“It was so rewarding to see the children working as a group and helping each other.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Ana Paula Amatuzzi
Age: 19
Hometown: Boston
Nationality: Brazil
Languages spoken: Portuguese, English (Fluent), Spanish (Fluent)
University: Boston University
Degree: International Relations
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Care and Teach for Children from Poor Backgrounds in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 5 weeks
Start month: May 2015
Claim to fame: Has volunteered in both Brazil and the United States!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
After my first year of college in America, all my friends were going home for the 4 months of summer. However, because my family lives in Brazil going home is not that easy. I was frustrated because I knew my mom would be working and my sister would be at school, which means I was going to be home all day doing nothing. I wanted my summer to be special and I wanted to impact, that’s why I decided to volunteer. I started researching and all travel agencies were really expensive. The only different one that offered a complete program for low fees was UBELONG.

It was inspiring to see that there are people doing their best to help others for pleasure rather than profit. I chose UBELONG because I had a lot in common with the values and objectives of the organization. When I arrived in Cambodia I realized I was right, all the people I met there were unique and amazing. From Malaysia to Canada; 18 to 50 years old; married, divorced or single; male or female; ALL the volunteers I met in Cambodia gave me hope there are still good people in this world.

What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I think I showed them the importance of working as a group. For example, when I started working with them, every time after finishing the activity they would say “Teacher, me finish”. I started making jokes and pretending I was crying when they said that instead of “Teacher, I am finished”. After a while, I started focusing on other issues and stopped noticing the “me finish”. However, every time one of the children made this mistake the other ones would correct it and help!

It was so rewarding to see them working as a group and helping each other. I also emphasized they were not allowed to hit each other. Comparing my first and last week they were more friendly and less aggressive, they were respecting each other and defending each other every time someone started a fight. I hope they understood they are a family and have to protect each other rather than fight.

Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
A 9 year old girl called Ramsey. After every class she used to run to the class I was teaching to spend the break with me. It was impressive that even though she barely spoke English, we could communicate. On my last day, she asked one of her older friends to write me a letter saying that she loved me and that she was going to miss me. I had to hold my tears because I thought if she saw me crying she would think I was sad.

She became my best friend and my little sister but the friendship was not what made her so special. What actually impressed me was the fact that even though I am 10 years older than her, she was the one inspiring me. She lives in the school without her family and she doesn’t have a father but still, she is always smiling. Also, she is a little girl in a conservative country but still really powerful and strong. I hope one day I can be like her.

In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
When the children tried to teach me Khmer!

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Related post:
Meet Elien Van Wynsberghe, a Catholic University of Leuven grad student, who volunteered with UBELONG at the caregiving projects in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.