Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Voll

Sarah Voll is from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is 25 years old, attended Wilfrid Laurier University and is currently completing graduate studies at University of Ottawa. She loves to bake and adores animals.

What led you to volunteer abroad with IVHQ in Mexico?

Sarah and her boyfriend on top of a pyramid in the holy city of Izamel.

Sarah: Before this trip, I had never been outside of Canada (my home country) and the U.S. I wanted to travel to a different country for the cultural experience and I wanted to offer my help to people who needed it as well. IVHQ seemed like it had an excellent reputation as an international volunteer agency and the website was really easy to navigate. I was attracted to the Mexico program because of the Special Needs program and the opportunity to reach out to people who need extra attention and support. I knew this program would be challenging, but I was excited to learn how I could help.

Describe one person you met.

Sarah: I met an amazing resident at Pastoral del Amor. She greeted us at the door on our first day and immediately introduced herself and extended her arms for a hug. She loved dancing with us and the other residents, and often sported a series of decorative bracelets on her wrist. This individual was extremely inspiring to watch in terms of her interaction with other residents. One day during the 11am snack time, I was asked to feed a resident his papaya and water since he could not feed himself. I was struggling to feed him because he would not open his mouth for me. She saw me, came right over and gently extended her hands to help. I gratefully accepted and watched as she fed the boy with ease. After he was finished the papaya, she gently tilted his head back and helped him drink his water. After this, the boy gave her a kiss to say thank you. She clapped her hands and was off to dance. It was so amazing to watch a family like this in action. They need help themselves but they also help each other.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

Sarah with some of the residents from Pastoral del Amor

Sarah: My favourite part of the experience was getting to meet so many different people. We stayed in a volunteer house attached to the home that Miguel (the program director) and his family shared. Volunteers of different ages and from different parts of the world stayed with us as well. In addition to us, there were two Canadian women from Vancouver, two Americans: one young man from Denver and one from Arizona, one Australian, a New Zealand doctor couple and a young lady from India. Everyone had different backgrounds and interests and different experiences to share. Everyone was also staying in Mexico for various amounts of time. One person had been there for two months and someone else had arrived shortly before we had. It was fun to go out with the other volunteers after our morning placements to tour and enjoy Merida.

 The sinkholes in Chichen Itza, it was 35m deep and beautiful. We swam in this.

What did you find most challenging?

Sarah: It was hard to communicate at first since all the residents and caretakers at Pastoral del Amor spoke Spanish and I didn't. However, I realized that you can communicate with all of your senses. I watched interactions between people and looked for forms of non-verbal communication to help me.

How has your world view changed since the trip?

Sarah: Since returning from Mexico, I feel inspired. The way of life in Mexico is so laid back and simple, and I find myself thinking twice about what I get stressed out about on a daily basis. I also do not feel so attached to my air conditioning which is awesome. The volunteer experience was also incredibly rewarding. I plan to return to Merida one day, but in the meantime I want to apply what I have learned to help out in my home community.