Name: Larissa Oliveira
Hometown: Newark, New Jersey
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Portuguese
University: Princeton University
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for Children with Disabilities in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 8 weeks
Start month: June 2018
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG Volunteer because I wanted to do something meaningful with my summer. When I read the description for volunteering at the center, I was so drawn in and I knew I had to do it. I spent weeks and weeks praying that I would be accepted because I just wanted to get this amazing opportunity so much! Not only would I be able to volunteer and work right in my career interests, but I would also be able to learn more about Vietnam and its culture.
I loved learning about the lotus flower, and Vietnam’s strong emphasis on education and eating bun cha, pho, and drinking Vietnamese coffee!
What impact did you make on your volunteer project?
I believe that I was able to bring a lot of joy to the center. I always tried to be very friendly and loving to the kids and the staff at the center. I also believe I was a helping hand to the center as I tried to be as helpful as possible to the staff and teachers in my classroom. I began to memorize the daily schedule, and when we would work one on one with the children, I already knew how many tables and chairs I had to put out and where they should go.
When I heard the teachers say, “vedi!” I knew that it was time for the children to use the toilet, so I began to lead them to the bathroom. I always offered to feed more than one child, even though they always allowed me to focus on feeding just one. All of these things were initiatives that I made to be as helpful as I could be at my volunteer project.
How did you grow personally during your volunteer trip?
I learned a lot about myself and about my relationships throughout my volunteer trip. I realized that I am a lot more critical of the people closest to me and am much more lenient with strangers, friends, or acquaintances. I learned this about myself when I realized I was being so lenient and forgiving with the children at the center but I don’t act as forgiving with my loved ones. I learned about this twisted reality through volunteering.
In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your volunteer experience?
My volunteer experience was an eye-opening experience where I fell even more in love with the idea of learning about and caring for children with disabilities while also learning more about Vietnam.