Volunteer Blog - Progressio ICS volunteers share news, views and experiences

El Salvador: What is the real impact of what we do?

2 December 2011
Progressio

This entry is aimed more at thought than fact…

Being British we all know how we go to work and aim at targets. Or how we  go down the doctors and when asked how we feel, we have to put that feeling on a scale of 1 to 10, and the same the next time we are asked – even if that’s not really measurable and we didn’t even remember how we felt the last time anyway.

Being here with ICS Empower in El Salvador, we have our own personal goals and our own team outcomes as dictated to us by Progressio, and with these we have clear targets and activities to do for our 10 week stay here.

My question is, How much of the good we do here (or if you like to speak in a certain way, the positive social impact) is done not through our main body of work, but by our sheer presence in this country and how we act in an unofficial way, which has intangible results?

The best way for me to convey this idea is to give an example. One day on the programme I go to work and help with the diagnostic report that we are about to finish. This work eventually helps the local community receive aid to help them recover from Tropical Storm 12E which had just ravaged their homes and livelihoods.

After that though, we receive a visit from the President’s mum and they have dinner at our residence. We find a few cans of Coke they left behind and I offer one to my cook, Nelsi, and one to the groundskeeper Don Jorge. Their faces on receiving the cans of Coke were priceless. El Don (as I called him) looked so pleased, not just to have a can of Coke with his lunch but to have me think of him, that it shook me to see how such a small action had such a visible and seemingly profound result.

Another couple of examples include a lady whose son hurt himself after the storm, and the community NGO that she worked for told us how much better she felt that we showed we cared. The NGO expressed how a lot of people we had dealt with felt far more motivated just by our presence alone.

So something as simple as being thoughtful or showing our empathy had what seemed at the time like a huge impact on these people’s lives even though these actions were effortless beyond belief. A gracias, or posing in a photo for one of the young guys who we painted the mural with, could have made their day worth  going through if it wasn’t already.

So I will pose another question: Do the formal goals and outcomes set by those in charge always trump the intangible good we do almost by accident? I don’t think so.

So I will leave you all with a quote: “You can’t change the whole world but you can change the world for one person.”


By ICS volunteer Alex Felvus.

Photo: ICS volunteers stand on the roof of Santa El Rosario Church in San Salvador from L-R: Alex, Ben, Diego, Charlotte, Liam and CBC (partner organisation Centro Bartolomé de las Casas) volunteer Kevin.   

 

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