If you do not visibly succeed with your development and project activities in ” building better communities or making a real difference to local comunities in your host country ” ( this statement would probably be part of your job description or of your Development organization’s mission statement when you sign up) – you still have the invaluable opportunity to develop yourself. There is no amount of money that could pay for this opportunity.
This may sound very harsh but this statement bears a lot of truth. There is a high probability that you would not succeed in building better communities and you will not even make a tiny difference sometimes. The communities are just fine without you. And that is ok.
The really beneficial thing of doing volunteer work is the impact it has on the volunteer. The seven years in Mali were a never ending personal journey of discovery and learning in terms of culture, tradition, art, language, social norms and personal relations, etc. This jouney would have continued had I stayed. Gradually and slowly one becomes less judgemental, less racist, less sure about one’s owns convictions, less superficial and less proud. In fact the local community can teach you a lot of things your own culture would never do.
My first contact with Sudanese Sahelian architecture in Mali left me speechless. I will write more about it at a later stage. But this style of architecture and the way of building is entirely adapted to the ecological and environmental condition of the region.
French-Sudanais or the newer term Sudano (Sudanese) Sahelian Architecture covers a variety of similar architectural styles that prevail in the Sahel and in other regions of West-Africa. These styles can be found south of and within the Sahara. The Sudano Sahelian architecture can be found only above the Savanna and the forest regions of the African coast line.
This style is characterized by the use of mudbricks and an adobe plaster, with large wooden-log support beams that stick out from the wall face for large buildings such as mosques or palaces.
At the same time the beams also act as scaffolding for reworking or repairing the building if necessary after heavy rains. Reworking is done at regular intervals, and involves the local community.