Alumni Spotlight: Mariam Magsi

Mariam Magsi, 26, volunteered in Mexico with IVHQ from March 18th to April 3rd, 2012. Mariam was born in Karachi, Pakistan and currently works as a freelance artist, photographer and writer in Toronto, Canada. She is also working on a novel and is a regular contributor at Herald, The Daily News, Plaid Magazine and Dawn International.

Why did you decide to volunteer with IVHQ in Mexico?

Mariam: I decided to volunteer abroad with IVHQ because the fees were the most affordable out of all the companies out there. I didn't have to pay an arm and leg to go help people in another country and that felt good. I have seen other short programs costing more than my monthly rent and it is no hidden fact that people who do go volunteer in other countries, don't live ostentatious lives to begin with so it was nice to find an organization committed to helping rather than profiteering.

Volunteer in Mexico with IVHQ

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Mariam: I made my way to Telesecundaria, the public school I was teaching at through the hustle bustle of Cuernavaca and got there at around 9 AM every morning. Up until recess I taught children conversational English covering a variety of topics: Introductions, Countries, Continents, Colours, Numbers, Geography, History, Cultural assimilation, Exposure. I also indulged them in a variety of educational games such as Charades, Hangman and fill in the blank words including but not limited to past/present, progressive, verbs, adjectives and nouns. After recess we resumed lessons but the classes changed hourly. By 2 PM I left the school and returned to the hostel I was staying at.

What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

Mariam: The family I lived with was beyond accommodating and generous. They drove me halfway to the school every day, so that made it easier to find a cab and get to the location. The food I was fed was wholesome and nutritious. I slept in a good bed and lived in an authentic, Mexican way learning Spanish, gaining exposure to new, socially responsible ways of living and over all it was an enriching and fulfilling experience.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Mariam: The experience has impacted me in the sense that I am more careful of how I use water, not wasting it. I have changed around my dietary needs, eating only to exist, rather than indulging in unnecessary food or eating out which leads to immense expenditure and wastage. I am more aware of myself and others, putting people's needs forward and looking forward to giving back to many more communities, starting with my own in Pakistan in the month of May. I am planning on contacting IVHQ and starting a program similar to the one in Cuernavaca, but in my hometown Karachi. I have volunteered for shelters and centres several times in Karachi and needless to say due to the high levels of poverty and displacement, IVHQ would be heaven sent there.