Andrea Lowitz is a delightful young woman from Cupertino, California. She just graduated from high school and is about to start at the University of Southern California to study broadcast journalism. She has some local experience working with children, including being a gymnastics instructor for the past two years, and has done a fair bit of international travelling for somebody her age. In July she spent three weeks volunteering in the “assisting at a shelter for abused girls” project, which is part of the Volunteer Abroad in Cusco. She proved to be a great UBELONGer, and we are thrilled to introduce her here.
Why did you volunteer in Cusco?
I have always been interested in volunteering and helping others. I also have always wanted to go to Latin America because I took Spanish in school and wanted to practice the language. However, finding opportunities to do so are not so easy to come by and only after I came across the project with UBELONG did I feel ready and comfortable to do it. This was my first international volunteering trip, so it was a big step for me. I am also very passionate about spreading awareness regarding human trafficking and wanted to learn more about it, as well as contribute where I can. The project with the girls was a great match for me.
What kind of impact did you have on the project?
Just giving the girls attention meant so much to them. I taught the girls English, helped them with their homework, and played various games with them. They really appreciated this and I could tell they got a lot out of it. We also talked quite a bit about our lives. Since the girls and I are so close in age, they connected with me and opened up to me really quickly. They have difficult lives, and at times it was hard for me to hear their stories.
Surprisingly, we soon realized how similar we all are in the end; we love painting our nails, braiding each other’s hair, and taking pictures. In addition, the girls would spend hours looking through all my photos on my camera, from China to Disneyland. They were so amazed to see what different countries look like and couldn’t stop smiling at the photos. It’s amazing how small the world is for these girls, and I hope that I was able to expose them to the world beyond Peru. Ultimately, I did my best to empower these girls and make them feel special, needed, and loved. Even though I didn’t make a huge difference in the world, I’m proud that I was able to at least touch the lives of 45 young girls.
How did you grow from the experience?
I learned so much about the power of gratitude. The girls were so thankful for the simplest things in life. I brought some donations, just small ones, but they were still literally jumping with joy. They also appreciated my presence and did not take me for granted. Seeing the girls’ overwhelming excitement when they received a toothbrush or even a hug has reminded me to put things into perspective.
I also gained such a wider perspective of the world. I immersed myself in a different culture and learned to see things from a completely fresh and unique perspective. I feel much more appreciative now and more understanding of how different the world is out there. It was an experience that changed my life for the better.