Why did you pick this program?
I chose to volunteer in Romania with Global Volunteers as the program ticked all my boxes - in Europe (far from Australia!), working with children, and Global Volunteers' values aligned with my own. Global Volunteers show respect for the local staff and aim to empower the community, rather than doing a job for the local community.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Just do it! It is so rewarding. I also felt that when I donate to a cause, I want to know where my money goes. If I went myself then I would know for sure the money is going to the children in need and to their care.
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
Going home again! Leaving 'my' kids, knowing I'm missing out on their next little victories in life. I've done this program 3 times now, and like other volunteers we feel like they are 'our' precious kids.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
Just like a proud parent, there are so many stories to tell of the children! From a child learning to use specialised equipment to another 'strutting her stuff' when playing dress-ups, we always have so many laughs.
The most amazing story was on my second visit. I walked into the room after visiting over two years prior, and a child suddenly repeated a game I had taught her. It was such a little game (pretending my finger was a buzzy bee!), but that she remembered it after two years was astounding and humbling. It really is the little things.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Going to Romania, I was privileged to share in their culture (especially over Christmas and New Year). I also realised that disability is often hidden in western society, and spending time with differently-abled kids made me really understand that they are normal, beautiful little people just like any other child. It broke down barriers which I didn't even realise I had. Friends imagine that this would be a tough journey, but for me it was an honour - as well as a whole lot of fun!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Do it! You'll get tired and even exhausted, you'll love the children, you'll feel protective of them, you'll get attached, you'll be loved by the children, you'll be stretched, you will change their world and your world will be changed.