Happy International Volunteer Day to all volunteers! If you are a volunteer, take today to celebrate yourself as the world recognizes your selfless contributions and expertise. Here at Partners of the Americas, we know our work is solely made possible because of their efforts. You are what make change possible. We THANK YOU endlessly!
This year’s International Volunteer Day is based on the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and poses the question – “Your world is changing. Are you?” Below is one story about Partners volunteer who can definitely answer yes to that question.
This past September, Luz Adriana Restrepo traveled from her hometown of Bogota, Colombia to Oregon, where she visited elementary and high schools, observing how U.S. language professors teach English and Spanish. Restrepo, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages and a Post-Grad in Higher Education, traveled through Partners of the Americas’ Education and Culture program, which is supported by funding from the U.S. Department of State.
Q: What was your first volunteering experience?
A: This was my first volunteering experience. I visited different schools in Oregon from September 14 – 18 in order to enrich a project I work on with Partners’ Bogota Chapter, “Creativity in Bilingual Teaching.”
Q: What did you do during your time volunteering in the U.S. with Partners?
A: I attended schools to observe how they teach English and Spanish, with the purpose to observe new teaching methods. I found it very interesting and helpful to see how schools implement strategies to guide students to solve learning conflicts and how to implement cooperative learning. I also had the opportunity to help teach Spanish classes and observe how students learn Spanish as a second language, in contrast with students learning English as a second language in our country.
Q: What is your favorite memory from volunteering with Partners?
A: During my stay, I participated in Partners’ What Works! conference from Sept. 10 – 11. It was a great opportunity to learn directly from extraordinary people about their experiences in countries across the hemisphere. They showed their commitment and dedication to serve. It was interesting to see Partners’ different programs and to learn more about them. It was very enrichful and encouraging. It motivated me to continue working and implementing new strategies to grow.
Q: What was a powerful memory from your time volunteering in the U.S.?
A: There were many…visiting American schools and observing classes was powerful overall. Talking to teachers in Oregon gave me new ideas and approaches to help students improve their relationships. I learned ways to implement cooperative learning, as well as techniques to work with technology. This experience will enrich the “Creativity in Bilingual Teaching” project we work with in Colombia.
Q: What has volunteering with Partners taught you?
A: Volunteering with Partners taught me the spirit of giving, no matter where you are from. Partners is an excellent example of giving and learning from each other without boundaries. To serve with your heart, because there are good examples and good leaders to follow who have great impact in vulnerable population in the Americas. The warmth, the human quality and the spirit of service is contagious and inspiring.
Q: Why is volunteering important to you?
A: Volunteering has really represented my spiritual mission, where my vision to contribute to a better world becomes true. Partners is a great organization to support and guide people to give the best from themselves. It provides people the opportunity to help the most needed ones.
Q: Why is volunteering in education specifically so important?
A: In most countries in Latin America there is a big gap between public and private education. Many scholarships allocated to vulnerable communities can’t be awarded because students do not reach the required academic performance. Many students do not complete their studies and get involved in crime, prostitution, or drugs. Volunteering in education can make a big change working with these communities. Education opens opportunities, changes lives, and encourages individuals to contribute to their communities, and ultimately to our world. I am very thankful for this wonderful opportunity and I am grateful for all the Partners members who helped to make it come true.