Tug-Of-War, and Penguins

Trevor Porter - Ecuador

July 5, 2011

When I was introduced to Global Citizen Year, the program sounded like a challenge and a little bit like a game of tug-of-war. There is a little give and take involved in every exchange, every challenge, that we have to overcome throughout our lives.  I’ve experienced this game of tug-of-war several times, but the experience that affected me the most occurred last year during my trip to South Africa, where I volunteered at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Seabirds.

While I volunteered at SANCCOB, I mainly worked with stubborn penguins, and aggressive, skittish Cape gannets. The most challenging task I encountered while working with the birds was overcoming my own feeling of fear. My fear was not of the birds, but of me accidentally injuring the birds. However, under the guidance of more experienced volunteers, I was soon feeding, tubing, and medicating the birds. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Hey, where does tug-of-war fit into all this?”. Well, I’m getting to that. Working with the birds required an exchange, a sacrifice of yourself, in order to benefit others (in this case, penguins and gannets). After rehabilitating the birds for several weeks, we finally reached a reward. When we released the birds, it was a beautiful sight; seeing how all our efforts paid off to benefit the penguins and gannets.

Now, how does this relate to GCY?

Up to my junior year of high school, I had always thought I had wanted to be a veterinarian. However, after my stint in South Africa, I felt as though that wasn’t the path I wanted to take. Instead, I have become increasingly interested in languages and international relations. If this much change can happen in six weeks in South Africa, image what can happen in an entire year in a foreign country. South Africa taught me that there is more to the world than just what meets the eye, just as there is more to yourself than what you think you can see. My time in South Africa helped me to learn about the world and myself, and instilled in me a sense that every effort, no matter how small, can benefit the world and its peoples. This is an effort I want to make, and I hope to do so through Global Citizen Year.

Trevor Porter