Alumni Spotlight: Nellie Graham

Nellie Graham, age 18, volunteered in Paraguari, Paraguay from June to August, 2011 and is from Petaluma, California.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Amigos de las Americas in Paraguay?

Nellie: I decided to volunteer with Amigos de las Americas because I wanted to go somewhere over the summer, and have a really big adventure. My mom also had volunteered for Amigos, in Honduras, so I knew I would have a really meaningful experience. It was just chance that I got Paraguay, but I was so excited to go to a country so far away and so unknown to me!

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Nellie: My day to day activities as a volunteer started with breakfast at a community members house (I ate at a new house everyday, it was a great way to meet everyone!) then after that I had an hour camp planned with the elementary school kids, we mostly played games with environmental themes, we also did trash cleanups around the community, and nature walks. Then I had about a two hour break to eat lunch, do some laundry, or just wander around the community and hang out with people.

After that I went back to the school to do the camp again for an hour with a different set of kids. We usually walked home with all the kids after this, or stayed at the field to watch the community soccer game every night. Then it was time for dinner, and family time! At night we usually played cards, watched some Spanish game shows with the family, or drank mate!

Volunteering in Paraguay

What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

Nellie: This volunteer abroad experience was unique because I had so much independence, but also because the cultural immersion was so authentic. I got to be away from my country, friends and family for 8 weeks in such a different but safe setting, and I can't imagine there being another opportunity like that for teenagers. I loved being on my own and getting to know such a different culture. It was such a big life experience, I got to know myself and the world, and had a really fun time doing it.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Nellie: This experience made me fall in love with Latin America, and sparked an interest in me to travel the world and experience as many cultures as I can. I plan to study Spanish a lot more seriously in college, and become fluent in it. I hope to return to Latin America and work in conservation of the environment, or something along those lines!