Volunteers: Susan, Steve, Emma and Noah Friedman
Project Location: Belize
Volunteered At: Orphanage Program
What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Getting to know the children and spending time with them playing soccer, basketball, braiding hair and just hanging out.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
My teenagers said that it was knowing what to say to the children. They wanted to be sure not to offend them or say anything that was “too American,” which the children would not be able to relate to. For me it was not having easy access to the resources and services which we are accustomed to, that would have made projects we were working on easier.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for?
By talking with Abroader View staff, past volunteers and googling reviews, I really felt that we were very well prepared. Orphanage staff were excellent, caring, responsive to the children’s needs, able to stretch limited resources. Orientation and supervision of volunteers was very limited but we were prepared for this and found that staff were very happy to have us help identify needs and take the lead on projects that needed to be done.
Any tips for future volunteers…(clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
Bring bug spray.
Come with high energy and enthusiasm.
Come prepared to listen to staff needs but identify projects that you can work on yourselves. Donations are often needed and can go a long way in meeting these needs. We took on the task of cleaning, painting and updating the kitchen. It took u all week to complete. With donations that we raised we were able to buy cleaning supplies, paint, silverware, cups and other kitchen supplies. Remember that you are going to help, that staff are there to serve the children, not the volunteers.
Take time to get to know the staff as well as the children- all were friendly warm and interesting to talk with.
Take time to see other parts of Belize. It is a wonderful country.
How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA?
Staff were very supportive and helpful. They made sure that I got all paperwork on time, connected me with past volunteers, ensured I had all the travel information that I needed.
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country?
Honestly, we rarely saw her as they are understaffed. She did however have a fabulous long-term ABV volunteer meet us at the airport and we ended up relying on this person for “orientation,” explanation of rules, and information about the town, volunteering, etc. The other staff, at first seemed standoffish but once we started to get to know them, found out their concerns, and offered to help address them, they were fabulous. While not the ideal relationship with the local director, I felt like I showed up prepared for staff to be somewhat overworked and unable to provide much support to volunteers. We were very impressed with the way the staff interacted with children and the mutual respect that they displayed. I feel their priorities were in the right place.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
I had an excellent experience as a volunteer at the Orphanage, and I would recommend others to the program as well. The staff and children were very welcoming, and the kids were playful and very high energy. While staff are friendly and engaging, they are there to serve the children and have little time to supervise volunteers. I would go ready to identify some projects that are needed and take the initiative to complete those projects by yourself or with other volunteers.
There are no projects already in place, so any changes you wish to see before you leave you must take on among the volunteers, but it is very rewarding to have finished something that you started. While we were there, we decided to thoroughly clean, paint, and restock the kitchen. It took several days, but it was well worth it to know that we left the place a little bit better than it was when we got there. Whenever you are not working on a project, the children are very willing to spend time with you. We got to play soccer, basketball, and push the children in the swings. They enjoyed braiding hair and having you read books to them as well. Bring a positive attitude, initiative, and a lot of energy, and the experience will be something that you remember for the rest of your life.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Yes, I would be happy to share my experience with others.
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