in all fairness, its the end of monday, and I arrived friday night, I’ve spent 44 dollars including all accommodation, transport, food, sim card, and the massive pack of water and breakky groceries that will last until Friday.  cheapppppy cheap.  Like 3 dollar a night cheap.  The most expensive thing is our tuk tuk to and from volunteering…and we’re working on getting motos instead. 

 

Anyway, what’s going on for the next bit is that my friend from home and I are volunteering at the National Borey Institute for children in Phnom Penh with orphans of varying levels of physical and mental disabilities.  If you want to make any donations please contact me via comment, or sending a message on the ‘About Anika’ page.  

 

It is a great place with several volunteer organizations that send people to assist the workers.  We got our contact through the Play Around the World program at the U of A..  Anyway, it is an amazing place…reminds me SO much of the orphanages we were at in Peru…same smells, food feedings, and even the kids all remind me of ones from San Megillas in Lima.  They are in groups of 12 ish with a ‘mama’ which is their mom and caregiver at the orphanage that is expected to clean, feed, and care for the children.  As volunteers we help with all of these tasks and still the day is full and exhausting—I don’t know how the women do it day in and day out as a job, and how they would do it without volunteers.  

 

We made it there this morning in one piece in a cheap tuk tuk and on time. Bloody miracle, I tell ya.  We had no idea about anything but it all seemed to fall in to place.  Like I said, its a bit far from where we’re staying, but when transport and accommodation is 6 bucks for a day…can you really complain?  We thought we were to work half days, but it looks like we’ll be there the full 8-4 (with a 2 hour lunch to socialize).  We have met a few other volunteers including one that just came from Africaaaa and has connections for me!! How exciting! This will be our life for the next week. Then there is 10 days off for Khmer New Year…obviously everywhere we want to go is at opposite corners of Cambodia, so we’ll see how that goes, then one more week and I’m off to Vietnam!