Volunteering as a Family: A Grandmother's Perspective Part 1
In December 2011, I volunteered in Guatemala with my family: mom, brother, and grandma. We had volunteered as a family with Cross-Cultural Solutions twice before in Tanzania, but this was the first time that grandma was coming along for the adventure.
We had our fingers crossed that my grandma would join us for the volunteer experience, and so when my mom told her about our plans and she decided to join, we were thrilled! And I knew that another important chapter of my family's story was about to be written.
One of my grandma's biggest concerns was that she just wasn't quite sure how she'd be able to contribute—a common question among many of our first time volunteers. Even after hearing our stories from Tanzania, she felt that maybe she wasn't creative enough or outgoing enough, or maybe she didn't know enough Spanish, etc. My mom and I could tell she was very nervous on our first day (we all were!), but as soon as we walked in and saw the kids that we were going to be working with, she went straight into "grandma mode" and didn't look back! Once she realized that simply being there and spending time with each child was what mattered, there was no more nervousness and she just enjoyed every moment. The residents and the staff all loved my grandma and she connected with everyone in a way that only grandmas seem to know how to do.
It was the small things that made a difference, and we're all capable of doing the small things: making the kids smile, holding their hand, or helping them make a Christmas decoration. Standing by as my grandma realized that she could absolutely make a difference—and a significant one at that—was a great reminder that it's the small things our volunteers do every day that add up to make the impact. And this is how we have such a great, positive effect in the communities in which we volunteer.
The opportunity to share such an intensely moving experience with my grandma—and to see the way that it impacted her—is something for which I'll be forever grateful.