carambolita A little piece of luck
I used to spend quite a bit of time volunteering in my local community, but I had also wanted to try a longer overseas stint since my last year of high school. When I realised there would be a gap between the end of my university degree and the start of my graduate placement, I jetted off to Chile and spent some months volunteering with VE Global. VE is a not-for-profit which partners with local institutions (e.g. orphanages, community centres) that work with at-risk children and youth, and it was a mission that fit my background perfectly.
I spent most of my time at a small school for special needs children, working with a class of kids with autism. It really made me appreciate how much stronger the social support structures are in countries like Australia, because I have also worked with special needs children here and there are huge differences in the level of training, resources and support that the staff have in dealing with the kids.
In all honesty, it was an experience that often left me feeling both frustrated and helpless even as I grew to love the place and the people because I ran into deeply-rooted and often bureaucratic social problems at every turn, and much as I knew I was not there to change or fix everything, it was not always easy to avoid reacting emotionally with the thought of, “How can so much be so wrong?” There was a lot I could do, but there was so much more that I could not do.
I am glad I did it, and I adored the children I worked with, but it taught me a lot about myself and how much passion I would need to work with such groups and environments on a long-term basis. If I were to do something similar again – and I fully intend to – I will go in better mentally and emotionally prepared to persist in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Whenever there is a group of people who believe and act, they can achieve amazing things.