I'm Lacey! I just recently turned 21 and I live in Vancouver, WA, USA. I am currently attending a community college and going for my bachelors in nursing. This was my 4th trip volunteering abroad and my 6th visit to a third world country. I absolutely love traveling and all of the exciting opportunities it provides me with! :-)
Why did you pick this program?
I picked this program because I have volunteered with Ubelong before and loved the outcome of my trip. In 2012 I signed up for the program caring for children in Cambodia for one month through Ubelong. I was 18, and it was my first trip traveling alone. Ubelong could not have set me up for success more then they did.
I felt completely safe, my expectations were all met, I was prepared for what was needed and wanted from me, I had my own personal explore time and I grew so much in that short month I was away. Ubelong really makes volunteering abroad both personally and financially easy!
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
I believe the hardest part about going abroad is the unknown. You really have no idea what you are getting into until your in the country, miles away from home, in a place you don't know a lot about. That can be frightening and a bit intimidating to some people.
The language barrier and respecting the culture is also a more difficult part for me but only because I want to make sure I learn about the country and respect their culture. Over time, ( with trips or just being in the country in general) all these difficulties will eventually fade away. Just give it time :)
What made this experience unique and special?
This experience ended up being the hardest yet the most impactful volunteering trip I've ever been on. Like I said previously, this was my 4th volunteer trip. I've volunteered in third world countries a few times before this yet this trip I have never felt so connected and helpful as I did on this trip.
I got to literally see the positive impact happen in front of my eyes, I was apart of a strong bond with such a great group of 12 girls. My last day volunteering the girls brought out a huge thank you card and started to read me what they wrote. I instantly broke out into tears, as each girl started too as well.
It ended up being a big hug, farewell and sobbing party but I have never once cried upon leaving a group of kids until this trip. It was a great way to show the relationship we created amongst ourselves.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
I was volunteering in New Delhi, India. The population of that state is around 22 million people! One weekend some of the volunteers and I decided to travel to Varanasi, which is around 12-15 hours away. The best way of traveling to different cities is by train. On the way back we literally had to just hop on the train back to New Delhi.
We were on the waiting list but never got a confirmation of our seats, yet had to be back by Monday to volunteer. So Six of us volunteers, literally crammed in a TINY hallway between the bathrooms and the carts.
There was dirt covering the walls, people walking over us, wind blowing in our faces, and I think my whole left side fell asleep since this was a 14 hour ride.. but it was so funny to look back at this experience!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
One piece of advice id give someone going on this program is to try everything once. The food, the culture, the work, the whole environment is SO different from back home yet so worth while to become involved and educated on the country and work your doing here.
I have never once said, "I wish I didn't do this, or I wish I never tried that." Everything you experience here teaches you something, no time or decision is ever wasted. Go by the motto - Try everything once, say yes more then saying no. :)