Alternative Breaks at FIU is a program that allows students to become active members of their society by volunteering with community partners around the world. This Spring 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to Guyana with International Children’s Outreach to volunteer with at-risk youth. Being that this was my second service trip, I thought it was not going to be as meaningful as my first trip. I felt that my role as Site Leader was simply facilitating the experience for my participants. Little did I know, those seven days at St. Ann’s orphanage would be the most life-changing and meaningful seven days of my life. I had the privilege of living among 50 plus young girls at an orphanage run by two nuns. We slept with the girls, we did chores with the girls, we showered with the girls, we cooked with the girls, we danced with the girls, we sang with the girls, and most importantly, we learned with the girls. We often go on these service trips thinking we are going to teach and make an impact on those we encounter, but we hardly think about what we can learn from them. Romario, Sister Claudet, and Sister Lionni taught me not only about the value of service, but about the importance of giving to young children who are facing special challenges. It breaks my heart to know that there are so many children around the world that grow up without a caring and affectionate adult to guide them through their development.
Although my team and I were only there for a week, I felt we were able to create a relationship with each of the girls and give them the attention they each needed as individuals. We got to talk to them about their past, their present, and most importantly, their futures. So many of them want to grow up to be nurses or teachers or even social workers, yet they are not able to talk about those dreams with anyone. I’d like to think that the conversations and activities we shared with the girls impacted them enough to help them keep pushing through the obstacles they face, just as much as the smiles on their faces impacted us enough to stop taking so many things for granted. ICO gave my team and I an all-encompassing experience where we not only shared irreplaceable times with the girls at the orphanage, but where we were also able to assist with the ICO food drive at a local school where they providing food supplies to families in need. We assisted with sorting and packing the food, and also distributing it to the students at Grove Primary School. We also helped with the beginning stages of building the ICO community center. Out of all the projects we were able to be a part of, I am most excited to say that we did our part in constructing the community center in Craig. This center will offer some of the most valuable resources for a child’s education, such as tutors, books, and Internet access. I think the effects this center is going to have in the lives of the children of Craig will be everlasting and immeasurable. I will forever cherish the once-in-a-lifetime experiences I had in Georgetown, Guyana.
Carolina Flores, Florida International University
2016 Participant, Guyana