“A little girl grabbed my had, sat on my lap and started reading the story of “Tinkerbell” to me. Even though I spoke absolutely no Spanish she sat on my lap reading the entire story, complete with different voices for each character.” Meaghan, one of our Learning Service Ambassadors told us about her experience volunteering in Canto Grande, Peru. “Her enthusiasm and courage showed me that if you can’t communicate with someone due to language barriers, a smile can go a long way!”
Joining the ambassador team from Massachusetts, Meaghan has been volunteering in her local community since she was 12 years old. During an “Alternative Spring Break” trip to Peru Meaghan began to think critically about what it means to be a responsible volunteer.
“I realized it was important to be aware of the possibility you might not be helping as much as you think you are. It is important to know what you can actually do to help before you go on a volunteering trip. Also, make sure the organizations and trip organizers are legitimately helping communities in the ways they say they are.”
As a Learning Service Ambassador Meaghan hopes to help people learn the importance of conducting careful research before traveling or taking on a volunteer placement.
“There are organizations that can help you be a “voluntourist” ‘in a responsible way,” Meaghan said. “I also would like people to do research before they travel on volunteer trips, so they can learn more about the culture and people they will be working with.”
For all of you preparing for a trip abroad, Meaghan advises to go with an open mind.
“I realized I learned so much more from the people of Peru than they could possibly have learned from me.”