During my time with the Marina Orth Foundation I participated in a wide variety of projects: I taught elementary English classes in two Antioquian public schools, co-planned and taught a course for Medellin public school teachers/administrators, led after school English clubs, participated in curriculum design, translations and the creation of bilingual publications and multimedia presentations.
Despite being a volunteer, I was granted significant responsibility and given the opportunity to propose and develop my own projects. This is an excellent opportunity for people who who want to take initiative and make the most of their experience personally, as well as significantly contributing to the foundation's goals. I saw my volunteer work benefit the communities in which I worked, which resulted in the greatest personal returns I could have hoped for.
I lived with a host family, which gave me insight into the culture (and especially the food culture) that I never would have had living on my own. I truly felt welcomed into the community: I couldn't walk down the street without a student calling "Hola profe!" or stealing a hug. Casual conversations yielded cultural, historical and political insights on a daily basis. The opportunities for learning were endless.
It was definitely challenging, as well. A decent command of Spanish is essential for success, and even so, communication difficulties arose. The bureaucracy and politics of certain projects (whether external or internal to the foundation) could be confusing and frustrating, and expectations were not always clearly communicated. However, I think that the challenges contributed significantly to my personal growth and improved adaptability. The foundation has also implemented additional support services for its volunteers in order to help address some of these difficulties.
This experience changed my life. The opportunity to work with this foundation allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and experience life in an entirely new way on so many levels. I highly recommend it!