First, tell us a little about yourself and your trip.
Julie: My name is Julie Crothers and I am 23 years old. I traveled to Uganda, Africa during my senior year as a student at Franklin College. Our two-week trip through The Village Experience was in January 2011. Today, I work as an education reporter for a newspaper in central Indiana.
Why did you decide to volunteer with IVHQ in Ecuador?
Julie: I decided to volunteer with The Village Experience as part of a study abroad trip during January term through Franklin College. During the course, we talked a lot about the lives and struggles of the Ugandan people and the challenges associated with poverty that they face on a daily basis. We spent several weeks in the classroom studying the history and culture of Ugandans prior to leaving for our two-week trip.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Julie: During my time abroad, we worked with several organizations including Building Tomorrow, a company based out of Indianapolis with partners in Uganda. Alongside the company of a dozen or so Ugandans, we worked for three days to help build a new school for the children of a rather remote village. We also visited with groups such as Bead for Life, a fair-trade paper company and visited a school and home for orphan children who had lost their parents due to war, famine and disease. Although we were able to stay in a hotel throughout our trip and even went on a safari and trip down the Nile River, the things I will remember from my trip for many years to come are the volunteer opportunities and the people we met along the way.
What advice do you have for future volunteers?
Julie: The best advice I had for future volunteers is simply to set aside your fears and go. Before this trip, I'd barely left the state of Indiana, let alone traveled to another country. I was nervous and I must have packed, unpacked and repacked my suitcase a hundred times in the month leading up to my trip, but the opportunity was unlike anything I've ever experienced and it helped me grow as an individual while also giving me a much better understanding of the similarities and differences between my life and the lives of those around me. Never have I experienced such incredible joy than I did among the men and women I met in Uganda.
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
Julie: This trip did more than just help me expand personally and professionally — it stirred up a feeling down deep in my heart for humanity and helped me to realize that there's something out there that is bigger than my greatest worry and better than anything I can imagine. As a journalist, I spend a lot of time talking with people about their problems and interviewing families about loved ones lost, but nothing compares to the stories I heard from the men and women I met in Africa. They have a love greater than themselves and an all-consuming joy for life. They face many troubles, but with a positive outlook and hope for the future, they are able to overcome even the most challenging situations. There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not reminded of the strength and resilience of the Ugandan people.