Name: João Morais
Hometown: Lisbon, Portugal
Languages spoken: Portuguese, English (fluent) and Spanish (advanced)
University: Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 6 weeks
Start month: August 2015
Claim to fame: João also volunteered in Sao Tome and Principe for 5 weeks, where he developed activities to improve social integration.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
Volunteering has always been a passion of mine, you always get so much out of it, even more than you are giving. UBELONG just seemed to be the right option. Some friends of mine were already UBELONGers and they spoke so highly of it that I just had to give it a go. I am very happy with the choice I made. UBELONG is such a well-structured organization that everything went amazingly well, every time I needed something, had a doubt or just felt like sharing something my UBELONG mentor was always there. That is a very important thing when you are out of your element, feeling like you have someone who is there for you.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
This is a really hard question to answer because we always want to think that we made a difference but we actually have no idea on how our work is going to impact the future of the people we worked with. I like to think that just being there, spending time with those amazing kids and teaching them something has made a difference in their lives. The thing is, they had more impact on me than I had on them, I have no doubt about that. They taught me so much, that I can’t even describe it. I hope I gave them half of what they gave me.
What is your favorite memory?
This is also a very hard question when you think about six weeks filled with amazing memories. My favorite one out of the group of memories was on the day I left my placement. The kids were crying, asking me not to leave and one of them turned to me and said: “Teacher, I’m going to study English really hard so that when you come back I will be able to show you that I know everything you thought us”. When I told him I didn’t know if I was coming back and if so when I would do it, he replied: “You will because you love us”. I admit I cried like a baby. It felt amazing to realize that they understood how much they meant to me and how happy they made me!
In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
The funniest moment… Well, I had a lot of funny situations but the funniest was probably when my classroom flooded because of the rain and I had to teach forty two kids as they sat on the tables because the floor was filled with water and I had to roll my jeans up to my knees to be able to write on the board. It was probably the weirdest classroom situation I have ever seen, still a super funny situation.