Meet Ellen, our first team leader on our Health Promotion Challenge in Peru who has set some high standards for future volunteers to follow!
“My name is Ellen, and after working as a nanny and in childcare for the last 7 years I now work as a Travel Consultant. I hold my Bachelor degree in Health Science and my Masters degree in Human Nutrition. My very first trip overseas was to the United States with Deakin University where I was introduced to the idea of working in childhood health and nutrition overseas, and how I could impact developing areas.
Following this trip, I decided to volunteer with Challenges Abroad in 2017, where I signed up to the Health Promotion Challenge in Romania. I had a wonderful experience and made so many friends. Earlier this year I decided, now that I have graduate from my Masters degree, that I would step up and become a Challenge Leader. I recruited a multidisciplinary team, and we ventured to Peru and implemented the very first Health Promotion Program! We were extremely successful and there is now an exciting opportunity for future volunteers to carry on the work we've started.
It was very easy to prepare for my most recent trip to Peru. The check list we were given was quite comprehensive. On top of this, I watched a lot of youtube videos about what to pack and how to prepare for the Inca Trail and coping at altitude. I was one of the lucky ones that didn't get altitude sickness! I was very excited about going overseas and volunteering with my group - I was a bit nervous about what people would think of me as a leader - however becoming a leader instilled a lot more confidence in me and I learned a great deal about myself.
The best part about my project in Peru, is that we were the first group to go in and begin a Health Promotion Project. My team and I successfully developed a sustainable program for future volunteers to expand upon. I am extremely proud, although it was overwhelming developing something from scratch, it is very rewarding and something I will always appreciate.
Although not particularly funny at the time, we had to paint our mural (which we completed in 3 days - that's another story!), so after lunch we would go back to the school in the late afternoon to finish it off and we were locked out. The school has a really high colorbond type fence, so I was hoisted up and over (elegantly of course, in my lululemons and challenges abroad tee shirt covered in paint, yep), only to realise we were trying the wrong door using the wrong key *facepalm*!
We took a PE class and taught a class the game ‘Number Soccer’. The next morning we turned up to school and we saw the students teaching another class the game they had learned. This was particularly rewarding because in our minds at the beginning, we were unsure whether our classes were effective - but this proved our short 30 minute class had a lasting impacting on students - and now this is potentially a game students still play with their friends.
Another rewarding experience was seeing parents take their children's photos in front of our mural and go through the mural together. This was particularly rewarding because as a team we were really unsure as to whether our mural would have the impacted intended. Turns out it did, the next day after unveiling, the canteen started stocking bottled water and the children were making healthier choices at the canteen.
My favourite quote that I heard recently is "if you're not changing it, you're choosing it". I think this quote can relate to our personal lives, health or jobs, but also to the world. If we're not willing to do our part, to contribute to a better world, we're choosing to live in a world of inequality. Volunteering helps individuals understand our world in a different light and make meaningful change. Now, I heard this quote from Nicole Scherzinger, everyone's favourite Pussycat Doll. And although when I grow up I want to be famous, I want to be a star, I want to be in movies. I also want to change the world, one person at a time. And this all begins by volunteering with Challenges Abroad.
I 100% recommend volunteering with CAA. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. I honestly believe that every single person should take the time to learn, explore and teach in another country - to experience a new culture and to be open-minded. Even though you may be applying alone, you are not alone in the whole process. You will have the support of your leader, of your CAA student engagement manger, the in country team and most importantly, your team. The volunteer experiences are a lot of fun, you will get to see a unique side to your host country and have the opportunity to extend your trip to explore your host country further. Not to mention, you will change a life. You will have an impact on at least one person, and when that person grows up, they'll remember you, and what you taught them, and they'll teach someone else. The ripple effect you could cause could be ever-lasting.
To all of those thinking about signing up, as someone who has both volunteered with CAA as part of a group and as a challenge leader, it will be one of the most rewarding and exceptional experiences of your life. If you're unsure, submit an enquiry and one of the lovely student engagement mangers in your area will be in touch very quickly, they can even put you in touch with other leaders or volunteers like myself who you can ask questions to. It's all about having fun and making a meaningful impact - remember what our favourite doll says "if you're not changing it, you're choosing it"
If you would like to make an impact on a disadvantaged country and use your skills for the good of an underdeveloped community, be sure to look into one of our volunteering programs. Visit our challenge page to find a volunteer program that inspires you to make a difference!