CCS Alumni Speak Volumes

At CCS, our alumni carry a very special place in our hearts. Volunteers embark on their journeys as new friends, and leave as family. They often take their incredible service and travel experiences with them and integrate the lessons that they learned back into their daily lives. We believe that the power of international volunteering can build bridges of understanding through one simple act: service.

Volunteers are impacted by the communities and staff members in the same way that they impact the local communities. The most meaningful exchanges happen in the moments that are least expected--it could be as simple as sitting in the home-base contemplating life with one of our staff members, or the excited ‘hello’ from a child when you arrived to work in the morning.

Michelle Seemann who volunteered in Thailand and Olaf Leeders who volunteered in Tanzania are two incredible alumni who shared their stories with us to inspire others to make the best decision of their lives.


Michelle Seemann, Thailand Volunteer

CCS: What inspired you to volunteer abroad?
MS: I regretted not doing some volunteer work abroad after high school and college, and this opportunity seemed like the perfect fit. I always wanted to visit Asia--what better opportunity than CCS! As a CCS volunteer, you are able to experience the country in a very different way.

CCS: What is one fear you had before you left for your program and how did you overcome this fear?
MS: I am not the most adventurous eater--I went into this experience determined to be more open to different foods. I am proud to say that I tried nearly every food presented to me and liked most of them!

CCS: Which member of the CCS in-country staff did you connect with the most? Why?
MS: I felt an inherent connection to Jieu--I am not sure why. She was always smiling and willing to help. All of the staff really went out of their way for us, but she seemed to always be looking out for me and just had the kindest face. I can't really explain it.

CCS: What is one assumption you had about the country before you left that changed while you were there?
MS: I had no assumptions going in, but felt very at home in Thailand. People couldn't have been any nicer. They all seemed to really want us there. I left feeling that Thai people would love it here in New Orleans. Everyone was very kind.

CCS: Who is the person at your volunteer placement or a member of the local community that you will never forget? Why?
MS: Gaggandeep Sharma from Lilly India. He was very knowledgable and sweet. He helped all of us navigate the city and had the best personality. Also enjoyed Ersin Cakir from Turkey; really liked everyone.

CCS: What is one moment in particular that moved you during your volunteer experience?
MS: Working with the kids. They were so eager to learn and so happy to see us. I was so surprised to hear that they wanted us to come to their school after working with us at the Health Center. I could have gone to their school every day. I loved the joy on their face and their willingness to participate and learn.

CCS: What cultural activity did you learn the most from? Why?
MS: I loved the talk on Buddhism. I knew very little about Buddhism before going to Thailand. I also found the Thai boxing fun. I am not a boxer, but found the experience eye-opening. Not only from an experience perspective, but also from a cultural perspective.

CCS: What was it like when you returned home? Did you feel like you had changed? If so, can you provide an example of how?
MS: I was initially less stressed upon my return. I felt grateful and wiser from the experience and I still do. I felt more calm and am still trying to adopt the Thai "easiness of life."

Olaf Leeders, Tanzania Volunteer:

CCS: What did you learn from the experience?

OL: "It was a lifetime experience that I will always carry with me. We must be happy with what we have. We truly have nothing to complain about.

“Imagine a School with no money to buy material for the children. They have a pile of very worn out English children books and some pencils (not enough), also coloured ones donated by volunteers but that is about it. There are no children scissors, glue or coloured paper to create something with the children. There is not even a plain sheet of A4 paper available. No toys to play outside or other kids stuff.

"The parents buy the paper notebooks for their children. If a child forgets to bring his notebook to School he is unable to make his exercises as there is no alternative paper available at School.

"Before I left to Tanzania someone said to me that I had to take color books with me. Well that appeared to be an excellent suggestion. It is hard to believe but these little children never paint as there is just not the required material. So you can imagine what their reaction was when I gave them a drawing. They were very proud of their results and me as well.

The next morning the teacher told me that after School he had some phone calls from parents who were delighted to see their children coming home so enthusiastically with their colour drawing. I did the same for the 2nd class the next day.”

Inspired to change the world and ready to allow it to change you? Check out our volunteer opportunities:
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This blog post originally appeared on: https://smileintanzania.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/look-at-my-color-drawing/

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