Name: Loressa McDonnell
Hometown: Pine Beach
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (beginner)
University: Georgian Court University
Past travel experience: Newbie
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at an After-School Center in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: May 2015
Claim to fame: Currently works with the elderly and wants to be a nurse who takes care of children.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I originally didn’t want to volunteer abroad – I wanted to study abroad but unfortunately with my nursing program at my school, I was unable to do so. I have always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so when I found out that I could volunteer abroad, I knew I should do it. I started to get more and more excited about volunteering abroad – it gave me a sense of pride. I was happy to step out of my comfort zone in order to help others out. I wanted to do something selfless and put the attention on someone else who doesn’t usually get it, and hopefully improve their life in some way. I picked Cusco, Peru because my mother had visited here 4 years prior and she only had good things to say. I knew it would make both her and me happy to go to the same place and be able to exchange stories.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
Advice I would give to a future volunteer would be to not be shy. I know UBELONG stresses this a lot, but I didn’t take it seriously. The first day and a half I wouldn’t assert myself to join other volunteers in exertions or even help out the after-school teacher as much as I could’ve. I was afraid of being rude or stepping on somebody’s toes. The fact is, you NEED to be assertive in order to get the most out of this experience. When a volunteer says “I’m going to get some ice cream,” you need to say “I’m going to come, too” instead of waiting for an invite. Similarly, when a teacher is clearly struggling to get her children to listen, don’t just observe-help her out. This will make your volunteering experience better both in and out of the project.
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
Somebody who really impressed me was one of the in-country team leaders. She picked me up from the airport when I first arrived in Cusco, Peru and we talked nonstop the entire way to the hostel. She really does sincerely care if you are having a good time. When I got altitude sickness, 4 days into my trip, and wasn’t able to volunteer for a couple days, she stopped by the hostel to see if I was okay. Not only did she do this, she also was available 24/7 to answer any questions that I and the other volunteers had.
During my two week stay in Cusco, there were a lot of transportation strikes and parades going on and she always knew which volunteers had work that day and which volunteers didn’t. I don’t know how she did it, but she somehow knew all of the volunteers’ names, where they were from, what projects they were on, if and where they were going on a weekend trip, what dates they came to Cusco and what dates they left. This may not sound impressive but when volunteers leave and arrive each week, it’s great to know that someone is always there for you.
In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
My funniest moments during my Cusco volunteering trip always involved Armando – a 4 year old who was the “class clown” of the after-school project – whenever it was time for coloring and the coloring books were passed out, he would roll the book up like a burrito, put it to his face, and yell “SENORAS Y SENORES!” (“Ladies and Gentlemen!”) I always thought that was the funniest thing and it would always make me laugh.