Alumni Spotlight: Brandi Ritchie

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Emerging Voices in Colombia?

Brandi: Two years ago I volunteered for six months in Africa. The program I volunteered with was found through IVHQ, who referred me to Emerging Voices. I trusted IVHQ because I had experience with them, and I knew they would only put me in contact with a reputable company. Emerging Voices has proved to be above and beyond what I had expected and wanted.

Volunteer in Colombia with Emerging Voices for the experience of a lifetime!

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Brandi: Each day breakfast is at 7:30am. The volunteer house is more of a family environment and we all eat our meals together. Everyone is out of the house, usually, by 8:30am. Currently, three days a week I work with homeless elderly women who are in a group home. We cook, clean, dance, sing, practice Spanish, and generally converse back and forth. Some of the ladies need help walking, eating, getting dressed etc. All of them have stories that I love to hear.

Twice a week, I teach blind children English. This is very difficult - I have learned braille to help with communication and lesson plans. However, in the blind children teaching placement, we have to be very creative! It's hard to explain anything with a language barrier, never mind not being able to use show actions. We use plenty of objects, music, repetition, and group learning.

In my spare time or on weekends, I either travel to other placements to hang out with the kids or do extra curricular activities or spend some time exploring the city and meeting people. Bogota is loaded with things to do and it is a beautiful city. We go hiking, biking, dancing, touring etc. The night life is far too much fun! Colombians know how to have a good time and there are always plenty of laughs to go around.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Brandi: I know that I need to return to school, however, the opportunities to develop myself while with Emerging Voices have helped me decide not only what I want to do with my future, but also, what I don't want. I have fallen in love with the work I am doing and the city of Bogota. I've decided to extend my stay, and have even been looking into different schools in the city. I want to change to be as strong as the people I am spending each day with and I feel so much appreciation to have a chance to learn new skills and gain experience everyday. All the volunteers that come through have something to teach me and all the projects open doors for me as well. Here in Bogota, the sky is the limit. I feel as though I can do anything. I've met so many people here. It feels as though Bogota is the center of an international network! I love it.