Volunteering in Colombia

by Patricija Saric

How to make the greatest impact on your life? By changing it completely! This is how volunteering in Colombia impacted me. It left a footprint in my life that will last forever. If you are curious to learn more about this wonderful experience dive into my story and find out how challenging, rewarding and powerful volunteering can be. Moreover, how it helped me realize the real importance of life…

AN URGE OF BECOMING VOLUNTEER

More you travel, more you want to experience cultural differences, step outside of your comfort zone and do something that scares you. When I started to think about volunteering, I felt this thrill of doing something completely new and unexplored.

My thoughts of volunteering became even stronger when I met, two amazing guys, today good friends of mine, who volunteered in an immigration camp. I was greatly impacted by listening to their stories about volunteering. The main reason why I wanted to volunteer so much, apart from being impacted by other people’s experience, was because I had an urge to grow personally by dedicating myself to others.

I wanted to experience the stories, my friends were telling me about. I wanted to feel how volunteering can be something so rewarding but at the same time mentally so challenging. Curious to experience that powerful effect of volunteering, I wasn’t even aware I was about to receive much more from it than I have ever imagined!

GOING ALONE TO SOUTH AMERICA

I finally decided to put aside my busy work schedule and to make my dream combination come true: travelling and volunteering in South America, a destination I am so passionate about and that has been on my bucket list already for years.

My initial plan to do volunteering in Colombia for three months resulted in staying for almost eight months in this beautiful part of the world! After volunteering in some of the hostels and NGOs for 2 months in Peru, and getting familiar with many cultural differences, I was confident that, in Colombia, my next destination, would be much easier. Well, I was wrong.

VOLUNTEERING IN COLOMBIA - CULTURE SHOCK

At first, I was struggling with the culture shock after seeing some unpleasant scenes on the streets of Medellin, wherein some areas the presence of drugs and crime was quite strong. However, I knew that this country has so much more to offer and that I came here for a reason.

I wanted to find a school or an NGO where I could work with children or teach English. The owner of the hostel where I was volunteering at the beginning helped me to reach one local organization, where he used to work. This is how I started volunteering in Colombia. My job was to teach English in Sueños y Huellas Del Mañana, an organization that is anything but ordinary.

Sueños y Huellas Del Mañana

People working in Sueños y Huellas Del Mañana, organization are a rarity in today’s world. It is incredible how much hard work they are putting in, to provide vulnerable children and communities with a safe and protective environment. They are providing food for children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, educating and assisting parents and teenagers with different kind of problems (e.g., violent behaviour, alcohol or drug addiction). These are just a few of many extraordinary acts the organization does.

By bringing companies, philanthropists and other donors together, the organization’s main goal is to expand its program and carry forward the projects so they could help people in need. Without the hard work of Sueños y Huellas Del Mañana, organisation, life for many children would be dramatically worse.  

EMOTIONALLY HARD BUT WORTH IT!

In a third world countries like Colombia in South America, children are often victims of abuse and mistreat. They are particularly vulnerable to influences from their residential surroundings, many times exposed to crime, violence and drugs. Seeing the children in the neighborhood full of drug addicts and homeless people was particularly hard for me.

By teaching children as a volunteer and spending most of my time with them, I was exposed to all difficult circumstances that was present in their life. I knew their problematic background and sometimes just looking in their eyes I could see sadness and pain. This affected me so much and made me emotionally so weak I wasn’t even sure I could cope with my own emotions.

At the same time, I felt so happy and fulfilled while spending time with those incredibly intelligent children knowing how much they were looking forward to seeing me and to have their English classes. Playing, studying and just being with them every day made me as happy as it made them. I came there to help them, but those little radiant souls helped me instead, above all to realize the real importance of the life.

In the next article, I will tell you why it is worth becoming a volunteer, how to do it and why! I will also give you information on organizations and links that will be useful in planning your Volunteering in Colombia adventure! Look out for the next article.

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