Name: Maureen Devito
Hometown: Rocky River, Ohio
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (fluent), Chinese (intermediate), Russian (intermediate), French (beginner)
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Duration: 1 week
Start month: March 2019
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I was inspired to become a UBELONG Volunteer after one of my college students raved about her experience in Cambodia during one of our classes. Upon researching various international volunteer groups, I noted that the US Department of State had rated UBELONG as one of the best organizations globally.
Also, I have had the good fortune to travel pretty extensively, but was looking for an opportunity to learn from the locals and experience their life. While being a normal “tourist” can be enjoyable, I wanted a deeper more meaningful experience in my travel to talk to and learn from the local residents.
What did you take from the experience?
From volunteering in Ho Chi Minh City, I learned first-hand how the Vietnamese are kind, peaceful, forgiving, and grateful people. The young adults, who attended our English classes for zero college credits and often drove one hour to class, came there respectfully and eager to learn English. Interestingly, the best student speakers had learned from watching US television shows including Ellen and Steven Colbert.
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
One of my kind students, AT, stopped by the UBELONG house the day after class so that she could tour me around the city on her moto. Even though I was old enough to be her Mom, she proudly took me to her favorite Vietnamese sights. We spent an entire afternoon touring, walking, drinking coffee, and talking about her life. Earlier when we discussed favorite foods in class, we talked about the Vietnamese pancakes and my difficulty in finding rice flour at home. The next day she returned with 4 pounds of rice flour for me to take home so I could have a little bit of Vietnam back in Ohio.
In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
When our UBELONG house went out for karaoke, Nico and Julia sang Barbie Girl and brought us to tears laughing as Nico sang Barbie in falsetto and Julia was Ken. So fantastic!