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Giving a hand: Transforming the lives of first time volunteers participating in a prosthetic ‘hand’ fitting project with landmine victims
conference contributionposted on 28.02.2018, 00:00 by Julie Willans
To investigate the characteristics of perspective transformation in a non-educational setting, this small-scale, qualitative study focuses on narratives of a small group of Australians who participated as first-time volunteers in a ten day humanitarian project to fit prosthetic ‘hands’ on landmine amputees in Sri Lanka. Narrative inquiry allowed for thematic analysis of the data, affording ‘windows’ into how the group variously engaged at cultural, ethnic and social intersections previously unknown to them. As the group engaged in the project, a discernible shift occurred between a focus on what they assumed would be ‘personal’ challenges, to a focus on empathy and respect for the ‘other’, namely the amputees and their families. It was found that in helping to transform the lives of amputees, the volunteers were presented with opportunities to examine personal perspectives and paradigmatic assumptions, and experience profound, personal transformation as their assumed challenges became overshadowed by ontological and philosophical contemplations. In situating this study beyond more often researched educational contexts, this paper demonstrate that catalysts for perspective transformation do indeed arise when different social and cultural values and experiences intersect.