Review Volunteer Alexis Bui in La Serena Chile at the Orphanage program
How was the local ABV coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
The local coordinator for ABV in La Serena, was incredible and such an honor to have met. She’s very caring, patient, and understanding, but also funny and full of good stories. Also, she’s a great cook! Simply put, Vilma is a wonderful host mom who will make you feel right at home.
What was the most surprising thing you experienced:
Host family: I was surprised by how quaint and comfortable the home is. Vilma takes great care of the house.
Country:I’m from San Diego (the city without seasons), so I forgot how cold winters could get, especially without central heating in the home. Before I came, I knew it would be winter, but thought that since La Serena is similarly a beach town, I could get by with a few light jackets. I was dead wrong. It gets pretty chilly here. Read the ABV orientation guide it has a detail description of what to bring, check the weather before coming to La Serena.
What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Host family: I really can’t say there were any challenges experienced with the host family. They sincerely made me feel like a part of the family, and always made sure I was comfortable and had a good time.
Country: The tempo of the spoken language was truly a challenge to overcome. For the first few days, I felt very overwhelmed because everyone tried speaking to me but I had no idea what they were saying nor did I know how to respond. However, Spanish lessons and immersing myself in Chilean culture helped me adapt within a week.
Any tips for future volunteers (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
Pack a thick jacket and good hiking/walking boots if you plan to come here during Chile’s winter months. The jacket will come in handy at night, and especially if you make a weekend trip to the Valle del Elqui. Also, pack some comfy sweaters to sleep. Bring extra money for traveling.
Other things that volunteers should know before coming here (not in the orientation guide):
If you take the bus to get around, be prepared that the drivers normally won’t announce the stop, so you have to know in advance where you need to be.
Chileans speak really quickly, and even if you are fluent in Spanish, you might need to take some time to get accustomed to the language here.
Download Whatsapp on your phone if you haven’t already done so.
Bring cold medicine! You’ll be working closely with babies or little kids, and are bound to get sick.
When you exchange money to CLP, get a lot of 1,000 or 2,000 CLP bills. Having small bills comes in handy everywhere.
Personal paragraph about the experience:
Volunteering at the orphanage was bittersweet, because it was nice to feel like I could help the tias for a short period of time, but sad to see that there are so many children without a home to call their own or a mother to hold them. The babies are so filled with so much love, and smile so big when you just glance at them. A normal day consisted of entertaining the babies, helping the tias feed the babies lunch and milk, and preparing the babies for naptime. After my first week, I got very sick and had to stay in bed a few days, but it was still worth getting to put a smile on the babies’ faces.
After some days of volunteering, I had Spanish lessons with Tania. She’s a great teacher, who spent a lot of time making sure I learned phrases and words to get me comfortable with working and traveling in Chile. The lessons helped, because I started to feel more at ease after a few days into the program.`
All in all, I had a lovely experience. Vilma was like a second mom who hosted me in her beautiful home. Chile is such a beautiful country, full of many treasures, especially in the Valle del Elqui. It was truly tranquil and relaxing there. My trip was definitely a 10/10.
How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness…
Everything Vilma provided was beyond expectation. The meals were superb, the bed was warm, and the neighborhood is extremely safe.
The tias and hermanas at the orphanage were very friendly, and curious about my origin, age, etc. They were very patient in communicating with me, because I could not always understand what they were saying.
What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Program: My favorite memory of the program is volunteering in the orphanage room with the “medium-sized” babies. They were all so well-behaved and adorable. There is no doubt that the tias work extremely hard to make sure these babies are happy and healthy. I wanted to take all of the kids home with me, and am sad to leave them. I’d like to return within the next year with my fiancé to see the children and help out again.
Host family: Do I have to pick just one favorite memory with my host family? There are too many to choose. Well, my first day in Chile, Vilma, a few of the other volunteers, and I spent the day driving around Coquimbo. We had a lot of good laughs and saw very beautiful sites.
Country: I was coming back alone from the Valle del Elqui on the bus. Before we left the Valle, the bus driver, his compañero, and I were having a fun-spirited conversation about our lives. They joked about the American and Chilean cultures, and asked where I was going, where I was staying, what I was doing here in Chile, what my life is like in the States, etc. Well, I accidentally fell asleep (2 hours on a bus is a long time to stay awake) and woke up to the compañero telling me to wake up because were across the street from the feria (closest bus stop to Vilma’s house). Mind you, this was a full bus, and normally bus drivers won’t do this. Anyway, they helped me off by carrying my luggage because they could see I was clearly disoriented. As they drove off, they both enthusiastically waved goodbye. It was indeed a happy and heartwarming moment for me. I don’t know what I would have done had I missed my stop.
How was the ABV USA support prior to traveling (who helped, emails, phone calls, how fast you got an answer, did you get all answers)
Everyone was very quick to respond in full to any questions I sent via email.
What do you think of the reservation system online?
It was easy and painless.
How did you find A Broader View?
I Googled “volunteer abroad orphanage” and saw that ABV had amazing reviews and ratings from hundreds of past volunteers.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?