My sister is in college and I’m always so jealous of her time off. She gets two weeks off for spring break, two months off over Christmas, and three months off over the Summer. I don’t begrudge her the time—she works hard and needs a breather from school work—but I do try to encourage her to spend it doing something meaningful. She frittered away her last break hanging out with friends and, while she had fun, she also felt rather empty returning to school. She knows she could have spent that time more wisely.
It can be hard to convince a college student of anything. I’ve found that appealing to her sense of adventure works best. She loves to travel and is always excited by the idea of exploring new places. She also recognizes that her schedule won’t always be so open. After a few conversations, we decided to start working on finding her an opportunity over the summer. She has three long months to devote to a project, and she’s open to anything.
She came to visit last weekend and we started by making lists. She is passionate about social justice, so we’re looking into political and community-based programs. She is fascinated by Africa, which doesn’t do a whole lot to narrow-down her options, but we’ve started investigating non-profits and NGOs on the continent. She is very conscious of the importance of working on a project that has sustainability, so we’ve crossed off new organizations or organizations that jump from project to project. She wants something that has roots in the local community, so she can return to the same site if she ends up making friends in the area.
The first organization that caught her eye was the Jane Goodall Institute. I’ve written about this organization before because they do such meaningful work across Africa. They have a conservation and wildlife management arm, but their volunteer opportunities are primarily through Roots & Shoots, a community-based initiative that marries political community development and education with environmental projects to improve local conditions and build towards lasting sustainability. My sister has started connecting with Roots & Shoots volunteers via Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think I would have thought to suggest it, but plugging college students into the online volunteer community is a great way to get them involved.
My sister loves the idea of working for an organization founded by Jane Goodall. As I mentioned in my article on the subject, she has been a lifelong hero of mine. My sister has been hearing me proselytize about Goodall for her entire life. She knows the scientific legacy Goodall represents, and also recognizes the political power of Goodall’s name. For my sister, this organization embodies the best of all possible worlds. Now all we have to do is get her to Africa.