Brandy Filbin graduated from Rolling Meadows High School in Rolling Meadows, Illinois in 2011. She then volunteered for 20 weeks in the Medical Assistance project in Cape Town, South Africa. She proved to be an exemplary UBELONG volunteer who was known for her dedication and kindness.
Brandy is very involved in service at home, including having volunteered at Promiseland, an organization affiliated with her church in Illinois that takes care of young children while their parents are attending life and career skills workshops. She just started her university studies and would like to work in a field related to working with disadvantaged communities. We are thrilled to introduce you to this young UBELONG Volunteer who has already done so much good in the world.
Why did you volunteer in South Africa?
I originally got interested in volunteering abroad because a friend had gone to South Africa and said it was incredible. She said there were so many beautiful places to see and that the experience had really marked her positively.
It turned out to be even more than what I expected. The country and people were so welcoming, and I felt very needed on the projects. I worked a lot and spent a lot of time learning about South Africa and meeting the people on a very personal level.
What was your impact?
I think in many ways I was impacted even more. I grew a lot from this experience. I adapted to a new culture and made an impact on peoples’ lives, which feels good.
But in terms of my impact, first I think I educated people on what the United States is really like. People had a completely different idea of what the United States is. It’s not just MTV. South Africans, and even other volunteers, would ask me a lot of questions about where I come from, how Americans live and so forth. So I talked a lot about that and helped people better understand my country.
On my project I was at the local clinic, which was a free one for the poor. To give you an example that is tiny but that shows my impact, one day I was sitting with a guy in the waiting room and he was telling me how the doctors did not explain to him anything about his condition. He was confused and didn’t know what to do. He was scared, too. So I sat with him and we talked about it. I helped him to understand the medical terms the doctors were using and what his options were. He was so thankful and appreciative that I had taken the time to help him. And in the process he became much more informed about his condition and more confident to engage the doctors to make sure they were treating him well.
What is your favorite memory?
The flow of life. Working in the clinic was very special. I had the opportunity to interact with so many people and lend a helping hand to the doctors and nurses, but especially the patients. A lot of them felt confused by what was going on, the doctors and nurses didn’t have time to spend much time with them explaining what was going on. So I was a friendly face who helped to show them somebody cared and also to answer questions about what they were going through. Patients would also just come up to me to talk. I made their experience more human. I was a friendly face that I think was very appreciated.
On top of that, the living experience itself was very special. I met so many other volunteers from all over the world. We bonded. We lived together, we went out together, we went to the beach together…. I have friends all over the world now, and those new friendships will stay with me forever.