Martin and Emma Volunteer Abroad in La Serena, Chile

My favourite memory:
On our first day at the orphanage, as we walked into one of the classes to be introduced to the other teachers, one of the children ran up to me (Martin) and hugged me, no questions asked. He just wanted a hug.

I was surprised that:
The orphanage is well organized, and they take very good care of the children. They’ve got lots of clothes and toys; they eat good, healthy food. It’s a very good environment for the children to ‘grow-up’ in if the parents are unable to take care of them.

The most difficult thing we experienced was:
A Spanish language barrier. We understand some Spanish, but we speak almost none. But even with said barrier, the teachers at the orphanage were always helpful and they tried to explain to us if we misunderstood something.

Martin and Emma Volunteer Abroad in La Serena, Chile

My best received lesson:
As you get to know the children and when you’ve been informed how and why they ended up in the orphanage, it just makes you realize what a huge responsibility it is to bring a child into this world. It’s the Mount Everest of responsibility. Another lesson learned is that love and care overcomes all barriers – race, creed or gender.

Tip for future volunteers:
Travel with an extra toothbrush, a small toothpaste and some extra clothes in your carry-on luggage. Just in case your baggage is delayed. It would make the first day or two more comfortable. Learn at least a few basic Spanish phrases that are applicable to your ‘volunteering environment’ and that are applicable to daily live.

Personal Paragraph (Testimonial):
We were fortunate enough to be placed with a family that has accommodation for a ‘couple’. We lived on their premises in a room of our own separate room from the actual house where the family dwells. It was very nice, as it allowed us lots of freedom to move about the city doing our own thing in our spare time without ‘disrupting’ the family.

The family is extremely inviting, friendly, loving and caring. From day one we were never treated as guests, but rather we were treated as extended family. We were treated like royalty! It’s a very humbling experience when a family on a different continent, with different customs, with a different frame of reference opens their door to take you in – whole heartedly. Apart from the family’s warm welcome, they took really good care of our ‘basic necessities’. We received breakfast in the morning, lunch boxes for ‘school’ with bread and fruit and candy, and every evening dinner was a feast fit for a king! All round an absolute delight! We had a very short running joke with the family that went like this “Chileno = mucha comida’!

Martin and Emma Volunteer Abroad in La Serena, Chile

Furthermore, we’d like to thank Lone and Sarah for all their assistance throughout our adventure. From the start Sarah religiously replied to every question we had, she reassured and guided us around every corner and every uncertain gap.  Lone picked us up at the airport with smiles, kisses and embraces and throughout our stay she checked in with us [and our family] regularly to see how we were doing. Both of them, in their own way were absolutely pleasant!

A MASSIVE thank you to everybody involved in making this trip possible for us! Thank you ABV!

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Martin and Emma Volunteer Abroad in La Serena, Chile

Martin and Emma Volunteer Abroad in La Serena, Chile

Volunteer Name: Martin and Emma Coetzee
Project Location: La Serena, Chile
Program Dates: 4 February 2012 – 3 March 2012
Volunteered at: Orphanage

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