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“Don’t be afraid to take initiative.”

UBELONG

UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Heather Brody
Age: 20
Hometown: Rockville, Maryland
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (intermediate)
University: University of Delaware
Bachelors: Public Policy & Women’s Studies
Occupation: Student
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at a Shelter for Girls in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 5 weeks
Start month: December 2015
Claim to fame: Heather is a very hard-working person who studies domestic violence prevention. Way to go, Heather!

What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I volunteered at a shelter for abused girls, and while it was tough at times, it was very rewarding. The girls were wonderful and we became very attached to each other by the end of my trip. Since I was only there for 5 weeks, it was hard to figure out how I could make a lasting impact on the girls. But throughout my time there I just tried to focus on being a positive, safe person in their lives that they could trust and have fun with. I tried to bring many of the activities that I enjoy doing – dancing, writing, playing sports, doing arts & crafts – to the girls to help them try different things and to help us connect with them as volunteers. I ended up discovering the unique talents that each girl had, and was able to encourage them to keep doing the things that they love.

What were your major challenges?
The major challenge that I faced at my project was the lack of communication between the women who worked at the shelter and the volunteers. There were times when we would show up to our project in the morning, only to find that everyone had gone somewhere else for the day. There were also times when we would want to do an activity, but the women would stop us in the middle and have the girls do something entirely different. It was often frustrating, but we learned to go with the flow and do our best to be aware of what was going to be happening at the shelter each day.

What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
Be open to trying new things. There is so much to do and so many amazing people that you will meet, so don’t miss out on any opportunity to have a new adventure! Also, don’t be afraid to take initiative. Come with ideas for activities you can do with the girls and make it happen! Finally, make an effort to connect with the other volunteers – they are all fantastic – but, at the same time, don’t be afraid to have some adventures on your own. If there is something that you really want to do, but you don’t have anyone to go with, just go for it! Don’t live with any regrets, and make sure you make the most of your time volunteering because it will honestly go by so fast.

In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
Going into a shop where the owner found out I was a volunteer and immediately gave me a bunch of traditional clothing to wear, turned on some music, and grabbed my hand to dance with me for a solid five minutes or so in the middle of the shop!

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Related post:
Meet Luz Olid Diaz, a Pablo de Olavide University student, who volunteered with UBELONG at the caregiving project in Cusco, Peru.

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