We’ve all heard of The Gap Year – the latest fad - that after a gruelling thirteen years of schooling our poor, exhausted young school leavers need to take a break, time-out – a gap year – before they begin the next difficult phase of their lives. And of course, Hamish and Andy have made it famous in their highly quirky take on how to do a Gap Year successfully. The Gap Year – sounds like a real lurk, hey?
We recently visited my daughter where she was volunteering in a remote Fijian village as a Primary School Assistant, as part of her Gap Year. And I have to tell you that yes, I have travelled far and wide, and even so, my stereotypical image of Fiji was of tanning bodies glued to towels on pristine beaches. So to find my daughter living in a corrugated iron dwelling, with a family of two adults, five children and a stray dog called Blackie with no internet, power for a couple of hours each evening and only then when they could afford to pay for the diesel to run the generator, no hot running water, freezing cold showers and a constantly burning wood-fire stove was something of an eye-opener. We took her new family clothes; they shared them with family and friends.
So, I’ve listed all the ‘nos’, all the things they didn’t have. But remarkably I honestly believe my daughter has gained far more from this experience than she could ever possibly have imagined. She went there to help. What she is coming home with is a whole new world perspective. A perspective where an 18 year old can question the validity of paying $200 for a pair of sunglasses; a perspective where ‘I need my own bedroom’ doesn’t hold sway anymore, indeed the phrase ‘I need’ just pales into insignificance; a perspective where children playing outside in the fresh air creates an image of happiness and health; and where love and generosity are paramount to this community.
It got me thinking. Imagine if all our young people spent significant time in such places. Hang on – we could probably do with sending a large proportion of our ‘needs-driven’ adults there as well. Imagine if those countries that still have some form of military service instead sent their conscripts to do voluntary work overseas. We might really begin to see a shift in values in our world.
I say bring on the Gap Year!