Review Volunteer Lorin Crear in La Serena Chile at the Orphanage program
1 – How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
The local ABV Coordinator and staff did a phenomenal job making sure I felt safe and comfortable in La Serena. Vilma and Tanya were right on time to pick me up from the airport and take me to my homestay, and Vilma walked me to and from my project location on my first day. I knew I could always contact her through WhatsApp for whatever questions or concerns I might have. They also went above and beyond by planning a little send-off for me with the other volunteers.
2 - What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
Country: I was not expecting Chilean Spanish to be quite as fast as it is. I would say it took me a little under a week to get accustomed to the speed and feel comfortable enough to chime into conversations. That being said, it is an excellent challenge for anyone with a good background in the Spanish language.
Program: the orphanage was run much more efficiently than I had expected. There was plenty of unstructured playtime, but also a set schedule of meals, naps, and changings that helped me get into a predictable rhythm. The children and the home itself also look well-kept, which pleasantly surprised me.
3 – What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Country: Again, the speed of Chilean Spanish. But it really forced me to improve my listening and speaking abilities, and my host family was great about slowing conversations down for me my first couple of days.
4 – Any tips for future volunteers…
La Serena was colder than I expected it to be, even though I knew I would be here in the winter (May to August). The high is often in the low 60s (Fahrenheit), and it gets cold very early in the evening. Pack plenty of sweaters, but make sure you don’t mind them getting dirty since you’ll be working with children.
5 – Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
The orphanage is no longer actually in La Serena but in Coquimbo (temporarily moved), a city 8 miles away by public bus (depending on your homestay location).
6 – Personal Paragraph about the Experience
My time in La Serena, Chile was very short – only 2 weeks – but also very good. My host family was amazing, and I got just as much enjoyment out of conversing with them as I did exploring the center of La Serena. I also took a day trip to the Elqui Valley and visited the famous Faro (lighthouse) on the coast of La Serena. My time at the orphanage was mostly divided between the Pre-Schoolers and the toddlers. The staff there was very kind and experienced with handling the daily challenges. The toddlers were easy; they mostly wanted to be held and loved. The hard part was keeping myself from picking one up because they have to grow accustomed at some point to entertaining and comforting themselves. The pre-schoolers are a bit more challenging since they can walk and talk back (and are not always the most obedient :), but they can also be very cute and clingy just like the toddlers.
7 – How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
I love to brag on my host family because they were absolutely wonderful and so much more than I could have asked for. Silvia (my host mom) is the sweetest woman that ever lived and was nearly always around if I needed anything or just wanted to have a chat with someone. She is a wonderful cook! And Camila (my host sister), being bilingual, was a wonderful asset my first few days when I was still getting accustomed to speaking and understanding Chilean Spanish. She also made time in her busy medical school schedule to take me out dancing, to the Elqui Valley, and to see a funk/hip-hop band perform. I’m very sad to be leaving such kind, generous individuals. Also, Chile certainly looks poorer than places I’m accustomed to living in, but I never felt seriously unsafe (mildly annoyed, maybe, by men who yelled at me from the street) during my time in La Serena.
8 – What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Program: One morning I walked into the Preschool room at the orphanage, where I spent most of my days, and a really sweet, quiet boy named Bastian evidently recognized me, smiled, and reached out his hand to me. It just felt good to know that the kids felt I was doing a good job there.
Host Family: I took a day trip with my host mom and sister to the Elqui Valley in my host sister’s car and ate, shopped, and looked at the pretty views. The memory that stands out most is my host mom searching with much determination around the different cities for churrascos (a kind of flatbread, often eaten with goat cheese) for us to try and being a bit peeved that she couldn’t find any.
9 – How was the ABV USA support prior to traveling?
I sent several emails, usually answered by Sarah/Lynn, and always within a business day. Very efficient. I used the chat online one time, and the answers were immediate and helpful.
9.1 – How did you find Abroaderview website?
I knew individuals who had participated in programs with A Broader View beforehand and had good experiences.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV Volunteers?