Name: Stefanie Linze
Hometown: Inverness, Illinois
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (intermediate)
University: Harper College
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for children in need in Rabat, Morocco
Duration: 5 weeks
Start month: April 2018
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I chose to join the UBELONG Team for a number of reasons, but I will elaborate on two. One being that I am a humanitarian. I have a strong desire to dedicate my life towards helping people in any way I am able to. My goal is to become an advocate for human rights, bringing the lives of those who are unfortunate into the light for others to acknowledge, because without any understanding of the suffering that occurs outside of one’s own environment, no changes will be made. When I came across the opportunity to teach in Morocco, knowing that education is one of the necessities many children in the country do not have the privilege of attaining, I thought it would be the perfect step in the direction of my life’s mission. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to offer what I have an abundance of, and I wanted to share with those around me what I am doing and why I am doing it so that they too would be inspired.
The second reason I chose to volunteer in Morocco via UBELONG involves my passion for culture. I wanted to better understand Moroccan’s way of life; their beliefs, their values, their means of communication, cuisine, how they interact with each other, how they interact with their environment, the influence of their history and the role they play in our world… everything that makes them so beautifully unique. I wanted to be more than just an observer, and having the honor of living with an arranged host family provided by UBELONG pulled me in closer to become part of the Moroccan lifestyle.
Everything I wanted and more I was able to attain, and I owe it all to UBELONG.
What impact did you make on your volunteer project?
Reflecting on the time I spent in Morocco and at the school I taught at, I am able to see more clearly the impact I was making on a day to day basis. During that time, I was focused on doing the best I could to bring joy into the lives of the children, but I didn’t realize the extent of how influential I was. I underestimated myself. After the first couple of days, I understood exactly what the children needed to learn and how it could efficiently be done. So that evening, I went shopping to gather supplies. I then made worksheets for the children to fill out in class alongside the lessons, and came up with a goal: the children will be able to recall colors, shapes, and numbers. I prepared a game by gathering 9 sheets different color paper and cutting out 8 different shapes on each. Four weeks later, the children could tell me that I was holding a “pink star”, they could count “five circles” on the board.
I was inspired by another volunteer who raised money via GoFundMe in efforts of purchasing materials and toys for the children of her school. I was amazed by how quick friends and family were to respond to my cause. I raised about $500. I’ve never before felt more successful. We were able to buy an abundance of goods such as school supplies, cleaning supplies, toys, educational games, and more. The joy in the children’s eyes when we unveiled the surprise was a sight I will never forget. I can say with confidence that I have yet to make a greater impact in my life.
How did you grow personally during your volunteer trip?
My belief in the fact that everything occurs for a reason grew stronger during my volunteering experience in Morocco on multiple occasions. With this mentality, I more willingly accept changes and challenges that I am confronted with. One of the biggest challenges I faced was after three and a half weeks had passed. I was told my host mother was accepted to do the pilgrimage at Mecca for Ramadan. They emphasized the importance of the opportunity, and explained that they would have to find a new placement with a different host family for my last week. I was distraught. I never took my housing situation for granted. Everyday I was grateful for my comfortable home and loving mother, and for the people she was surrounded by, many who became my own family and friends. Not to mention, I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye so soon.
I went to the ocean after finding out the news to watch the waves, fluid and ever changing. I came to clear my thoughts, understanding that this was an opportunity, not a set back. I grew confidence and appreciative. I now find comfort in the moment as it is before me, some easier than others, but I personally believe this to be a breakthrough as I have become less attached and more dynamic.
Overall, my experience was enlightening, heart-touching, and beautifully unpredictable.