Pre-departure, Projects Abroad staff were extremely helpful in getting me ready for my trip. I was given a Projects Abroad website where helpful information was posted such as obtaining a Visa, getting a criminal background check, a packing list, host family information, and my project placement. I exchanged multiple emails with staff to help me get set for my trip; it was nice not having to figure out what to do on my own in order to be prepared. Unfortunately, there was not much information about my assignment. I knew I would be working in an orphanage for children with disabilities, but I didn't know much else such as how I would get to and from the orphanage, or where it was located, or how long I would be there everyday. However, once I got to Cochabamba, a staff member from Projects Abroad sat down with me and went over all the details of my assignment. He told me that I could work in the mornings or afternoons, or both, based on my comfort level. The minimum requirement for Projects Abroad is to work 4 hours at your placement, so it was nice that they were not forcing me to work all day long!
Being at the orphanage was an interesting experience. It was my first time doing anything like it so I did not know what to expect. I adjusted very quickly, and the children even started calling me "Tia," which let me know that they had already warmed up to me. I also felt very welcome in the orphanage by the staff. I would assist them in coloring activities and getting children ready for lunchtime. Some days it would rain, and we would be constricted to a small room with over 25 children, which was not too ideal. Most days it was sunny and we were out in the main open area of the orphanage, where it was much more enjoyable. I spent a lot of time simply playing with the children and keeping them company! Some days were slow and some days were fast, but the bottom line is that it was such a great experience and I honestly would not have wanted to spend my winter break from college any differently. I strongly recommend this sort of volunteer work for anyone, even if it is your first time. It was my first time, but definitely not my last!