What role do you play in a volunteer's experience with Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS)?
Amanda: I’m a Program Advisor here at Cross-Cultural Solutions and, as is the case with all of our Program Advisors, I am a former CCS volunteer myself. On a day to day basis, I talk to individuals who call in, e-mail us, or chat with us on our website in regards to their interest in volunteering abroad. I answer any general questions they have about our programs and organization, provide them with details on each of our destinations, help them find the program that best suits their skills and interests, and walk them through the enrollment process. I also get to talk a lot about my experiences as a volunteer, to help prospective volunteers gain a clearer picture as to what the program is like!
Can you tell us about your experience volunteering with CCS in Guatemala?
Amanda: I volunteered in Guatemala this past November and I had an incredible time! I participated in a one-week program, during which I worked at a home for kids with different types of disabilities, all of whom who had been abandoned or neglected. I spent my days playing games and sports with them, leading arts and craft activities, doing puzzles, and helping with their physical therapy through exercises and stretches. The kids that I worked with were amazing, and I really value the time I spent with them. Outside of my volunteer assignment, I took part in fascinating cultural activities, all organized by CCS. I toured Guatemala City, visited a small Mayan town to learn about Mayan tradition and culture, spent an afternoon in an art museum, and even hiked a volcano! What I love most about the CCS program, is the balance of volunteer work and cultural immersion activities.
Who was the most memorable local you met when you were a volunteer in Guatemala?
Amanda: The most memorable community member I made a connection with while volunteering in Guatemala was Miguel, the CCS security guard at our Home-Base. A really wonderful aspect of the CCS program is the In-Country Staff, a team of community members and local professionals, who work full-time at the Home-Base to facilitate the program and support our volunteers. Miguel stayed up late every night with all of the volunteers, practicing his English while we practiced our Spanish. We would all sit around the dining room table, sipping hot chocolate, and having conversations that lasted for hours about our families, jobs, and hobbies, with our Spanish dictionaries in our hands. Even though we couldn’t speak the same language, Miguel always found a way to make us laugh, and his friendship was the most treasured souvenir of my trip.
Where do you want to volunteer next?
Amanda: I am actually already enrolled in our Peru program this upcoming November and I’m so excited to start! One of my colleagues recently participated in the program and had amazing things to say about her experience. I am most looking forward to the volunteer work I’ll be doing there, as we work with an amazing community within the capital city of Lima called Villa el Salvador, an official district of city that was actually nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize back in 1986 for its work on grassroots community development. I’ve heard that the work we’re doing there is really inspirational. I’m also planning to visit Machu Picchu at the end of my trip, which I’m hoping will be an adventure of a lifetime!