Posts Tagged ‘volunteer’

Note: Posts are always better with photos, but I’ve yet to figure out the best way to upload them from my phone to a shared computer. When I do, though, I’ll be sure to share.

In the meantime, I can tell you that this experience has already exceeded my expectations – and we’ve only been here for  a week and a half.

I volunteer in a house with 23 boys, all of whom are roughly between the ages of 10 and 20, and I’ve already begun to refer to them as mine.

And my boys are simply amazing.

They’ve been so welcoming and friendly and inclusive. For instance, even given my mediocre skills, I spent the better part of last Wednesday playing soccer (and trying to remember to call it football) with some of the boys. We didn’t win (my fault, not theirs), but it was the best workout I’ve had in a while.

They’ve also been patiently teaching me to hacky sack. I can honestly say that I’ve spent more time hacky sacking (is that the verb?) in the past few days, than I have in my entire life.

The one minor difficulty I’ve had with them, is getting them to understand my name. “Elizabeth” has proven a bit difficult for them to say, so usually they stick with calling me Sister. But the other day it clicked with them.

Sister! Your name Elizabeth? Like Queen of England?

And another boy chimed in:

I will call you Sister Queen!

Hey, if that’s what it takes for them to remember, who am I to stop the name association?

I’m just here to help.

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This may be the first Lenten season I can remember that I’m not actively giving something up.

I thought about it. I reflected on past years, giving up swearing, M&Ms, diet coke, and alcohol – all of which were both challenging and rewarding.

I thought about giving up something food-related again…and then realized that we’ll be in Nepal in two weeks, where I won’t be eating any of my regular foods anyway.

I considered giving up TV or social media…but again, it would really just be for the two weeks before we leave. We won’t be watching TV or obsessively scanning Facebook in Nepal.

I toyed with giving up other things, but kept coming back to the same conclusion: it would really only be my choice for two weeks, and then it would become a necessity for my current living situation.

So this year, I’m giving up giving up.

This year, I’ll spend two weeks reflecting on the Lenten season while in my comfort zone, and the final four weeks will be spent halfway around the world.

I can only imagine that the time in Nepal will teach me more about the true meaning of the season than a lack of diet coke or alcohol ever did. And maybe it will be the start of a new tradition.

Maybe instead of giving up, I’ll just start giving.

And this year will be the first step.

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When I listed this as a 27 goal, I didn’t have a set plan in mind. If pressed, I thought maybe I’d go somewhere for a week-long mission trip of sorts. And I’d probably go somewhere in Central or South America.

Somewhere relatively close, for a relatively short period of time.

Suffice it to say, I was a little off. And by a little, I mean by about 11 weeks and several thousand miles.

Because the current plan is this:

In roughly two months Husband and I will be leaving for a three-month volunteer stint with the Umbrella Foundation. In Nepal.


Photo credit: The Big Umbrella

We’ve both wanted to travel and volunteer, but it’s never been the right time – a common excuse. After reading Conor Grennan’s Little Princes (I can’t recommend it enough), we decided that we could make it the right time.

It was completely within our control to seize this opportunity and have our volunteering adventure.

So that’s what we’re doing.

We’ll be spending three months working with children who have been displaced, orphaned, or trafficked – living near them, sharing meals with them, organizing activities for them, and, undoubtedly, learning from them.

Part of the preparation for this volunteer work is, naturally, fundraising, which covers both volunteer and kid costs.

If you feel so inclined, please visit our fundraising page, where you can also learn a little more about the trip and the inspiration behind it. If not, that’s okay, too, but I still encourage you to read Little Princes if you get the chance.

It’s rare that I call a book life-changing, but for this one, I can’t think of a better way to describe it.

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Up until now I’ve only seen races from the runner’s perspective. I wasn’t especially privy to all the behind-the-scenes organization and set-up.

That changed this weekend.

On Sunday I volunteered at the Girls on the Run 5k, with Heather, Kate, and MJ. We volunteered to help at the finish line – particularly with passing out the medals to the finishers. I can’t speak for all of us, but I know that I was thinking of how it felt to finish the Marine Corps Marathon and have that medal placed around my neck. I might not be a marine, and this might not have been a marathon, but there’s still an awesome sense of accomplishment for finishing a race, and I wanted the girls to feel that.

At the starting line...

At the starting line

The first step to handing out the medals, however, was unwrapping them. Each medal had its own individual plastic wrapping, and there were roughly 1,000 medals.

GOTR medals

Step two was figuring out where to stand to distribute them. Were we meeting the girls right at the finish? Were we funneling them toward the food and water? Were we a line across the course, or two receiving lines on either side? Honestly, I’m still not sure. We ended up in each of those places at one point or another.

The third (and arguably most important) step was identifying who got a medal. We’d first heard that it was just girls who were part of the GOTR program. Then it was all kids.  Then it was everyone. At the end of the day, we still had medals left over.

Part of what you don’t always see as a runner is the communication confusion among the volunteers. During our finish line stint, one race official told us one thing, another contradicted her. And then both changed their minds.

When all was said and done, though, the runners didn’t seem to notice the confusion. The girls got their medals and had huge smiles on their faces, even after sprinting to the finish.

They were so incredibly proud of themselves, and they had every right to be.

And that – plus seeing those final sprints – made any frustration from the confusion completely worth it.


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