19 Countries , 126+ Trips

VolSol Volunteer Sharon Umayam - Peru - Thailand - South Africa

Meet Sharon Umayam, Volunteer in Peru, Thailand & South Africa

Sharon Umayam is from Dededo, Guam and currently works as a registered nurse in San Francisco, CA. SHaron volunteered with Volunteering Solutions in Peru on August of 2009, in Thailand in February 2012 and in Cape Town, South Africa in Feb 2013.
 

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Volunteering Solutions in Peru , Thailand and South Africa ?

Volunteering at Medical Clinic in Cusco, PeruI chose Volunteering Solutions because they had received many positive reviews from past volunteers, they were affordable, and their projects were sustainable.
 
My first mission with VS took me to Peru. I chose Peru for two reasons: 1) The city was built around ancient Incan ruins and 2) I wanted to practice my Spanish. The people were friendly and, even as a female who traveled alone, I felt very safe. In this mission, I volunteered as a nurse and was fortunate to be assigned to a travel-clinic. We cared for many types of people, from students at nearby universities to natives high up in the remote villages of the Andes Mountains. During this trip I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the ancient Incan ruins at Machu Pichu.
 
My second mission took me to Thailand. I chose Thailand for several reasons, the main ones being 1) I wanted to volunteer with children who were victims of AIDS and the sex trade and 2) I have a passion for Asian Elephants and I wanted to spend time with them. This mission took me to an orphanage located in a small village surrounded by rice-paddies. It was beautiful. The children were 3-18 years of age, extremely positive and taught me one of life’s greatest lessons, “Never to focus on someone’s past, but rather their future and their potential.” While there I was fortunate enough to be able to ride a beautiful elephant, bare-back, up a mountain. After the long hike, we had a water fight on the river before returning home.
 
Both were incredible experiences. The missions were extremely satisfying and the activities that were available to the volunteers during our free-time were amazing.
 
The accommodations were fantastic during both trips. Each day I would wake up and have time to get ready. A native cook would make the volunteers a tasty local meal. Then I, along with the other volunteers, would go off to our assigned locations. The persons in charge of each location would give us our assignments and we’d spend the rest of our day (6-8 hours) having fun carrying out that assignment. Assignments included educating patients about health issues, painting a mural at the orphanage, helping the kids with homework, creating obstacle-courses for the children to challenge each other with, and assisting the cooks with meals.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer?

Volunteering in Chiang Mai, ThailandBoth volunteer missions started of with an orientation to the country’s culture, language, advice on how to stay safe & how to get around with the public transportation, and suggestions of places to see before leaving. The orientations were thorough and very useful.
 
The accommodations were fantastic during both trips. Each day I would wake up and have time to get ready. A native cook would make the volunteers a tasty local meal. Then I, along with the other volunteers, would go off to our assigned locations. The persons in charge of each location would give us our assignments and we’d spend the rest of our day (6-8 hours) having fun carrying out that assignment. Assignments included educating patients about health issues, painting a mural at the orphanage, helping the kids with homework, creating obstacle-courses for the children to challenge each other with, and assisting the cooks with meals.
 
During the night, the volunteers would retire and share stories about our days. The days would be exhausting but also very satisfying.
 

What advice do you have for future volunteers?

Advice I have would be to 1) be prepare to fall in-love with the people of each country 2) Pack lightly because you will end up leaving with lots of souvenirs 3) Bring a camera and take lots of pictures 4) Bring comfortable shoes 5) Have fun!
 

How has this experience impacted your future?

These trips have impacted me in many ways. I am much more appreciative of the hardships people go through. I am much more amazed at the resilience of children. I am much more open to the cultural differences of people. Most of all, I am more inspired to want less and to give more because the people that I worked with (patients and children) have taught me how to give unconditionally.
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