Volunteering as a Family: A Grandmother's Perspective Part 2

In the Fall of 2011, my daughter decided to volunteer with Cross-Cultural Solutions in Guatemala. She invited me to accompany her, and though I was hesitant at first, she wouldn't take no for an answer. She convinced me that volunteering in Guatemala would be a wonderful experience. She then said that her two grown children—my eldest grandchildren—were also going.

The four of us worked together in the same volunteer assignment, helping staff work with young people with disabilities ranging from autism to cerebral palsy. Most were in wheelchairs and unable to communicate. We spent five mornings at our volunteer assignment, and each minute of each day we became more enamored with the individual residents. Each was special. Each had a recognizable personality. Since it was December, the activities that we led focused on the Christmas holiday. We took them to see the Christmas lights, decorated the facility, and one morning we worked with glitter. By the time the activity was over, there was glitter everywhere—in their hair as well as ours, all over their clothes, the floor. Even the wheelchairs were glittery!

After we fed them lunch each day, we would return to the Home-Base. We would talk about the day's experiences, sometimes laughing at a funny thing that happened, sometimes saddened about a particularly difficult time. But we depended on each other to make the experience one that will never be forgotten.

Volunteer abroad mother and daughter

volunteer abroad grandma in Guatemala

Our afternoon tours of Guatemala provided us with history and the ongoing challenges that Guatemalans face. And when our volunteer week ended, the four of us went on our own to see other parts of Guatemala.

It was the most rewarding experience of my life. I still get tears in my eyes thinking of each of them and how hard it was to say goodbye when we left.

volunteer abroad with grandchildren

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