“You get to make connections, not just a difference.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Olivia Harvell
Age: 18
Hometown: Point Reyes Station, California
Nationality: United States
School: San Domenico School
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (intermediate)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for Disadvantaged Youth in Merida, Mexico
Duration: 1 week
Start month: February 2017
Claim to fame: Olivia is a sailing instructor in The Inverness Yacht Club Youth Sailing Program. Welcome to the UBELONG Family, we’re thrilled to have you!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I was in search of a program that would offer me more than just a service trip; I wanted to immerse myself in a different country, practice a different language, and get to know people outside of just group of volunteers. The moment I read UBELONG’s mission statement, I knew that it would provide me with all of the above. I appreciated how UBELONG focused less on just charity like other programs tend to do and more on the people and place. This mindset of not helping, but serving, makes the UBELONG experience unique and just more fun.

What were your major challenges?
My only challenge was walking in the hot Merida sun; getting used to the different climate is always a small struggle. Other that, my transition from California to Merida was incredibly smooth. I got to practice my Spanish and even when the language barrier came up, everyone was so patient and accepting!

What is your favorite memory?
During my work- all of the kids called me “maestra oli” (short for Olivia) and one day when it was time for their naps and time for me to go, one little boy ran from the room and followed me saying, “no te vayas!”. Also dancing to reggaeton with all of the kids.

In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
Just having all the “mommies” (teachers) in the daycare coming up to me one by one to measure themselves next to me- they would just break out in laughter about how tall I was.

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Related post:
Meet Lijia Want, an Emory University undergrad, who volunteered with UBELONG at the caregiving project in Merida, Mexico.