Hannah Oh is a bright undergraduate student at the University of Washington. She is majoring in global communications and hopes to join the Peace Corps in the next year or so. She has travelled to numerous countries, including China where she participated in a study abroad exchange. In August she joined the “caring for malnourished children” Volunteer Abroad in Cusco, Peru. She volunteered for four weeks and proved to be a great UBELONG volunteer. We are pleased to bring you her words here.
Why did you volunteer in Cusco?
This was a spontaneous trip for me. I wanted to spend time giving back and traveling in a more meaningful way. I also wanted to go to Peru—I had never been and wanted to experience a new place.
I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into it. I wanted to absorb as much as I could and try to give back. I was also very attracted to the project because I could work directly with children. I wanted to have as tangible an experience as possible.
What was your impact?
At my project I helped the local teacher and assistant to give food, maintain order and play with the kids. Some of them never really saw their parents, it was so sad. Right from the start, the first thing they would do when I came in would be to jump on me and hug me. They liked my being there and I gave them a level of attention and care that they needed much more of. I also made things easier for the teacher and assistant, they were stretched.
There was a new girl who came one day and she was so sad. She was only four or five, and she was the daughter of her dad and sister. She didn’t want to interact with anybody, so I tried to approach her and build a relationship. When I gave her a high five she shied away. But after some time she began to warm up a little. She’ll need much more than me to help her get through her difficulties, but for the small amount of time we spent together I know it meant a lot to her. It might not seem like a lot, but every little bit counts. The alternative is that she would have probably stayed alone in the corner— so I think I helped bring some light to her.
What was your favorite memory?
Having the opportunity to meet so many incredible new people. They were all so open and committed to doing good. I didn’t know there was a community of people like this who travelled and volunteered around the world. Finding it was very rewarding. I’ll also always remember how different the lifestyle was. The culture, food, music, etc. It was all so different, yet I adjusted even better than I could have imagined and got so much out of it.