Alumni Spotlight: Erika Di Maulo


Erika is a woman with a love for Jesus and a heart to serve and love others. She is someone who enjoys travel and serving in any capacity she is able.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because serving at an orphanage was always something I have always wanted to do. I wanted to move abroad for 1 year so that I would be able to be a part of the culture and community, not just passing through as if I was on vacation. Africa was also a dream of mine to visit, so why not do both? Accompanying the dream of travel with the dream of servitude was something that I could not escape, it was totally my calling at that point in my life.

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

This was something I did recently after graduating and therefore my university did not assist me. I navigated everything on my own from finding the agency I wanted to work with off of Google, to applying for a visa and moving my life across the world to South Africa. As much as my program did not give me the actual tools to relocate, my program did teach me the thought process to learn to be "comfortable with being uncomfortable" and for that, I am so very grateful.

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

I think a piece of advice I would give someone who was traveling abroad would be not to travel somewhere with the mindset it will be "like home". Embrace the culture and the differences without holding it to the standards you're used to, it's so much more enjoyable that way! I think a huge barrier for most people I encountered volunteering at TLC was that they were constantly saying statements like "This food doesn't taste like the food I'm used to" or "The temperature at home gets so much cooler in the night, it's too hot here". Traveling is a new chance to learn and live and enjoy different things!

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

An average week at TLC consists of caring for babies and toddlers with activities such as playing, feeding, changing nappies, cleaning, reading, bathing, snuggling, laundry, and dishes as well as some overnight shifts every other month. A typical shift starts at 6am and ends once the group you are caring for falls asleep. Depending on the volunteer number at the time, volunteers get one day off a week which leaves some valuable time for exploring and replenishing all that energy you've been using on some of the most beautiful souls you will ever meet!

My biggest fear would have to be feeling lonely or not "fitting in". Going abroad means leaving all the people you know and love behind you, however chatting with new people you meet, going out and experiencing different activities with others and be willing to be vulnerable, voicing needs, worries and thoughts are recipes for friendship. I left TLC with more friends who actually now have become more like family to me (even 2 years later). When I look at the ideas I held on loneliness now, I see it as a choice. The choice lies with whether you choose to live in your head and your thoughts, or whether you choose to open your heart or not.

How has this experience changed you?

I think this experience has taught me how to love unconditionally and have compassion and empathy with situations I don't always have lived experience with. Going to South Africa allowed me to see different cultures, people, belief systems and a way of living life simply yet profoundly. It taught me to not take the little things for granted such as wifi, safe transportation or walking alone down the street at night. TLC has given me a new outlook on life which is; to be grateful, to love deeply and not be afraid to hold back.