Peter Prato – GO Volunteer
Learn more about Groundwork Opportunities and volunteering in our post “Volunteering Vision“.
I first started fundraising with Groundwork Opportunities (GO) in the summer of 2008. The first fundraiser, actually. Over a beer and a couple of bar napkins, Bart showed me his and Kyle’s idea for what they were trying to accomplish. It wasn’t going to take much to convince me. I’d come from a background of organizing, was working in education, and was just getting my photography career going. We decided to throw a party at One Rincon Hill. Our goal was a few thousand dollars. It was going to change people’s lives.
Over the years I helped coordinate events. Throw more fundraisers. I auctioned off photos to help raise money and it gave me confidence to continue to work at building this career while working a full-time job. I watched Bart give himself to this thing entirely and that helped me keep going when I had no idea where I was headed.
We talked about my going into the field at some point. I really wanted to make that happen. Not just because I love to shoot and travel, but because I thought I was missing something fundamental by living my life on this side of the planet and helping to change someone else’s life on the other side. I believed whole-heartedly in what GO was doing, and what I was helping them to do, but it felt unfinished for me, personally. I knew that I was never going to truly understand what kept these people going day after day after day if I didn’t go out there into the world to see what this is really about. And to see who it’s about.
It was in a conversation about something unrelated that Kyle made a passing comment about making a trip to East Africa. That was in the spring of 2011. He ended up not making that trip. But, after eight weeks of planning, I had enough gear and enough time off to do it.
To explain what it was like to arrive in places that are war torn and filled with joy, it just doesn’t work in formats like this. Imagine the most moving moments of your life. The times when you realized that there was simply no way you could possibly exist, the you who you are, without other people. It was something like that. When I arrived home I had a difficult time understanding what was happening, or how the streets could be so clean, and calm, or how they could even exist at all.
I found myself in awe of what, before I left, was common-place. Literally staring, blank-faced, in the middle of streets. I also found myself in elevators with people not talking, or looking at one another. I found myself slipping back into craving things. The best that I can sum up volunteering in the field is that I think of my life now in two pieces. I think of my life before I went into the field with GO, and I think of everything I want it to be after that experience.