Name: Joanne Cheung
Hometown: New York City
Nationality: United States
University: Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College
Degree:: Media Studies
Occupation: Media Planner at Havas Media
Languages: English, Cantonese
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at an After-School Center in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 1 week
Start month: September 2014
Claim to fame: Volunteered in Thailand at a faith-based boarding school to further educational opportunities for underprivileged youth.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
My friend participated in a UBELONG program in South Africa and shared that he had an amazing time abroad, not only through his community service, but also through his newfound friendships with volunteers from all over the world. Every time he spoke about his experience, I would see his eyes light up and hear the genuine joy and excitement in his voice when recounting his memories, and that moved me to sign up and experience it for myself. I was also looking for interesting and challenging volunteer programs at the time, while trying to satisfy my wanderlust, and UBELONG offered exactly the guidance and opportunities I was seeking.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I volunteered at an after-school program and helped children with their homework, taught them simple conversational English phrases, distributed snacks, and played outdoor recess games with them. In the short amount of time I was there, I feel like I built relationships with some of the kids, but wish I could’ve stayed longer. On just my second day, I was greeted with joyful kids running with open arms to hug me and was reminded of how the simple things in life, like laughter and gratitude, can transcend language barriers.
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
I met someone who had been living in Cusco for a few weeks when I met him, but was only at the beginning of his year-long globetrotting journey. He shared that he quit his stable job back at home and decided to backpack around the world, choosing to throw himself into the unknown and spend his time and money on travels from one country to the next. While a risky decision, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and entirely worth it. We’re Facebook friends and I’m still tracking his journey today! I truly admire his adventurous nature and willingness to explore beyond his comfort zone for enriching experiences that the confines of his home could never offer.
In a sentence or less, best packing advice?
Pack clothes with lots of pockets to carry essentials, because at such a high altitude (11,151 feet), you’ll likely experience shortness of breath and will want to travel light!