Name: Allison Cavanagh
Nationality: United States
University: Ohio State University
Degree: Business Marketing
Occupation: Account Executive at Medical Mutual Of Ohio
Languages spoken: English and Spanish (intermediate)
Past travel experience: Newbie
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at an After-School Center in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: April 2015
Claim to fame: Experienced volunteer repacking food at the Cleveland Food Bank, socializing with and serving food to senior citizens at a nursing home, caring for and exercising dogs at Cleveland Animal Protective League, and teaching children as a volunteer with Junior Achievement.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I initially decided to become a volunteer for a few reasons. I had never left the U.S before and wanted to travel somewhere new, but also wanted to volunteer my time while I was abroad as I felt like this would give me a better insight into the culture and also allow me to have a positive impact on the community I visited. UBELONG was a perfect fit that had plenty of affordable opportunities in various locations to choose from.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I spent my time volunteering with a class of 3-4 year old children. My tasks varied from helping the children learn the lessons being taught (they were learning their colors while I was there), organizing the classroom, helping them color, and making sure the kids ate their lunch everyday. My impact was simple yet hopefully positive. I simply tried to help wherever I could and with a friendly and positive attitude.
What were your major challenges?
One challenge was that the children would fight with each other or steal each other’s toys. I would try to help resolve fights and would try to tell the kids why they shouldn’t fight, but that is where the second major challenge would come into play: the language barrier. I was the only person who spoke English there, and while I can speak some Spanish, it is at a more basic level which made communicating a bit difficult at times. It just takes some patience and understanding to get through any challenge. Carrying a pocket sized Spanish dictionary with you doesn’t hurt either.
What is your favorite memory?
Every morning when I would first get to the class, the kids would all be excited to see me and it was so sweet! They would all greet me, and many would run up and give me a hug. A couple of the boys would sometimes grab on to my legs for a hug and would not let go, so I would walk around with two little boys hanging on to me! As challenging as volunteering was sometimes, they were all so sweet and it was such a great experience.
Outside of volunteering, my favorite memories were visiting Machu Picchu, meeting the other volunteers, and meeting many other solo travelers along the way! I met people from various countries across the globe. Even if you travel by yourself as I did, you will easily make new friends!