#30 Unexpected Transformations

Unexpected Transformations – Episode #30

This week’s podcast is highly personal and reflective – as our storytellers share how they’ve been changed since re-entering their daily lives after their volunteering experience.

Julia says she was transformed on the Blackfeet Reservation at a Sweat Lodge ceremony. “I almost see myself as who I was before the Sweat and who I am after.  I felt such a profound sense of connection to not only the locals, but to all of humanity.  It was powerful, really powerful.”

Kate was “ready to pack up and join the Peace Corps,”after serving in Mexico and Ecuador, saying she struggled with how to employ her insights from volunteering. “How was I going to continue this shift in my life, knowing that leaving for two-and-a-half years wasn’t an option?” So, she made a shift in her career to satisfy her craving for more meaning.

Volunteering with his sons in Tanzania was transformational, Tom said, because “seeing (them) grow and display their values, working in the orphanage in a philanthropic way” was one of his singular, proudest moments outside of daily life.

Gabe said months later now after his program, he has a profound sense of “needing to make the world better.” In his busy life, he misses opportunities to help people.  “I think, holy smokes, I’m so lucky. Through volunteering, you kinda get disrupted (in a good way).”

Marek offers a very long view – that of a host for volunteers who sees their impact on Polish students over more than 20 years. “These young people are the leaders; the future of our country.  They are the second or third generation of people who learned English from Global Volunteers.” Year after year, he says, volunteers transform his community in unmeasurable ways.

Everyone has a moment of transformation when serving others whole-heartedly.  It takes risk, and it might not be evident immediately, but this shift is surely to catch up with you during moments of deep reflection.  It’s healing, and it’s lasting.

Episode storytellers: Julia, Kate, Tom, Gabe, and Marek

#11 “The Ripple Effect”

Be The Change – Episode #11

We continue our conversations with Cindy, Lynn and Jeff:  What service projects impacted them the most, and how did those efforts ripple out across the community?  Jeff helped build a wall in a poverty-stricken family’s home, and through his work, obtained insight unavailable to tourists and “average” travelers to Cuba.

Cindy recalls four volunteers from Maui on her team on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation who joined to connect with other indigenous Americans.  To highlight their own culture, the group of four performed a traditional dance for elders at an assisted living center.

Lynn connected her English-language student, whose dream is to fly airplanes, with a retired airline pilot on her volunteer team- widening the young man’s vision of future possibilities.

Episode storytellers: Jeff, Cindy, and Lynn

#10 “Volunteering in Vietnam”

Be The Change – Episode #10

Three volunteers tell their own personal stories about what compelled them to serve in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Pam, a long-time Vietnam team leader, is drawn to a particular service project more than others – helping young blind adults learn English to improve their limited future career opportunities.  Her motivation is close to her heart – and her story will make you reflect on the pivotal role we can each play in others’ lives.

Julie was most impressed by how the Vietnamese she worked with, living in poverty, welcomed her with joy and acceptance. She says: “I never expected the graciousness and the warmth” emanating toward team members from the local people. She came to realize that in their richness of spirit, that “they had everything and I had nothing.”

Joe reads the journal of his service program roommate, John, a Vietnam veteran who returned to Vietnam for the first time since he left in 1970 during the war.  “I needed to see it first-hand,” says John. “I came back to do something, however small, to help rebuild a developing country I helped to destroy; to show the Vietnamese that there are Americans who care about them; that there are veterans…who care.” He continues:  “I’m going home knowing that the war in Vietnam, and the war in me, is finally over.”

Episode storytellers: Pam, Julie, and Joe

#9 “Farther Reach”

Be The Change – Episode #9

The world has gotten a lot “smaller” for most of us through technology, media and international tourism.  But, to truly achieve a global perspective, one must walk a more erstwhile path. It may sound contradictory, but often, slowing down can speed up learning.

This episode explores the payback for taking time to reach out farther.  Giving back to the world in an intentional, relaxed way is a common draw for each of our storytellers.  The “call” for most Global Volunteers is to reach out farther – and demonstrate authentic care, intense interest, and an optimistic view of life.

For Joe, the most compelling aspect of reaching out is the team dynamic around a common purpose.  He says “the most profound sense is… like you’ve known (team members) forever.  They’re called to come together in this new place where you are.”

Mike says overcoming his introversion by “pushing on for two hours of small talk and conversion” through English lessons in Cuba created a comfortable commonality with a local surgeon – someone he was surprised to connect with.

Tim talks about how Global Volunteers’ Philosophy of Service enables individuals “promote positive change” among people who want and appreciate their support. This can bring a world divided to a place of understanding.

Gila concludes: It’s “life changing, life altering” to return with “so, so much more than you gave.”  The urge is to take an inventory of your own life – and in the context of all you have, and all you have to give, to embrace the world wholeheartedly.

Episode storytellers: Joe, Mike, Tim, and Gila

#4 “Cultural Immersion”

Be The Change – Episode #4

Continuing with an inside look at local culture, three of our storytellers return to reflect on life from a new perspective. Each volunteer sites how Global Volunteers programs immerse them in daily life, exposing the true nature of a community.

Lynn returns in this episode to describe the generosity of people in Crete who, although they owned little themselves, gave generosity to help Syrian refugees at a time when it was very unpopular to do so. “They said, we’re going to help these people, because they’re human, and it’s the right thing to do.” She enjoyed an equally engaging spirit of unity in Cuba, living with local people – and basking in their hospitality and genuine appreciation for the team’s contributions.

Evan continues her story about volunteering in Romania.  She notes the lasting impression that volunteers make in their host community:  “It’s very much a relationship business,” she says. The impact is obvious to local people, she continues:  “It breaks down the barriers.  They realize these people keep coming back…it sends a huge message of love, quite honestly.”

Jeff tells about how a community reciprocates on International Women’s Day, as local people spontaneously poured out appreciation and fondness for the women volunteers on his team. “Once again, it was a sign that our Global Volunteers are so welcome in their community.  They were made to feel so special.”

Episode storytellers: Lynn, Evan, and Jeff