Name: Beatrice Matthews
Nationality: United States
University: University of Colorado, Boulder
Languages spoken: English and Spanish (intermediate)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at a nutrition center in Accra, Ghana
Duration: 3 months
Start month: June 2013
Claim to fame: Brought up in Europe, Bea is a true world traveler focused on making a difference. This Winter, she joins UBELONG again in the Galapagos.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
After changing my major to international affairs last year, I realized the world was in desperate need of a helping hand. It was at this time that I realized that I wanted to join the Peace Corps and devote my life to helping those who are constantly being challenged by the world. My first step was to test myself and see what I was capable of. I researched several different options, but UBELONG offered something many other organizations did not; they allowed us to truly push ourselves and not be bound by our comfort zone, but rather encouraged us to incorporate our skills to overcome certain problems (like distribution of limited foods and health resources).
What was your impact on your project?
I volunteered primarily at a nutrition center based at a community of refugees, selecting the right candidates for a supplementary food program. However while there I filled in where needed which included teaching in the school, and working in the hospital. It was in these different sectors of the camp that I met some of the strongest and most amazing people who had overcome situations that seemed unimaginable.
One man in specific touched my heart. His name was Daniel and he never seemed to let a bump in the road distract him from his goal of uniting the community, which was clustered with several different refugee groups. After working closely with him for some time, Daniel took me through the community and introduced me to some of the most impoverished people in the community. After seeing starving children and families, I decided something more needed to be done and began to gather the resources that were available to me and take them back to the camp.
Some of these resources were other volunteers who were eager to lend me a helping hand. They jumped right on board and we began to gather all the medical supplies we could and take them back to the camp. We sent emails back to the States asking for anyone who was willing to donate to this cause, as two of my fellow volunteers were medical students. The results were astonishing and we were able to accumulate hundreds of dollars worth of medical supplies. With these supplies, we served hundreds of people that were without medical insurance and were not candidates for the supplementary feeding program.
Daniel inspired us to continue to help the community as he took us to a school that has zero funding and was filled with orphans. One girl, Beatrice, had an accident on a bike, which had cut open her knee and after four years and no medical attention, her leg was swollen to the point of immobility. We worked to clean her wounds and tried the best we could to nurse her back to health and rid her of any infections she may have had. For the principle of the school, we worked to assess why he was going blind and discovered that it was due to nutritional deficiencies.
At the end of my service trip, the other volunteers and myself gathered pounds of clothes, towels, toiletries, medical supplies, and linens and donated them to the community.
On more than one occasion, I can honestly say that we saved lives. In addition, I have worked very hard with family and friends to bring awareness of the refugee plight to anyone who might help. The program with UBELONG is saving lives.
What advice would you give a future volunteer?
After my experience in Ghana, coupled with the support and encouragement of my family and the University of Colorado, I plan to continue in the direction of travel and volunteerism.
Having an open mind and heart is crucial in forging friendships and relationships. These relationships will forge a path for future volunteers so it is always important to remember that you are representing more than yourself as an individual, but the organization as well your country. Volunteering is all about giving and it is always good to go into an experience like this with no expectations.