Name: Madison Peck
Hometown: Ephrata, Pennsylvania
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (beginner)
Occupation: Group Supervisor at YMCA
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for People with Disabilities in Merida, Mexico
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: July 2018
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I chose to volunteer with UBELONG because I really wanted to get to know the people of another country and see what life was like for them. As someone who has done a lot of traveling, I feel it’s important to get to know the culture and the people when you visit somewhere, and the Merida project is a perfect opportunity for that. I also know that UBELONG has a great reputation for in-country support and I found that to be true, everyone who I met was so helpful and helped to make my experience the best it could be. Another factor of choosing UBELONG was hearing my mom talk about her experiences with the organization in Vietnam. It was even more special to me because we got to have this experience together in Mexico!
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I spent four weeks on the Caring for People with Disabilities project in Merida. Everyday we would spend four hours at a group home with adults who were being taken care of by nuns, and we would play games, assist in school lessons, and help feed residents. I was so worried about the language barrier as I do not know fluent Spanish and they did not know English, but we figured it out and I really got to know the people who we worked with. All of their personalities shined through and it was so incredible to see just how happy these people are. Their smiles will forever be imprinted in my memory, I left a piece of my heart with them and hope to return back one day.
What is your favorite memory?
My favorite memory from my project happened over time and will always stick with me. At the center we worked at, there were people with varying types of disabilities, but there was one man in particular that had severe physical limitations and spent his life in a wheelchair. He was the sweetest man, but the thing that I found so incredible about him was the fact that we has bilingual! He spoke both Spanish and English, and so we were able to talk to him about his life and how we got to the home. He said he learned English from watching movies and TV and that just blew me away- it inspired me to improve my Spanish skills as well. It put it all into perspective to me that you cannot judge someones ability by their outward appearance and that is something that will forever stick with me.
In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your experience?
It was the most beautiful four weeks of vulnerability and new experiences that I think everyone should get to experience.