I have always wanted to volunteer abroad, but there was always the question of how I could go about doing this. Then, I heard about Solidarity in Action (SIA) from a friend at school, and I decided to join SIA’s social justice trip to Peru in 2010. I’ll be honest and say that I really did not know what to expect, despite the very thorough briefings I received from my trip leaders. For the most part, I expected to teach Peruvian children, maybe help build stairs or fix up a school, and teach children how to brush their teeth. Little did I know that I would be jumping into the two weeks that would evidently change how I saw the world. Yes, I taught children English, I taught children how to brush their teeth, and I helped fix up a daycare, but what I got out of these experiences was so much more than the satisfaction of helping a community for a few days.
The gratitude expressed by the community members was overwhelming. People you don’t know – who don’t even speak the same language as you – hug you, and sometimes even cry, while they hold the first tooth brush they have ever owned. It’s humbling to see, and the emotions you feel in simple moments like these is astounding.
To return to South America with Solidarity in Action was the simplest choice I ever made. I knew that’s where I belonged. In the spring of 2011, I traveled to two countries: Peru and Ecuador. Though we were working with very different communities in either community, the same level of acceptance and sense of community was present in both.
It is these experiences that fueled my drive to truly understand what the term ‘solidarity’ means. I am still looking for an adequate definition, but each time I return to South America, the meaning becomes a little more clear and close to my heart.
– Jamie Prong, SIA Trip Leader (Peru 2012, Peru 2011, Ecuador 2011)