“Change-maker guilt”: syndrome of our times?

If I am not travelling halfway across the world to a place much poorer than where I live, am I doing enough for humanity? Am I simply overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the task of saving the world? Can I ever really know if I am making change? These are questions that are pertinent to me as a high school teacher, as a service learning coordinator, and simply as a human being.

The starting point for any service learning endeavour should be this: there is an identified need. Yet with the whole world and its problems at my door, how do I know where to look to find this need?

Rather than jumping onto the ‘saviour’ bandwagon and charging, guns blazing, into a far-away land, with the ambition to change something, one should firstly take a good, long hard look at oneself and one’s context and be realistic about the goals that should be set. What qualities, values and interests do I have as a person that could be of use to someone else? How could I learn something useful from others around me?

I imagine that the younger generations in our schools must be even more overwhelmed with the ‘save-the -world’ demands that they are faced with on a daily basis. So are schools doing them an injustice by encouraging them to look elsewhere for problems to solve? Are we guilty of selling the idea of ‘change-making’ in a neat packet called ‘third world’?

Whatever context one finds oneself in, one does have the chance to make a change. It is a matter of finding one’s own voice and that voice being heard and valued by those perceived to be in power. Creative discussion, dialogue and building relationships is the key; this should certainly begin at home before one looks outward.



2 thoughts on ““Change-maker guilt”: syndrome of our times?

  1. Thanks for crystalizing your thoughts in this post Vicky. I’m wondering if part of the challenge here in terms of making a change – and learning from the process of change-making – is not only finding your voice, but recognising where change is necessary by asking the right questions. This is the forefront of my mind at the moment as the students in my IB Language and Literature class are currently reading Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic, The Handmaid’s Tale. One of the major themes of this novel is humanity’s blindness to the seeds of their own destruction. We take the familiar for granted so that many issues start to hide in plain sight; we are readily complacent.

    When students / teachers engage with service learning, I wonder if, sometimes, they are blind to the services that they can provide because they are not identifying the relevant needs in the first place; they don’t even notice them as change-making opportunities. So, perhaps, some guiding questions might be: Where might we (as teachers) shift perspectives to reveal our community blindspots? And, how we can empower students to take ownership of the change-making opportunities that this might reveal?


    1. Thanks Phil. What you point out resounds with me a lot. I am hoping to explore just exactly this over the course of the next academic year in my ‘Change-Makers’ project; students will work with me and teachers to investigate what ‘service’ really means and what it could/should look like in our context.

      Liked by 1 person

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