Name: Caitlin Fahey
Hometown: Downers Grove, Illinois
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (beginner)
University: Western Illinois University
Degree: Social Work
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for Disadvantaged Youth in Cartago, Costa Rica
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: January 2018
Claim to fame: Over the last two and a half years, Caitlin has completed over 800 volunteer hours back home in the US. Wonderful to have you in the UBELONG Family, Caitlin! 🙂
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG Volunteer because I wanted to take a gap semester between attaining my Bachelor of Social Work degree and going to get my Master of Social Work degree. I wanted to travel to gain more cultural and language exposure but I wanted to travel with a purpose. I wanted to volunteer abroad to be able to observe what another country’s social service agencies were like and to travel with a purpose. By traveling abroad I was able to add a meaningful, relevant experience to my resume as well.
After researching dozens of volunteer companies/organizations I had concerns about the social responsibility, ethical standards, and financial costs of volunteers abroad. I nearly gave up on my dream to volunteer abroad until I found UBELONG, I was impressed by their application and mentorship program and that they paired up with local agencies to empower the community, not to make the volunteer placement organization reliant on volunteers. I am so grateful that I became a UBELONG Volunteer!
What is your favorite memory?
It is hard to pick a favorite memory, even though I was only volunteering for 2 weeks. Most of my favorite memories are with the other volunteers and my host family. Definitely going to Manuel Antonio with another volunteer is one of my favorite memories. I was so grateful to have met someone to make the trip with, although I felt comfortable traveling alone it is nice to have someone to travel with too. I loved hearing her travel stories, her other experiences with UBELONG, and getting to know her on the long, eventful bus ride to Manuel Antonio.
During our weekend trip, we finally got to see SLOTHS! We did an amazing tour and it was wonderful to have someone to room with. Another of my favorite memories is sitting at the table with my host family and discussing Costa Rican culture, the current election, and learning from each other. One night my host brother and I talked about odd common American phrases, like the alarm is going off, and odd common slang Costa Rican phrases too.
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
The women at my project really impressed me! They have been working there for decades but the care and connection they show for the families really touched my heart. They welcomed me with an open mind and open heart, which I sincerely appreciated. I was also so impressed with the other volunteers – I loved hearing about their projects, why they decided to volunteer, and their future plans. The local team was also amazing, again I was impressed at the care and relationship they had with the volunteers, the agencies, and the community.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
I would describe the locals as sincere, friendly/ affectionate, and simple.