Name: Laarni Paras
Hometown: Northridge, California
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (beginner), Thai (beginner)
University: Mount St. Mary’s University
Bachelors: Sociology with the Specialization of Communications
Occupation: Temporary Executive Assistant at Paramount Pictures
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for the elderly in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 3 weeks
Start month: January 2016
Claim to fame: Laarni prides herself on being open minded and full of energy. We love those qualities, Laarni, glad to have you in the UBELONG Family!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I’ve always wanted to volunteer abroad, to have volunteering as a focus of my day. I didn’t feel like I’d be able to be fully immersed in volunteering if I chose to do it at my home country. I also wanted to be a UBELONG volunteer so that I’d be able to be fully immersed in another country’s culture and I would be forced to learn and use a different language.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question from my perspective to a deep extent. That might be more objectively answered by Sr. Ilario or by the coordinators, Agnes and Kim. From my limited perspective, I think I helped the staff by lessening a bit of their duties by helping to serve lunch and cleaning up. I was able to help provide physical therapy to the elderly with the handful of other volunteers. I think just by saying hello, helping someone walk around or get up from their seat, or asking how they (the abuelitos/abuelitas and even the staff or the children living there) were, it helped people feel acknowledged and important. Short answer: I helped the staff at the center and treated people with respect and acknowledgement.
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
A lot of the volunteers impressed me. Some were just travelers who wanted to give back during their limited time in Cusco, others signed up to commit a year of their life to volunteering.
I was also impressed by Sr. Ilario. He was genuinely committed to the elderly and always encouraged them to be active. Whether it was simply by practicing to walk instead of staying in his/her chair, or by getting up to dance outside, he really wanted the elderly there to participate in activities and kept a celebratory spirit about it.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe local life?
Simple, beautiful, always festive.