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“Being a UBELONG volunteer provided me with the trip of a lifetime.”

UBELONG

UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Lacey Jochim
Age: 19
Nationality: United States
University: Clark Community College
Past travel experience: Newbie
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for orphans in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 3 weeks
Start month: July 2013
Claim to fame: Energetic and extremely friendly. Made as many friends in her previous volunteer experience in Guatemala as she did in Phnom Penh.

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I have always had a passion for traveling and especially traveling to developing countries. I love being able to experience a new culture, to visit a new country, to meet new people, and to let my mind and thoughts wonder. I love being able to share my happiness, and positivity with others who need it and to provide hope to those who have lost theirs. Being a UBELONG Volunteer provided me with the trip of a lifetime. UBELONG set me up with everything I needed to become successful in all that I wanted out of my trip.

What is your favorite memory?
During my time in Cambodia so many memories stuck out to me. The most vivid would have to be meeting and creating a friendship with a little four year old girl named Slepat. I volunteered at an orphanage and worked with the three to four year old class. Everyday I would be greeted by this little girl, she would wait by the front door until I arrived and would cling to my leg for the whole day. She was always wanting to play with my bracelets, wanting me to do her hair and she climbed and hugged me all day. She was the cutest little thing, a ray of sunshine to me. The last day of volunteering I bought her and myself matching blue bracelets and gave her one. Seeing her face turn into the biggest grin I’ve ever seen was more than I could ever ask for. Knowing I was the reason she felt happiness for one minute in her life was amazing.

Now every time I look down at my bracelet it reminds me of her, of her free spirited, contagious smile, and her ongoing happiness that she always had even though she came from an abusive family and lived in a poor condition. I hope every time she looks at her blue bracelet she can feel that same happiness and love that she did from that one moment.

What did you take from the experience?
I have taken so much from the trip. It has opened my eyes and my heart in more ways than I ever thought it would. I got to see the world in someone else’s eyes. It has made me realize how lucky and grateful I am.

Seeing the daily life struggles many Cambodians experience every day made me realize how insignificant my life problems are. Seeing poverty first hand, seeing a child suffer from starvation or malnutrition or abuse is so eye-opening. It makes me realize how many things I take for granted.

I am taking away a whole new outlook on life, to focus on the things and people that really mean a lot to me. To not focus on materialistic things. I will also cherish my day and time more. I want to inspire people to do good, to smile at strangers, to help someone everyday, to just do and be a symbol of good. I want to spread love and happiness in as many ways as I can.

What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
My advice for a future volunteer is to first start out with a positive attitude. You will feel happiness, sadness, relief, grief, love and much more all at one time. You will see things you have never seen before and feel things you have never felt before.

Be excited for the opportunity you have received, respect their culture and be interested in it. Say yes to things, more than saying no. Be open to trying new things and don’t have any worries. Let your mind wonder, and when it does, write down what your experiencing. Take as many pictures as you can. And leave your mark. Be the reason a child doesn’t suffer from hunger for the day, turn a persons frown into a smile one day, help as much as you can. Share who you are and don’t be afraid to meet new people. Don’t have any expectations and just live in the moment. You will remember this trip for the rest of your life, so make the most out of it.

Related post:
Meet Karen Edwards, a University of Kentucky student who volunteered with UBELONG in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the Caregiving project.

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