A Volunteer’s Experience – Part III

This is the last part of Paula’s article. In it she shares her experience in the Monthly Homeless Outreach program, her community experience, and what she has learned in her volunteering experience.

By Paula Luengos

A specific moment that I will never forget: If I would have to choose a specific day that I’ve learned the most I’ll choose the day that we went to give food to the homeless of the area. That day was one of the hardest days of my life.

At first I was scared because I thought some of them would become aggressive as we were entering their personal space. I felt safer walking next to the van. But I guess that’s a common fear when you are living a new experience.

I realize how important it is to value what we have and who we are. These people were living on the street and as soon as we gave them a sandwich, they gave us a smile in return. I found it interesting that they could smile living in such conditions. I assume it’s because they have accepted their situation and know what they have to deal with. I also feel like they gave me way more than we gave them. Seeing their attitude shocked me.

Our Community:

First of all, I want to share that every single moment we spent all together was a complete blessing. All the reflections we had with JC, morning prayers with Brother Reegan, living together with Fr. Fabian and having Luis’ presence in our company helped me to grow as a person.

As the days passed, I started to feel more and more integrated in American life. I became more open with the other counselors and the young people. I also started to feel even better because I realized that a good friend can also be someone you just met. Getting to know the people I lived with and the counselors I worked with crowned the experience.

Everything I have learned:

— I feel that I have grown up in a lot of different aspects and I have grown personally through many opportunities. I have learned how to listen to everybody and be receptive, always trying to help whoever needs me.

— I have learned how to leave my fears aside and be who I have always wanted to be because in the past I have regretted doing things that I didn’t do because of what people may have thought. Yet in this adventure, I decided to do everything I felt appropriate to do. For example, some of my fears were having problems with the campers because of the different language. Even though I’m used to speaking in English I was scared that I couldn’t express myself or didn’t understand someone. But I realized how important non-verbal communication is. You show a lot of information by the language but not all of it. The way you act with your body and face can influence how others feel.

— I noticed that these young people loved me for who I am. I have learned how to be happy in a different country. Having the courage to make an effort in order to feel better helped me. Also I am grateful to everyone who helped me make this effort.

— I have learned how to control my tiredness and try to be patient with others. At camp I didn’t notice my tiredness because my mind was focused on what I was doing.

— One of the most valuable lessons learned is that I got the chance to have fun by always being myself. After living this experience I know that I’m a completely new person—a stronger and more powerful woman.

I also learned different quotes to apply in my life:

— “But if you never try, you’ll never know”.

— “I’m the only one who can control my mind”.

— “It’s about the journey not the destination”.