December 5 is International Volunteer Day. A day to tell the world about the impact of volunteering by showing all of the wonderful actions of volunteers all around the world. We, at Ugly Ducklings Inc, want to contribute to this by sharing the stories of two big-hearted volunteers with you.
Via an organization she supports called Sanctuary for Kids, she heard about Volunteer Nepal. This organization is involved with Nepal Orphan’s Home that aims to improve the lives of children in Nepal and provide them with a quality of life that so many people take for granted. Laura has arrived in Kathmandu not more than 1,5 weeks ago, and when I talked to her she was busy settling in and finding her way in the foreign country.
Laura tells me that she has always wanted to volunteer:
“I like the idea of maybe being able to give something back to people that aren’t as lucky as me.”
For Laura, the volunteering experience is about giving something back, as well as a unique chance to see more of the world:
During my stay I’ll be helping children with homework, teaching at a local school and I will also be doing some sightseeing.”
Laura will be staying in Nepal for four weeks. We wish her all the best and can’t wait to hear her stories when she gets back home!
Alison is a 20-year-old Bachelor’s Degree student and day care employee from Illinois, USA. She grew up with volunteering as it is something that is passed on to her by her family. Via her church, she came into contact with CALMS, an American-based organization working to spread the gospel in Central America.
The organization works alongside the community members and together with them they set up Bible studies and youth groups, provide necessary school supplies, medical and dental care, and construct new schools and other facilities that the community needs. Alison stresses the importance of working alongside a community:
“We don’t step in to do all the work. We work alongside the community members to show them how to do these things, so the community can be self-sustained. If we show them how it’s done, then they can continue the work after we leave.”
During the eight weeks Alison partook in the volunteer project, she taught English to elementary and secondary students at a Lutheran school, set up a high school/college Bible study and organized all kinds of outings and events for the students there. Some other work she did was in nearby communities where she would bring food and water, and spent time with the people there.
“Most of the things that stand out to me about this trip aren’t specific instances. Instead, I remember a LOT of warm hugs, so many crazy tickle fights, kids’ faces lighting up with excitement about learning, and the lasting connections I made with people there. Guatemala became my second home, and the people there feel like my family. My heart is there with them, and I need to return as soon as I can.”
Alison highly recommends becoming a volunteer:
“whether it’s giving back locally, nationally, or internationally, you really do have the ability to help people. You can change the world for one person at a time. Volunteering is the most fulfilling thing I do, and you will come away with a full heart.”
A bit of advice to people who want to volunteer in another country
“Living in Guatemala for those 8 weeks was a challenge, honestly. I didn’t speak the language very well, and I didn’t know very much about the culture. The most important thing I learned was to put myself out there and not be afraid to look stupid.
There are things you won’t know, and you need to accept that. Make a real effort to learn the language and interact with people as much as you can. If you don’t know a word or even if you say the wrong word, the people there will help you. They may laugh at you (they’ll probably laugh at you), but they’ll help you, and they will appreciate the fact that you’re trying to connect with them.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and be goofy. Make people laugh. Make them smile. Show them that you are just like them. We are all humans. We all have feelings, thoughts, emotions, and opinions. We are so much more alike than we think, and by connecting with people and forming new friendships, that will become extremely clear.”
We would like to thank both Laura and Alison so much for sharing their stories with us. It inspired us, and we hope it inspires you too!
As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when you consider volunteering. On the other hand, it can be such a rewarding experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life. We would love to hear about your volunteering experiences in the comments below!
Ugly Ducklings Inc’s Research Assistant