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Volunteering abroad

Alicia Carroll | Friday, April 26, 2013

A year ago I wrote an article just short of begging anyone and their brother to backpack through South America with me. My attempts were futile and last October I set off in a wolf pack of one. While this wasn’t my ideal scenario, I am overjoyed by everything I was able to experience. So, I am writing an article for two reasons, one – to encourage current students to take time off and travel – with or without a partner, it’s worth it. My second reason is to promote a couple of the volunteer opportunities I was able to experience.
The first opportunity is one that doesn’t stray far from home at all. Father Joseph Uhen, a Notre Dame grad, ventured down to Piura, Peru in 1993. Since then, he has helped to establish one of the most incredible parishes I have ever experienced – Santisimo Sacramento. I had the privilege of volunteering there for a little over two months. My time was spent assisting the nurses in the clinic or doing home visits, helping the social work office organize and distribute food and wellness packets to members of the community, and teaching English at the school. Working at Santisimo was one of the most spiritually fulfilling experiences of my life. The program is safe and well established, making it an ideal volunteer experience. I would recommend this trip to anyone.
The second volunteer experience was nestled in the beautiful Andean mountains just outside of La Paz, Bolivia with a program called UP-CLOSE BOLIVA. I spent nearly two months volunteering here with a group of about 10 volunteers from around the world. The living conditions couldn’t be better – beautiful scenery, wonderful, welcoming people and a very strong community presence. My time spent there was primarily in the community sponsored daycare – which provides childcare for low-income families. However, there are countless opportunities working with UP-CLOSE. The volunteers work on community projects, teach English, work in the local zoo, organize after school activities and become active participants in helping with community issues. I am a huge supporter of the mission statement of UP-CLOSE  which is based on sustainability and community involvement, and they do a wonderful job of putting the words into action.
Both experiences were incredible – providing a new perspective on life and wonderful new relationships. And the good news is, they are always looking for new volunteers to share this experience! If you have any questions or interest in working with either of these organizations or donating, please email me ([email protected]). I would love to give more information. You can also find information about both organizations online.

Alicia Carroll
Class of 2012
Saint Mary’s College
April 23