Of all the exasperating questions I get asked by volunteers at the community center where I work (“is it very dangerous here?”, “can you really be vegan here?”, “will I get sick if I eat chicken sandwiches from a street vendor which have been chopped up with a dirty knife and then set out in the sun all day covered with flies?”*), none carries the potential murk of “why aren’t there more male volunteers?”**** It’s a tricky subject, often asked by very well-meaning, young and lonely male volunteers during their first week. Unsurprisingly, I have my own opinions on that, but I am more interested to hear it straight from the mouths of Y chromosome carriers. Operating on the admittedly shaky assumption that if you are a man you may have some greater insight into what men do, please enlighten us. Why are there more female volunteers than male in
*Well, it’s a Central American city, and you are a foreigner with a shiny iPhone. Exercise the same caution you would in any unfamiliar place where you’re richer than 95% of the population.
**You can be vegan anywhere. Places like Fair Play,
***You probably deserve to get diarrhea if you ask that question.
****It’s kind of a trick question, because while we do have fantastic male volunteers quite often, women always outnumber the boys—and not just at El Nahual, at all of the volunteer agencies in town except for maybe Quetzaltrekkers, which seems to have a pretty good balance. What I believe many people who ask this question are referring to is the perception—which I share—that female-to-male ratios in volunteer projects and helping professions are, in general, higher. For example, the gender breakdown in my cohort at the