Julia Lynch lives in London and currently works as a Probation Officer but is training as an Actor. She enjoys travelling, meeting new people, fitness, music and living life to the full! Julia Lynch volunteered during 7th - 16th November.
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Let's Go Volunteer in Colombia?
I decided to volunteer abroad with Let's Go Volunteer in Colombia as I specifically wanted to work with women in need in that country. And I was encouraged to see that this was a program Let's Go Volunteer offered.
When I made contact with the organisation to obtain more information, I found the staff to be extremely friendly and welcoming. This really helped me to make the decision to sign up!
I also liked the fact that the organisation offers other volunteer programs with children and seemed to really understand what sort of support a volunteer would want in their country.
Colombia was a very attractive country for me to visit. I was also pleased to see that the Let's Go Volunteer program was based in Ibague, so I could explore the real Colombia away from any touristy destinations!
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
When I volunteered in the program, I spent most afternoons visiting the Women's Center. There I met with the inspirational women that were trying to turn their lives around by learning various activities and skills. I tried to undertake motivation work and listen to the women's stories and offer support and advice where appropriate.
I had the opportunity to undertake a home visit whilst on the project to see what one of the women's home life was like away from the project. This was a very humbling experience. In the mornings I took the opportunity to prepare for the afternoon sessions and assist with the preparation and serving of the children's lunches. I also visited a school in San Jose and helped with the children's learning.
Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?
I would like to think that I had some impact on the people I worked with. Recent government funding meant that a large number of children from poor backgrounds were getting good quality and nutritious lunches on a daily basis.
It was pleasing to see this and to be able to assist with providing the food to the children, who were so grateful and fun to be around.
Whilst working at the Women's Center I was very inspired to see that a lot of women had already taken huge efforts to turn their lives around. However, I also tried to encourage them to pursue their dreams further and believe in themselves and really hope that this encouragement will help them at difficult times, alongside their amazing determination, to succeed whatever life throws at them.
Was it difficult to navigate around language barriers?
Unfortunately my ability to speak Spanish is very poor to nonexistent! However, I received excellent support from the staff at the project who acted as translators at the various projects where I volunteered.
I even managed to pick up a few words and phrases but am now keen to learn Spanish in the future to prevent the need for interpreters!
Tell me about one person you met.
I made a lady at the project that I was very inspired by. Her name was Miriam and she had two young children. She was learning to make a new life for herself and her family and spent time selling food to make money to provide.
Miriam was so keen to learn, better herself and really put some distance between her new life and her difficult background. She was learning to read and write as well as various other skills and she had a really positive spirit that showed that her faith kept her strong and made sure that she whilst she might have been down in the past, she was most definitely not out! Just overwhelming!