Children with traditional clothes in Peru

“I felt like I made a lasting impact in their lives.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Michelle Silber
Age: 21
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (Advanced), Hebrew (Intermediate)
University: New Mexico State University
Bachelors: Communication Disorders and Linguistics
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for Children with Disabilities in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 3 weeks
Start month: May 2016
Claim to fame: Michelle has family from all around the world, each being very different. Therefore she has grown up in a very culturally sensitive environment. Welcome to the UBELONG Family, Michelle 🙂

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG Volunteer for multiple reasons. I knew when I was looking for a program, I wanted to go somewhere I’d never been before, I wanted to help make a difference in the community, and I was also looking at a program that was cost effective. When I came across UBELONG, it had all the right criterion for me.

What were your major challenges?
Although being in Cusco and volunteering was an amazing life altering experience, there were many challenges that I faced. I think the thing that was the hardest for me was having to step back from the space I was in. I am majoring in communication disorders, pretty far into my program, and I’ve had a lot of training. However, going into a classroom that focused around speech therapy was difficult in that I felt like many things were being done incorrectly. I had to step back from the situation and figure how to help and give my opinion without stepping on anybody’s toes, all while persistently working towards becoming and remaining as culturally competent as possible.

What is your favorite memory?
My favorite memory was the day I said goodbye to the kids in my project. Although it was incredibly sad and difficult, I looked into their faces and felt like I made a lasting impact in their lives. There’s absolutely no better feeling than that.

In a sentence or less, best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
My best advice to fitting in with the local culture is to be open to trying new things, be friendly, welcoming, warm, and excited; the locals are so kind and have amazing stories if you take the time to listen.

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Related article:
Meet Alexandra, a student at Cornell University, who volunteered with UBELONG in Peru in the caregiving project.