Claire McKenna is a sophomore at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, PA. She is very involved on campus, especially with the Hispanic community. She helps at a clinic for migrant workers, and also visits local farmers to support workers in need of health care.
Her UBELONG placement in Peru was not her first time to South America. Claire had already been to Costa Rica and Bolivia, where she also served as a volunteer. In April, she joined the “caring for children with disabilities” program in the Volunteer Abroad in Cusco, Peru, for six weeks. She was a wonderful UBELONG Volunteer who worked diligently with the children. We are incredibly proud to have her in our community, and here are her words:
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG volunteer?
I was looking for a legitimate international volunteer program that I could afford. When I went to go visit my brother at the University of Vermont, we went to meet one of his friends and listen to him play the bongos. When I asked him where he learned to play, he told me he got the drum and learned to play it while volunteering with a group called UBELONG. I asked him a little more about the program and after only a couple questions (“how expensive was it? Was it organized?”) I felt I knew enough to take the initiative and explore UBELONG myself. On the website I found the program in Cusco which had the project at the special needs school, and I was sold!
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
The teacher I worked with every day in the special needs classroom, Betssy Rachel really inspired me. She maintained control and interest from a class of 12 severely handicapped children, no easy feat. She did so with constant warmth, gentleness and enthusiasm. Interested in working with special needs myself, I will never forget the strength Prófe Betssy used to teach a class of children who were in desperate need of some sort of sustainable education.
What was the funniest moment?
There was a little boy there named Josué who was the most severely troubled child in the classroom beyond a doubt. He was violent, disruptive and unpredictable, throwing frightening tantrums and then asking for forgiveness minutes later. The hardest thing when dealing with Josué was looking for and finding his good and gentle heart. After a long time and a lot of patience, he began to warm up to me. On the last day, I tentatively asked him if we could take a picture, crouched down and waited for him to come stand with me. With no response or any real indication that he had heard me, Josué walked over, quietly climbed on top of me, somehow wrapped his whole body around my head and neck, and calmly waited for his photo to be taken. That was the funniest moment of the trip.