Volunteer Spotlight: Karen

"I can’t wait to return. It is one beautiful country. Thank you Globalteer."

American Karen already had some international volunteering in Africa and South America under her belt when she decided to devote two months to volunteering with Globalteer’s Colombia Community Project in the beautiful city of Medellin earlier this year. Here she tells us why she chose Globalteer and explains why her return to South America was so unforgettable.

"Over the past 10 years I have been fortunate to do humanitarian work in Africa and South America.  Past travels to Brazil and to Bolivia with a dental organization left me in love with South America, and open to opportunities to serve there. Years of reading about the positive changes in Medellin - as well as the perfect springtime climate - made it my first choice when the time was once again right for travel. So, I chose my location first, and then began looking for the right volunteer opportunity.

"After some research, Globalteer emerged quickly as the best option for me. This was my first time to travel solo, without the support (or hassles) of a large group so staying safe was naturally of paramount importance. Plus, I only had basic Spanish skills. I chose well. Not only was I well prepared and oriented into my new environment, I did not feel in danger at any time during my eight week stay.

"Communication from Globalteer was good from sign up until after my return home. In Colombia I was hooked up with an outstanding Spanish teacher who could not have been better. Much time was given to orienting me into my new city and neighbourhood and my contact person was always just a quick phone call away if I had a question or needed anything. My confidence grew quickly and I even ventured to take a few side trips by both bus and plane during my stay."

The highlights of the trip

"Colombia is an absolutely beautiful country with very warm and kind people. Medellin is a surprisingly noisy city but I can truly say, looking back, that I loved everything about my adventure. The highlight of my trip however, was the time I spent volunteering with the children. They are very curious, open, and ready to learn and seemed to enjoy whatever I wanted to share with them.

"They are kids who come from challenging circumstances yet are very well cared for, educated, and being given a chance for a better life. What is also good is that volunteers have a certain amount of flexibility in determining their schedules and choice of lessons/activities, provided it fits in with the aims of the project.

"I was nervous at first because my Spanish was so limited, but the kids welcomed me warmly, and quickly put me at ease.  I agreed to help them with English if they would help me with Spanish. We made friendship bracelets the first two weeks and it was obvious these kids are very bright. They are well behaved and know their boundaries.

"They really enjoyed the slide show presentations I made for them from my previous travels, and were always full of interesting questions afterwards.  They especially enjoyed the final show of my adventure in their beautiful country, including lots of fun photos of them being clever!

"Another highlight of my time with the kids was a field trip we did by bus to a miniature city set up for children to try out and experience different occupations. They had great fun while learning so much and made memories that will last a lifetime. It made me very happy to see this worthwhile opportunity given to these children. I think any child anywhere would love and benefit from it too. Bravo to Globalteer for giving them this special day.

"A real discovery for me was how much I liked teaching English to the kids. I was able to arrange to come two afternoons a week just to help anyone wanting or needing tutoring with English. It was great to have flexibility to adjust my schedule around what I was best at."

This is not the end...

"My final lesson was on dental hygiene and the kids cooperated so beautifully and actually stood afterwards to applaud my efforts to teach the lesson in Spanish. They knew all along they were helping me at least as much as I was helping them. Saying goodbye was kind of tough and even a little emotional, but arriving to cheers, hugs, and big beautiful smiles each day made it so worthwhile.  I am already planning to return next year and hope to volunteer at the project in Peru as well.

"I would recommend this volunteer opportunity to others regardless of your background or even if you only have limited Spanish skills. It is an excellent opportunity to study Spanish and be of service at the same time. You can give your time by simply reading to the children or playing ball with them.

"Whatever you do, do not make the mistake of thinking you have to be fluent in Spanish or that Medellin is too dangerous. It is a beautiful, modern, clean, and very friendly city. I found that Colombians in general go out of their way to be of help to visitors in their country. People offered to help me out every single day that I was there, without my even needing to ask. I can’t wait to return.  It is one beautiful country.  Thank you Globalteer."