Alumni Spotlight: Molli McGrath

Molli McGrath is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is currently a junior in high school. She volunteered with Global Leadership Adventures in the Dominican Republic from July 31 to August 9, 2012. She loves music, traveling, laughing, and making a difference in the world!

Why did you decide to volunteer with GLA in the Dominican Republic?

Dominican boys and volunteer

Molli: Last year, I decided that I wanted to not only travel, but also help people in need. I have a big heart and a open mind and wanted to help make a difference in the world. I told my mom that I wanted to volunteer abroad and she thought that it was a amazing idea. I grew up and live in a urban area where people don't seem to care about other countries or lifestyles. I have always wanted to become globally aware and to leave a impact on the world.

The only problem is that I knew nothing about volunteering abroad or what programs were out there for it. So I began doing research and with the help of my mother, we came across Global Leadership Adventures. I instantly fell in love with the program and all the opportunities it had for teenagers just like me. I loved how GLA really allowed us to reach out of our comfort zone and become globally aware without the feeling in danger on the trip.

I picked the Dominican Republic because that's a place I've always wanted to visit. Since it was my first time volunteering abroad, I chose the 10 day program because I thought that gave me enough time to see if I enjoyed doing it. Not only was I going to just see the beautiful beaches, I was going to be able to experience the beautiful culture.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Dominican schoolboy

Molli: On my trip which was the Beachside Service Adventure, we focused on sustainability and how important it was in our environment. We stayed in a village by the city Puerto Plata. Our day to day schedule was balanced between service work and fun excursions. It was our job to help build a bottle school at a local village for the children. A bottle school is what it sounds like, a school built out of plastic bottles found on the streets. That took up the majority of our time.

Every morning, I woke up at 6-6:30 am and started my day. Breakfast was usually around 7 and our day as a group started at 8. Breakfast was usually fresh fruit, eggs, or french toast depending on the day. After we all ate breakfast, we packed our bags and got on our bus and went along with our day. I always made sure to bring two water bottles because being out in the heat all day, you need to feel refreshed!

On our work days, it either consisted of working at the bottle school, going to the orphanage, and visiting a Haitian refugee camp. On the days we went to work on the bottle school, we split up in groups to work on different tasks. Some people dug holes, mixed cement, and helped put the cement on the walls. I mostly worked cementing walls and mixing the cement. I learned a technique of splattering the cement on the walls and getting it to stick. It took some time. Sometimes things got a little messy and cemented ended up in my hair! We worked for about 6 hours with a well deserving lunch break. The first day of working in the sun was exhausting but it was worthwhile.

Dominican Republic Volunteers

We visited a orphanage that was also a school. The first day we went there we gave supplies to the children. I gave them coloring books, crayons, and markers. I sat and drew with the kids and played soccer and jump rope with them for about an hour. Then I helped build a pen for this pig that was expecting to have babies on the farm. Some other volunteers built a pathway for the kids to walk to the school. The other service activity we did was visit the refugee camp and help in their garden. Every day after we got back, we had down time and could swim in the ocean or pool, and just enjoy each other's company. There were a lot of stray dogs around our home base. They were very friendly and loved to play with you on the beach!

Being a volunteer, hard work pays off with all the fun activities we had the chance to do. One day we took a hike up Mt. Brison that took nearly 3 hours! It was such a beautiful site and we really got a chance to see what it was like to live like the villagers. At the end of the hike, we had an amazing meal cooked from a wonderful lady living on the mountain. The food we ate on the trip was always rice, beans, and chicken! It was absolutely delicious. I also got the chance to go to the beautiful waterfalls known as 27 Charcos! I also got to go to Sosua which is a huge vacation place. I walked around and had the chance to get some amazing souvenirs and go snorkeling with my friends that I made.

What made this experience unique and special?

Dominican Republic sunset

Molli: Volunteering with GLA was very special to me because it was my first time doing a lot of things. It was my first time volunteering abroad. It gave me the chance to become more independent and expand my horizons. It was my first time to experience what life was like in a developed country. It was also very unique for me because without that trip, I would've never been able to say that I jumped off a 30ft waterfall! What an amazing memory! I learned so much about the Dominican Republic and I just fell in love with the country and all it has to offer.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Molli: This opportunity opened my eyes to see all the possibilities that I have in this world. I know I can make a difference and I want to continue doing this for the rest of my life. Knowing that I helped those children and families really touched my heart and I think about them everyday. In the future, I would like to go back and see how the bottle school is doing and visit the village. I want a career that has to deal with helping undeveloped communities all around the world. Doing that allows me to do the two things I love most which are traveling and helping people!