Emily Obukowicz is a wonderful event planner and program manager from Bothell, Washington. She graduated from Washington State University with a bachelors in Public Relations and a minor in International Business.
Emily has also studied abroad in Australia and explored Indonesia, Spain, Mexico, Canada and every US state except Alaska.
Striving to help as many people as she can and having a passion for working with children, Emily joined the Volunteer Abroad in Cusco, Peru for two weeks starting in June 2013.
She volunteered on the “assisting at an after-school center” project, and proved to be an exemplary UBELONG Volunteer, who shares the feeling that volunteering is a state of mind.
We are thrilled to now introduce you to Emily.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG volunteer?
In my career, my most fulfilling job was collaborating with nonprofits and corporations that are making a difference in this world. I have always wanted to volunteer abroad and I somehow I stumbled across UBELONG and really respected their bottom up approach to volunteering.
In the past year, I kept getting little nudges from the Universe that I was meant to go to Peru. Every day I would get a little reminder that I should follow my intuition and go volunteer in Peru; someone would mention Peru in conversation or I would come across an article that mentioned Peru, and the final catalyst was when I went to see an independent film called Girl Rising that focused on stories of girls around the world and one of them was about girl in Peru. So I decided to follow my heart and volunteer in Cusco, Peru through UBELONG!
What was your impact on your project?
I volunteered with children in need at an after-school program in Cusco, Peru. Volunteering with these 4 year olds everyday made me realize that no matter where you go around the world or how much money you have, kids are really the same regardless of circumstances.
I believe that volunteering had more of an impact on me that I did on the project, not to say that I didn’t make a difference, but volunteering helped me to open my heart and mind every day.
I thought that I would volunteer abroad and help underprivileged kids, but they really made me see that you can live a happy and carefree life regardless of your circumstances. It is really just a state of mind. We have so much to learn from kids and the Peruvian children just reminded me to live with more joy, laughter and love. When you give more, you live more!
What were your major challenges?
I think the biggest challenge for me was to let go of all the beliefs that held me back from following my heart and volunteering.
There was always an excuse I would make to not follow my gut and volunteer abroad; whether it was work, money, time etc.
At home I was always busy doing life and once I was volunteering I was just able to be present in the moment and enjoy all it had to offer.
But once I was in the field, I felt at peace that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I let go of all expectations.
What is your favorite memory?
The kids’ favorite thing to do was all hug me at the same time until I fell to the ground. I loved it, but was always afraid one of the kids would get squashed by the pig pile, but by the end of my volunteering I just learned to embrace all the pig piles and hugs, with a few bruises of course!