Alumni Spotlight: Emily Obukowicz

Emily Obukowicz is an event planner from Seattle Washington. She enjoys exploring the world, telling inspiring stories, and empowering others to live their best life with an open heart. She volunteered with UBELONG in the summer of 2013.

What inspired you to volunteer abroad with UBELONG in Peru?

Emily atop Machu Picchu as the sun rises

Emily: I feel most alive and myself when I am exploring new places and giving my time to help others in some way. I have always wanted to volunteer abroad but kept putting it off for one reason or another until last Spring. In this past year, I kept getting little nudges from the Universe that I was meant to go to Peru. Every day I would get a little reminder that I should follow my intuition and go volunteer in Peru; someone would mention Peru in conversation, or I would come across an article that mentioned Peru, and the final catalyst was when I went to see an independent film called Girl Rising that focused on heartwarming stories of girls around the world and one of them was about girl in Peru. Somehow I stumbled across UBELONG and really respected their bottom up approach to volunteering, so I decided to just follow my heart and volunteer in Cusco, Peru.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Emily: I volunteered with children in need at an after-school program in Cusco, Peru. I was in a classroom with about twenty 4 year olds who were just as excited to greet me with hugs and smiles everyday as I was. We would sing songs, learn the days of the week, run around outside and draw pictures while learning how to share your crayons with your neighbor.

Tell me about one person you met.

A little girl playing outside

Emily: There was one boy in my classroom where I volunteered who always sat by himself and didn’t want to participate in any activities. This little boy captured my heart because I saw such a sweet tender shy boy who wanted to be involved, but just decided to observe from the outside looking in. Each day I found he would open up to me a little more as I would give him hugs and attention each day. He never smiled but I could tell he wanted to…as he was self-conscious of his teeth that were about to fall out from lack of nutrition. He started to flash his beautiful smile to his classmates as he began to feel more comfortable and would inch his little chair out of the corner of the room and closer to the other kids, this warmed my heart.

If you could go back and do something different, what would it be?

Emily: I would not change a thing, as everything led me to where I am today. I am now learning to trust my intuition and heart more and quiet the distractions that I create that prevent me from doing so. I am now learning to place the things that I value most in the forefront of my life, so I now choose to L.I.V.E. my best life.


Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

Emily along with fellow UBelong volunteers taking a weekend trip to Machu Picchu

Emily: My inner view has changed because of my viewing of the world. Volunteering abroad has helped me to open my heart to following my passion and help others to do the same.

Volunteering with Peruvian kids everyday made me realize that no matter where you go around the world or how much money you have, kids are really the same regardless of circumstances. They just want to play with friends, laugh about everything, give a lot of love, and explore new things. These kids reminded me to choose to live a more fulfilling life regardless of circumstances, as it’s really just a state of mind.

When you give more, you live more!