Name: Leah Weinstein
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (advanced)
University: University of Michigan
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at a Shelter for Girls in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: May 2018
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I knew I wanted to go to South America for part of the summer to work or volunteer. I started looking around at different programs, and most of them were enormously expensive. UBELONG seemed to have all the same benefits as the other programs, but at a fraction of the cost. I also liked that you could choose exactly how many weeks to spend there and could start at any time, so I was able to fit it perfectly into my schedule.
What impact did you make on your volunteer project?
While I helped the girls by leading English classes and other activities, the most important impact I had was by being a friend to the girls. My world is drastically different from theirs, and I was able to expand their worldview by showing them a bit of it. I became particularly close to one girl, who opened up to me about how she felt living at the shelter. She didn’t feel comfortable expressing this to the other girls because most of them didn’t feel the same way, and I was happy to be able to provide that emotional support for her.
How did you grow personally during your volunteer trip?
I grew in multiple ways during my time in Peru. It was the most independent I had ever been in a foreign country- navigating public transit, having freedom to choose what I wanted to do in afternoons and on weekends, communicating with locals in Spanish. I chose Peru because I was considering it as somewhere I would want to do the Peace Corps or another similar program after graduation. I loved Peru and I loved volunteering, and could definitely see myself living there, so it helped me professionally as well.
In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your volunteer experience?
From making new friends from around the world to exploring all the Andes region has to offer to waking up every morning excited to go to work, I loved every moment of my time in Cusco and would recommend it to anyone who wants to have a rewarding experience and be fully immersed in another culture.