A Volunteer's Story: Creating Lifelong Friendships

How Virgina formed lifelone friendships while volunteering at CILA

A Volunteer’s Story: Creating Lifelong Friendships

Virginia Estes is a recent graduate of Goucher College and is one of the many college graduates this year who had their ceremony online due to COVID19.   Isolation and travel restrictions have hindered and postponed the dreams of many college students, and Virginia does dream of future travel, however, she has been fortunate and courageous to have filled her life with travel and service since the time she was 11 years old! Although her many experiences fill her heart with longing, she took a moment to share her experience and inspire others to embark on the joy that is volunteering abroad.

Virginia started going to Panama on mission trips when she was just a pre-teen. She loved it so much that she went every spring break. Her service heart was sparked, and when an uncle decided to go on sabbatical in San Miguel de Allende in 2018, Virginia and her family decided to come down for a month-long visit. She researched volunteer options and found volunteer stories from CILA that convinced her it would be a good fit. She was very interested in language immersion and also wanted to determine through experience whether a future in education was the way for her to go. She immediately began to form fulfilling relationships with the children and other volunteers, and well before her month of service was up, she had already decided to return; this time to live in the volunteer house.

Of her first weeks at CILA she describes an incident that she will not forget. As anyone who has tried to learn a language knows, it is not always easy.  Virginia was in the classroom, and the kids kept coming back from their visit to the bathroom in fits of giggles. She finally went to investigate what was causing the laughter, and found that her volunteer partner was telling the kids to “Llavar sus hermanos con sopa” rather than “Llavar sus manos con jabon” which means – wash your brother with soup rather than wash your hands with soap. She still laughs with the retelling, and contemplates the many friendships she has formed through her experiences at CILA; she and that volunteer partner are still in touch after these past years.

Virginia ended up returning twice after that first experience. She said it was heartwarming to reconnect with the children; many of whom remembered her well. She got to know the teachers better upon every visit, and by living in the volunteer house, formed life-long friendships. On her last visit, she also helped organize a fundraising event and took on other administrative responsibilities that gave her an even clearer view of CILA´s mission and what it entails to make it happen.

Virginia started at CILA wondering if she would pursue education, and although her experience was profound, it also helped her to decide that it was not the path for her. She is currently embarking on a master´s program in nursing and will no doubt bring her golden heart of service and international experience to her career path.

“Do what you can – whatever and whenever it’s needed!”

She believes in the work of CILA and advises anyone who is considering volunteering, with CILA or any other organization, to do it! “Do what you can; whatever and whenever it is needed” She challenges volunteers to become ambassadors for the programs they believe in; promoting important causes as they continue in their walk through life.

Muchas gracias, Virgina!

We are honored to have you in our network!

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