Volunteer Abroad to Make a Difference in the Lives of HIV Orphans
Recent International Volunteer through Cross-Continental Solutions Does HIV Orphanage Work Abroad; Becomes a Part of “Something Great”.
HIV orphans are a tragic result of the AIDS epidemic that has plagued much of the world’s developing nations. Entire families are affected once a parent becomes infected. Some children are born with the disease, which can be passed from an HIV positive mother. Other children are born healthy, but lose their HIV infected parents early, and are often left to fend for themselves.
While much of the first world has access to support in the fight against AIDS, the same cannot be said for developing nations. While the number of HIV orphans increases daily, support staff are few and there is often little funding to bring in more. Such unfortunate circumstances create an ongoing need for help, and a perfect environment for international volunteers to find a purpose and make a difference.
Hannah Bemis, from the USA, was searching for a way to do “something great.” What she discovered took her on a three month journey of self-discovery into rural Ecuador, doing HIV orphanage work with 22 HIV-positive children.
Working as a support staff at the orphanage provided an amazing growth opportunity for Hannah, who prior to her trip, had never worked with children. “I love the idea that I was able to help young children in a place that really can’t afford help,” explains Hannah. “By the end, some of the toddlers would come by my room after dinner and ask me to accompany them up to bed. I found it painfully adorable.”
The reality is that volunteering overseas can be very emotionally trying at times. The situations are unfamiliar, and volunteers can easily become overwhelmed, and even homesick. Nonetheless, according to Hannah, the incredible rewards of helping those who need it most far outweigh any and all passing discomforts.
Hannah shares, “There have been times when I’ve wanted to go home. I’ve wanted to scream at the kids on multiple occasions. I’ve had my things stolen and I’ve been insulted. But despite all of this, I think it’s the happiest I’ve been in years.”
One may also experience culture shock abroad, especially if they lack much international living experience. Hannah reports, “There are behaviors that you just don’t see in the United States. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if some of the children were being rude or if it was just a cultural misunderstanding. I was extremely surprised the first time I heard the kitchen staff call a little black boy “Negro”!”
Hannah chose Cross-Continental Solutions to put together a personalized once-in-a-lifetime experience, complete with local coordinators to provide additional guidance and support during her 3 month stay. When volunteering abroad, it is always best to go through a trusted yet affordable organization that will cater to the traveler’s specific needs and goals. Organizing the room and board, as well as the work placement, makes the entire process that much simpler, safer, and cost-effective.
“I first chose to volunteer abroad on a whim. It was probably not the smartest thing to do on a whim, but Cross-Continental Solutions has made it the best decision I’ve done thus far. The cost of living abroad via Cross-Continental Solutions was much cheaper than what I would have been paying for rent and it included meals and support.” Hannah continues, “Ecuador is great; it has beautiful scenery and gracious people. The food is amazing and everyone was very helpful even though I spoke no Spanish. Even when I couldn’t communicate properly with the locals or those in my work placement, support was always readily available via phone and E-mail.”
For those interested in pursuing an overseas volunteering experience, Hannah offers some words of encouragement and sound advice: “As long as you are polite and try to ask questions, things work out. Try to find things to help with and don’t worry too much. If things are difficult at first and you feel like you can’t do it, it WILL get better. I’m a very shy person and I made it through with a smile on my face!”
To see firsthand the volunteer abroad experience at the HIV orphanage, and many other exciting locations, subscribe for free to the volunteer abroad video channel on YouTube and watch inspirational videos at www.youtube.com/ccsorg.
About Cross-Continental Solutions:
Cross-Continental Solutions provides quality yet affordable intern abroad and volunteer abroad programs. International internships are often taken by college students for school credit. It also provides opportunities for cultural education, language immersion, and gap year adventures. Programs are available at many locations around the world, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Explore the options or plan a life-changing trip at www.CrossContinental.org.