Nine years ago, I left home for eight weeks and traveled to Latin America with Amigos de las Americas to complete my high school volunteering hours. I spent the weeks in Tutepetongo (Tute), a small rural village in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Along with two other partners, I supported the community in building a fence around the community health clinic and talked to mothers about the amaranth and taught them how to cook it. We taught children and teens some basic English phrases and talked to them about the importance of a balanced diet.
This was incredible experience and one of the best volunteer experiences I have ever had. I learned so much about myself and the world outside of my normal.I gained leadership skills, grew independent, learned to work with others, and made long lasting relationships with some of the community members.
Tomorrow, my 16 year old cousin leaves to Panama to for her eight week trip with AMIGOS. She’s gone through the rigorous training that participants go through before departing for their summer, she’s learned how to facilitate activities and how to hold community meetings, and now she’s off to Latin America.
As a departing gift I put together a journal for her, one similar to the one my high school friends made me.
My friends wrote little notes, prompts, and reminder in my journal.I did the same, but also asked my family and her friends to write in her journal. I asked them to write a little note, a fun memory, a random story or words of encouragement while she’s away.
The first few weeks of AMIGOS as I remember were the hardest. I felt alone, didn’t know anyone, and was being sent to a foreign country/community. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry once during the trip or never felt homesick. My idea of this journal is for her to be able to look back at it in moments like the ones I mentioned above, so she knows that everyone back home is rooting for her and are proud of all that she’s accomplished.