Name: Lauren Julieann Bravo
Hometown: Melbourne, Florida
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English
University: University of South Florida
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for children in need in Rabat, Morocco
Duration: 3 weeks
Start month: April 2018
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
Throughout my undergraduate years, one thing remained consistent: my longing to travel with a purpose paired with a desire to serve. My family trip to the Philippines this past February allowed me to witness extreme poverty first hand, from people walking the roads without shoes to residing in shacks made from scraps of metal. Being exposed to the cruel fact that these are common daily lives worldwide ignited my sense of urgency to be a positive force where the world needs it most. My motivation from the Philippines to assist those in harsh conditions led me to volunteer abroad with UBELONG. It was apparent that UBELONG has built itself a positive reputation thus far by staying consistent with its vision. I felt confident that I would make a lasting positive impact while interacting with a diverse group.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
My primary task was to teach English to children ages three to six years old during my three-week stay in Rabat, Morocco. Despite the language barrier, we kept the children engaged through hands on activities, games, and an extensive use of nonverbals. We covered a full range of topics, including animals, weather, emotions, body parts, senses, and seasons.
During my final week I began an online donation drive to purchase essential school supplies, crafting materials, supplemental learning tools, and hygiene products for the school. The children’s eyes lit up when they were given the opportunity to use these new supplies to finger paint an Autumn tree, craft a mosaic Summer Sun with colored construction paper, and use brand new pencils to color in worksheets to learn body parts. They were eager to demonstrate their understanding of English words and celebrated every accomplishment. Additionally, I began a log for future volunteers to record a list of topics the children already know and still need to learn, and effective teaching methods/games. With the constant and heavy turnover of volunteers, this formal tracking process of these key activities could help prevent a repeated cycle of information taught.
How did you grow personally during your volunteer trip?
I set the expectation to become a student myself by viewing Morocco as my classroom. I was consistently challenged and pushed outside of my comfort zone, as I had to maneuver around language barriers and varying culture norms. I engaged in traditions, practiced an unfamiliar language, and became knowledgeable on Moroccan religion, economy, and society. This fueled a refreshed sense of appreciation for global interactions. It was fulfilling meeting other volunteers from across the world with varying backgrounds, all coming together for one common purpose: to serve as global citizens.
In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your volunteer experience?
Volunteering in Rabat, Morocco granted me with a refreshed sense of cultural awareness and fueled my sense of urgency to serve as a global citizen.