Friday, October 29, 2010

Culture Shock

I stared at the clean water coming out of the tap and marveled at the fact that I could stick my toothbrush in it without worrying. That was definitely one of the things I was excited about returning home to, but there were plenty of other things that I wasn’t so excited about- like the 480 emails waiting in my inbox. It’s really hard to feel as though the work you’re doing day in and day out is all that meaningful after seeing all the issues people are facing like poverty, starvation, pollution, etc. first hand. I was in Nepal and India not even a week ago and for at least half the time I was there, I really felt like I was making a difference in the world. Back at my desk, trying to choose between one carpet pattern that is slightly more teal than another, I’m not feeling quite so effective.

I’m tempted to complain, rail against the idiocy of western society and all that, but my mom always taught us never to give in to that until you had at least tried to do something to change your situation. But, that means it’s my responsibility to come up with a solution. Yikes. It’s left me on the lookout for opportunities all week. I’ve always tried to do some volunteer work on my own time outside of work, but that just doesn’t seem like enough. Now, I’m looking for something bigger, something life changing, not just an hour every few months. How do I make this a daily effort? I’m an architect and aren’t those skills pretty beneficial to people in need of shelter, education, and community support?

I’m familiar with organizations like Habitat for Humanity (obviously) and Architecture for Humanity, but how do they find these projects? Is there a way for me to get more involved through my current job? Someone just told me about a group in our LA office called gServe that is working on a school in Haiti. It sounds like a great project to be involved in. I don’t need yet another group to distract me, but if it means actually working on some pro-bono projects like the school- that’s what I’m looking for! Last night, I was able to attend a fundraising event for Rebuild Sudan, a group dedicated to building schools in Africa. A few of my friends are heavily involved- actually running the board, working with local architects to design the school, raising money etc. and somehow they find the time to do this outside their day job. Maybe there really are lots of opportunities out there if you just look for them...

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