Beyond Borders: My Role as a Global Citizen

By: Caroline
Caroline is participating in Allowance for Good's autumn 2013 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy program. 

Last week's session on global citizenship was really inspiring. Before the class, I really didn't see myself as a "global citizen"---I saw myself as an seventeen-year-old American girl. I knew that as an American (as with any ethnicity or culture), I tended to focus on the problems that were evident in the US or, at the very most, world problems that affected the US. It's a very narrow-minded approach especially in this day and age, where one event can spark a change around the world. But in another sense, it seemed the typical response from any person as most people are more concerned with how things will affect them and not the world in general. 

However, during class, we discussed our obligations as global citizens. That whether we want to accept it or not, we affect others all over the world by our actions, and it's our job to be socially aware of that. For example, when we toss out our extra food after a meal, it affects people in an area where hunger might be an issue. Instead of wasting that food, it could have been donated to families that could really benefit from having that food in their home. Which brings me to my next point: as global citizens, we also have an obligation to give back to others because there are others who give something to us whether that's their time, money, etc. We are a part of a larger context, not just one country, state, city---we are a part of huge community, and it's our job to help one another in that community. 

One example of how I am a global citizen that I didn't recognize before the class is that I volunteer at a fair trade store in Evanston called Ten Thousand Villages. The idea is that artisans in developing countries who can't make a decent living in their own country are able to sell their crafts through Ten Thousand Villages. TTV is then able to take the money made from these crafts and send it back to those families. It's amazing because it really provides families with financial security, which they otherwise would not be able to find if they continued to try to sell their crafts only within their community. The other neat thing about TTV is that even if all crafts are not sold, those families are still paid in full. I volunteer at TTV to help promote awareness of fair trade and to help assist customers. So as I global citizen, I am able to give back to many families so that they don't have to worry that they won't be able to take care of themselves financially. I know that in another country, I am putting a smile on someone's face and money in their pocket. Volunteering has been a moving experience also because I realize that I have the resources to help make the world a better place. I know that not everyone is in the same position I am to help others, but because I am, I want to take advantage of that as much as possible.