Jayna Wallace is a wonderful young woman from Minneapolis, and a budding leader at the Prouty Project, a consulting firm in Minneapolis. A 2007 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Jayna has traveled to South Africa and the Caribbean, as well as throughout the United States. In Minneapolis she has volunteered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for five years, and she is also a frequent volunteer with Feed my Starving Children.
In April 2014, Jayna joined her firm’s “STRETCH”, which is a 10-day international service trip Prouty does every other year for employees, clients and friends to come together, learn and make a difference. In 2012, Prouty brought on UBELONG to design its Stretch to Galapagos, and this year it did so again to volunteer in Morocco. The twenty members, who were led by UBELONG Program Officer Adriana Fernandes and UBELONG Founder Cedric Hodgeman, volunteered across three areas: caregiving, education and women’s empowerment.
Jayna, who was joined by her mom Kathy on the trip, worked in the caregiving team, which volunteered in a Moroccan organization supporting children with Down’s syndrome. Jayna also participated in the team’s volunteering to renovate a local clinic, as well as in numerous reflections, excursions and talks with local experts.
And now, Jayna’s words:
Why did you join the volunteer trip?
I joined the trip for several reasons. First and foremost, it was an opportunity to “stretch” myself – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The whole “mantra” behind the Prouty Project’s Stretch Company Programs is a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Secondly, I’ve always wanted to take a trip that was tied to service and giving back. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to travel for pure entertainment; I wanted to take a trip that had a meaning and purpose. And, last but not least, I joined the trip because I knew there was a chance my mom might join. I knew taking a trip like this with my mom would be once in a lifetime.
What was your impact on the volunteer projects?
Our team struggled a bit with determining the depth of our impact. At times it seemed like we were in the way. At other times it seemed like we were one extra body for the teachers to figure out what to do with. Although, after spending some time letting my experience sink in, I concluded that our impact was not extraordinary but it was profound. If we walk away from that experience having made one day in one teacher’s life a little easier or causing one extra smile to appear on one more child’s face, then we’ve made a difference.
At the medical clinic in Sale, the impact was evident and instantaneous. In a short amount of time, we repainted and cleaned multiple rooms. The doctors and nurses were so thankful and appreciative and hopefully able to put the work we accomplished together as a team to their immediate use.
How did you grow from the trip?
I grew from this trip by being forced outside of my comfort zone each and every day. Initially, the homestays made me the most apprehensive and uneasy. There we were – in a different country, not speaking the same language, learning new customs, eating different food, and staying with a family with whom you’ve never met. However, by allowing myself to be open and vulnerable, I formed a bond with my host family almost instantly. By the conclusion of the trip, we had exchanged pictures, gifts, contact information, and countless smiles and laughs. Staying with the host families was one of the most rewarding and memorable parts of this trip.
In a sentence or less, what will you never forget about the volunteer trip?
I will never forget the smiles on the children’s faces, the tears on my house mom’s face the day we departed, and the special bond my mom and I formed during this trip!