“Every time I look back on the pictures of my time there I get a huge smile.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Deborah Chamberlain
Age: 54
Hometown: Fresno, California
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English
Occupation: Associate Professor at California State University
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for Disabled Children in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: September 2013
Claim to fame: Deborah has 30 years of experience working with children with special needs of all ages.

Do you have a favorite memory from your experience volunteering that you still remember fondly today? If so, what is it?
I have so many wonderful memories, it’s hard to choose just one. Every time I look back on the pictures of my time there I get a huge smile. One memory in particular brings me to tears. I was working in the children’s center and was teaching one boy (around 9 years old) how to communicate using sign language. He was deaf and had learning disabilities. I had his mom come in to watch me work with him and so I could teach her sign as well. Well, that sweet little boy learned so quickly it was amazing, learning hundreds of signs in just a few weeks. One of the last days I was working with him and his mom he looked over to his mom and signed “I love you”. It was the first time he was able to tell her that in a formal way. My heart melted of course and tears started to flow all around…

Looking back on your volunteering experience, do you feel you grew from the experience? If so, how?
I learned to be open and ready- for whatever may come my way. I often did not know what to expect. The culture was so different from where I was from which I found fascinating. I love to study and watch people and every moment was filled with new things to learn.

How do you feel you made an impact on your volunteer project?
I was able to share some knowledge with the staff at the children’s center which they will be able to use even now that I am not there. It was humbling to see that the hard working people at the center would watch me and then implement the things I was doing with the children. The people in Vietnam are some of the most hard working people I have ever known. I look forward to more projects with UBELONG, and would love to go back to the center one day.

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Related post:
Meet Michelle Erwin, a special education life skills teacher who volunteered with UBELONG in Hanoi, Vietnam at the caregiving projects.