Thoughts and reflections of a first time volunteer.
My journey, like many others before me, started with a calling; in my case it was an urge to go out and experience the world. I wanted to help others, learn about different cultures, and in turn learn more about myself. My hope was to make a difference in the world, however small or insignificant, I just wanted to make an impact.
I came across Olancho Aid through an internet search. It was actually kind of amazing how everything clicked together so easily, I found what I was looking for right when I was looking for it. It felt like it was meant to be, so I applied without a second thought. Applying was easy, the hard part was convincing my family. I come from a very tightknit Hispanic family. Prior to this I’ve never gone anywhere on my own, if I traveled it was always with someone and that someone was always a family member. So it was only natural (and expected) that they’d worry. After what felt like weeks of the same questions “what made you want to do this?”, “why Honduras?”, “why go so far away?” they finally came to terms that this journey was happening and that I wouldn’t be talked out of it.
I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t scared or nervous about coming down to Honduras—I was. My nervousness wasn’t about safety concerns, it was more personal insecurities. Questions like “can I really do this on my own?” or “am I cut out for this?” kept running through my mind. Another insecurity I had was the language. I am proficient in Spanish but I don’t consider myself fluent, “will they make fun of my accent?”, “will I be judged for not speaking Spanish well enough?”, “would I be accepted?”. All these insecurities lingered and flooded my mind.
Soon after arriving in Juticalpa I realized I was pretty much worrying over nothing. Not only were people nice and friendly, they also accepted me and welcomed me with open arms. No one made fun of or commented on my accent, if anything they were impressed with how much I knew. Little by little all my insecurities started to melt away and were replaced with little seeds of confidence that have since bloomed over these last few months.
“Can I really make it on my own?”, I found that I could and can but with the amazing support system I had here I never really felt alone. “Am I cut out for this?” this experience definitely let me grow as an educator, I found myself easily connecting to the students in my classes. I also got the opportunity to see their personal improvement, and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing that triumphant smile after they got the right answer.
By volunteering in Honduras I had hoped to make an impact, but I did not expect Honduras to leave a bigger impact on me. Through Olancho Aid I have met wonderful, amazing, and caring people. I’ve made friends here that I’m sure will last a lifetime, not only with the volunteers but with the teachers as well. I’ve made memories here that I will cherish forever.