Name: Valancy Cole
Hometown: New Brunswick
University: Dalhousie University
Languages spoken: English and French
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for Children with Disabilities in Hanoi, Vietnam and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 11 weeks
Start month: June 2015
Claim to fame: Valancy is a second time UBELONGer – she volunteered in the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program in Cambodia in 2014 for 3 weeks, and then returned to volunteer in Cambodia and Vietnam. UBELONG is a cut above!
Why did you decide to volunteer with UBELONG again?
I had originally volunteered with UBELONG in May of 2014. I went to Pnom Penh, Cambodia with a group of students from my university for one month. At that time, I fell in love with my placement (working with disabled children) and decided I wanted to go back the following summer by myself. I had a great experience with UBELONG, so it was an easy decision to reapply and ask to be placed at the same placement as the previous summer.
I also decided to take part in a program with disabled children in Hanoi, Vietnam, following my time in Cambodia. My time in Vietnam was also wonderful, and therefore I am really glad I chose to visit two UBELONG locations.
What is your favorite memory?
This is a very tough question and it took me awhile to come up with an answer. I would say my favorite memory would have to be arriving at my placement every morning: I mainly worked with very young children (2 years and under), and often when I arrived they would still be in their cribs just waking up. I LOVED walking into that room to greet them. It put the biggest smile to my face. I would usually get them up, give them a quick bath, change their diapers and get them dressed for the day. The children were bright eyed and smiling at this hour, and it always felt like a very special time.
What were your major challenges?
I think my major challenge would have to be the transition between Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Hanoi, Vietnam. I found it very difficult to leave my placement in Cambodia. It was my second time there, and it has developed a place in my heart. It was hard to say goodbye because I don’t know when I will be able to get back there again. I have an enormous appreciation for Cambodia as a whole, and hope to spend more time there in the future.
I jumped into my second placement in Vietnam right away. I felt very welcome there and also really enjoyed this placement. However, I often found myself thinking about the children I worked with in Cambodia. I think if I were to do this all again, I would have taken a few days to allow myself time to transition and accept the change in environments.
Who impressed you the most?
At both my placements (Cambodia and Vietnam) I was able to meet many long term volunteers (1 year placements). The thing that probably impressed me the most was their dedication. I looked up to these individuals, and it really inspired me during my time abroad.