Want to know what it might be like to volunteer abroad?
Omprakash volunteers have been posting stories, photos and even videos from their time abroad since 2007. We now have an extensive collection of personal stories from volunteers who've worked with our partners abroad. You can browse through the most recent stories below or use the category selection tool to narrow your search. Alternatively click on the Stories tab for each organization we work with to see specific accounts from a particular organization. Be careful - you might lose a couple hours of your day in here! Happy reading.
Site Assessments: meeting the family and communityprint story
September 04, 2010
At the end of May 2010 I began volunteering with PSF. I was planning on only staying for four to five days…I stayed for six weeks. The experience was life changing. And if you were to ask any volunteer for one piece of advice before beginning, they’ll say, “Plan on staying longer.” After about a month of traveling around Brazil, I once again find myself in good ol’ Pisco. This place is simply magical. Even though the number of volunteers is about half from when I left dropping from 110 to 40, everyone that is here now has just as much energy and passion to help out and give it their all.
I’ve been back at PSF for about a week now, and am enjoying feeling this sense of happiness and productivity once again. Being back with old friends and meeting loads of new people is one of the best things about this place. Since I’ve been back I’ve jumped on quite a few projects led by my friends, taking down modular schools to move them to another location, and pouring concrete floors. One other task that I have partaken in whilst being back has been site assessing.
Here at PSF we have loads of projects on a wait list. Each project has a site assessment form. The actual site assessment is done in two parts: an initial assessment and a technical assessment. The first step allows us to get to know the family and their story. (How the earthquake affected them, how many people live in the home, income situation, if they have any materials for construction, and if they have a labor engineer hired to be out on site everyday to lead the volunteers.) The second part is where we send out a few volunteers onto the worksite who are already experienced with construction who know all the right questions to ask to make sure that everything is in order to get the project started before we send out any volunteers to begin the work. Questions such as, Will we have access to water? Access to electricity? Where are the marked property limits to begin digging trenches? Etc.
When I was at PSF before I did quite a few site assessments. I love going out and meeting the families and interacting the people that we’re going to help. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of energy that is created seconds after you tell someone that you’re going to rebuild their house…rebuild their lives. It’s absolutely magical. Then it’s only a matter of time before those projects are up on the project board day after day until the project is though. When our director TBC goes over the projects in the morning and enthusiastically says that “___ is a really nice family that we’re going to help,” I know how sincerely good they are because I’ve already met them, and other volunteers will never understand that feeling until they get the chance to meet them their selves.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to do some site assessing. It was great to go out into a very poverty-stricken community in a nearby town and share their enthusiasm to get this project going. The project is going to be called Percy’s House. Percy is a young teenager with a serious blood disease that has lost a leg due to his misfortune. He has been living in rough housing conditions long before the earthquake. He shares a home with his mother and younger sister. They sleep in beds with torn mattresses with no sheets or blankets. A tarp filled with holes covers the little space that they have, letting in the cold and rain. He lives in a home with no kitchen or bathroom.
It’s difficult to visit places like these and see people living in very inhumane conditions. But at the same time I believe it’s very important to see things such as this because it makes us realize how lucky we are, and how we don’t live in such a perfect world. Percy and his family were not there when we went out for the assessment due to a health emergency where he had to be taken to Lima to be treated. But loads of people from his community along with the municipality came out to greet us and thank us. Everyone there was sooo kind to us. They were so sincere in everything that they said. And you could see it in their eyes that they were happy for our help.
I’m excited to see Percy’s House up on the project board next week. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to jump on the project myself and see it from start to finish. I also look forward to getting the chance to meet the family myself sometime in the near future and watch how their new home will help them on their way to a new healthier life.