Alumni Spotlight: Michael Wilder

Michael is a humna services professional and currently resides in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. His professional experience has allowed him t serve children, youth and adults living with chronic mental health and/or intellectual developmental disabilittes in community based servces across the eastern seaboard of the United States. Michael has traveleed and hiked 26 countries and completed projects in Costa Rica, Jordan, Nepal and India.

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Why did you choose this program?

There were two reasons I decided on the ISPIICE program. The first is my love for the Indian Culture and the Indian People. I had traveled to India previously and wanted to give back to a community in need of critical services.

The second reason was that ISPIICE has many project areas to choose from and two that I felt would compliment my professional skills were that of working with homeless/street youth and early childhood education in the local daycare settings in the villages.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The ISPIICE Director arranged initial contact in Delhi with an ISPIICE Team member who then coordinated bus transportation and escorted me to the ISPIICE Team Camp/House. This was a 9 hour bus ride to a village near Dharamsala.

The provider arranged for all meals daily as well as transportation to the project sites. The entire ISPIICE Team was also beneficial in assisting me with transportation and information about local places I wanted to visit in my free time.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

FLEXIBILITY! Regardless of which program you choose our which project you may choose, the reality is that the needs of the community and or provider may change before you arrive, or on a daily basis after you arrive. Being flexible may allow you really tap into your hidden resources.

One of my examples from my ISPIICE experience was not only the opportunity to work with the homeless/street youth, but I was asked one day if I could teach a IT class to them. I am by no means an IT wizard but I figured it out and helped further an IT class that today has youth emailing and Facebooking volunteers who have visited. Being flexible allows you to grow more when working on these critical projects.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The ISPIICE team has a well coordinated system between all their projects. A typical week is working in the various projects Monday through Friday and the weekends were free for each team member. Each day usually began about 7am with many team members organizing lesson and action planning for the morning projects.

The morning projects were approximately three hours in length, then a break for lunch back at the team house and then back to planning for the afternoon projects that ranged from two to three hours as well.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I have done four projects across four countries so I am at ease with the experience. On my first project my fear was always about getting lost and there being a language barrier.

What I have found in all my travels is that I know enjoy getting lost, as you will find a new adventure.

There is always someone who will assist, point, or even walk you in the direction you need to go towards to get back on your path to your eventual destination. When I get lost, I explore first then find my way!