Alumni Spotlight: Erin Baird

Erin Baird is from Hamilton, Canada and is currently a grade 12 student at Westdale Secondary. She participated in a Me to We trip to Ecuador in July of 2012. She enjoys playing guitar, traveling, and photography.

View of Ecuador

Why did you decide to volunteer with Me to We in Ecuador?

Erin: I chose to volunteer abroad with Me to We primarily because of the wonderful things that I had heard about the organization from a variety of sources. I spoke to many people who work with Me to We, as well as others who had gone on a Me to We trip in the past. They all had great things to say about the trips. No matter who I asked, everyone agreed that these trips were the best available. They were able to immerse themselves in the culture, while also being able to help the local communities in a meaningful and sustainable way. Furthermore, Me to We's development model is very sustainable and helps the communities in a meaningful way. I thought it was important for the volunteer organization to have a relationship with the communities so that the work we were doing was significant and sustainable. Me to We ensures this in each and every project. Me to We gives a "hand up" rather than a "hand out".

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Erin: Generally, my group would head out to the build site by 9am, and work on different projects throughout the morning. We would be painting a classroom, pouring cement in a maternity ward, or laying bricks for a teacher's accommodation. The work was challenging but extremely rewarding. All the volunteers switch jobs throughout the day, so that we were able to contribute in a variety of ways. Depending on how far the worksite was from our living accommodations, we would either return for lunch or have a pack lunch. Both were always delicious. Depending on the day, our group would then head back to the build site for the afternoon, or participate in other activities. Sometimes we wold get the chance to tour the communities where we were working, play games with the kids, or look around the local market. Every day was different, and there were always new and interesting things going on. After dinner, our group would gather for discussions about the day's events, games, and educational activities.

What made this experience unique and special?

Erin: There were so many great things about this volunteer experience. By spending so much time with our groups, we really developed a meaningful connection with our fellow volunteers. There are many challenging aspects of these trips, both physically and emotionally, and it was great having other people who experienced the same things. We were able to listen and support each other, which only strengthened our relationships.

Another great aspect was that we got to have a significant impact on the communities we were working in. Me to We partners with the communities and finds out what they truly need. Their development model is sustainable, and so all of the volunteers knew that the contribution they were making would last and have a true impact.

Lastly, we got to experience a variety of activities. We got to build, play with local children, learn about the culture, try new foods, go on hikes in the Amazon rainforest, and so much more. This was more than just a volunteer trip. We got to learn, experience new things, and volunteer.

Group of volunteers in Ecuador

How has this experience impacted your future?

Erin: This trip has truly had a huge impact on my life. Throughout this trip, all of the volunteers learn so much about what global development truly means. Through Me to We's development model, we got to learn what sustainable development means, and the importance of having a partnership with the local community. This trip shaped the way I look at international organizations and their work in developing countries. This is the field of work I hope to pursue, and Me to We has helped to develop my ideas on what will truly work when it comes to development.

Furthermore, because we got to spend so much time in the local communities, we got to learn about a new culture and way of living. We got to learn a new language and this allowed us to interact with the community in a meaningful way. As a result, we were able to learn so much from the people we were working with. This has given all of the volunteers I worked with a new perspective on the world. The people we met showed us the true meaning of happiness how to appreciate what we are given. We all returned home with new perspectives on our world.

We also got to learn so much about the world around us through the educational activities we participated in. Our group discussed a variety of topics, and by discussing these important issues together, we got to hear different opinions and points of view. Our leadership and group skills really improved during out time abroad.