Name: Lindsay Mason
Hometown: Murrysville, Pennsylvania
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (beginner)
University: Pennsylvania State University
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at a day-care center in Quito, Ecuador
Duration: 24 weeks
Start month: January 2018
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
It has always been a dream of mine to live abroad and volunteer. After researching countless organizations I chose UBELONG because it was the most affordable and offered various impactful projects all over the world. I knew I wanted to volunteer in South America in order to brush up on my Spanish skills and UBELONG offered that, plus gave me the opportunity to live with a local family, which was a big plus! It was also reassuring that I didn’t need to be fluent in Spanish in order to volunteer.
Additionally, I liked the fact that I could volunteer for just 2 weeks or 6 months and that I didn’t need previous experience in the project that I chose (childcare).
What impact did you make on your volunteer project?
I spent on average 28 hours a week with children ages 1-4, so by the end of my 6 month experience we bonded a lot! We played several games especially Escondidas (hide and seek) and Tag. One of my favorite things to do with the older kids was to point to objects in a room (door, window, ball, doll) and have them say the word in Spanish and I would repeat it in English. They loved learning new words in English and they were also helping me learn Spanish. I taught them other new games and books as well. One girl was especially fond of the Peppa Pig matching game I brought with me (she had a great memory). Eventually, I was the one the kids ran to for comfort if they fell down or didn’t feel well. Knowing that I was a support system as well as a teacher was an amazing feeling. Some of the parents asked me to keep in touch with their child over WhatsApp. It’s fun to see them continue to grow.
Something that surprised me was that I wasn’t just helping children, but assisting a family’s business. I became really close with the family I volunteered for. The owner considered me like a daughter, which was really meaningful.
How did you grow personally during your volunteer trip?
Besides learning a new language and overcoming communication barriers, my time volunteering impacted me greatly. I didn’t have that much experience working with kids beforehand, so I learned a lot about children, especially diaper changing and potty training. I learned to be quick on my feet and improvisational because babies need constant attention and stimulation.
I immersed myself in Ecuador’s culture and noticed how family oriented the country is, especially around mealtime. It reminded me that family and friends are more valuable than material things. Now, I get to share my favorite Ecuadorian dishes with my family back home.
In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your volunteer experience?
A truly wonderful experience that I will never regret, with memories and friendships to cherish forever.