By Shirley Zhu
SEATTLE, WA — Describing her as radiating a golden aura, friends and family of 17-year-old Sarah Hyland confirm that she found the meaning of life during a week-long voluntourism trip in Africa.
Upon her return home from an unnamed West African nation last Sunday, a positively glowing Sarah reported to local news sources that her work in a poor African community helped her answer the perplexing question that has plagued mankind throughout history: what is the meaning of life? According to Hyland, all philosophical and scientific speculation leads to this: “love thy neighbour”. In a statement to local media, she exclaimed, “ Through my selfless charity work in the country of Africa, I learned that loving others is the sole purpose in life! Love is the only thing you need to make real change!”
A team of psychologists at the Yale School of Medicine conducted a study on this pheno- menon of self-actualization. Their reports show that Sarah, among other voluntourists, experienced dramatic physiological changes during voluntourism programs. Not only did their hearts triple in size, but their temporal lobes, the area of the brain responsible for compassion, grew so much that they began overcrowding and inhibiting other cranial regions, including those responsible for logical thinking and rational decision-making. “These effects are undoubtedly caused by voluntour-ism. According to world-renowned pseudo-scientist Dr. Phil, travelling to exotic destinations while helping those in need has been proven to provide numerous health benefits,” said the team’s lead researcher.
Voluntourism programs boast jam-packed itineraries, including constructing fractions of buildings, building temporary bonds with kids, and pulling people out of poorly dug outhouses. With “Project Save Africa”, Hyland completed preliminary work on a library with a group of twelve other high school students. By working tirelessly for at least one hour a day, the voluntourists managed to establish the foundation by the end of their stay. “Admittedly, our locals had to put in some extra effort every night rebuilding and refining the day’s work,” disclosed the program director, “but what the volunteers lacked in knowledge and skills, they made up for in spirit—and that’s what really matters.”
In their free-time, the voluntourists also taught English classes. “It’s heartbreaking that the children don’t have trained teachers,” says Sarah. “We’re not trained either, but at least we’re from the West.” Another student recounts her experience teaching the kids how to kick a soccer ball and how to take a selfie, tweeting on Twitter, “I feel better knowing I taught the children important life-skills. It really just goes to show that all you need is love to make a meaningful impact.”
However, the voluntourism experience is not for the faint-hearted. Emma Warbler, another program participant, confessed, “At times it was hard. We had to endure tough conditions like using holes for bathrooms, getting our shoes muddy, and breaking nails. Once, we even did 45 minutes of hard manual labour without a break! Oh, and remembering the kids’ names was difficult. That was probably the hardest part.”
In the end, all their struggles paid off. By eliminating all poverty, the voluntourists as good as saved the village. “Project Save Africa” was a success. “When we gave out lollipops and plastic bracelets as we were leaving, all the kids were laughing and smiling,” describes Hyland with a wistful sigh. “Seeing their happy little faces proved to me that our group solved all their problems, which was really inspiring. Before I left, I made sure to get a selfie with them, and it got so many likes!”
In an interview on National Radio, an animated Hyland exclaimed, “My heart is fuller and my life more fulfilled for being a part of ‘Project Save Africa’. The charity trip was extremely rewarding and is going to look so good on my resumé.”