Stories and testimonials from 50-plus women and men volunteering abroad with Cross-Cultural Solutions.
I hadn’t really thought about living in a community with other volunteers before I went to Tanzania although I knew that there would be up to 29 others. This was a challenge but also exciting to share living space, activities and leisure time with others. In the 12 weeks, we had three changes of volunteers so there was almost a grief process as volunteers left because even in three weeks we grew so close together. Then there was the welcoming of the new people and with that changes and new personalities to get to know. I actually enjoyed that very much and found that cross cultural interchange was just as important within our volunteer community as it was with the Tanzanians that we interacted with and related to. I enjoyed the interchange of culture and sharing of important festivities both culturally, especially between the North Americans and those of us from other countries and religious celebrations that we shared e.g. Jewish New Year. I have made life long friends from among those volunteers. That was something I hadn’t really expected but was such a joy. I also found that age made no difference.
Judith Shanks, Age 56, nurse
I know that two weeks is a short time, but I have never had such an intense travel experience as the one to Guatemala City through Cross-Cultural Solutions.
Andrea Cookson, Age 60, Guatemala Volunteer
My overall experience was wonderful. Each day at least once, I had the opportunity to challenge myself either physically, emotionally or spiritually. I also had the experience of saying to myself (and sometimes out loud) "Now here's something I never thought I'd do/see". I had wanted the opportunity to push myself beyond my comfort zone and I certainly had that opportunity. I was challenged to re-examine long-held beliefs and values and although I didn't necessarily change the way I feel, the opportunity was valuable and at times deepened my beliefs.
Sara Goldberger, Age 57
Part of the reason I went on this adventure, was that my mother had passed on last fall. I wanted to do something to honor her and working with the elderly could not have been a better way to do that. The warmth and acceptance from the staff and clients could not have been better. I was glad I could contribute with my massage and energy work. It was very rewarding to hear that a few of them had told her they felt better.
Valerie Robertshaw, Age 52, holistic therapist
The experience contributed to my retirement goal. That was to develop an understanding of people of other cultures beyond what is available to a person just traveling through a country.
Patricia, Age 71, Costa Rica Volunteer
The trip was my 60th birthday present to myself, and it was a wonderful way to begin this new decade; I got to be selfish and generous at the same time, getting to visit a part of the world I had long wanted to see but at the same time returning with the feeling that I had had the chance to give back a bit of what life has so generously given me.
Linda, Age 60, India Volunteer
This was an opportunity to experience China in a way no tour or trip on my own would have given me. I met and got to know several Chinese people, learned about how they lived, and learned some of what it means to live in China.
Ruthe Karlin, Age 74, retired
Working with the children, I was feeling helpless not knowing Spanish, and thought that I should be doing more. Then at one point I realized I could participate in a different way. I didn't have to be the teacher; letting the children teach ME was much more stimulating for them. Once I let go of being the HELPER, I could play games on the playground and laugh at myself (as they laughed with me). And there's other ways of communicating without words, like doing crafts and taking photos. I didn't feel like I was doing much, but everyone was terribly appreciative.Along the way I wondered how the children would ever get out of their situation. The physical environment was so much in need of improvements.Gradually I began to feel ... who would want to leave a place of so much energy, with such a sense of community and joy? What is most important in life? The children are so loving and happy.
Patricia Burns, Age 55, Peru Volunteer