In defense of skills over passion

I say this regularly on various online groups, and I’ll say it again here: your desire to help others, or your desire to travel, or your ambition, are not enough to make a difference in the lives of the poor and vulnerable in other countries.

In addition, people do not get to be stock brokers, doctors, architects or lawyers just because they want to; for most professions, you have to also work over many years to acquire the skills and expertise needed. Why would working in international development?

And don’t people in developing countries deserve people with skills and expertise, not just people with a big heart?

I’m not disparaging people with big hearts – but I believe that it’s much more beneficial and economical to local communities in poor countries to hire local people to serve food, build houses, educate young people, etc., than to use resources to bring in an outside volunteers to do these tasks. I believe the priority for sending volunteers to developing countries should be to fill gaps in local skills and experience, not to give the volunteer an outlet for his or her desire to help or the donor country good PR – that doesn’t mean I think all volunteering by unskilled people should be banned, but it does mean that that such volunteering shouldn’t be the priority in helping people in the developing world.

So, on that note, I really liked this blog by Marianne Elliott, Why Your Passion Is Not Enough:

My point is that passion, perseverance and innovation are sometimes highlighted at the expense of professionalism… much more than passion is needed in order to make a positive difference in the world… Just as passionate persistence without professional skills won’t get you a part in The Hobbit, good intentions without professional skill won’t result in doing the good you intend.

Also see:

The realities of voluntourism: use with caution

Reality Check: Volunteering Abroad

Volunteering To Help After Major Disasters.

How to Make a Difference Internationally/Globally/in Another Country Without Going Abroad

Ideas for Funding Your Volunteering Abroad Trip.

How to Get a Job with the United Nations or Other International Humanitarian or Development Organization

transire benefaciendo: “to travel along while doing good.”

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