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Day of Dialogue prompts
volunteer discussion

DSC_2964This year’s Greenhills Day of Dialogue, organized by Service Learning Director Alyssa Friendly, coalesced this week around the ethics of volunteering. 

After a keynote talk by Head of Upper School Julia de la Torre about her experience in the Peace Corps, students participated in activities designed to get them thinking about two central questions: whether volunteering is selfless or selfish, and whether people have a moral obligation to volunteer.

The first question was based on philosopher Ivan Illich’s provocative questioning of American volunteers in Mexico in the late 1960s. The gulf between the Americans’ material situations and those of the people they hoped to help, Illich argued, were insurmountable. Avoiding paternalism, then, would be nearly impossible.

The second question was based more on the experiences of American physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer, who argued that relieving the suffering of others is “an area of moral clarity.” In his view, those equipped to help the less fortunate are morally required to do so.

See our Flickr photo album here.

Students heard from a variety of speakers from both inside and outside the school, including some of their fellow students. Outside organizations included Therapaws of Michigan, a local volunteer group that helps hospital patients, students, and others enjoy the unique human/canine bond; Make-A-Wish of Michigan, which helps seriously ill children realize their dreams; and Project Shunt, a University of Michigan group that helps Guatemalan children with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. Internal speakers included junior Baani Jain, who talked about working with kids with special needs; Onyekachi Nwaneri, who discussed a visit to Fiji; and several students who talked about the Summer in the City program.

Students rounded out the day watching one of several documentaries, including “A Small Act,” about a Kenyan student who tracked down the stranger who changed his life by sponsoring his studies; “He Named Me Malala,” about Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education; “Baraka,” a nonverbal film documenting the best and worst of nature and humanity; and “Lost Boys of Sudan,” an Emmy-nominated documentary about the journeys of two boys who escape the Sudan and miraculously make it to the United States.

Students reflected on what they learned the following day.

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.