ATD Fourth World Asian Forum Letter April 2016

All Together in Dignity Asian Forum – April 2016 Newsletter

By ATD Fourth World Regional Team in Asia (Patricia and Claude Heyberger)

One of the most basic of expressions of human behavior

Our previous Asian Forum letter about “Portraits of Commitments” led to some very meaningful feedback that causes us to continue to develop this topic of volunteerism. This time, we want to tackle a common misperception about volunteerism which is that there are countries where the challenges are so big that most people, even from well-educated and well-off backgrounds have no disposable time and income for it.

The three people who share their input in this letter are from Myanmar, the Philippines and Central Africa. Shein Zeya from Myanmar describes his own path as a volunteer, and how he had to gain the confidence of people for a survey highlighting their volunteerism and the roots of it in his country. Shanice, from the Philippines, a regular volunteer in whatever opportunity that is given to her, explains how she discovered that such a place like a cemetery where hundreds of families are living is also a place where “one can find life, and ultimately, growth”. Georges, from Central Africa had to overcome the doubts and mockery of certain parents regarding the “school without walls” he set up for their children amid war time.

These people are not the odd ones out of their societies. Shein Zeya witnesses the long-established traditions of sharing in his country. Shanice is among the dozen of volunteers who make possible a one-to-one approach for the large number of children enrolled in the ATD Fourth World literacy program for drop-out children in Manila. Georges is one of the numerous teachers in African countries who endure years of political instability, but refuse to leave children on the verge of being a lost generation.
Volunteerism has indeed little to do with the economic rank of a country. It is one of the most basic of expressions of human behavior and arises out of mutual exchanges. It is rooted in a sense of others, a pride of belonging to a community, a nation, whether considered rich or poor. Most languages have words to express the concept of volunteerism. Sharing about what volunteers in every country contribute to and about what they learn while doing so is an important part of a change.

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