Name: Miguel Miranda
Hometown: Lisbon, Portugal
Languages spoken: Portuguese, English (fluent) and German (beginner)
University: Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon University
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Medical Assistance in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: August 2015
Claim to fame: Miguel volunteered at a local Food Bank before he went to Cambodia with UBELONG.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I had already joined some volunteering projects here in Portugal and I really enjoyed each one, however, this time I wanted to try something different, more challenging and that would take me out of my comfort zone. This way, a friend of mine and I decided to start doing some research in order to find the organization that suited us better and that would match our goals. We heard of UBELONG from and friend that had a very positive experience and, after checking the details and reading the program we decided to apply. We chose Cambodia solely based on the project description, however the feedback from previous volunteers and our willing to see a totally different culture didn’t let us hesitate UBELONG was our first and only choice, as well as the city we volunteered in, fortunately we got accepted and now, looking backwards, we only regret we couldn’t have stayed longer.
What is your favorite memory?
In order to get to my work placement I would take more or less 30 minutes by bicycle. One day, after finishing the afternoon tasks and getting ready to go back to the Volunteer House it started raining cats and dogs, the streets were flooded, there was no way I could have taken the bicycle. Thus I decided to wait for the rain to soften. The issue was that it was already 4.30 pm and we agreed to go see the kids dancing at the Night Market at 7pm. Time was against me so I decided to tie the bicycle to a tuk tuk and waste no more time. I faced and second problem though, the streets were chaotic and the tuk tuk was blocked in the traffic. However, having half of the way done and since it wasn’t raining anymore I decided to ride the rest of the way back home with the water by my legs. Fortunately I managed to get to the night market in time and it’s needless to say I had a great time there. What started as a stressful afternoon turned out to be an amazing adventure I surely won’t forget any time soon.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
I would advice to be open-minded, you’ll meet a totally different culture, with its own customs and traditions, so you need to be flexible and, instead of avoiding divergences, you should immerse yourself in this new experience.
Taking in consideration my previous adventure, I’d say you need to be prepared for the unpredictable because every day is different, you’ll constantly challenge yourself and have issues you need to solve. However, that’s one of the best parts of volunteering, not only you get to know more from others, but also you get to know yourself better and what your capabilities are.
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
It’s hard to select only one person that impressed me. I met amazing people from everywhere, including other volunteers and the staff from the Local Team. One of them was definitely the lady who runs the orphanage, we called her Mama. I got to know her story, she used to be an actress, took part in multiple productions and went to several events, including Cannes Film Festival. After a long career, she abdicated that passion and devoted her time to help kids in the orphanage. Although she has a lot of kids under her wing, Mama knows each one’s individual problems. You can notice sometimes she’s tired, other times worried, but every time she manages to keep a big smile on her face, despite all the daily issues. Thanks to her, some lucky kids can have a better access to education, healthcare services, including the dentist and in general a better life and a brighter future.