Margot Schein, Cultural Embrace
Tell us about the organization you work for and what you do for them.
I worked for Cultural Embrace when I volunteered in Guatemala and Costa Rica. I was doing considerably more meaningful work in Guatemala as I was teaching Mayan children basic math, reading, and writing (whereas in Costa Rica, I was teaching English). My day included taking a chicken bus out of Antigua (where I was living) to a small town called Santa Maria de Jesus. It would come to work at a small school that was almost all volunteer based. I would help the teacher with individual students or run lessons for groups. I helped distribute food and donated clothing and toy items to students. This work is particularly important because these children do not have the opportunity to attend state public schools and would end up working in farms like their parents who earn about $2/day. With basic skills, they can work in a shop or in town. It is not a huge improvement, but I learned the value of baby steps.
Share a favorite memory.
At the end of my stay, the students and teachers were so enamored with me that they sewed me a a thank-you note and preformed a dance in honor of my departure. I was extremely emotional in leaving the people who I was helping. They group hugged me goodbye and I nearly fell over! Their show of appreciation has caused me to dedicate my life to helping others.
What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected your long-term goals?
I have learned that one person can change lives. I constantly have to fight disillusionment with the slow progress of world aid, but I am filled with hope when I think about the children who I know I helped directly. And there are those out there just like me- helping one little girl or boy at a time learn to do basic math. My future goals include anything that involves doing good. I want to use my education as a force for the betterment of all people.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job was being brave. I was in a third world country as a young female. But I still got on that over-crowded bus everyday and walked up a hill to that small school because I was in love with helping. There was one day with torrential rains, but I suffered through, arrived and left work quite soaked, and smiled the whole time. Stay Brave.
Do you have any advice for prospective gappers?
Love what you are doing. If you don’t love it, change volunteer positions. You can only be beneficial if you are totally dedicated. Volunteering is not easy, so you better be in for the long-haul. And again, be brave and try new things. I know it is cliche, but it will take you very far.